The hreflang attribute is important for managing different language versions of multilingual websites. With Ryte, you can easily check your implementation of hreflang tags, and detect errors.
Google introduced the hreflang attribute in 2011, as an increasing number of websites were operating internationally and offering their services and products globally. Ideally, the content of a website should be provided according to the user’s location, and displayed in the respective language of the browser. This is important for two reasons:
Using hreflang is not a ranking factor, but use of the hreflang attribute can indirectly contribute to SEO. Hreflang means the content displayed is properly targeted to the user. Regional differences such as currencies, spelling, and delivery costs are shown correctly to the user, leading to a reduced bounce rate, increased time on page, and increased conversion rate. This in turn provides positive user signals to search engines.
Internationally oriented websites with different languages strengthen their usability and relevance of the page for users by using hreflang. The hreflang tag is also beneficial to SEO, as it can also help avoid issues with duplicate content, as it indicates to search engines what is the relevant content for different countries.
If you can answer the following questions with "Yes," you should use hreflang notations according to Google's recommendations.
When using hreflang notation, it is essential to consider bi-directional linking. All equivalent content must be linked, and in both directions.You can create the hreflang markup with the help of a hreflang generator tool - for example Aleyda Solis’s hreflang generator tool.
Websites should use the ‘hreflang’ declaration to properly identify their various local sites and ensure Google can serve the most relevant language / local version to users searching in that language or from that location. Webmasters need to place the hreflang declaration in a header tag, in the HTTP headers, or within the XML sitemap. When in doubt, refer to the official Google hreflang guidance here.
The setup can be confusing. These are some of the most common errors:
Even retail giants like IKEA and Marks & Spencer failed to implement hreflang correctly (or at all!). For example, M&S only link to two local sites from their main homepage, and then they don’t link back from the local site back to the main homepage. Moreover, the UK retail giant has several other local sites, many of which are also in English but are left out from the hreflang declaration altogether. While Google does try to show the appropriate local version, using hreflang correctly would make a big difference to M&S’ organic search presence.
The good news is that some brands do get hreflang right, and reap rich rewards. Look at cloud-based accounting software brand Xero. They have the correct hreflang setup for all their key service pages with one-to-one correspondence and even an x-default tag defined correctly.
If your hreflang tags are not implemented correctly, this can negatively affect SEO, as it is not clear to Google which URL should be shown in each country. A correct hreflang set up is important for an international website. With Ryte, you can easily check your implementation of the hreflang tag. You can find the language report in Website Success under "multilingual settings". There are three categories:
This category shows all of your analyzed URLs, and to which documents they are referring to. The column “Translations” shows you which translations the HTML document is referring to. For example, the URL https://de.ryte.com/magazine has hreflang tags referring to the English, French and Spanish translations, as well as to the German page itself.
Figure 1: Incoming translations
In the column "Incoming Translations", you can see which other HTML documents refer to this page as its translation. In this case, there is a mistake in the incoming translations column. As the URL in the list is the English version of the website, all other URLs referring to this document should consequently note this in the language code. If this was the case, the language "English" would be listed in the incoming translation list. However, in this case, the incoming translation to has "German" marked in the language code, which is why it is marked with a red exclamation mark.
To find missing translations, click on the most left hand bar "None". Then you can filter according to the OPR (OnPage Rank) - this is an indicator of the popularity and importance of the page, so if you have any pages with a high OPR and no translation, these should probably be translated.
The report translation counts shows you the number of translations and incoming translations a particular URL has. Ideally, the number of translations should be identical to the number of incoming translations. If this is not the case, you should dig a little deeper. Sometimes, soft 404 pages account for a wrong number of Incoming translations, or the hreflang tag has been set incorrectly and all sites reference the same URL as their translation.
Tip: Sort the number of Incoming Translations in descending order. This way, you can easily tell if there are any major deviations between both columns. To find more information about each URL, click on the magnifying class to load the inspector.
Similar to the Status Code report of the link targets, this category reviews the Status Codes of the Translations. This report helps you to detect typos or mistakes in the hreflang tag so that you can correct them as quickly as possible to avoid 404 Status Codes.
Figure 2: Status codes
As well as the report specific for multilingual settings, you can also analyze the hreflang attribute within the links report. If you click on “Links”, “Overview”, “hreflang attribute”, you are able to see the hreflang language and country for every link of your website. You can then filter according to hreflang attributes that are either “not set,” are “ok”, or have a conflicting country or language.
Figure 3: Hreflang filters
The hreflang attribute is an important part of maintaining an international strategy. It means that users are shown the correct version of your website according to the country they are living in, improving usability. It also helps Google understand your website structure better, therefore helping the search engine optimization of your website. With Ryte, you can find potential mistakes in your hreflang tags, and work out which pages might require translation, helping to improve your website for the better.
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Published on 11/05/2018 by Olivia Willson.
Who writes here
After studying at King’s College London, Olivia moved to Munich, where she joined the Ryte team in 2017. She is in charge of product marketing and CRO, and also helps out with SEO and content marketing. When she's not working, you can usually find her outside, either running around a track, or hiking up a mountain.
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