Monday, September 17, 2012

GEO Content Similarity & SEO - rel="alternate" hreflang="x"


Many websites serve users from around the world, with content that's translated, or targeted to users in a certain region. The rel="alternate" hreflang="x" annotations help Google serve the correct language or regional URL to searchers. More information about multi-regional and multilingual sites.
Some example scenarios where rel="alternate" hreflang="x" is recommended:
  • You translate only the template of your page, such as the navigation and footer, and keep the main content in a single language. This is common on pages that feature user-generated content, like a forum post.
  • Your pages have broadly similar content within a single language, but the content has small regional variations. For example, you might have English-language content targeted at readers in the US, GB, and Ireland.
  • Your site content is fully translated. For example, you have both German and English versions of each page.

Using rel="alternate" hreflang="x"

Imagine you have an English language page hosted at http://www.example.com/, with a Spanish alternative at http://es.example.com/. You can indicate to Google that the Spanish URL is the Spanish-language equivalent of the English page in one of three ways:
  • HTML link element. In the HTML <head> section of http://www.example.com/, add a linkelement pointing to the Spanish version of that webpage at http://es.example.com/, like this:
    <link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="http://es.example.com/" />
  • HTTP header. If you publish non-HTML files (like PDFs), you can use an HTTP header to indicate a different language version of a URL:
    Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel="alternate"; hreflang="es"
  • Sitemap. Instead of using markup, you can submit language version information in a Sitemap.
If you have multiple language versions of a URL, each language page in the set must userel="alternate" hreflang="x" to identify the other language versions. For example, if your site provides content in French, English, and Spanish, the Spanish version must include arel="alternate" hreflang="x" link to both the English and the French versions, and the English and French versions must each include a similar link pointing to each other and to the Spanish site.
If you have several alternate URLs targeted at users with the same language but in different locales, it's a good idea to provide a generic URL for geographically unspecified users. For example, you may have specific URLs for English speakers in Ireland (en-ie), Canada (en-ca), and Australia (en-au), but want all other English speakers to see your generic English (en) page. In this case you should specify the generic English-language (en) page for searchers in, say, the UK.

hreflang supported values

The value of the hreflang attribute identifies the language (in ISO 6391-1 format) and optionally the region (in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format) of an alternate URL. For example:
  • de: German content, independent of region
  • en-GB: English content, for GB users
  • de-ES: German content, for users in Spain
For language script variations the proper script is derived from the country. For example, when using zh-TW for users zh-TW, the language script is automatically derived (in this example: Chinese-Traditional). You can also specify the script itself explicitly using ISO 15924, like this:
  • zh-Hant: Chinese (Traditional)
  • zh-Hans: Chinese (Simplified)
Alternatively, you can also specify a combination of script and region—for example, use zh-Hans-TW to specify Chinese (Simplified) for Taiwanese users.

Example configuration: rel="alternate" hreflang="x" in action

Example Widgets, Inc has a website that serves users in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. The following URLs contain substantially the same content, but with regional variations:
  • http://www.example.com/page.html English-language homepage. Contains information about fees for shipping internationally from the USA.
  • http://en-gb.example.com/page.html English-language; displays prices in pounds sterling.
  • http://en-us.example.com/page.html English-language; displays prices in US dollars.
  • http://de.example.com/seite.html German-language version of the content
rel="alternate" hreflang="x" is used as a page level, not a site level, and you need to mark up each set of pages, including the home page, as appropriate. You can specify as many content variations and language/regional clusters as you need.
To indicate to Google that you want the German version of the page to be served to searchers using Google in German, the en-us version to searchers using google.com in English, and the en-gb version to searchers using google.co.uk in English, use rel="alternate" hreflang="x" to identify alternate language versions.
Update the HTML of each URL in the set by adding a set of rel="alternate" hreflang="x" link elements. Include a rel="alternate" hreflang="x" link for every URL in the set, like this:
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="http://www.example.com/page.html" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-gb" href="http://en-gb.example.com/page.html" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-us" href="http://en-us.example.com/page.html" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="de" href="http://de.example.com/seite.html" />
This markup tells Google's algorithm to consider all of these pages as alternate versions of each other.

Source:http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=189077

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