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The Monster of Website Optimization – the hreflang Monster

In this article, we’ll show you how you can fight off the polyglot hreflang monster – the final article in our series the website optimization monsters .

Magazin-Monster-href-en hreflang

The offer of many websites is interesting for target groups all over the world, and exists in various country versions. Previously, webmasters were content with storing the attribute "lang" in the code for the corresponding language version. Today, search engines understand most languages if sufficient text is available.

What the web crawler, however, cannot understand, is the user group being appealed to. Here, the hreflang monster strikes and the Googlebot is giving you the run-around. Thus, users will not be able to find what they are looking for and webmasters will unconsciously generate a large amount of duplicate content. If, for example, a rental car company makes the German-language version available with identical content on several URLs for the DACH region, the country sites can mutually "cannibalize" each other with the top level domains .de, .at. and .ch and compete with each other in the rankings.

You Have Let loose the Hreflang Monster

If you operate an online shop and want to sell goods to German-speaking customers in Switzerland, in Austria, and in Germany, you should communicate to Google via geotargeting which contents are relevant for which target group. Adjust your content to the language and culture of your target group, including currency, time zone, and the spelling of contact data.

If you want to create an international site, you should first decide on a suitable directory structure.

The following categories are available to choose from:

  • Top-Level domain (ccTLD) such as .de

  • Sub-domain: Country-specific sub-domains such as the German-language version of our site de.ryte.com

  • Sub-directories or sub-folders behind the root domain ryte.com/de-de/

  • An entirely new domain in another main directory such as the (fictitious) domain ryte-austria.com

If your website contains country-specific sub-domains (e.g. de.beispielseite.com) or directories (www.beispielseite.com/de/), you should set your geographical target in the Google Search Console.

Example for language codes and the targeted user groups:

  • en-au: English content – users from Australia

  • pt-br: Portuguese content – users from Brazil

  • de-de: German content – users from Germany

You can create the hreflang markup with the help of a hreflang generator for your German-language websites. When you use the attributes, you are signaling to Google that you have created an international website architecture for content in several language versions. In this way, the Googlebot can deliver the appropriate search results to each target group. Each user can decide on the desired Google language.

Bildschirmfoto_2017-07-04_um_14.00.35 hreflang

Figure 1: "Settings" menu from Google.de

Users of Google.at should, for example, not be shown the directory /de/, but rather the directory /at/. In the source code of your website, the command appears as:

<link link rel="alternate" href="http://examplepage.de/de/"
hreflang="de-DE" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://examplepage.de/at/"
hreflang="de-AT" />

Solution with Ryte

You can monitor how the hreflang monster is residing on your website with the help of Ryte. In the Ryte module, if you click on the menu point "Multilingual Settings" and then on "Languages," all the translations of your website will be listed.

Screen-Shot-2017-07-25-at-09.19.21 hreflang

Figure 2: Links to translations by URL

In the subpoint "Status Codes," you can check whether the translated sites are being forwarded to and whether they are reachable. All status codes that your server gives for sites with hreflang are shown.

Screen-Shot-2017-07-25-at-09.19.49 hreflang

Figure 3: Allow status codes to be displayed by sites with hreflang attributes.

Moreover, you can filter the hreflang attributes in the link report. For this, you can click on the button "Add filter," search for the keyword "hreflang" in the search bar, and choose either the filter for the language designation or the country specification via hreflang

Bildschirmfoto_2017-07-04_um_14.05.13 hreflang

Figure 4: Set filter for hreflang attributes in the popular link report


With the hreflang attribute, webmasters can convey the language and country-specific version of international websites to the search engines, thus preventing duplicate content. Search engines read the location information in the attribute to deliver search results in the desired language and country versions.

This can lower the bounce rate and increase dwell time, because the searcher does not have to select the proper language version. With the translated contents, you have the same chance as domestic competitors to rank in foreign-language search results lists.

Have You Met the Other Monsters of Website Optimization?

The Internal Linking Monster
The Slow Page Speed Monster
The Duplicate Content Monster
The Bad Canonical Tag Monster
The Orphan Page Monster
The 404 Monster
The Thin Content Monster
The Missing ALT Tags Monster
The Redirects Monster

Ryte users gain +93% clicks after 1 year. Learn how!

Published on Jul 18, 2017 by Eva Wagner