Having a website that caters to an international audience is essential for businesses of all sizes. However, as your website expands to cater to different languages and regions, it’s important to ensure that your content is being delivered to the right audience. This is where hreflang tags come in. Hreflang tags are a powerful SEO tool that helps search engines understand which version of your website to show to users in different countries and languages.
In this complete guide, we’ll dive deep into what hreflang tags are, how they work, and how you can implement them on your website to improve your SEO and reach your target audience more.
What are Hreflang Tags?
Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that specify the intended language and geographical targeting of a webpage. They tell search engines which version of a webpage to display to users based on their language and location. Hreflang tags are particularly useful for websites that have content in multiple languages or that target users in different regions.
By using hreflang tags, you can ensure that users are directed to the appropriate version of your website, which can improve user experience, increase engagement, and ultimately boost your SEO. These are typically implemented in the head section of a webpage’s HTML code and can be used with both canonical and non-canonical URLs.
Why are Hreflang Tags Important?
The hreflang tag instructs Google which versions of your website are best appropriate for particular search terms. Additionally, it tells Google how high to place these pages in the search results.
The process is as follows:
- Google is informed by the Hreflang tags that a page has many language and geographic variations.
- They offer a link to that website.
- The language and location of the specific version that Google is considering are specified.
Google uses this data to evaluate which version of the website is most appropriate for users with particular language or regional settings.
For instance, the hreflang tag on your website could say that it is intended for UK users only. When Google detects the hreflang tag, it understands that the website is particularly relevant for UK visitors and may rank it higher for queries coming from the UK, improving its visibility and luring more clicks.
Benefits of Hreflang Tags for SEO
There are two key reasons you should use it from an SEO perspective.
- First of all, you want users to land on the page you have optimised for their language and location if that page exists. Because accurate language and location-specific information enhances their user experience and prevents users from quickly returning to the search results, it is important. Higher ranks are also the result of fewer users returning to the search results.
- The second reason is that hreflang solves the duplicate content issue. The only difference on these pages might be a tiny adjustment to the prices and currencies if you have identical information in English on various URLs targeted at the UK, the US, and Australia. However, without hreflang, Google can misinterpret your intent and interpret it as duplicate material. By using hreflang, you can make it very evident to search engines that the content is (nearly) the same but has been modified for different audiences.
Hreflang Tags VS. Canonical Tags
Hreflang tags let Google know which of your website’s various yet frequently related versions should be presented for various language and regional queries. As an illustration, if you are in the UK, you should be offered a Spanish web page intended for UK visitors rather than a UK web page intended for people from the US.
On the other hand, you can have multiple websites with material that is similar to or identical to one another, and you only want Google to index and give one of these websites a higher rating in the search engine results. To prevent Google from ranking another page instead, you would use a canonical tag to tell it whose website this is. This will also benefit you.
Hreflang and canonical tags can be used simultaneously, but it’s important to implement them properly. Otherwise, you risk giving Google inconsistent information about the pages it should index, causing it to decide to completely disregard all of your requests.
You should add your hreflang tags and their return links to your web pages, as usual, to use hreflang and canonical tags together. Then, provide canonical tags that point to the official translations of these pages in that language (or, if necessary, the best alternative translation).
How to Add Hreflang Tags to the Sites?
Adding hreflang tags to your site is an important SEO best practice that helps search engines understand which language and country version of your site they should display to users in different countries.
To add hreflang tags to your website, follow these instructions:
- Determine the languages and countries you want to target: Before adding hreflang tags, you need to identify the languages and countries you want to target. For example, if you have a website in English and you want to target users in the US, you might want to create a US version of your site.
- Create different versions of your site: Once you have identified the languages and countries you want to target, you need to create different versions of your site. You can create separate subdomains, subdirectories, or even separate domains for each language and country version of your site.
- Add the hreflang tags to your site: Once you have created the different versions of your site, you need to add the hreflang tags to the head section of each page on your site. Here’s the basic format of an hreflang tag:
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”xx-XX” href=”https://www.example.com/page.html”>
Replace “xx-XX” with the language and country code you want to target. For example, “en-US” for English in the United States, “fr-FR” for French in France, etc.
- Replace “https://www.example.com/page.html” with the URL of the corresponding page on the language and country version of your site.
- Test your hreflang tags: Once you have added the hreflang tags to your site, you should test them using the hreflang tag testing tool in Google Search Console. This will help you ensure that your hreflang tags are working correctly and that search engines can correctly identify the different language and country versions of your site.
By adding hreflang tags to your site, you can improve your SEO and ensure that users in different countries can find and access the correct version of your site.
Finally, hreflang tags are essential for international SEO since they guarantee that search engines will send the right version of your website to the right audience. By implementing hreflang tags correctly, you can improve the user experience for your international audience, increase your website’s visibility in search engine results pages, and ultimately drive more traffic and conversions.