Caution: Missing, incorrect or unrecognized hreflang tags sabotage multilingual websites, costing you leads and sales
Hreflang are super handy tags that tell Google your website has a few versions of the content for queries in a specific language, tailored for a specific region of the world.
Proper use of hreflang:
supports your content ranking considerably faster and better. Address issues and enjoy an increase in indexation and impressions (from single to triple digits, depending on the situation). And the more pages Google indexes the better chance you have to get found.
better serves users in each market. Hreflang tags support the right pages showing at the top of the SERPs, optimized for your prospects’ language, currency, offerings and privacy laws in all the markets you serve. Better UX leads to better rankings and more conversions.
prevents duplicate content issues.
Warning: as one of the most complicated parts of technical SEO, hreflang tags are quite often poorly done, costing you visibility, targeted traffic and leads.
The Details: Where to Place and What to Include in an Hreflang Tag
This attribute is added to the HTML, in thetag of your web page. It should include a language code and a region code. For example, you can add “en-us” for English speaking countries such as the US, or “es-mx” for Spanish language countries such as Mexico.
Hreflang is a critical component of international business and SEO
Here are a few more reasons why hreflang is a healthy choice for your website:
Prevent negative customer experiences, lost customers, or bad reviews: offer products, services, and promotions that are relevant (and legal) in the user’s country
Directing users to the version of your website that is relevant to their region heads off frustration. Providing irrelevant content or offers from other areas of the world can lead to lost customers and negative reviews.
Improve user experience on your website and drive more targeted traffic
Hreflang tags help ensure that the right visitors (human and bots) are directed to the right version of your website that is most relevant to them, meaning you are more likely to have the outcomes you desire.
NOTE: Ideally you’ll provide a language/country chooser page/option rather than force things with automatic redirects (redirects can easily be screwed up and this can lead to a poor user experience).
Grow visibility (and organic search traffic) in international search results
Expand your presence abroad. Address issues and enjoy an increase in indexation and impressions (from single to triple digits) in key markets, depending on the situation. The more pages Google indexes the better chance you have to get found.
Avoid duplicate content penalties from search engines
If you have multiple versions of content written in different languages or for different regions, search engines may see them as duplicate content and penalize your website’s ranking. Hreflang tags help search engines understand that these pages are alternate versions of each other and should not be penalized.
Let’s take the example of the US and Mexico above. If you are a B2B website, selling to international audiences you can add the hreflang attribute to the HTML in the <head> tag of the page and head off the duplicate content issue the search engine would otherwise see:
link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”en-us” />
link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”es-mx” />
Work with knowledgeable in-house experts and/or vendor partners to plan and execute hreflang tags for your multilingual websites
Effective hreflang tags come from creating a strategy and working on it step by step.
Consider these steps in your hreflang strategy
Determine your target audience.Identify the target languages and create the hreflang tags for each page.
Create a sitemap and language-specific versions of your pages. Create a sitemap that includes all the pages of your website. Create a list of pages that need multiple versions for each language or region you target.
Establish a timeline and responsibilities for the changes. Now create a timeline of implementation along with responsibles for each task. Do the work.
Test and validate your implementation.Use Google Search Console (or other tools) to validate your implementation of hreflang tags; ensuring it’s correct, consistent and effective.
Keep track of your hreflang implementation with periodic audits so your good work isn’t overwritten
Audit regularly to ensure your hreflang tags work as intended for your users and are bringing more organic traffic and eventually leads.
Monitor your website’s traffic and engagement metrics. Keep an eye on your website’s traffic and engagement metrics in your web analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. If your website is getting traffic from the targeted countries and languages, this is a good sign that your hreflang tags are working properly.
Check your website’s ranking for target keywords. Check where your website ranks for the target keywords in the targeted countries and languages. Try this handy Chrome plugin to simulate search engine queries from any location on Google and easily check and track your website or your competitor’s rankings.
We’re here to help you, always
Hreflang is a powerful tool that ensures your website directs users to the most relevant version based on users’ location and language preferences. Setting your hreflang strategy can be a complex task. If you’re unsure of how to implement hreflang correctly, schedule your work session now: