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Hreflang is an attribute that informs Google and other search engines about the different language versions of a web page. The content of the web will be delivered to match the user's destination region. The correct implementation of the hreflang attribute can thus be beneficial for usability and indirectly beneficial for SEO.


With the increasing internationalization of websites, Google introduced the hreflang attribute in 2011 [1], for the purpose of providing webmasters with the ability to mark their websites internationally focused, so that the content can be produced according to the region.

Two scenarios were originally considered.

  • Websites aimed at an international audience that offer equivalent content in different languages.
  • International websites that offer content in the same language, but with regional differences (currency, delivery time, delivery costs, etc.).

At the same time, there is also a third option to use hreflang.

  • Internationally oriented websites with user-caused content, where only the page template items, such as the menu or footnote references, are translated.

Since the introduction of hreflang, Google has expanded its support regarding labeling. Since July 2014, onboarding issues with the hreflang attribute can be found in Google Webmaster Tools [2].


There are simply three ways to implement hreflang for a multilingual website. ISO 639-1 codes can be used for languages. ISO 3166 1 alpha 2 can be used for country abbreviations.

  • In the HTML documents section you can also tag PDFs or other files available for download.
; rel = "alternate"; hreflang = "en"
  • Search engines can already be informed of the different language versions with the sitemap. 

  • As an HTML link element


The important thing here is that the hreflang link element is included in the section of all subpages of a web page, so that identifying the correct language version works through search engines. Thus, any new language version requires a separate link element.

Implementation for multinational and multiregional targeting

If the individual pages of a website are in the same language but in each case they are directed to a different geographical destination, the country code must be supplemented with an appropriate language code. In the case of a German web portal that focuses on Germany and Austria, the hreflang link element would look like this.





If a website has a single page that is referenced in all languages, the hreflang = »x-default» can be used. Each page is referred to by hreflang = »x-default» to this summary page. This tactic lends itself to .com domains, which are internationally oriented and have many language versions.

SEO benefits

If you operate internationally oriented websites and your content exists in different languages or your content is in the same language but has regional characteristics, you should definitely use hreflang. Thus, the optimal conditions are created to ensure that content is delivered in a user-specific way.

Using hreflang as such not a ranking factor. However, inserting the attribute can indirectly contribute to SEO. Bounce rates can be reduced by increasing the length of stay on a site when content is displayed to users without having to choose the correct language for the web portal version. At the same time, it also increases the opportunity for a viable conversion of that same user.

Since regional differences can also be specified with hreflang in the source code, user behavior can be positively influenced. If a buyer from Switzerland, for example, visits a German webshop based in Germany, the Swiss version can be referenced directly with hreflang. Hence, the store operator can show the German-speaking Swiss customer a web page optimized specifically for him, including the appropriate currency, appropriate delivery costs and even personalized content that addresses the cultural particularities of Switzerland. You can pay attention to regionalisms and different orthographic versions.

Internationally oriented websites with different languages reinforce the usability and relevance of the page for users through the use of hreflang. By reducing the bounce rate and increasing the time the visitor spends on the site, the online store is also indirectly optimized for search engines.

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