How Google’s Hreflang x-default improves website navigation
Google is reminding website owners and SEO professionals of the benefits of using the hreflang x-default value, an underused feature that can improve user experience.
The hreflang x-default value helps users direct the appropriate language and region neutral URL when the site doesn’t support their preferred language and region.
This feature can improve URL detection, 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 example, if a page has hreflang annotations for the 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 because of the x-default annotation.
This can result in a more seamless experience for website users, regardless of language or location.
Benefits of using Hreflang x-default
Implementing the hreflang x-default value on your website has two main benefits:
- URL detection: The URLs specified in hreflang annotations, including x-default, can be used for URL detection. This can be useful for large websites with complex structures to ensure each localized URL is well linked and accessible.
- conversions: The goal for website owners is to convert users. The hreflang x-default value allows you to direct users to a page where they’re more likely to convert if your content isn’t available in their preferred language.
Implementation of Hreflang x-default
To implement hreflang’s x-default value, you need to add a series of link elements in the head section of your HTML page and specify the different language and region URLs along with the x-default value.
The process includes the following steps:
- Identify the different language and region versions of your site.
- 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 case, there are three link items: an English version, a Spanish version, and a default x value that leads to a language selection page.
Users with unsupported language settings will be taken to the language selection page via the x default value.
For complete instructions on including hreflang values, including x-default, see Google’s official documentation.
Best practices and common mistakes
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when using the hreflang x-default value:
- Consistency across pages: Make sure hreflang annotations are consistently implemented across page versions. Each language and region version of the page should contain 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 URL resolution issues.
- Canonical tags: Include a canonical tag for each language and region version of the page that points 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 compliance with the standard.
- Sitemap implementation (optional): If you have a large website with many language and region versions, you should 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 implemented correctly and points to the appropriate language-neutral or language-selection 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 right content to users.
- Inconsistent hreflang annotations: Avoid using different hreflang annotations on different versions of the same page. This can confuse search engines and lead to indexing and ranking problems.
- Incorrect language or region codes: Double check your language and region codes to ensure they are correct and conform to the previously mentioned ISO standards.
- Duplicate content issues: When implementing hreflang annotations, be aware of potential duplicate content issues. Make sure 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 but underused tool that can improve user experience and increase conversions.
By directing users to an appropriate language- or region-neutral URL when their preferred language isn’t supported, this feature can provide a more seamless browsing experience.
Implementing the hreflang x-default value includes consistent annotations, correct language and region codes, and following best practices to avoid common mistakes.
Using this feature helps ensure that your content is accessible and well-linked to users worldwide.
Featured image created by the author using Midjourney.