What is Hreflang?
Hreflang tags are a language-specific way of specifying that a web page is available in multiple languages, as well as where to find the translated version.
How does it work?
Each language gets its own hreflang tag with its unique language code, for example, The most common use case is the default home page – if you want to translate your homepage into French, Spanish and German, you would allocate three hreflang tags – one each for the homepage URL routes in French, Spanish and German respectively. You can read more about how to tag your pages and how Google may use this information in the Google documentation pages, or in the video below.
How do I set it up?
The first step is to go through your site and identify which pages have language-specific content and which ones you want search engines to show for specific languages. Once you know an SEO strategy, start implementing it by first creating a file called sitemap.xml (file extension .xml) at the root of your site. This file lists all pages that need to be indexed and their language versions.
Once you have created the sitemap, move on to finding out how to tag your pages with Hreflang codes.
Sending Google the language codes for each page is the quickest and easiest way to set up Hreflang. If you are using a CMS, be sure to check that it supports this feature. Otherwise, you can add an hreflang tag via a canonical tag pointing to the location of your primary language version (example.com/fr/) or via HTML code with hreflang tags pointing to your other language versions.
The last step is to create a Google Webmaster tool account and fill out the webmaster form with your country codes, meaning that you have multiple language versions for each country on your site.
Is hreflang matter for SEO
When it comes to Hreflang, SEO is a new feature. This means that Google and other search engines will not use this information for ranking yet. However, a large portion of SEO is still about how you set up your site, so in-depth knowledge of hreflang can still be beneficial.
How Hreflang Impacts SEO
The main advantage of hreflang is the possibility to create multiple versions of your site for different languages. This trick increases the number of pages that are visible in Google’s search results and increases your chances of having language-specific keywords rank higher than English keywords. The disadvantage with hreflang is that it will reduce the reliability of English content ranking on Google.
How can I create and implement hreflang tags?
Hreflang tags are usually created in HTML pages, but can also be added via the canonical tag on the root of your site. The following step-by-step guide will help you build the necessary HTML pages to set up each language on your site.
Below is an example of how to create an hreflang tag for French versions of a page:
- Create a page for your hreflang tag, and save it as the main page.
- After saving the file, add menu options for each language and each country. Here is an example of three languages: Spanish (es), French (fr), and German (de).
- The following example shows how an hreflang tag might look once it’s implemented in HTML code:
<link rel=” alternate” hreflang=” es” href=”http://example.
- You can check that everything has been implemented correctly by opening up your browser’s developer tool and specifying each language in order to see if Google will list the intended content link for each language.
Basics of implementing hreflang tags:
Now we have seen how hreflang tags work, let’s have a look at the basics on how to implement them:
1. How many hreflang tags do I need?
2. What do I need to set up hreflang?
3. How do I find out which language versions should be set up?
How many hreflang tags do I need?
To decide if you need to use any hreflang tags, you first need to check if your page has language-specific content. If your page has a large portion of content that is relevant for more than one language, then you should set up an hreflang tag. For smaller portions of content, you can use the canonical tag. However, it is worth mentioning that the majority of your site will not require multiple language versions and therefore no or few hreflang tags will be needed.
What do I need to set up hreflang?
To set up an hreflang tag, you need to create a file called sitemap.xml (file extension .xml) from your root directory which lists all pages that need to be indexed and the potential language versions.
How do I find out which language versions should be set up?
When it comes to choosing which language versions should be set up, one of the most important things to consider is your potential target audience and your competitors in the search engine results. For example, if you have a website targeting German customers, then it is worthwhile to set up a German version of your site to rank on Google’s first page for both English and German keywords. Even better would be creating a version for France as well; as many French websites target French customers as Germany does.
Hreflang is an interesting feature that can be used both to increase the number of pages that Google will scan for you and the size of your site in the search engine. In addition, this will help you make sure those pages are in multiple languages and that the content is relevant for customers in different countries.
Despite being new, we believe this feature will grow greatly and it is already a great help for SEO professionals who want to build sites with a large international audience.