What is Hreflang?


Digging a little deeper into technical SEO topics leads us to some pretty advanced settings on your website. We have established the value of the technical health of your website as it relates to SEO, but there are a few items you can set up to get more specific with your intended audience. As your offerings expand, you may find yourself in different regions requiring different types of content based on their location. You may explore the need to integrate language translations on your website. An Hreflang tag on a page allows you to specify these languages or regions to search engines so they know which results to display for who.


Where to Use Hreflang

There are three main implementations for an hreflang tag on a page. If the main content should stay the same, but the template needs to be translated (the navigation, header, and footer), you should use this type of tag. If you are displaying small, regional variations of different dialects, or fully translating a page, you should use an hreflang tag.

Theme Translation

Sometimes you do not need the entire page to be translated differently, but only the site navigation to translate. We see this a lot in forums and other types of user generated content. Since the breadth of potential writers is so broad, the website may want to display their navigation in the local language, but give users the option to see content in different languages. This is a perfect example of a need for an hreflang attribute.

Regional Dialects

Dialects which vary between near regions, but remain the same conceptually may need an hreflang attribute to display correctly. For instance, Ireland and Great Britain both speak English, but they speak different types. If you want to use one language for a certain region and another for a different region, you should use hreflang tags.

Full Translation

Many websites utilize full translation methods to display their content. This means not only the theme elements, but the content itself must be translated and displayed to users properly. Using hreflang attributes allows you to specify which content you want to rank where.

Methods for Implementation


You can add HTML tags to your headers to tell Google “all of the language and region variants of a page” – Search Console Support. Each of the elements you implement should have one link for each page variant including the page itself. This strategy works well if you don’t have a sitemap or the ability to specify server response headers for your site. 

HTTP(s) Headers

You can return an HTTP header with your page’s GET response to specify which languages or regions you want to add as variations. These are mainly used for non HTML files like PDFs or other downloadable content. Same as above, you should include all variants of the page, including the page itself in these headers.


Your sitemap is a powerful and often underutilized tool to indicate certain things to google. Hreflang tags fall into this category. You can use your sitemap to tell Google all the variations of each URL. Each element you implement should have a separate <url> element and a <loc> tag indicating the page URL. This is a pretty advanced implementation, but can set the stage for confidence as Google looks to crawl your site as they find the sitemap and robots.txt files first.

We hope this has been informative and if you are looking to display different languages on your site based on regions, give us a call today!

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