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If your website targets users internationally, you will definitely want to translate it into different languages ​​to satisfy users in different countries or regions. A data from research on audience behavior will convince you that content translation is a necessity: 

 

  • 40% will not shop in another language.
  • 65% prefer content in their native language.

 

While content in the language of users is certainly good for them, it may not be so for search engines.

 

Hreflang helps Google choose the language

Posting translated versions of your content at different URLs will not help Google to understand the relationship between URLs and the way your site is set up. This can lead to your site not ranking as well as it could.

a drawing of a woman standing in front of the screen and choosing the flags of the countries offered

The best practice if you do business in different countries is to have separate ones top-level domain for each of them. However, if this is an expensive solution, hreflang meta tag is another way to overcome the problem.

 

What is hreflang?

Hreflang is an HTML meta tag that specifies the language and (optionally) the relevant geographic region for the site page. Hreflang tells search engines where to find content in other languages. For example, if you have an English and Spanish version of a page, you can specify which page Google should be displayed based on the geographical location of the user and the desired language.

The hreflang attribute speaks Google-what language and country you're targeting for a particular page, creating a better user experience for users searching in that particular language and country.

It therefore ensures that the search result is delivered in the native or desired language. Remember the data from the beginning of the text!

 

When is hreflang used?

Quality and a well-designed website it is a necessity of any serious business. This means that the site largely meets the needs of users and meets their user experience.

 

Use hreflang when:

  • you have the same content in multiple languages;
  • you have content for different geographic regions, but in the same language.

 

How is it implemented?

There are three ways to implement the hreflang attribute:

 

  • HTML tags
  • HTTP headers
  • Sitemaps
a drawing of a monitor screen in which a man moves a gear with a wrench, while another man sits in front of the screen and works on a laptop

Either of these ways can work, although some are easier to implement than others. 

 

Add hreflang tags to the page

If you have an HTML page, the tag goes in like this:

 

For non-HTML pages, such as PDFs, add a note in HTTP header:

link: ; rel = "alternate"; hreflang = "en"

 

In the above examples, the hreflang = "en" tag speaks Google-u that the specified URL is the English version of the page. So this URL will show users who have English set as their preferred language in the browser and those in English-speaking countries. To have hreflang = "es", Google would display this URL for Spanish speakers.

When you add these tags to your pages, you must include a link to each version of the page. So if you have a page in English, Spanish and French, each page would have all three tags:

 

 

Adding geographical determinants

Adding geographic areas to your tags can be done by adding a country code after the language code in the hreflang attribute. So, if the above site targets different countries with each language, they would look like this:

 

 

Hreflang and SEO

Hreflang has two main uses when it comes to SEO. The first thing it will do for your SEO is to disable duplicate content. This tag says Google that there is a link between the two pages and helps his bots interpret the relationship between them, instead of seeing two copies of the same content.

a drawing of a mobile phone, tablet, computer screen above which is a target with an arrow in the center

The other is to help you make sure the right content is served to the right users. If you have a site in multiple languages ​​or that targets multiple geographic areas, you've probably put a lot of time, thought, and effort into adapting your content and marketing strategy to this audience. Most people will not take the time to find the right language version of a page, no matter how prominent it is on the site.

Hreflang gives your content a global SEO boost. In addition to having content in multiple languages, you can also have content that targets variants of one language. This allows you to localize your content for a specific language and region.

 

The most common mistakes when using the hreflang tag

When you add hreflang tags to pages on your website, you must remember that they must all contain backlinks (return tags). If you have three alternate pages, you can't add hreflang tags to just one of them and expect it to work. In other words, page A (e.g.) should have links to pages B (es.) and C (fr), while page B should have links to pages A and C, etc.

Search engines analyze all pages. Therefore, all pages for which you have set hreflang tags should refer to each other. Make sure your original page has links to alternate pages and vice versa so as not to confuse search engines.

Lack of self-referential hreflang tags is the second most common mistake that can be made. Be sure to check this several times and be sure to add self-referencing hreflang when adding back tags from all pages.

This error can lead to misinterpretation and indexing problems. Therefore, except for all alternative sites, the original site should be linked to itself, including the language and country code, if applicable.

 

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Made by Nebojsa Radovanovic - SEO Expert @Digitizer

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