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Why You Need to Understand the Hreflang SEO Tag – Here’s Why #75


Poor Eric! He’s trying to save the world in this Here’s Why video, but no one at the UN understands a word he’s saying!

It may not be world-ending, but certainly frustrating for your users if they click a Google link and end up on the wrong language version of your site. Learn how to properly use hreflang to solve this problem!

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Mark: So Eric, if I’m serving an international audience, I may want to build versions of my site in different languages, but how can I be sure each visitor gets the version that’s in their own language?

Eric: Well, fortunately, Mark, search engines recognize the Hreflang tag, which tells them where the various language-specific versions of a webpage are. If a search engine sees the user’s in France, or the query’s in French, or if the user’s interface is in French, then it will rank the French version of the site indicated by the site’s Hreflang tag first for that user.

Mark: So a search engine like Google that knows the primary language of the visitor can use the Hreflang tag to know the location of the appropriate language page and make that the top-ranking result for the user?

Eric: Exactly, except whether that works correctly is dependent on the search engine’s crawl bots being able to correctly identify and index the alternate language versions of the page, and that depends on the site using the Hreflang tag correctly.

Mark: So what are some things webmasters should know about Hreflang in order to make sure it’s used correctly?

Eric: Well, recently we got some confirmation on how Google uses Hreflang from Google Webmaster Trends analyst, Gary Illyes. Gary was the guest for one of our virtual keynote events with a focus on SEO tags. But let me share a few insights Gary gave us on how Google treats Hreflang tags.

  1. You can specify a language only in the tag, or a language and a country, but you can’t specify just a country.
  2. The tags must be reciprocal. That is, if an English page has a Hreflang tag pointing to an Italian page, the Italian page must also have a Hreflang tag pointing to the English page. Otherwise, the Italian page will not be in the English page’s link cluster.

Mark: Okay. So what if a site has a lot of language versions? I mean, it seems like that would add a whole lot of code to every page, and that might slow down how the pages load.

Eric: Well, Gary suggested a good solution for a site with a lot of language versions, which was to specify the Hreflang links in the sitemap file, which will take care of it for the whole site and eliminate the necessity of putting the tags on every single page.

Mark: Well, thanks for those tips. Now, Eric has created a video tutorial on how to implement the Hreflang tag correctly as part of his Digital Marketing Classroom series.

Eric: Obviously, Hreflang tags are just one element among hundreds that your site must get right so that Google can understand, properly index, and rank your site as it should be. If you want to be sure you’re doing it right, maybe it’s time to look at the expertise Perficient Digital can provide.

Mark: And join us every Monday for another episode of Here’s Why.

Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published.

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Thoughts on “Why You Need to Understand the Hreflang SEO Tag – Here’s Why #75”

  1. One of the mistakes I see people make is to forget the trailing / at the end of hreflang tags. They set “” instead of “”
    This simple mistake causes Webmaster Tools to see this as an error, because the URL without the trailing / typically redirects to the URL with the / attached. Thus people tend to ask why their Webmaster Tools is spitting out dozens of errors.

  2. couldn’t agree more. most of our clients are really only focused on the US but this is a much larger issue for european businesses.

  3. This was actually a very good article. We just came across a potential client for us that was asking about this as she is a spanish translator and works with spanish speaking business owners. Glad I stumbled upon this because I didn’t really know too much about it.

  4. Thanks for one amazing article and video Mark. I didn’t focused on the hreflang these much days and didn’t know the importance of it. Thanks for clearing my thoughts and making me understand that hreflang is equally important in terms of SEO link building.

  5. Hreflang tag can be placed in sitemap to address this issue. You guys are right, be cautious while implement Hreflang tag.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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