What is Hreflang?
Hreflang is a technical solution for websites that have similar content in multiple languages. The purpose of hreflang tags is to ensure that search engines send users to content in their language. For instance, suppose a user is Dutch, and there is both an English and a Dutch version of the page. In that case, the ranking page should be the Dutch one for the Dutch user, and not the English one. Hreflang tags are complex because they ensure the correct language and location-dependent information for a user’s experience and decrease the bounce rate.
Additionally, hreflang prevents duplicate content issues, which positively impacts SEO rankings. Hreflang tags are typically used to differentiate between markets that use the same language but have regional variations. The tags ensure that the URL with the correct language and region is presented to the user. Hreflang code can be shown to search engines in several ways, including on-page markup, HTTP headers or sitemaps.
Why Hreflang is Important for SEO?
Hreflang is an essential attribute for global SEO. It helps search engines like Google to serve the correct pages to users based on their language and location. The tag tells Google which language and country a page is targeting, ensuring that the correct version is shown to users in that specific region. This improves the user experience and can result in increased traffic and visibility for your website. The hreflang tag is not only a signal but also a directive and should be explicitly indicated for language and region-specific pages. Although implementing hreflang can be complex, the benefits of doing so are enormous for brands with international websites.
Using hreflang ensures that your website is easily accessible to visitors from different countries, providing a good user experience and a strong SEO strategy. It also helps to avoid duplicate content penalties and ensures that only relevant pages are served to users. In summary, if you have an international website, using hreflang is essential for improving your website’s visibility and user experience.
How to Implement Hreflang: A Step-by-Step Guide
Implementing hreflang to improve a multilingual website could be done in a few steps. First, determine which pages on the site need hreflang tags. Then, decide on the desired language and location for each page. Next, add hreflang tags to each page’s header code. These tags should specify which other language and location-specific pages that are available. When Google crawls the site, it will use hreflang tags to identify the relevant pages for each language and location. It is important to test the hreflang implementation to ensure that the tags are working correctly and showing the correct pages.
After proper implementation of hreflang, it becomes easier for search engines to show the appropriate page for each user’s language and location. This improves the user experience, reduces bounce rates, and can ultimately lead to higher rankings in search results. By ensuring an optimized user experience, hreflang can improve a website’s SEO strategy.
Common Hreflang Implementation Mistakes to Avoid
Despite being a useful feature introduced by Google ten years ago, many site owners still struggle with getting hreflang correct. This is often due to common misconceptions and wishful thinking of developers. One of the most common errors is assuming that hreflang only needs to be added to the home page of the site. However, this is incorrect as the hreflang element must be added to all pages that have an alternate language version.
Another mistake is not adding hreflang tags to pages with different top-level domains (ccTLDs). While ccTLDs may indicate geolocation, they do not indicate language, making it necessary to add hreflang tags to every page. Lastly, it’s important to avoid creating hreflang tags that point to pages blocked from Google’s indexing. These tips should be enough to avoid common hreflang implementation errors and ensure that international sites are set up for success.
Troubleshooting Hreflang Errors
It’s not uncommon for even advanced SEO experts to make mistakes in using this attribute correctly, resulting in misconceptions about its purpose. Hreflang tags are meant to cross-reference pages that are identical in content but target different audiences in terms of language or country. One common mistake is adding hreflang tags to noindexed pages. Google will report this as an error because it can’t crawl the entire URL path, especially when hreflang tags reference separate ccTLDs or sub-domains.
To troubleshoot international ranking issues, don’t create hreflang tags that point to blocked pages. With the correct hreflang tags, your store will send signals to Google to index and show the appropriate version based on a user’s location or language. Improving user experience and minimizing source code conflicts have a positive impact on SEO. 
How to Monitor Hreflang Performance: Metrics to Watch
Monitoringlang performance is crucial to ensuring its success. There are several metrics to watch to track the progress of your hreflang implementation.
One place to look is the Google Search Console International targeting report, which shows hreflang errors and URLs affected. However, this report does not provide a complete picture of indexed pages. Combining this with the Coverage report can help identify indexability issues due to crawl issues or canonical tag issues. For a quicker way to see which version of your pages is ranking on Google, a manual search can be done using the country-specific Google version and adding language and country codes to the search results URL.
Proactive monitoring through crawl tools like Screaming Frog, SE Ranking and training your development team in technical SEO can also help avoid future problems. By continuously monitoring hreflang implementation and resolving any issues promptly, you can ensure the success of your international SEO campaign.