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Google Announces New “hreflang” Annotation

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What’s a hreflang? Besides being one of those crazy noises you make when you first wake up in the morning, “hreflang” is Google’s newest annotation.

According to the Google Webmaster Central Blog, the new x-default hreflang attribute value signals to Google’s algorithms that the international landing page “doesn’t target any specific language or locale and is the default page when no other page is better suited.”

Google announced today a new rel-alternate-hreflang annotation that webmasters can use to identify international landing pages. Supported by both Google and Yandex, the hreflang attribute is specifically for the homepages of multinational and multilingual websites that are configured to point visitors to localized pages “either via redirects or by changing the content to reflect the user’s language.”

As an example, the Google Webmaster Central Blog uses the website example.com, which targets users around the world as follows:

  • http://example.com/en-gb: For English-speaking users in the UK
  • http://example.com/en-us: For English-speaking users in the USA
  • http://example.com/en-au: For English-speaking users in Australia
  • http://example.com/: The homepage shows users a country selector and is the default page for users worldwide

In the example, example.com’s webmaster could annotate the cluster of pages using rel-alternate-hreflang using Sitemaps or using HTML link tags.

Additionally, the same rel-alternate-hreflang annotation applies for “homepages that dynamically alter their contents based on a user’s perceived geolocation or the Accept-Language headers.” In the latter case, the x-default hreflang value signals to Google’s algorithms that such a homepage isn’t targeting a specific language or locale.

For more details see the Google blog post.

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