For search engines, the hreflang tag indicates which language you’re using on your website. This is why fixing invalid hreflang annotations is critical for site optimization. You can watch a video to learn more about hreflang and HTML tags and how they’re implemented in web pages in the following video:
If your website isn’t localized yet, you can follow these methods and guidelines.
Localized versions are needed to ensure that your page will appear on search results. But URLs with invalid hreflang annotations are always ignored. So, ensure that there’s no error with your tags for SEO.
What Does “Hreflang Tags With Errors” Mean?
By definition, an hreflang tag is an HTML attribute that shows Google the relationship between a website in alternate languages. Google uses this to specify the language and geographical target of your website. Hreflang tags with errors mean that you made a mistake in implementing the attribute. As a result, invalid hreflang annotations are ignored by search engines. Alternative versions of your page are also overlooked, so engines won’t be able to point users to the most appropriate version of your page by language or region.
What Triggers This Issue?
URLs with hreflang annotations where language (or language-locale) code is not valid are results of various mistakes:
- Return Tag Errors – from annotations not cross-referencing each other.
- Hreflang Sitemaps and Page Tagging Method Combination – expect redundancy since there’s no need for multiple tagging. For example, WordPress offers automatic tagging solutions.
- Using Relative URLs – when instead you should be using absolute URLs so Google can crawl the entire URL path.
- Using Wrong Country or Language Codes – there’s an ISO standard format when using this attribute.
- Adding Hreflang Tags to Noindexed Pages – Google can’t follow back the return link from the blocked page to the originating link.
How To Check the Issue
Hreflang tags help search engines direct users to the most appropriate version of your page, depending on their language and region. In case of invalid annotation, there are two primary ways to check the issue: through Google or a third-party tool. The procedure works similarly in both ways:
- Open Google Search Console or your preferred tool to crawl the site.
- Go to the Hreflang section or tab. This may appear as the “International Tagging” option or simply the “Hreflang” option.
- View the tab.
- Filter the results to look for certain annotation errors.
Analyze not only Hreflang annotation being invalid but the entire site!
Make a full audit to find out and fix your technical SEO in order to improve your SERP results.
Why Is This Important?
Correct implementation of hreflang annotations is important so that the values with the language and region identification are appropriately identified for an alternate URL; it is also important for SEO. This way, search engines, specifically Google, can recommend your site, as it has the information a user searches for in the same language.
How To Fix the Issue
After identifying incorrect usage of these tags, you can easily fix the issue. First, you should review all pages with invalid hreflang annotations, as we’ve listed in this article. You can see if the language or language-location code is invalid in the “Is valid hreflang” column. Then, apply necessary changes so that they use the valid language or language-location code format in their hreflang annotations. Language annotations must be specified in ISO 639-1 format; locale annotations in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format.