If your target audience for your website is all over the world, you will be involved in the international SEO element. Therefore, translation of your web content into various languages can be prudent as this will cater for various regions and countries. Even though this can be a good thing for your users, this may not be the case with the search engines.
You will not help Google to understand the relationship that exists between URLS and how you have set up your website by just publishing the translated versions of your content on various URLs. The suboptimal may mean that your pages are not ranking the way they should be ranking in the search engine. The good thing about the Hreflang tag is that it is a simple solution to this problem. If you create website you need to build your website, WordPress is the beat platform, you can get all kinds of WordPress themes premium and free and more than 4k+ WordPress plugins to include features.
Also Read: The 5 Best Website Builders for 2020
What is Hreflang Tag and How Does it Work
Hreflang tag is an HTML meta tag which stipulates the language and the appropriate geographical region of a web page. It informs the search engines where they can get content in the other languages. Each Hreflang tag, when you do it correctly, will tell the bots that read the page where they can get relevant content for users who don’t speak the language on the first page.
If you perform a search in Google but you don’t use the Hreflang tag, it will take the following steps;
- It uses its algorithm to determine where to rank a URL
- It checks the code of the page by looking for the Hreflang tags
- It looks at the current location of the user based in their language settings of IP address
- It displays the most appropriate URL in the SERPs and sends the user to the URL that he clicks
The search engine checks for the Hreflang tags to help serve the correct version of a web page basing on the language settings of the user. It helps Google to determine the URLs to display for the French users and the ones to use for the Spanish users among other languages. It also helps it to tell the best version to show the people in the United Kingdom and the United States of America among other geographical locations.
When to use Hreflang Tags
There are three main situations where you can use the hreflang. The first one is when you are only translating the page template into the alternative languages and not the primary content of your web page. For instance, it could be a page featuring user-generated content such as message boards and forums.
The second case is when you have web pages in one language utilizing regional variations. For instance, you could have separate English versions of a web page for Ireland, Canada, Australia, UK, and USA.
The last case is when you have translated your web content fully into multiple languages. For instance, you will get WooRank in 6 languages that are different from each other. These include English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Portuguese. When your content is available in multiple languages, you will add the Hreflang tags to the pages to denote that.
Also Read: How Page Speed Is Important For Seo
How to Add the Hreflang tag to a Page
To add a Hreflang tag to your web pages, you should include a link to all the versions of your pages including a self-reference. Therefore, if you have a page in Spanish, French, and English, every page will have all the three tags.
To add geographies to the Hreflang tags, you need to add the code of the country after the language ode into the hreflang attribute. Once Google sees the tags, it will show users who are in the USA the English version, French to those in France, and Spanish to those users who are in Mexico.
As you add the Hreflang tags to your web pages, you need to use the ISO 639-1 format for the languages and ISO 3166 – 1 Alpha 2 formats for the countries. Always write the hreflang value language-country and the geotargeting is limited to the countries. Google doesn’t support continents, regions, or cities. You can use the hreflang tag checker from WooRank to test your implementation of hreflang. Even running a Free WooRank review will help you to check whether you have set up the hreflang tags correctly.
How to Add Hreflang tags to XML Sitemap
You can add hreflang tags to the XML sitemap. It can be so painful to add your hreflang annotations here because you need to add each language option in all the URLs in your sitemap. However, it is not a big deal if you only have a single page with one alternative only. However, it will quickly get arduous as your website continues to grow as you will have to add more language options and pages. There are some good reasons as to why you should add hreflang annotations to the XML sitemap.
First, the sitemaps will help search engines in finding and crawling websites. Therefore, when you add alternate URLs to the sitemaps, users will be able to find them more efficiently.
The second reason is that it will keep the extra code of your page hence reducing the size of the page. Even though it doesn’t sound to be much, even one second in the loading time will cost you sales and hence each single bit counts.
Lastly, when you keep all your hreflang links in a single place, it will ease the process of managing changes. It is harder to update a bunch of various pages than changing a single sitemap.
Using Canonical and Hreflang Tags Together
Canonical tags are not the substitutes of Hreflang tags and hence you should use them together. You need to pass the canonical tag on every page version and it should point back to itself. It is a simple process but you can easily get it wrong. The main mistakes that people make at this point is the use of incorrect country code or utilizing non-canonical URs in the hreflang tag.
Hreflang tags benefit SEO in two ways. The first thing is that it helps in reducing the effect of duplicate content. It tells Google that there exists a relationship between two pages and helps the bots to interpret the relationship between the two pages and not seeing them as two copies of the same content.
The second benefit is that it makes sure that the search engines are availing the correct content to the right users. If your website comes in multiple languages or it targets multiple geographies, you will put a lot of effort, thought, and time to tailor your marketing strategies and content to the audience. With no Hreflang tags, Google could display an English page to Spanish-speaking users or serve an Australian user with American content. It will increase the bounce rate of your website hence impacting your conversion rate negatively. Most users will not take time to find the correct language version even if you display it prominently.
Hreflang tags have a critical role to play in your SEO efforts. Some common errors include using the wrong country or language code, missing or incorrect references, failing to use hyphens, linking to non-existent, broken, or redirected pages, and swapping country or language codes. You can avoid all these errors by going through this Hreflang tag guide.
Mashum Mollah is a tech entrepreneur by profession and passionate blogger by heart. He is on a mission to help small businesses grow online. He shares his journey, insights, and experiences at Blogstellar. If you are an entrepreneur, digital marketing professional, or simply an info-holic, then this blog is for you. Follow him on Instagram & LinkedIn.