The hreflang attribute is an important method for managing different language versions of documents of multilingual websites. The new OnPage.org feature assists with tagging multilingual websites for search engines correctly and avoiding tagging mistakes.
Hreflang and its relevance
Already in 2011, Google implemented the so-called “hreflang attribute” as an increasing number of websites were operating internationally and offering their services and products globally. Ideally, a website’s content should be provided according to the user’s target area and displayed in the respective language of the browser. Like that, not only the usability is being improved but it is also indicated for search engines which sites to display in the SERPs of which country. Although the hreflang tag is part of thesection (meaning the Meta Tags), it should not so much be regarded as Meta Tag but rather as link to another page – resembling the Canonical Tag, as it helps search engines to better understand the correlation of two (or more) URLs.
The hreflang attribute is not considered a ranking factor. However, using it can have a positive impact on Search Engine Optimization as it can for example prolong a user’s stay on the website, which in turn is an important factor for search engines. If a user’s respective language is displayed instantly, it tremendously improves the User Experience. And by now, we do know how important those user signals are for search engines.
How is hreflang applied?
- it is either declared in the <head> section (as mentioned above): <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://es.example.com/” />
- or in the Response Header:
Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”
- or in the sitemap.xml
Our new report
The new OnPage.org report provides you with various options of checking multilingualism and the correct implementation of the hreflang tag on your site. You can find the new report below “Meta/Head” → “Translations”, with declarations in the <head> section and Response Header being analyzed. Sitemap.xml declarations will be available soon if necessary. Basically, the new report “Translation” consists of three new categories:
- Translation Counts
- Translation Status Codes
This category shows the analyzed URLs and to which documents they are referring to. The column “Translations” shows you which translations the HTML document is referring to. For example, the site http://de.startseite.com/ refers to the site’s German translation and the site’s English translation (http://en.startseite.com/).
In the column “Incoming Translations”, you can see which other HTML documents refer to the regarded site as its translation and additionally show the language that is being used to refer to the site.
It is important to note that the document’s language is the same as the one of the other documents referring to the respective site. If this is the case, the language is highlighted green in “Incoming Translations”. If there are any discrepancies concerning language, it is highlighted as yellow or red.
As you can see, the document “https://de.ryte.com/” has been tagged with two translations: “German” and “English”. So far, everything’s fine with our use case as we wanted the sites to each refer to themselves as German version. If an English translation is available, it needs to be referred to as well. Even more interesting though is the second column “Incoming Translations”: Here the languages of all other documents are displayed which refer to this document.
This may sound a little complicated at first – it does make a lot of sense though. As “https://de.ryte.com/” is the German version, all other URLs referring to this document should consequently note this in the language code. In this case, everything’s fine – that’s why “German” is highlighted green and ticked off. Here’s an example of how it would look like if other sites would claim that “https://de.ryte.com/” is the document’s Spanish version:
Tip “Specifically identify flawed references”: You can randomly filter the table for languages. For example, click on “English” in the documents column and you get to see all English sites. Ideally, other documents should then refer to this site as their English translation. Now click on “English” in “Incoming Translations” and tag the the set filter with a minus sign. Like that, you negate the filter and will be provided with all documents that use English as language but are not referred to as English translations by other sites (or completely missing references):
Tip “Identify missing translations”: This report can also be used perfectly in order to find missing translations. For that to happen, you best sort by “OPR”: The better a document is linked, the more important it presumably is to translate it. If you now combine the filters with the respective language combinations, you’ll now get an overview of all sites that haven’t been translated yet or where translations haven’t been referenced yet:
Here you can see how many translations a document is referring to and how many other documents refer to this document as their translation. Ideally, the number of Translations is identical to the number of Incoming Translations. If this is not the case, you should take a closer look at it. Frequently, soft 404 pages account for a wrong number of Incoming Translations, or the translation tag has been set completely wrong and all site reference the same URL as translation.
Tip: Sort the number of Incoming Translations in descending order. Like that, you can easily tell if there are any major deviations between both columns. Simply click on the magnifier in Incoming Translations in order to get to the bottom of things.
Translation Status Codes
Similar to the Status Code report of the link targets, this category reviews the Status Codes of the Translations. This report helps you to detect typos in the hreflang tag in order to correct them as quickly as possible and to avoid 404 Status Codes. As always, it is crucial here to avoid unnecessary redirections as well as flawed Status Codes.
Hreflang filters for links
Up until now, we have only talked about the hreflang attribute in the website’s head section. Beyond that, OnPage.org can also analyze the hreflang attribute of hyperlinks ( tag). Tip: You can filter for the hreflang attribute in each and every link report of the “Links” category. For this purpose, choose link parameter as object and hreflang: Language or hreflang: Country as attribute – depending on whether you would like to filter the hreflang attribute content for language or country.
We don’t know any other software which performs hreflang attribute analyses of this quality. As always, the reports can be combined with our powerful filter system – which, together with a little creativity, allows a great many usage scenarios. Enjoy!