Why is The X-Default Hreflang Annotation Important for SEO?
May 21, 2013
Recently Google and Yandex together launched a new way to handle the hreflang mark-up for international web sites which has been a significant turning point for international SEO and websites targeting multiple regions and/or multiple languages. Most international websites tend to have multiple versions of the same content in different languages. The performance and handling of these websites has now significantly improved. With this, Google has plugged the final gap in executing ‘perfect’ SEO campaigns for multinational sites.
Importance of the X-Default Hreflang Annotation
Let us assume that there is a multinational website which has local editions for India, USA and Canada and users from different countries like Australia, Singapore etc. would also want to access this webpage. Until now, Google would use its own judgment to determine which version of the content to show these users. Now, the hreflang coding standard makes sure that users from all nations that don’t have a local version of the content targeted to them can view the version by default.
Take, for instance, the mark-up below:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://mysite.com/en-in” hreflang=”en-in”/>
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://mysite.com/en-us” hreflang=”en-us”/>
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://mysite.com/en-ca” hreflang=”en-ca”/>
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://mysite.com/en” hreflang=”x-default”/>
In the above example, while we have a local version of the page for India, USA and Canada, the 4th Page has been set as default and will be shown to all users from all other regions.
Multiple Versions of the Same Content
The Hreflang mark-up can be used to identify multiple versions of same content in following cases:
- When a site has been fully translated in multiple languages; for example, an English site with a German version for each webpage.
- When a site is in 1 language but has localized versions for different regions; e.g. an English site with local versions for US, Canada and Australia.
In its recently published guidelines, Google also states that if you have a webpage in multiple languages, each version of the page in the set must use rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” to identify all language versions including itself. For example, if your site provides content in French and Spanish, the Spanish version must include a rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” link for itself in addition to links to the French version.
You must be careful to not restrict the region when you define the language.
A US based website targeting English speaking communities across the globe must now ensure that they don’t have the hreflang=’en-us’ defined on the page. That particular mark-up tells Google that the content is primarily targeted to English speakers in the US, which means your content won’t rank in the UK or Canada or any other English speaking regions that don’t follow US conventions.
If yours is a multinational site in English, it might be a good idea to have your site audited by an experienced SEO professional.
If you’re for help with multi-regional or multilingual SEO for your international site, Techmagnate is here to help you out. Your best interests will be taken care of through a tailored approach based on your specific requirements.
Additional Read: What is SEO