• http://www.RogueEdits.com Susan Moskwa

    “Neither the canonical nor the Hreflang tags have a direct impact on ranking – canonicals do not share the link equity of the domestic market with the new markets targeted.”
    Actually, rel=”canonical” does pass ranking signals (such as links) to the canonical URL in a group, which will affect its ranking. Hreflang currently does not.

    It may seem obvious to a human (especially to a webmaster who knows their site well) which language each page is in and which country it’s targeting, but it’s not always that easy for computers to figure out. While you can use Webmaster Tools to geotarget a particular site or
    directory, there’s no way to indicate other URLs that are semantically equivalent versions — that is, we have no way of knowing that http://www.example.com/my-article.html is the English-language version of http://www.example.fr/mon-article.html, even if both domains are correctly geotargeted. We also see many webmasters using one ccTLD to try to reach multiple locales (e.g. a site that launches on a .de domain and later expands to serve German-speaking people in Austria and
    Switzerland, while retaining their German ccTLD). Hreflang markup helps with all of these situations in a way that none of our other currently-available tools or systems do. It’s also been a very good source for discovering new URLs.

    Many of the tools and markup options Google offers are basically alternate paths to the same end goal. For example, if you want us to index the www version of your site and not the non-www version, you can 301 redirect all your non-www URLs to www URLs; or you can use rel=”canonical”; or you can set a preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools. Everyone’s site is a little bit different, some webmasters can implement one solution and not the other, so we like to give multiple options when we can. Similarly, no one is required to implement hreflang (or rel=”canonical”) markup; but if you’re having trouble getting the correct local version of your content to appear for local searchers, we’re trying to give you an alternative way to accomplish that goal.

  • BNH

    Thanks for the helpful article – as someone who works with a multi-national website, I agree that the guidelines for these tags are confusing. One thing that still puzzles me though:

    You mention needing 80 lines of code on an 80 country site. But surely any given page only needs to include hreflangs to versions in the same language group, not to all possible language variations? For instance, a German page would hreflang it’s Austrian and Swiss German equivalent, but not it’s Thai equivalent. That means far less than 80 lines of code.

  • http://www.RogueEdits.com Susan Moskwa

    @BNH: If a page is translated into 80 languages, then yes, you could put 80 link tags with hreflang markup in each page to indicate the other URLs that contain that same (semantic) content in other languages. Hreflang is not only for content in the same language “group,” although that is one potential use of it.

  • Britt

    Susan: Thanks for the response, though I confess I am now more confused.

    If you have a website where you fully translate content into 80 languages (similar to my website), these tags have two (substantial) benefits:

    1) to avoid tripping duplicate content filters

    2) to avoid wrong market content showing up (e.g. French market content showing up in French Switzerland)

    But 1) and 2) are only ever problems within language groups – e.g. I don’t think my Thai content is ever being considered a duplicate to my German content, and my Thai content is never ranking in Germany. So I can’t see any justification for the extra code to reference all languages. Unless there is some SEO advantage?

    The use case I can see where it would make sense to reference all 80 languages is if you don’t translate fully – e.g. you have body content in English in all markets but translated navigation (such as with social media profiles). Then I could see that it is important to reference all versions to avoid them being considered duplicates.

  • Britt

    Clarification: by “SEO advantage” I meant ranking advantage.

  • http://twitter.com/danlawrence Dan Lawrence

    Grt article, please clarify though – if combining the canonical + hreflang on pages on a new subfolder version of a uk hosted .com site to target US (apart from target keywords spelt differently all content is duplicated) do canonical and uk english href tags need to be applied to the original sites uk focused pages too ?

    I would prefer to leave the main uk site ‘as is’ so still shows up in other country searches too) ? I will be geotargeting the US focused subfolder via GWT.In other words in above scenario do i just need add the canonical and href lang tags to the us focused subdirectory + geotarget via GWT and that should be all thats required for G to see that the new subdirectory is specifally focused on US searches ?

  • http://twitter.com/andyatkinskruge andyatkinskruge

    Dan, The answer is yes.  You can’t use the canonical without it being on the original — the just wouldn’t make sense.  

    If you use the canonical and Hreflang together, essentially Google treats them as one item of content all folded in together — but swaps in the correct link in geo-targeted instances – i.e. for Google.com in your question above you’d be asking them to show the US link – even though you’d be telling them that the content is duplicate based on your UK version.  

  • http://twitter.com/danlawrence Dan Lawrence

    ok great thanks for prompt reply Andy !

    since the titles, urls and some content (different kw spellings) will have subtle differences should i drop the canonicalistion (as per this article:  http://dejanseo.com.au/canonical-vs-hreflang/) or still best to implement ?

  • Faisal Noor

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for a great article. I have a couple of questions;

    1- I have 3 websites for UK, NZ, AU English and i have got separate domain for them. i.e http://www.example.co.uk, http://www.example.com.au, http://www.example.co.nz. Main Language is English. Product description is almost the same across different regions. Do I still need to use ‘hreflang’? If yes then how. Please clarify. 

    Let me tell you what i understand about using hreflang. 
    In http://www.example.co.uk html head i have to use follow two tags 

    Similarly for AU and NZ website. Am i right? if not please correct me.2- If i have written an article about a product and placed on http://www.example.co.uk; can i use same article for http://www.example.com.au and NZ. 3- If I have variations of a single product on http://www.example.co.uk and have a separate product page for each variation with 5% difference in content. Will Google penalize it in some way? Note: I cant change the text on a variation page, I cant merge it and make it as one page. I have been looking for answers for a long time, please help!