If you own a multilingual website, you'll no doubt know how tough it can be to master the intricacies of hreflang tags. These small but mighty pieces of code play a pivotal role in ensuring your content reaches the right audience in the right language – they're the cornerstone of effective international SEO!
However, correctly implementing hreflang tags isn't always a straightforward task. Plenty of pitfalls can derail your site's success if you're not careful.
In this guide, we'll delve deep into the world of hreflang tags and unravel their significance in multilingual SEO, show you how to set them up correctly on Shopify, and tackle some common issues.
In addition, we'll show you how Weglot can simplify hreflang tag implementation on your Shopify site by automating the process.
Understanding Hreflang Tags For Multilingual Shopify Stores
From an SEO perspective, hreflang tags are a critical tool that can guide your multilingual Shopify store to success. They're simple pieces of code that tell search engines about the different language versions and geographical targeting of your website. Armed with this information, they can serve the most appropriate version to each user based on their language preference and geographical location.
Hreflang tags are snippets of HTML code that you add to the head section of your web page, and they look something like this:
In this example, the hreflang="en-us" attribute tells search engines that this page is the English version for users in the United States.
As you'd expect, hreflang tags are particularly important for multilingual Shopify stores.
They can help you avoid duplicate content issues that'd otherwise harm your SEO. For example, if you have English web pages for both US and UK audiences, search engines might see this as duplicate content. By using hreflang tags, however, you can communicate with search engines to let them know that these pages are different, and that they target different regions.
Hreflang tags can significantly improve the user experience on your site. By directing users to the version of the site that matches their language and location, you can increase engagement, reduce bounce rates and, ultimately, boost conversions.
By understanding and correctly implementing hreflang tags, you can ensure that your store reaches the right audience, improves its international visibility, and drives higher sales from across the globe.
The Importance of Hreflang in International SEO
Guiding Search Engines
Hreflang tags are signposts for search engines, guiding them to the correct language version of a web page.
By specifying a page's language and geographical targeting, hreflang tags enable search engines to serve the most relevant version of your site to users based on their language and location preferences.
For example, if a user in France searches for your product, the search engine, equipped with the information from the hreflang tags, will display the French version of your site. Without hreflang tags, the search engine might display the English version instead, ultimately leading to a less-than-optimal user experience that could cost you sales.
Expanding Your Reach
Because hreflang tags improve the accuracy of search results, they'll also boost your international search visibility and rankings. When your site appears in the right language to the right users, it's more likely to rank higher in search results, attract more organic traffic, and achieve better engagement rates.
Similarly, hreflang tags can help your business reach a wider audience by making your content accessible in multiple languages. By serving the right content to the right audience, you can ensure that your message resonates with your target market, regardless of their geographical location or language preference.
How to Implement Hreflang Tags in Shopify: A Step-By-Step Guide
Correctly implementing hreflang tags can be daunting, especially if you're new to the world of international SEO.
Google's own John Mueller has tweeted about the complexity of using hreflang tags –
“TBH hreflang is one of the most complex aspects of SEO (if not the most complex one). Feels as easy as a meta-tag, but it gets really hard quickly.”
While you can certainly implement hreflang tags manually, it's only a viable option for smaller websites with a limited number of pages, and quickly becomes overwhelming for larger and more complex sites.
Manual implementation involves adding specific code to every page of your website – a process that can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
For larger websites, an automated solution like Weglot may be a more efficient and reliable choice. Weglot simplifies the process by automatically adding the necessary hreflang tags to your pages, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors.
Manually Adding Hreflang Tags
If you decide to manually implement hreflang tags, there are three primary methods you can use:
In the HTML header of a page.
In the HTTP header (ideal for non-HTML files like PDFs).
In an XML sitemap.
In Shopify, the hreflang attribute is typically placed in the head element of your theme. Depending on the number of different language or regional versions of your page, you can add as many hreflang attributes as required.
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to manually add hreflang tags to your Shopify theme:
From your Shopify admin page, navigate to Online Store > Themes.
Choose the theme you want to edit. Then, from the drop-down menu under Actions, select Edit code.
In the Layout folder, open the `theme.liquid` file.
Locate the head section in the `theme.liquid` file. This is where you'll insert the hreflang tags.
Remember to replace "https://yourwebsite.com/page" with the URL of your page and "en-us" or "fr-fr" with the correct language and region code.
Save your changes, and you’re all finished!
Automatically Adding Hreflang Tags with Weglot
For those seeking a more streamlined, automated approach to implementing hreflang tags, Weglot has you covered.
Weglot is a comprehensive website translation solution that integrates seamlessly with all the most popular Content Management Systems, including Shopify.
This versatility makes it an invaluable tool for businesses operating in the multilingual digital space.
Some of the standout features of Weglot include:
Its ability to automatically detect and translate content: Once you've set up Weglot, it scans your website and translates all the text content into languages of your choice. It also sets up a subdirectory or subdomain for each translated version of your content to provide a clear structure for your multilingual site.
Automatic implementation of hreflang tags: Weglot recognizes the importance of these tags in international SEO and takes care of the process for you – effectively streamlining your workflow! It automatically adds the appropriate hreflang tags to each version of your content, ensuring that search engines understand the language and regional targeting of each page.
Reduced possibility of errors: By using Weglot to automate hreflang implementation, you can avoid the common errors that come with manual implementation and eliminate the risk of incorrectly formatted or missing hreflang tags, which could potentially harm your SEO efforts. As a result, Weglot helps your site reach multilingual audiences much more quickly.
To learn more about setting up hreflang tags with Weglot, be sure to check out our video tutorial:
Navigating Challenges and Common Mistakes with Hreflang Tags
The benefits of implementing hreflang tags are vast, but the process isn't without its challenges.
Below, you'll find some of the most common roadblocks that can crop up when adding hreflang tags to your site and advice on navigating them.
Using incorrect language codes: One of the most common mistakes is using incorrect or non-standard language or country codes. The hreflang attribute requires specific ISO language and country codes to function correctly and, as you might expect, using incorrect codes can confuse search engines, resulting in your pages not being served correctly to users. To avoid this issue, make sure you check out our complete guide on implementing hreflang language codes before you get started.
“Your site has no hreflang tags” error: Another common error is receiving a "your site has no hreflang tags" message from Google Search Console, even after you've implemented the tags. Fortunately, Weglot has the tools you need to resolve this error – and we’ve put together a handy step-by-step tutorial that'll walk you through the process and ensure search engines recognize your tags.
Hreflang tags help search engines serve the appropriate version of your content to users based on their language and location, ensuring a more user-friendly experience and better SEO performance.
However, tag implementation can be complex and time-consuming, and even lead to SEO issues and a suboptimal user experience if not done properly.
Fortunately, Weglot can help you out.
Weglot simplifies the process by automatically detecting and translating your content, setting up a clear structure for your multilingual site, and implementing hreflang tags for you. You won't have to worry about the technicalities of hreflang implementation, and can instead focus on creating engaging content and growing your business.
Weglot's automated translation and SEO features make it an invaluable tool for any Shopify store owner looking to target international markets.
Start your free trial today and experience the benefits of automated hreflang implementation and multilingual SEO – and confidently provide a seamless user experience for your customers, no matter where they are in the world!
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