Video: Reach an International Audience with hreflang Tags

What do you do for an international website that requires using multiple English language variations to provide all the same content, but without breeding duplication? You implement an hreflang tag.

Watch SEO Technical Director Jody O'Donnell explain how you can add the hreflang tag to your website to improve your international strategy.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Jody O'Donnell: Hello. Welcome to the RKG blog. My name is Jody O'Donnell. I'm the SEO Technical Director here at RKG. Today we're going to be talking about international signals and specifically the hreflang tag.

The hreflang tag was introduced by Google recently and joined by Yandex. Bing currently doesn't support the hreflang tags, and we're going to talk about that a little bit more at the end of the video.

The hreflang tag is specifically to point out the differences between country code and language variations. Technically, these pages should not be duplicates of each other. They should have the different variations of the language in them so that the user feels like they are actually getting the correct language when they search from their search engine from their country utilizing their language.

While languages and dialects are very similar, such as the difference between American English and British English, there are subtle differences between the languages, such as CV versus résumé, flat versus apartment, or loo versus restroom. These language variations are important. Rubber versus eraser. Bangers and mash versus sausage and potatoes.

There are three different ways you can implement the hreflang tags. None of them have any technical preferences over the other. It's basically whichever ones that your development team can do the easiest. You can either put them in XML sitemaps, the head section of the HTML document, or in the HTTP headers.

With the hreflang tags you can also denote generic language preferences. This is for those cases where you have a page for American English, British English, but not Australian or Irish. If you put a generic "en" versus "en-[specific country]," you can kind of help capture any of the language variations of that particular language in a default page.

The next tag we're going to talk about is the x-default tag. This one is the one that's probably the most implemented incorrectly when we look at it. The x-default tag isn't for a default page or a default landing page. Specifically, it's for the page that if a user were to come to, they would be automatically redirected to the correct language country code variation based upon geo-targeting, or they would have a page where they could select their own language and country code preferences for which they'd like to see the website.

Lastly, with the hreflang tags you want to close the loop, which means that you have to have the hreflang tag specific to the page that you're actually on. So if you have three different language variations per page, such as American English, British English, and Australian English, each of those pages will have three hreflang tags on them with one pointing to the page itself.

And at the end, let's talk about Bing. Bing doesn't currently support the hreflang tags, and we haven't seen anything that they're denoting that in the future they will support it. Right now with Bing you can either put the language preferences within the content meta tag, within the head section of the HTML document, or you can put it in the HTTP headers. While Bing's options are limited, this is just extra code that you're putting in for the separate search engine. If you're already able to do the hreflang tags, adding the tags for Bing shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Even though the hreflang tags are a single part of an international strategy, it's not a small part. We'll be talking more upon this subject when we talk about domain strategies in an upcoming video.

I hope you have a better understanding how the hreflang tag works in relation to language and country code variations. We look forward to your comments down below. Thank you

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