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New Elements for Dealing with Multilingual Google SEO

When you are dealing with multilingual websites there is a lot to consider, one of those things being allowing Google to identify the correct page for a specific language. In December, Google expanded the support of the rel=”alternate” hreflang link element to handle content that is translated or provided for multiple geographic regions.

rel=”alternate” hreflang link element

The rel=”alternate” hreflang link element can specify the language, optionally the country, and URLs of equivalent content.

To indicate to Google that you want the German version of the page to be served to searchers using Google in German, the en-us version to searchers using google.com in English, and the en-gb version to searchers using google.co.uk in English, use rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” to identify alternate language versions.

Update the HTML of each URL in the set by adding a set of rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” link elements. Include a rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” link for every URL in the set, like this:

  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/page.html” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-gb” href=”http://en-gb.example.com/page.html” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”http://en-us.example.com/page.html” />
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://de.example.com/seite.html” />
Multilingual Search Engine Optimization
Multilingual Search Engine Optimization

This markup tells Google’s algorithm to consider all of these pages as alternate versions of each other.

It is important to note that this is used on the page level and not the site level and you need to markup each page or set of pages individually or in your template.

rel=”canonical” link element may help in certain situations

It is important to note that there is another option for pages that have substantially the same content in the same language and are targeted at multiple countries. In this case you may use the rel=”canonical” link element to specify your preferred version.

Don’t forget your multilingual sitemaps!

As of yesterday Google is recommending that these annotations be added to the sitemap. This makes sense and is a logical progression of the markup evolution.

In the example below we wish to specify that for the URL http://www.example.com/en, targeting English language users, the equivalent URL targeting German language speakers http://www.example.com/de. Before this new sitemap option the only way to add these annotations was through the link element, either as an HTTP header or as HTML elements on both URLs like this:

  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/en” >
  • <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/de” >

As of today, Google is not letting you use the following equivalent markup in Sitemaps:

<url>

  <loc>http://www.example.com/en</loc>
  <xhtml:link 
    rel="alternate"
    hreflang="de"
    href="http://www.example.com/de" />
  <xhtml:link
    rel="alternate"
    hreflang="en"
    href="http://www.example.com/en" />
</url>
<url>
  <loc>http://www.example.com/de</loc>
  <xhtml:link
    rel="alternate"
    hreflang="de"
    href="http://www.example.com/de" />
  <xhtml:link
    rel="alternate"
    hreflang="en"
    href="http://www.example.com/en" />
</url>

With this new markup you now have yet another way to make Google aware of the multilingual elements that exist on your site.

References

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