There are a number of excellent tips on how to effectively geo-target sites, but there is one of the best methods is to use the hreflang element. Unfortunately, there is still so much confusion around, which caused some serious errors on many sites. In fact, more than half of them had some sort of problem with the code implantation, and it must be due to lack of understanding of hreflang fundamentals.
Therefore, in this article, we would like to give you the 8 misconceptions that often mislead many web developers and SEO services agency. So, if you are working in those fields, you’d better read the following points, and hopefully, after reading the points below, you can understand the right concept for understanding and applying the hreflang in your SEO strategy.
Misconception 1: You only Need Hreflang on the Home Page of the Site
Some people prefer to put hreflang tags in a few sites on their home pages. Unfortunately, Google’s sample code only displays the home page version of a URL which makes some interpreting only needed on the home pages. Many SEO professionals said that Google was smart enough to figure it out. All you need to do is just give them the template and they will understand.
However, Google cannot understand the client’s wants, that’s why in most cases, it will show the incorrect page in the local market. Therefore, you need to add the hreflang element to any and all pages that have an alternative version included in an xml site map and not just home pages.
Misconception 2: You only Need Hreflang on Dot-Com Domains
Some developer teams are arguing if it is possible to develop a solution to map pages across different top-level domain. They think that once they use ccTLDs like .co.uk, the search engine would understand what country they are targeting. This is why you need to do a test to make sure that it is understood and that no other local sites are ranking in the market. Also, it is strongly recommended for you to use the hreflang element for any page that has an alternative, no matter what domain it is on. Besides, enterprise hreflang XML tools can map the URLs regardless of what domain they are on. Furthermore, you can also host the XML sitemaps for all of the different sites in the same location which makes maintaining them much easier.
Misconception 3: You can only use the X-Default on the Home Page with a Country Selector
Another opinion came from a few SEO pros that said the x-default could only be used when you have a home page that has a country selector which can only be used on this page. This statement is almost right, but actually, there are two specific applications of the x-default. For instance, sites like FedEx or Ikea present a splash page with a language and/or country selector asking the visitor to choose which location and/or language version of the site they want to visit. Since this page does not target any specific language or country, the x-default would tell search engines to present this page in any market that does not have the assigned page. The wrong part is when the SEO pros state on how to handle older and large multinationals, especially those in the United States, a place which the main dot-com site is often used as both their global site and their U.S. site. So, in this situation, you should also use the x-default.
Misconception 4: Regional Sites Cannot Use Hreflang Element
People usually use regional sites to target multiple countries in a region using a single language site. The most common of these regions are APAC for Asia Pacific countries, LatAM for South and Central American country regions, or MENA covering Arabic speaking Middle East countries and North Africa.
You can also use the hreflang on a regional site in some ways. The first method is by setting the regional site to a common language which is most commonly done with an Arabic language site.
Another way is to tag the same page for multiple countries. Usually, sites do this when they already have a designated language site, multiple local sites in the same language, and want this version to be visible in specific markets rather than the x-default or language version.
In this approach, every language market will list the element that you are targeting.
Misconception 5: To Save Lines of Code Add Multiple Codes to the Hreflang=Syntax
Some people think that the application can cut down on the number of XML sitemap entries by adding multiple countries and language codes to the syntax.
The fact is this is not working, since you must create a separate URL element for each URL and Google has been very clear about this.
Misconception 6: You Should Set Your Rel=Canonical to the Global Site
This is totally wrong as doing so will remove your local language pages almost as fast as blocking them with a robots.txt entry. In fact, this might be one of the biggest mistakes that many companies make, related to hreflang other than incorrect country and language codes. Most make this suggestion in the context of removing duplicate content. The hreflang element essentially does this for you.
Therefore, the right answer is to point to the local language page it is on and never point to any other page unless you want the page to be blocked. This makes no need for hreflang tag to be on the page. For example:
Misconception 7: You can combine Hreflang and Canonical Tags
This mistake is probably the most common one that often happens. In many cases, developers often try to combine the canonical and self-referencing hreflang element into a single tag.
In this case, it was the page for Ireland English.
Therefore, as a solution, you need to make sure that the rel=canonical must be its one entity as must the hreflang element for the page. For that reason, you cannot combine them under any conditions and the correct entry should be like this.
Misconception 8: The Rel=Canonical Can Serve as the Self-Referencing Entry
The source to support this concept is still hard to find, but it is completely incorrect. Below is an example of this mistake when referencing the Argentina Spanish page.
As stated before that it is incorrect; therefore, you must use hreflang element for the self-referencing element. In fact, if the hreflang tags are on the local pages, they should look like this:
We have to admit that hreflang is one of the most complex technical issues SEO pros must deal with. Unfortunately, there are lots of incorrect interpretations that you can find anywhere. So, take a moment before you tackle your hreflang implementation to think about what problems you are trying to solve and be careful whether these changes can cause new problems or not.