Google is reminding website owners and SEO professionals about the benefits of using the hreflang x-default value, an underused feature that can improve user experience.
The hreflang x-default value helps direct users to the appropriate language and region-neutral URL when the site doesn’t support their preferred language and region.
This feature can enhance URL discovery, increase conversions, and better serve your audience.
The Role of Hreflang x-default In User Experience
Hreflang x-default is used in conjunction with other hreflang values that specify the URL version for content targeted to a specific language and region.
For instance, if a page has hreflang annotations for English and Spanish versions, along with an x-default value pointing to the English version, French-speaking users would be directed to the English page due to the x-default annotation.
This can result in a more seamless experience for website users, regardless of language or location.
Advantages Of Using Hreflang x-default
There are two main benefits to implementing the hreflang x-default value on your site:
- URL Discovery: The URLs specified in hreflang annotations, including x-default, may be used for URL discovery. This can be helpful for large sites with complex structures, ensuring every localized URL is well-linked and accessible.
- Conversions: The goal for site owners is to convert users. Using the hreflang x-default value, you can direct users to a page where they are more likely to convert if your content is unavailable in their preferred language.
Implementing Hreflang x-default
To implement the hreflang x-default value, you need to add a series of link elements in the head section of your HTML page, specifying the different language and region URLs along with the x-default value.
The process involves the following steps:
- Identify the different language and region versions of your page.
- Create a unique link element for each version, including the x-default value.
- Add the link elements to the head section of your HTML page.
Here’s an example of how to add hreflang annotations, including the x-default value, to a webpage:
In this instance, three link elements are present: an English version, a Spanish version, and an x-default value directing to a language selector page.
Users with unsupported language preferences are guided to the language-selector page through the x-default value.
For comprehensive guidance on incorporating hreflang values, including x-default, consult Google’s official documentation.
Best Practices & Common Mistakes
Here are some best practices to consider when using the hreflang x-default value:
- Consistency across pages: Ensure that hreflang annotations are consistently implemented across all page versions. Each language and region version of the page should include the same set of hreflang annotations, including the x-default value.
- Use of absolute URLs: Always use absolute rather than relative URLs when specifying href attributes in hreflang annotations. This helps avoid potential issues with URL resolution.
- Canonical tags: Make sure to include a canonical tag for each language and region version of the page, pointing to the self-referencing URL. This helps search engines understand the preferred version of the page.
- Language and region codes: Use ISO 639-1 language codes and ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 country codes when specifying language and region values in the hreflang attribute. This ensures consistency and adherence to the standard.
- Sitemap implementation (optional): If you have a large site with many language and region versions, consider implementing hreflang annotations in your XML sitemap instead of in the head section of your HTML pages. This can help with site management and organization.
Avoid the following common mistakes:
- Missing or incorrect x-default value: Ensure that the x-default value is correctly implemented and points to the appropriate language-neutral or language selector page.
- Incomplete hreflang annotations: Ensure that all relevant language and region versions of a page are included in the hreflang annotations. This helps search engines index and serve the correct content to users.
- Inconsistent hreflang annotations: Avoid using different hreflang annotations on different versions of the same page. This can confuse search engines and may result in indexing and ranking issues.
- Incorrect language or region codes: Double-check your language and region codes to ensure they are correct and adhere to the ISO standards mentioned previously.
- Duplicate content issues: Be mindful of potential duplicate content issues when implementing hreflang annotations. Ensure each language and region version of a page has unique content to avoid potential SEO issues related to duplicate content.
The hreflang x-default value is a valuable yet underutilized tool that can enhance user experience and boost conversions.
By directing users to an appropriate language-neutral or region-neutral URL when their preferred language is unsupported, this feature can provide a more seamless browsing experience.
Implementing the hreflang x-default value involves consistent annotations, correct language and region codes, and adherence to best practices to avoid common mistakes.
Leveraging this feature helps ensure that your content is accessible and well-linked for users worldwide.
Featured image generated by author using Midjourney.