<< by on September 3rd, 2013
Does your company do business internationally? If you have separate domains, subdomains or subdirectories for each language variant, you may be running the risk of duplicate content penalties. What this means is without even knowing it, you could be ruining your established rankings for your US site just by having other language translations out there.
Fret not, as there is a simple solution to help Google understand that these should not be seen as duplicate content, but simply as alternate versions of the original: the hreflang link attribute (example shown below).
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-au” href=”http://www.your-website.au” />
Find All Versions of Your Site
First things first, you’ll want to gather a full list of all domains, subdomains or subdirectories that are translations of your site. If you have a long list of translations, I’d recommend using Excel to concatenate your information together to save you some time.
Find Corresponding Language & Location Codes
To compile your hreflang attribute, you’ll need to find the language (ISO 639-1) and location (ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2) codes that correspond with each site variation. For instance, you have one site targeting English speaking visitors in the U.K., and another targeting Romania.
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-uk” href=”http://www.your-website.uk” />
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”ro” href=”http://www.your-website.ro” />
Create & Implement Your Link Attributes
Now that you have all the information you need, you can create your full list of link attributes, like the ones shown above. Your final step will be to implement them within the <head> section of your pages.
Note that through Google Webmaster Forums and other FAQ pages, Google has indicated it is best to implement these tags across every page of your site, ensuring to accurately implement that page’s URL in place of the main domain, and all other versions of that exact page as mentioned above (for example, for the page http://www.your-website.uk/blog/, you’d include <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-uk” href=”http://www.your-website.uk/blog/” /> as well as any other translations of that page.
You can use a similar process for pages that are non-HTML, such as PDFs, and use an HTTP header to point to other translations, which would look like this:
You can also submit language variations in the form of a Sitemap.
Hreflang ≠ Canonical
Don’t make the mistake of confusing this tag with a canonical tag, as they serve two different purposes. If you put canonical tags on your language variant pages you will essentially be telling Google that the original page (or whatever page you point your canonical to) should be given priority and while that will fix any duplicate content issues, you likely won’t show in the corresponding location search engines for the appropriate translated site (i.e. you could end up with www.your-website.com showing in www.google.it SERPs rather than www.your-website.it).
What other international SEO issues have you run into? Comment below or tweet me @amanda_sides!