Hreflang Explained: An Essential for Global SEO

How to Implement Hreflang


Learn hreflang best practices and the benefits of hreflang for your global SEO

Hreflang is an HTML attribute that tells search engines which language and/or country your content is intended for.

If you have a global presence – or want a global presence, you need to use the hreflang attribute to tell search engines which content to return in the search engine results.

SEO isn’t just for your English-language website. Make sure your technical, on-page, and off-page SEO is optimized for every language version of your website.

What is Hreflang?

Hreflang is an HTML attribute that tells search engines which version of your content to display in search engine results.

Google introduced the hreflang attribute in 2011 to differentiate web pages and websites using multiple languages.

With the hreflang attribute, your searchers in Spain can see the Spanish version of your website and your searchers in Japan can see the Japanese version of your website.

You can provide location-specific content to people looking for your products, services, and website. This helps you speak to people in the style, tone, and voice that meets brand and local nuances.

Hreflang and SEO

Your customers want to buy from you – but it needs to be easy for them to find you, navigate your website, understand what you’re selling, and to click buy.

This is why hreflang is critical for your SEO. You may have English-speaking customers living in the Czech Republic. The hreflang attribute tells search engines to display your English website for English-speaking customers and the Czech website for Czech-speaking customers.

Hreflang gives you these 5 essential SEO benefits:

  1. Providing helpful content in the right language.
  2. Builds domain authority by showing search engines that you are the most relevant and trusted domain – regardless of language and location.
  3. Gives people a better user experience, ultimately building brand trust and loyalty.
  4. Can help minimize issues with duplicate content.
  5. Helps support longer dwell time, encouraging people to click links – helping you establish experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trust (E-E-A-T).

What the Hreflang Attribute Looks Like

The hreflang attribute uses this format:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” href=”” />

Here’s what this means:

  • link rel=”alternate”: tells search engines the link inside this tag is for an alternate version of this page
  • hreflang=”x“: tells the search engine the language and optionally region code for the page
  • href=””: the URL for the alternate page

For example, here’s what the hreflang attribute would look like for the French version of

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=”” />

How to Use Hreflang

Using hreflang is not simple. If you use it incorrectly, you can confuse search engines.

This is a high-level overview of how to use hreflang. We’ve included links to pages that provide more detailed instruction on how to use this HTML attribute.

1. Determine Your Target Languages and Countries

Do your research – learn where your customers are coming from, the search intent based on location and language, and make sure you know how people are interacting with your website.

Do people abandon their shopping carts? Are people clicking your blog link but not reading any blogs? Do people visit your site but do not click any links?

Learn about search intent and why it matters to your readers and your SEO.

2. Create Bidirectional Hreflang Tags

The hreflang attribute works in pairs. When you add an hreflang tag to an English page directing search engines to the Dutch version, you need to add an hreflang tag to the Dutch page pointing to the English page.

This helps your readers and tell search engines that you own both pages and that they support each other.

Ahrefs has a great example of how bidirectional hreflang tags work.

3. Decide Where to Use the Hreflang Attribute

The hreflang attribute can be added to the HTML page header, HTTP header, or the sitemap. You should only use one location.

Google provides detailed examples of how to implement hreflang in each location.

4. Use the Correct Language and Region Codes

The hreflang attribute includes one or two values, separated by a dash. Within the hreflang tag, indicate the language code and then optionally the region code.

Refer to ISO 639-1 for language codes and ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 for region codes.

You can also use a tool like The Hreflang Tags Generator Tool to help you create correctly formatted tags.

Hreflang Best Practices

Keep in mind these hreflang best practices:

  • Use hreflang consistently across your site
  • Ensure your hreflang tags are correctly formatted
  • Avoid using hreflang for pages with duplicate content
  • Remember to implement hreflang on every page that has a different language or regional variation
  • Update your hreflang tags when you add new pages or change your website structure

Using the hreflang attribute can help you connect with your international readers.

But remember, you still need to provide helpful content that speaks to the reader – regardless of the language and region. For this reason, we recommend using a professional translator to create your pages and metadata descriptions in your non-official language.

Contact us with your questions about hreflang, global SEO, and organic and paid search. We specialize in helping companies like yours connect with people who need your products and services.

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