A beginner's guide to hreflang tags

So, you’ve optimised all of the pages on your multilingual site for your keywords, to make sure your site ranks highly on search. But are you sure that search engines send your customers to the right places? Here Alison Gardner, account executive and International PR specialist at Stone Junction, explains how to use hreflang tags to improve user experience and reduce the number of bounce backs.  

After translating and optimising the translated pages on your multinational website, many companies sit back and expect their potential customers to be sent to the right place.

However, these companies might begin to notice more bounce backs and duplicate content issues with their website. To avoid this, you should consider hreflang tags.

What is hreflang?

In 2011, Google introduced hreflang tags to improve visibility for users in multiple countries. This code shows search engines that your website has pages that have similar content, which is aimed at different languages or regions. For example, you may want different home pages in English aimed at the UK, US and Australia.

Hreflang can also let search engines know when to send a customer to a translated site based on their location and the language that they use. This improves user experience and leads to fewer bounce backs.

How to write tags

A hreflang attribute contains a value to represent the language and if required, one to represent the region. Be careful to use the correct codes as this is where businesses often go wrong.

The language attribute should be formatted according to ISO 639-1 as a two-letter code. For example, the code for a German page will be de. You can also add a code to show the region such as gb for the UK or au for Australia.

You can only assign each hreflang value once, so every combination of language and country has to be unique in your hreflang structure. Google’s guidelines on implementing hreflang tags can also help you to write code correctly for your language or region-specific pages.

Considerations


You should ensure that all of your hreflang tags are correct, else your online visibility could suffer because Google may not know which pages to index or where to direct traffic. To avoid these issues, make sure you format the code correctly, that the tag points to an existing URL and that there is only one URL specified for each attribute.

At Stone Junction we use professional SEO tools to help you correctly implement hreflang tags and keep your global website healthy. For more advice on how SEO optimisation can support your international PR campaign, give me a call on +44 1785 225 416 or e-mail alison@stonejunction.co.uk. 

Alison Gardner

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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