For every client a different SEO strategy is needed and that could be in the form of local SEO, national SEO or international SEO. Depending on what you’re wanting to target determines what elements of SEO will be necessary.
What Is Hreflang?
Hreflang is a snippet of HTML code which is added to a webpage(s) to specify the language and/or geographical targeting which is displayed to search engines in order for them to present the correct variations to users. The most common ways to implement hreflang are:
- Content with regional variations like en-us and en-gb.
- Content in different languages like en, de and fr.
- A mixture of different languages and regional variations.
E.g an international website targeting different languages and/or regions may use hreflang tags as each URL used for the website can have the same content in a different language, or the same language but targeted at a different region.
Hreflang is only a signal to search engines and therefore there are many SEO factors that could potentially override hreflang attributes resulting in a different version of the page to rank higher.
Why Is Hreflang So Important?
If you have spent your time/resources using native copywriter to produce the content then you’ll want to maximise the performance by using hreflang tags to ensure users are presented with the most appropriate content. In turn by doing this it often enhances the users experience which can indirectly lead to a lower bounce rate and a higher average time on site, all of which is thought to have a positive impact on rankings and organic performance.
The other key reason for including hreflang tags is that as there are multiple URLs for the same website which all consist of the same content it could result in duplicated content. E.g URLs targeting the UK, US and Australia will all have localised English copy which is why hreflang is needed so that the search engines understand that it’s almost the same content just optimised for each targeted audience.
When implementing hreflang tags it’s important to remember that they are only used on Google and Yandex. Currently Bing and Baidu don’t refer to hreflang tags as they use content language HTML attributes.
When Should Hreflang Be Used?
Hreflang tags should be added to your website if the content used is near enough identical on one or multiple domains even though it’s displayed in several languages or if you have content which targets different regions but in the same language.
What Does A Hreflang Tag Look Like?
Typically a hreflang tags is shown like below:
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” href=”https://www.domain.com/location-or-language-targeted-page” />
How Can Hreflang Be Implemented?
There are three main ways in which people can add hreflang tags to their websites.
- HTML hreflang link elements – This method of adding the hreflang snippet of code into the <head> tag of your web page. This way of adding hreflang tags to a site is thought to be the easiest way for people who are new to international SEO as you can use a hreflang tag generator to produce the HTML code for you to then upload.A drawback to using this method is that if you’re having to do this for a massive site it can be very time consuming and mistakes can easily be made.
- Hreflang HTTP headers – Not all pages on a website are coded in HTML such as PDFs and because of this it’s not possible to add in hreflang attributes to the <head> tags. In instances where this is the case it’s possible to use HTTP headers to outline which version you’d like displaying.
- Sitemaps – XML sitemaps are often the best method to use for adding in hreflang tags for large websites due to them often having many languages/countries which can sometimes end up being too complicated to specify in the header as it would require lots of additional code being uploaded.
Sometimes it may not be possible to to use a single hreflang implementation method across all web pages due to them having different characteristics and therefore it’s important to establish clear rules for when each method is used as it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid errors between each method.
What Is A X-Default Tag?
X-default tags are only used to help Google understand that when a targeted version of the website doesn’t exist for a certain region to present users the default version of the website. It’s important to recognise that x-default tags do not replace hreflang tags and therefore they should be used together.So for example, if you have a UK and French version of the website but someone in Spain searches for the related terms you’d x-default them to the preferred version.
What Does A X-Default Tag Look Like?
The snippet of code below contains 3 example hreflang tags (displayed in blue) along with the final like of code outlining the x-default version (displayed in red).
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-gb” hreflang=”en-GB” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-us” hreflang=”en-US” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-au” hreflang=”en-AU” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/” hreflang=”x-default” />