What are hreflang tags
Have you ever stumbled on a foreign website, and the language switched to your local one as soon as the page loaded? Well, if that ever happened to you, all praise goes to hreflang tags.
Hreflang tags' role is to signal to search engines that a page is available in multiple languages or regional versions. Based on this information, a search engine can then serve the correct page version to users based on their language and location. Users are directed to the most relevant page version that boosts the overall user experience.
How do hreflang tags work
Hreflang tags are typically added to the <head> section of a webpage and use the hreflang attribute to specify the language and regional targeting of the page. Let's take an example of a page that targets Spanish speakers in Spain. The hreflang tag would look like this:
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-ES" href="http://example.com/es-ES/page.html" />
The search engine can then understand that the page is available in Spanish and targets users in Spain. It also specifies the URL of the Spanish version of the page.
It is good to know that each language and country has its hreflang tag. According to Hubspot, examples of the most common ones are:
- German/Germany: de-de
- English/USA: en-us
- Irish/Ireland: ga-ie
- Hindi/India: hi-in
- Italian/Italy: it-it
- Japanese/Japan: ja-jp
- Korean/Korea: ko-kp
- Portuguese/Brazil: pt-br
- Russian/Russain Federation: ru-ru
- Chinese (simplified for Chinese Mainland)/China: zh-hans-cn
- Thai/Thailand: th-th
A great thing about hreflang tags is that you can put multiple tags on the same page. This comes in handy when you want to share the same website or a specific page with different audiences.
Hreflang tags are bidirectional and work in pairs. Meaning that if you add a tag to an English page pointing to the French version, then the French version needs a tag pointing to the English page.
How do hreflang tags help boost your SEO score
Hreflang tags help you show the most appropriate version of your page to the desired audience. Spanish internet users will thus see a Spanish version if available, and French users will then see a French version.
When Google sees the hreflang tag, it views the web page as especially relevant for that specific audience. In our example, Google would rank the Spanish version higher for Spanish speakers and the French version for French speakers.
According to studies, internet users prefer to browse in their native tongue. Catering the website in the user's local language improves the experience, leading to the increased time spent on the site and a lower bounce rate. The more visitors click on your page, the more important and relevant it becomes for Google search engines.
Next, hreflang tags can also have a direct effect on your ranking. Hreflang is a signal, not a directive. Pages in a hreflang cluster thus share each other ranking signals and help Google understand which pages are for users in which language. The page that is the best match will determine the ranking position. Then, Google will show the most relevant version in the SERPs.
Last but not least, hreflang tags help you avoid duplicate content. When you create a multilingual website, you will likely end up with several web pages with highly similar content in different languages. Some language variants may even call for minor content differences in the same language. A great example would be comparing a page in British English with American English. These two pages are almost identical, and thus, Google may see them as duplicate content and choose one version to index. In cases where Google suspects that you try to manipulate the search ranking, it may even decide to not rank any of these web pages.
You can use hreflang tags to avoid such penalties and help Google understand the relationship between pages. Hreflang tags allow you to tell Google what audience are you targeting with those pages, so these pages shouldn't be treated as identical content.
Why major global brands use hreflang tags
There are fewer and fewer companies that do not invest in localization. More and more companies are implementing hreflang tags in their localization strategy.
Customer experience goes a long way when reaching beyond the local border and trying to raise brand awareness. Companies invest heavily to create content that fits the local context of a new audience. Airbnb, Spotify, Netflix, Coca-Cola, and similar brands offer a unique customer experience based on your language and location.
Creating culturally appropriate content that resonates with a target audience is one thing, but reaching this audience with the right versions of your web pages is another. After all, the end goal is reaching your audience with content designed just for them. Here hreflang tags come into play! Hreflang tags direct internet users to the correct version of your web pages.
Hreflang tags direct visitors to the appropriate versions of your web pages automatically. Google detects the visitors' location and matches it to the correct language version of your website. All this lead to a more seamless user experience on your site.
Mistakes to avoid when using hreflang tags on Webflow
Implementing hreflang tags on Webflow is not a mindless walk in the park. To get the full benefit of using them, avoid the most common mistakes introduced in the following chapters.
Using the wrong language and region code
When stating the language and region of your hreflang link attributes you must use the correct ISO codes. Find the proper language codes in the ISO 639-1 list and the country codes in the ISO 3166-1 list.
Using the wrong code can result in displaying the wrong version of a page to specific users or resulting in Google not recognizing that you even use the hreflang tag.
Using hreflang tags on the homepage only
Have you created different versions of your website for different speaking audiences? Then you probably want to show them the correct version every time. Implementing hreflang tan on your homepage is not enough. Use it on every page with a language and regional variant.
Pointing your web pages to irrelevant language variants
What may sound like a good strategy is a complete opposite. Serving a website in the wrong language will likely increase the website bounce rate and signal to Google that your page is irrelevant to this specific audience. A high bounce rate is bad for SEO and results in a drop in google rankings.
Not providing a fallback page for uncatered variants
A good strategy in business is to have a backup plan when things go south. The same thing applies when you use hreflang tags on Webflow. You must provide fallback pages that Google shows visitors with language and region settings that you haven't catered for.
Not updating hreflang tags as your page grows
You add more and more pages as your website grows. Meaning all your new pages need hreflang tags as well. Next, you must update your hreflang tags when you add a new country domain. Adding tags to your existing web pages will enable you to point to the web pages in that new domain. Last but not least, remove the irrelevant hreflang tags. When you delete a language version, don't forget to remove the tag as well.
The world is becoming more global by the minute, and serving multilingual customers has become a norm rather than an expectation. Using hreflang tags on Webflow can boost your SEO performance and improve customer experience.
Hreflang tags ensure that different language and region versions of your content can reach the intended audience. Implementing them on your page will help understand Google what is the target audience for a specific page. Catering the website in the user's local language will improve the overall user experience and reduce the bounce rate. When you add them across all your pages, Google will show users the most relevant version in the SERPs. All this leads to better Google ranking and thus boosts your organic traffic.
In the end, we know that implementing hreflang tags across all your pages can be daunting. Not having a technical background can make this process quite overwhelming. Luckily, Linguana is here to give you a hand!
We are a multilingual SaaS tool specialized in Webflow only. We enable you to translate your page into multiple languages without the assistance of human translators. Every translation is SEO optimized and helps you get discovered in every new market you want to enter. And this includes implementing the proper hreflang tags on Webflow! Sign up for early access and experience the power of Linguana.