I recently came across an issue that one of my luxury retail clients were facing with their international SEO. They had correctly implemented Hreflang tags – used to inform search engines of their site’s geographic or language target. For an unknown reason, Google were not recognising these tags and so I set out to troubleshoot the issue.
For those that don’t know much about international SEO, here is a detailed video on how to inform search engines of your international target.
Before the hreflang attribute existed, Google would determine your geographic target by looking at a number of factors, including:
- The Country that your website was hosted in
- The location of the sites that link to your website
- Geographic settings used within Google’s Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools)
- On-page content, including Telephone, Address and location data
- HTML tags within your source code that specified the language, e.g.
Even when utilising the above factors to influence search engines, it was still very hit and miss. Often Google would still serve the wrong version of your website in the wrong location.
Hreflang lets you be very specific about the version of your website that Google should be serving to users.
For example, you might have decided to target the United States by adding a new sub-directory to your website:
The site might be identical to your UK targeted site that sits in the root of your website:
Hreflang enables you to tell search engines exact what the roles of each of these sites should be.
Adding the following code on both sites would signal to search engines that you’d like your US targeted website to be shown in the US results, and visa versa with your UK website.
There are many configurations possible when expanding your website internationally so it’s important that it’s executed correctly and in a way that search engines will understand.
If you’re interested in an international SEO strategy or need help optimising a current international website then please get in touch.