How to Avoid International Content Duplication Penalty with Hreflang tags

What is Rel=”Alternate” Hreflang=”x”?

The Hreflang tag is essentially used to inform Google the language used on a specific webpage. Read more about it on Google’s blog here.

How does the Hreflang tag looks like and where do you add it?

The Hreflang tag looks like the code below. The tag goes into the “head” section of your webpage.

<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="es-es" />
<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="fr-fr" /> 
<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="pt-pt" />

Hreflang tags

Why use the Hreflang tag?

Google and other search engines use the hreflang tag to direct the visitors to the page in the right language. It is useful when you have a content that is specific to people speaking a certain language. For instance, the tags can offer search results to users searching in Spanish or Amharic. These tags are very important, especially for multilingual websites.

Multilingual Websites

To start with, it is imperative to understand the meaning of the term “multilingual’. It generally means that content is available in various languages, such as French, Chinese, Spanish and Swahili. However, there is more to that. It can mean language variation as well. People differ in the manner in which they speak their native language. This variation can at times be considerable. For instance, some speak Jamaican English and some speak British English. Also, multilingual can mean people speaking French in an English speaking country such as Canada. So, those can also be targeted. It is all multilingual.

You can use more than one hreflang on a page in case you want to show the page is meant for users in more than one area or country. If the page targets individuals who speak French in both Congo and France, for instance, you can show that as well.

Maximize Hreflang Tags

If your site serves pages in several languages, you need to make use of hreflang tags. There are many ways that these tags can help Google identify your site. And it will help Google translate the entire website into other languages apart from the original.

In case you want to add a link to your content, you can also use the tag. In this way, you are informing Google that that page in the link contain a different language. This is important for websites that tell users that the page or site is also available in other languages by linking these pages.

Hreflang is different from Canonicalization

It is worth noting that Hreflang is not similar to canonicalization. Hreflang is to show Google which language should show up in the search results. On the other hand, canonicalization is a tool used to prevent duplicate content problems by showing Google which URL – with the similar content – is dominant.

Hreflang and SEO

What is the relationship between hreflang and SEO? This is the biggest question for us. If the size of your site is big and ranks well, adding hreflang tags and new language might help its ranking. Google may even index everything as one if they are in one domain. Low ranking for your main website will not help the language alternatives. Smaller sites may not benefit much from Hreflang tags. Even so, it is important to add hreflang. It will increase your SEO and rankings.

content = king

How to implement Hreflang tags in WordPress?

Step 1

Install a free WordPress plugin called “Add Meta Tags“.

Step 2

After you install and activate the plugin, go to Settings -> Metadata. Uncheck everything, especially “Automatic Basic Metadata” and “Automatic Opengraph Metadata” and save the changes.

Step 3

Next we need to go to every page of your website and add the hreflang tag in the plugin space. Here I’m assuming you have 2 sites with the same content in English and German. Start with the English site. Add the German hreflang tag below to your “About Us” page which is another assumption.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="" />

Now go to the German “About Us” page and add the English hreflang tag below.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-us" href="" />

Repeat the process for all your pages/posts replacing “/about-us/” with whatever page you are working with.

Final Thoughts

This post must have helped you gain more understanding of the hreflang tags. If you have a multilingual website, the tags will definitely help Google know your site. This is the main reason why you should add them.

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