What Are Hreflang Attributes?

What Are Hreflang Attributes

There are websites from all over the world on the internet, and language obstacles can make it hard for people to communicate. Imagine going online to look for something special and getting search results in a language you don’t know. 

Or, imagine that a global company accidentally showed its German website to people who spoke English, leaving potential customers confused and upset.

There are times when hreflang attributes are needed. Hreflang attributes might just look like lines of HTML, but they have a huge effect on the digital world as a whole. 

Whether you’re a big e-commerce company trying to connect with buyers all over the world or a travel blogger telling stories that make people want to travel, knowing and using the power of hreflang traits can make the difference between a scattered online presence and a global audience that is all on the same page.

What is the Hreflang Attribute?

The hreflang attribute is like a special code that websites use to talk to search engines. Imagine you have a website that speaks different languages. 

You want to make sure that when someone searches for something, they get results in the same language that they understand. That’s where hreflang comes in. Think about it this way: Imagine you have a cool website about pets.

You have one version in English for people in the United States, and another in Spanish for folks in Spain. If you don’t use hreflang, there’s a chance the English site might show up for Spanish users, and that would be confusing, right? 

But with hreflang, you’re basicall telling the search engines, “Hey, this page is for English speakers in the U.S.,” or “This page is for Spanish speakers in Spain.”

Now, let’s talk about where this magical hreflang code goes. It’s like a secret tag you put in the behind-the-scenes code of your webpage. It’s usually in the top part, and it helps search engines understand which version of your site is meant for which people. 

So, when someone in the U.S. looks for pet tips, they will see your English version, while someone in Spain will get the Spanish one.

Let’s go a little fartherfurther to apply this idea to the details of web development. The hreflang property normally appears in an HTML document’s head> section, where it offers important details regarding language and location targeting. 

To establish a specific language-country pairing, it combines language codes (such as “en” for English and “fr” for French) and optional region codes (such as “US” for the United States and “FR” for France).

For instance, an hreflang tag might look like this: <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-US” href=”https://www.example.com/us-page“>. This tag communicates that the linked page is in English and tailored for the U.S. audience. 

You may build a network of interconnected signals that direct search engines to show viewers all around the world the most pertinent material by carefully integrating these tags throughout pertinent web pages.

Using hreflang is like being a good host to your visitors. You make sure they get the right content in the language they prefer. 

Plus, it’s not just helpful; it’s smart for business too. If you want more people to find your site, especially from different countries, using hreflang can make a big difference. It’s like a key to unlock doors for your website in the global neighborhood of the internet.

What does the Hreflang Tag look like?

Let’s see what an Hreflang tag looks like with some concrete examples! Picture this scenario: You run an online store that sells artisanal chocolates, and you want to cater to both English-speaking customers in the United Kingdom and French-speaking customers in Canada. To make sure the right people see the right versions of your product pages, you will use hreflang tags. Here’s how you would do it:

English Version for the UK:

Let’s say you have a page that showcases your “Deluxe Chocolate Assortment.” The URL for this page is https://www.example.com/uk/deluxe-chocolates.

Here’s how the hreflang tag would look in the HTML code of the page:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-GB” href=”https://www.example.com/uk/deluxe-chocolates“>

In this tag, html attribute rel=”alternate” tells search engines that there’s an alternate version of the page. hreflang=”en-GB” indicates that this particular page is in English and targeted at the United Kingdom audience. The href attribute provides the URL of the page.

French Version for Canada:

Now, let’s consider the French language version of the same product page, specifically for your Canadian customers. The URL for this page is https://www.example.com/ca/assortiment-de-chocolats.

Here’s the corresponding hreflang tag:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-CA” href=”https://www.example.com/ca/assortiment-de-chocolats“>

Again, rel=”alternate” is used to indicate an alternate version, hreflang=”fr-CA” signifies that this page is in French and meant for the Canadian audience, and the href attribute provides the URL.

By using these hreflang tags on both versions of the product page, you are telling the other search engines, “Hey, there are different versions of this page for different languages and regions.” This helps search engines like Google understand which version to display to users based on their location and preferred language preferences.

So, when someone in the UK searches for chocolates, they will see the English version, while someone in Canada searching for “assortment de chocolates” will see the French version.

How to build an Hreflang Tag?

Although creating a hreflang tag might sound a bit complicated, have no fear—it’s completely possible! Consider that you wish to promote your blog providing travel advice to English-speaking readers in Australia and the United States. Let’s outline the steps:

Step 1: Identify Your Pages and Languages

First, figure out which pages you want to target in different regions. Let’s say you have a post titled “Top Beach Destinations” that you’ve tailored for both the U.S. and Australian audiences. You have two versions of this page: one for the U.S. at https://www.example.com/us/beach-destinations and another for Australia at https://www.example.com/au/beach-destinations.

Step 2: Craft Your Hreflang Tag

Now, it’s time to create the hreflang tag for each version of the page. Open the HTML code of your U.S. page and add this tag within the <head> section:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-US” href=”https://www.example.com/us/beach-destinations“>

And then, open the HTML code of your Australian page and add this tag:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-AU” href=”https://www.example.com/au/beach-destinations“>

Step 3: Check Your Language and Region Codes

In the hreflang attribute, “en” stands for English, “US” is the region code for the United States, and “AU” is the country code for Australia. These language and country codes help search engines understand the language and location of your content.

Step 4: Test Your Tags

Before you pat yourself on the back, it’s wise to double-check your work. You can use online tools like the hreflang tag generator to make sure your tags are correctly formatted. Remember, a small typo can mess things up, so it’s good to be thorough.

Step 5: Implement Across Your Site

If you have multiple pages targeting different languages and regions, you will need to add hreflang tags to each of them. Just remember to keep the codes consistent for each language-country pair.

In our case, if someone in the U.S. searches for “best beach destinations,” Google will use the hreflang tag to show them the U.S. version of your blog post. Similarly, if someone in Australia searches for the same thing, they will see the Australian version.

Where does an Hreflang Tag Go?

Here, we will tell you where exactly hreflang tags should go on your web pages.

Inside the <head> Section

Hreflang tags are placed within the <head> section of your webpage’s HTML code. This is part of the code where you provide important information about your webpage, such as the title, meta description, and other essential elements. It’s like the backstage area where search engines peek to understand what your page is all about. Placing hreflang tags here ensures that search engines can easily spot them and use the information to deliver the right content to the right audience.

Right Before Other Meta Tags

When you are inserting hreflang tags, try to place them before other meta tags in the <head> section. This helps keep things organized and ensures that search engines can quickly access and interpret the tags. Think of it as having a clear signpost right at the entrance, directing search engines to the crucial language and region-targeting information.

Using the <link> Element

Hreflang tags are typically structured using the <link> HTML element. The rel=”alternate” attribute tells search engines that there’s an alternate version of the page available. 

The hreflang attribute is where you specify the language and region code combination, and the href attribute contains the URL of duplicate content on the page you are targeting.

Per Page Basis

Remember, hreflang tags need to be implemented on a per-page basis. This means that if you have multiple pages with different language or region targets, each page should have its hreflang tag pointing to the alternate version.

International and Language Variants

For websites offering content in multiple languages and regions, hreflang tags become invaluable. Let’s say you have a travel blog with pages in English, French, and Spanish, each catering to different countries. For your English page targeting U.S. users, the tag would look like this:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-US” href=”https://www.example.com/us/travel-page“>

Similarly, for the correct version of the French version meant for users in Canada, you would have:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-CA” href=”https://www.example.com/ca/travel-page“>

And for the Spanish version targeted at users in Spain:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-ES” href=”https://www.example.com/es/travel-page“>

In a nutshell, hreflang tags act like little translators for search engines, guiding them to deliver the right content to the right audience. 

By placing these tags in the <head> section of your HTML code, you’re effectively signaling to search engines that your website speaks various languages and is tailored to different regions.

How to find and fix Hreflang issues?

Maintaining the harmony of hreflang attributes is crucial. These tiny bits of code play a monumental role in ensuring that your website speaks the right language to the right audience across the globe. 

Hreflang tags, like any complex system, can run into problems that call for a competent hand to fix them. Let’s see and identify common and ignore hreflang tags’ problems and use the knowledge to resolve them, providing a smooth and enjoyable online experience for users everywhere.

Missing or Incorrect Hreflang Tags:

Issue: Sometimes, in the hustle of web development, implementing hreflang tags can be overlooked or implemented inaccurately. Missing or incorrectly implementing hreflang tags can lead search engines astray, causing them to display the wrong version of your content to users.

Solution: Carefully audit your website’s pages to ensure that each one has the appropriate hreflang tag. Double-check that language and region codes are accurate. Use online tools or website crawlers to identify missing or problematic hreflang tags.

Inconsistent Linking:


Hreflang tags should form a web of interconnected signals between alternate versions of a page. Inconsistently linking pages can disrupt this network, confusing search engines.

Solution: Ensure that each version of a page contains accurate hreflang tags pointing to its alternate versions. Verify that the linked URLs match and follow a logical pattern.

Self-Referencing Hreflang Tags:

Issue: It’s not uncommon to accidentally include self-referencing hreflang tags, where a page’s tag points to itself. This can confuse search engines and dilute the effectiveness of your hreflang strategy.

Solution: Scrutinize your hreflang tags to make sure none of them point back to multiple HTML documents on the same page. Focus on creating connections between alternate versions, not looping back to the same one.

Incomplete or Inaccurate Language and Region Codes:

Issue: Incorrect language or region codes can lead to misinterpretation by search engines. For instance, using “EN” instead of “en” for English or using “USA” instead of “US” for the United States.

Solution: Refer to the official language code and region code standards. Stick to lowercase for language codes (like “en,” “fr,” and  “es”) and uppercase for region codes (like “US,” “CA,” “GB”).

Content Discrepancies:

Issue: Sometimes, the content on alternate versions of a page might not match as closely as intended. This can lead to confusion and mismatched search results.

Solution: Strive for consistency in the main content across language and region versions. While some variations are natural, ensure that the core information remains accurate.

Canonical and Hreflang Conflicts:

Issue: Hreflang tags can sometimes clash with canonical tags, which tell search engines the preferred version of a page. This can lead to mixed signals.

Solution: Align your canonical tags with the primary version of the page, while hreflang tags guide alternate page versions. Make sure there’s no contradiction between the two.

Unreachable Alternate Versions:

Issue: If search engines can’t access the alternate versions of your pages (due to technical issues, blocked resources, or other reasons), your hreflang strategy won’t be effective.

Solution: Ensure that search engines can crawl and index all alternate versions of your pages. Check your robots.txt file and any potential search engine crawl restrictions.

By being vigilant about potential issues and implementing appropriate solutions, you can fortify your website’s international SEO strategy. 

Regular audits and proactive troubleshooting will not only enhance user experience but also bolster your website’s visibility and accessibility on the global stage. 

Remember, the journey to a seamlessly interconnected digital universe is marked by a willingness to learn and adapt – and fixing hreflang issues is a pivotal step on that journey.

Automate your Hreflang Tag Audits

Ensuring that your website speaks the right language to the right audience is paramount. Hreflang tags are the unsung heroes in this endeavor, guiding search engines to deliver content tailored to specific languages and regions. 

However, as websites grow in complexity, so do the challenges of managing these tags across numerous pages. Here is the solution: automating hreflang tag audits.

By harnessing automation tools, webmasters can streamline the process of checking and rectifying hreflang issues, saving time, reducing errors, and ensuring a seamless user experience for a global audience. 

As websites expand to cater to diverse audiences, manually reviewing every hreflang tag becomes increasingly impractical. Human error, particularly in larger websites, can lead to missed tags, incorrect codes, and broken connections.

Moreover, staying vigilant about changes and updates in content can become overwhelming. This is where automated hreflang tag audits step in. Automation tools crawl through your website, scanning for issues across pages, and providing a comprehensive overview of the state of your hreflang implementation.

Benefits of Automation:

  • Efficiency: Automation significantly speeds up the auditing process. What might take hours or even days for a human to accomplish can be completed by automation tools in a fraction of the time.

  • Accuracy: Automation minimizes the risk of human error. These tools are programmed to follow specific guidelines and rules, ensuring that hreflang tags are consistently and accurately implemented.

  • Comprehensive Insights: Automated audits provide a comprehensive view of your website’s hreflang landscape. They identify missing, incorrect, or self-referencing tags, allowing you to address issues systematically.

  • Regular Monitoring: Automation can be scheduled to perform regular audits, ensuring that new content additions or changes are promptly evaluated for hreflang correctness.

Choosing the Right Automation Tool:

When selecting an automation tool for hreflang audits, consider factors like ease of use, compatibility with your website platform, and the depth of insights provided. Some tools offer detailed reports, highlighting problematic pages and offering suggestions for rectification. 

Keep in mind that while automation streamlines the process, a human touch is still essential to understand the context and make strategic decisions based on the audit results.

Embracing automation for hreflang tag audits is not just about convenience; it’s a strategic move to maintain a consistent, error-free, and user-friendly website experience across the diverse linguistic and cultural tapestry of the internet.

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