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Multilingual SEO (5) Role of hreflang tag and its components

Let’s take a look at the technical part of multilingual SEO. The use of hreflang tags is essential for global sites that target multiple languages or regions. This is very different that we’ve discussed so far for a domain strategy.

■ What is a hreflang tag?

The hreflang tag is a tag that tells Google whether there are other versions of this page. In this article, as an example, let’s say you run a site selling red pants in English, Korean, and Spanish.

If you don’t give Google any guide, Google can be confused about whom to direct which version of webpage. This means that english users may not be able to connect to the English version of the page.

That’s why you need to clearly tell Google with the hreflang tag. The hreflang tag informs you of the following information:

1) Alternative versions of the links google is crawling
2) language information for each page
3) country information that this page is targeting

hreflang tag components

Let’s see what the hreflang tag is look like.

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

The link tag serves to provide information on the page. Usually it is positioned in between <head> and </head>. It represens the current web page and its relation to other pages.

“rel” property is an essential property of the tag. It depends on which property enters inside “” and their relationship with external resources. Here, we write “alternate” attribute because we want to give information about the translated pages.

And if you write your link as, you can guide Google the information that this page is written in Korean. As follows, let’s look at the tags.

<link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”es” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=“en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”” hreflang=”en-gb” />

The First tag provides information that the page is written in Spanish, the second tag gives information that it is written in English, targeting the United States, and the third tag gives information that it is written in English page, targeting the United States.
** Note – ISO language code (ISO 639-1), and region code (ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2) must be implemented correctly!

By inserting the hreflang tag, you can easily tell the language and region in which the page is targeted. The region code is optional, so you don’t have to enter it if it’s unnecessary. Be careful that If you put the wrong code, the hreflang tag doesn’t work!!

■ Why should I use the hreflang tag?

1. Customer experience(UX) goes up!

We run multilingual pages to provide convenience to users in their language/region, so of course when they search, the correct pages need to be linked. When you’re connected to the right page at once, the bounce rate drops, and customers can get the information they want without any hassle.

2. Duplicate content issues can be solved!

Google doesn’t like duplication of content. Google’s vision is “to provide access to the world’s information in one click”. You will be making every effort to ensure that you can click on the most appropriate information at once. If the content is duplicated, it is useless for Google, so Google may lower your sites’ rank.

Let’s compare an English page targeted to the U.S. with an English page targeted to the England. Of course, there are American English and British English, and sometimes the words can be very different.

However, there is no doubt that the majority of the content is likely to be overlapped. In this case, if you use the hreflang tag, you can tell Google, “Hey, Google, Don’t worry, this page is actually for the same purpose, one is American English, and one is British-English.”

In this article, we’ve learned the components of the hreflang tag. However, implementing a hreflang tag on one page is not the end of multilingual SEO. In the next article, you’ll learn about the canonical links, self links, return links, and X-default links that you need to know when implementing hreflang tags.

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