International Targeting for Multi-language Websites: Google Webmaster Tools Latest Update

Google Webmaster International Targeting

Google Webmaster Tools - International Targeting

Google Webmaster International Targeting

Google has released a new feature in Webmaster Tools, it's focused on helping multi-language websites. For international websites, it's important to have multi-language versions of the site and have the rel-alternate-hreflang tag implemented correctly. This update is presumably focused on helping International websites with multi-language markup.


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  • Incorrect hreflang tag implementation

With the latest update, Google Webmaster Tools now now has the ability to tell you if there are any errors in the implementation of the multi-language markup. For example, if Google finds a language markup issue in a page, Webmaster Tools will report the page URL, the date in which the issue was found and also example URLs and how to fix the issue.



An example for incorrect language markup is given below:

Site is targeted on visitors from Great Britain and the hreflang implemented is

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”GB” href=””>

The correct implementation is:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-GB” href=””>

  • Missing return link

If your site has two language versions - A is for Canadian visitors and B is for Spanish visitors, the hreflang tag should be implemented on both the sites. The site A should link back to site B and then site B should link back to site A. This is applicable for different language pages as well. The language pages should link to each other. This helps search engines to better identify the corresponding versions of pages. The new feature in Webmaster Tools enables us to identify the pages with no return links. Now Webmaster Tools reports the pages where the return link missing, when the issue was found and what the return link should be.

Image source: Google


The update is a useful for webmasters as it will help us troubleshoot the multi-language markup implementation errors.

How to handle a site with two languages

When it comes to multi-language sites, webmasters have to implement multi-language markup on sites so that Google can index the alternate language version of site and serve it to users.

See an example on how to implement multi-language markup:

Imagine your site has two language versions, one for English speaking users and other for French, the language markup should be implemented as follows:

In English version page:

Implement the below tag in the header:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=””>

The element ‘fr’ is indicates the language ‘French’ and “” is the page for French speaking visitors.

In French version page-

Implement the below tag in the header:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=””>

The element ‘en’ indicates the language ‘English’ and “” is the page for English speaking visitors. This way, Google can identify the alternate versions of your site content and index it.

Providing localized content based on language/location is a great way to deliver better user experience and at the same time, can help to improve SEO results. Prior to this update It was difficult for webmasters to determine whether they implemented the language markup correctly or not. With the latest Webmaster Tools update, it's much easier to implement and debug the multi-language markup implementation in websites.

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