In order to help multinational and multilingual websites to provide their audiences with the right landing pages, Google has introduced a new rel-alternate-hreflang annotation.
Usually, Google redirects visitors to content written in their native language, but this new webmaster function goes even further and redirects visitors to the pages localized especially for them. This function is supported by Google and Yandex, a search engine that is very popular in Russia.
With this new annotation, global brands can create SEO content that is aimed at specific demographics more easily.
Google has provided four examples that show the new tag in action:
http://example.com/en-gb: For English-speaking users in the UK
http://example.com/en-us: For English-speaking users in the USA
http://example.com/en-au: For English-speaking users in Australia
http://example.com/: The homepage shows users a country selector and is the default page for users worldwide
As you can see, a national signal is inserted at the end of each URL. This enables Google’s algorithms to offer the right content for the desired geographic location. For English users in the United Kingdom, for example, the URL ends with gb. According to Google’s very own Pierre Far, a site’s webmaster can add the markup to his Sitemaps or by using or HTML link tags.
For these URLs, the next annotations would be implemented:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-gb” hreflang=”en-gb” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-us” hreflang=”en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-au” hreflang=”en-au” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/” hreflang=”x-default” /> (source)
Some webmasters might not want to target their audience on their language or location; they need not worry, however, as Google has also found a solution for them. If a page does not target a specific language or location, the new x-default hreflang attribute value indicates this to Google. The search engine will then suggest that a site that is tagged with hreflang=”x-default is the default page for international visitors.
In March 2013, Google also launched a function called Universal Analytics. This is a tool that can inform marketers about the visitors of their site and their prospective customers. Brands are now able to evaluate the online and offline interactions with their customers, for example.
Google is putting its shoulder to the wheel to provide webmasters and SEO experts with the information they need to improve online user experiences. With these two new features, chances are the content delivery across the globe will increase greatly.