Google have recently added (in May 2012) another method to implement rel=alternate, hreflang=x to appropriately geotarget your websites, allowing you to tell them about your content for different regions and setting the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” with an XML sitemap. This is a simpler way of implementing multilanguage and multinational websites as it reduces the amount of development time and page code. However, when Pete Handley at the Media Flow was asked to implement the hreflang tag on a site containing different versions of content for different countries, he found that there were no tools to help, and the HREFLANG sitemap tool was born…
“We just wanted to give something back to the community as we had such a headache trying to create the xml site map once we’d mapped it – this tool makes it a lot easier as you only have to do the mapping” – Pete Handley – the Media Flow
What is the hreflang tag?
Used for effective geo-targeting for international SEO, the hreflang tag helps identify any alternate versions of URL’s for multi-lingual sites. Basically telling Google the language a page should be shown in and who the page is intended for. In the past you would have used canonical but this has since been but the rel=alternate function allows you to re-target the pages and serve the right version to the customer.
Why is this useful?
If you have same language multi country website for example New Zealand and Australia but your e-commerce shopping cart kept serving the wrong country currency – the time and effort (and expense) for customer service to follow up and rectify the site issue would soon add up. The hreflang attribute gives the ability to designate a specific section to a specific country or to a specific language within the same country.
How to implement the hreflang tag
There are two ways of implementing the hreflang tag:
- Place the tag in the meta data within the tag, then add the tag to to both versions of the pages – but doing it that way there is more work as this would need to be placed on every page on the website
- Use a sitemap so that you create one file for the whole of the site
With both options you need to map the pages first but option 2 takes out a huge amount of DEV time
The HREFLANG Sitemap Tool
The hreflang sitemap tool allows you to upload a CSV file with a map of site pages targeted to each specific region/language to create your rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” XML sitemap. To use the tool visit the media flow tools section.
Further information about international SEO and hreflang tags visit: http://www.themediaflow.com/2012/08/an-international-seo-implementation-tale-sitemaps-relalternate-hreflangx/ Other useful resources: https://www.stateofdigital.com/international-multilingual-sites-criteria-to-establish-seo-friendly-structure/ http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2137882/Newest-International-SEO-Challenge-Hreflang-Canonical-Tags http://searchengineland.com/how-to-implement-the-hreflang-element-using-xml-sitemaps-123030