5 Common Hreflang Mistakes You Might Be Making 15Nov, 2018

Are you thinking about how to add hreflang tags in html? Are you wondering what will happen if you used them on your duplicate content? How do you fit hreflang in SEO? What would it do to your website ranking in the long run? Before you make a mistake while implementing this tag, understand the following:

Hreflang Attribute

The hreflang attribute is widely referred to as rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”. It tells the leading search engines (Google) which language you use on a specific page. Based on that the search engine serves relevant results to your users who are searching in that language.

Before You Go About Randomly Implementing This Tag All Over Your Web Pages, Understand The Most Common Hreflang Mistakes

Errors In The Return Tag
The most common among these errors is the “Return Tag Error” and this is primarily the result of hreflang annotations that fail to cross-reference on one another. You can find these within the Google Search Console just below the International Targeting tab. You can easily know about the number of tags found and also how many hreflang errors have occurred provided your website has active hreflang annotations. These can be either via page tagging or xml sitemaps. These errors happen when your annotations are not confirmed from other pages.

For example if you link your page A to page B, then page B must be linked back to page A. If you fail to do so, your annotations will not be interpreted correctly. If you want to prevent this error, make sure that your tag includes a reference to the page itself. This means that your Page A should use the annotation link “rel-alternate-hreflang” to link to itself.

When You End Up Using The Wrong Code For The Country Or Language
When you add hreflang codes to your website pages, make sure to use the correct country and language codes.

Google says, “The value of the hreflang attribute must be in ISO 639-1 format for the language, and in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format for the region. Specifying only the region is not supported.”

Thus, we can say that here the most common mistake you could commit is to use “en-uk” to specify English speakers in the UK. Remember that the correct hreflang tag for the United Kingdom would be “en-gb.” If you are not sure what exact values you should be using, you can use hreflang generator tools to help out.

Do You Combine Hreflang Sitemaps With Page Tagging Methods?

Don’t do that. You don’t need to use more than one method to effectively implement this tag. Google wouldn’t recommend it, because it is redundant. However experts say that one can certainly use both of these methods. Remember though that there is no advantage of one method over the other and it is all a matter of personal choice. Following are some considerations for using the xml sitemaps or page tagging methods:

Creating and updating Hreflang xml sitemaps may be difficult at times. You may choose to use online tools and Excel for the purpose but you still can’t automate the process. It is better to use xml sitemaps created and updated by your CMS automatically instead.

  • Your code can get bloated due to page tagging when you target several countries/languages.
  • WordPress and Drupal are some of the CMSs that offer automatic hreflang page tagging.


Hreflang Annotations Do Not Consolidate Link Authority

A very common misconception is that hreflang annotations consolidate link authority and it is enough to divert even an advanced SEO expert from their path. Once you correctly implement the hreflang across multiple top-level domains, the domain that is most authoritative gains in link authority. But it hasn’t been verified yet by anyone so for now it is better to believe that the right and the best way to build link authority is to keep all your content on one domain. You can always use a generic, top-level domain to start with and then use a sub-folder to create content that targets your country or language.

Do You Have Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content is critical and a very tricky subject indeed. You most likely think that throwing hreflang into your duplicate content is going to “fix” these issues but this is not the case. By adding this tag to your website, they appear in the Google Search Console’s International Targeting tab. However, your HTML Improvements tab will still show you Duplicate Title Tags and Duplicate Meta Description warnings. To understand this better let’s consider similar webpages for two different countries such as the UK and Canada. Given that you have two pages in English that target different regions; those two pages may be similar with regards to content. Some might even consider them duplicates of each other but by adding hreflang tags you cannot really change anything. You may still notice your Canadian page outrank your British page.

Final Thoughts
What many experts suggest is that typically you shouldn’t just create hreflang tags randomly for every page you want. Focus on troubleshooting your international page rankings. Create unique content and pay attention to language and even local slangs if the need arises. Be more proactive and provide the user with more localized and familiar content in a language they can understand and relate well with.


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