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HREFLANG for International SEO: Lessons from 3,000 Implementations

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In 2012 we pioneered the use of hreflang sitemaps within the SEO industry, and in being first found there was a lack of tools and process... so we made our own! Now our hreflang sitemap generator has contributed to our supporting or working directly on over 3,000 unique implementations globally. Here's a few tips on what we learned along the way.

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HREFLANG for International SEO: Lessons from 3,000 Implementations

  1. 1. HREFLANG Learnings from Over 3,000 Implementations
  2. 2. 2012 Technical SEO agency, working in global ecommerce. Publically documented our adventures in HREFLANG sitemaps… @NicholaStott
  3. 3. Pioneering Stuff is Hard @NicholaStott
  4. 4. So we built a thing!
  5. 5. Today • What HREFLANG can do • What it can’t do • Ways to implement • HREFLANG sitemaps • Most common errors • Tips to manage and maintain @NicholaStott
  6. 6. Hreflang HTML tag to describe the language OR language AND intended region; of a web page, and alternate versions of said page in different language OR language AND region settings. @NicholaStott
  7. 7. Right (intended) URL Right (intended) index Right (intended) customer Language OR LANGUAGE/location @NicholaStott
  8. 8. Grow Accuracy, CTR and Conversion Propensity @NicholaStott
  9. 9. NOT • The answer to your thin content problems • Help you rank in new markets • Syphon/copy PageRank from one location to another • Replace canonical (orthogonal concepts) @NicholaStott
  10. 10. Ways to Implement Manage and Maintain your Set-up
  11. 11. In HTTP Headers Link: <http://es.example.com/faq.pdf>; rel=“alternate”; hreflang=“es”, <http://mx.example.com/faq.pdf>; rel=“alternate”; hreflang=“es-mx”, For non-HTML content
  12. 12. Link elements in <head> HTML pages < link rel=“alternate”; href=: http://es.example.com/” hreflang=“es”/> < link rel=“alternate”; href=: http://mx.example.com/” hreflang=“es- mx”/>
  13. 13. Pros and cons • Solution for non-html  • Server configuration access not easy  • Really simple for small suites  • Not for large implementations  • Impact to speed  • Freq. updates - development resource  For headers and head
  14. 14. See: http://www.aleydasolis.com/en/international-seo-tools/hreflang-tags-generator/ Tag Generator: Aleyda Solis
  15. 15. XML Sitemaps <url> <loc>http://example.com/</loc> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="http://example.com/" /> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang=“es" href="http://es.example.com/" /> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang=“es-mx" href="http://mx.example.com/" /> </url> For bigger implementations
  16. 16. RULES, EXCEPTIONS AND OTHER QUIRKS
  17. 17. X-default • ELSE statement at the end of IF • Language selector • Can be used for generic “catch-all” language • Or not at all IF prefer to use language
  18. 18. Each <loc> Must have Self referential REL Alternate
  19. 19. Use ISO Codes LANG = ISO 639-1 REGION = ISO 3166-1 But… you may get away with some common errors! (en-uk)
  20. 20. XML Sitemaps <url> <loc>http://example.com/</loc> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="http://example.com/" /> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang=“es" href="http://es.example.com/" /> <xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang=“es-mx" href="http://mx.example.com/" /> </url> For bigger implementations
  21. 21. Crawl en en-gb es-mx http://www.themediaflow.com http://www.themediaflow.com/uk http://mx.themediaflow.com http://www.themediaflow.com/1 http://www.themediaflow.com/uk/1 http://mx.themediaflow.com/1 http://www.themediaflow.com/2 http://www.themediaflow.com/uk/2 http://mx.themediaflow.com/2 All sites, sub-domains, folders
  22. 22. Sitemap Tool: themediaflow See: https://www.themediaflow.com/tools/
  23. 23. Upload each sitemap to the root • Consolidated only – single site • Specific file to each <loc> • Combination if combination of architectures • Submit in Search console for each site
  24. 24. MOST COMMON HREFLANG MISTAKES
  25. 25. <!DOCTYPE html> <html lang="en-GB" > 1. It IS Not your language declaration
  26. 26. 2. Must link to self!
  27. 27. 3. Can’t Target Country/Region oNLY
  28. 28. 4. Not using Iso Codes
  29. 29. 5. Non-canonical URLS
  30. 30. 6. No return tags
  31. 31. 7. No Blank cells
  32. 32. 8. No protocol reference
  33. 33. 9. German CSV – Comma = semi colon
  34. 34. 10. UPLOADING Consolidated only
  35. 35. TIPS to manage & Maintain. You won’t Believe No. 3!
  36. 36. Process 1. Benchmark, measure and quantify. Take a sample of markets most impacted. @NicholaStott
  37. 37. 2. Split Each Region Sitemap Into Thematic Sitemaps
  38. 38. 3. Create a sitemap/Megazord of sitemaps. @NicholaStott
  39. 39. HREFLANG Thanks for Listening!

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