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Hreflang Spoken Here

While there is no place quite like home, there comes a time in a successful website’s life when significant amounts of traffic from foreign-based search engines really start to matter. You are going to want to optimize your website to serve international audiences. Otherwise, people dialing in from abroad won’t find your content either relevant or useful.


Google uses the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” attributes to serve the correct language or regional URL in Search results. Introduced in 2011, the tag signals search engines that users querying in language “x” should be shown a different version of similar content than is shown to someone querying in language “y”. It is particularly useful for content specifically created to serve a local audience.

Hreflang and Canonicalization

When web content has more than one possible URLs, canonicalization comes to the search engine’s rescue to avoid  content duplication . Hreflang, on the other hand, shows a search engine a different version of a similar page based on languages or regions shown in the search results.Hreflang helps Google crawlers understand that certain pages, sections, subdomains or country code level domains (cctlds) are targeted for a specific country.

When and where the tag needs to be implemented

Google recommends using hreflang when:

  • You keep the main content in a single languageand translate only the template, such as the navigation and footer. Pages that feature user-generated content like a forum that typically does this.
  • Your content has small regional variationswith similar content in a single language. For example, you might have English-language content targeted to the US, GB, and Ireland.
  • Your site content is fully translated. For example, you have both German and English versions of each page.

The hreflang tag can be placed on hreflang page level, the HTTP header, or the sitemap.

HTML Link Element

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”” />

HTTP Header

If you have non-HTML content on your web pages such as a PDF file, you can use rel=”canonical” HTTP headers to indicate the canonical URL for HTML documents.

Link: <>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”


Instead of using markup, you can submit a language specific version via a sitemap.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”″














Each page includes a reference to itself as well as to all the pages that serve as alternates for it.

Meta Language Tag for Bing and other Search Engines

Google is the main search engine that uses HREFLANG to set up country targeting. Bing and many other search engines employ the Meta Language Tag. There are two ways to set up the syntax on this tag:

<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”>

Or the alternative syntax would be:

<meta name=”language” content=”English”>

The first option would be ideal if the website is targeted for both language and country. If you use Hreflang for your website’s overseas targeting, please let us know how it’s working for you.

Contact us to get your website optimized for international locations now!

Team Position2

January 14, 2015

By Team Position2