John Mueller from Google posted a very detailed answer to a question about hreflang implementation. redditThe answer is very detailed and I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong if I try to interject.
To be honest, hreflang is not my hobby and I don’t have much experience in terms of technical SEO. But the response is very interesting and I would like to highlight it to anyone doing a lot of hreflang and multilingual SEO work.
The question was “Hreflang in a language subdirectory already nested within a region subdirectory: is that a terrible idea?” Click on the Reddit thread to view the full question.
Here is John’s answer. What I find interesting is that (1) I only do this for the home page, as the home page can be quite complex, and (2) redirect the US user’s / home page to the US user’s /us , is what I said. Here’s the full response:
It is recommended not to change /de and /fr to /eu/de or /eu/fr. There is no SEO benefit to be gained from it. Also, moving a site like this is a lot of work. If anything, you might consider moving “/*” (en-us) to the “/us” folder. That way the parts are more clearly separated (“/us/*” for all US, “/fr/*” for all French, etc.). This makes tracking a bit easier and makes sections easier for search engines to understand (moving /fr to /eu/fr makes sections even harder to understand).
Also, since hreflang is per page, you will have to do this for every page. You mentioned it as a section, but you probably already did it properly, so this is for completeness. If you haven’t done that on every page, check the stats for the most confusing page (wrong country visitors) and at least consider adding it there. There’s a good chance there is, and if you only do it there, you’ve already reaped the full value of hreflang.
And…if you do this to automatically redirect “/” (only the root homepage) to the appropriate version, make sure it’s specified as the x-default for the set of homepages is needed. Otherwise, “/” will appear to Google as a separate page from the others.
(edit to elaborate on just the last part… –this is especially true if you have /us in the US and do geo-IP redirection, but this is generally not recommended not)
For US users, if ‘/’ (that page only) redirects to ‘/us’, and there is an hreflang across /us and /fr with x-default assigned to /us, Google will It recognizes “/” as: If it is an English page, /us, /fr will also be recognized as separate pages and will show both “/” and “/(one of the other”) in the search results. You can get around this by setting “/” as x-. By default (even if redirected) Google displays “/” as “/us” for US and “/fr” for France.
This also means that you can’t have “/eu” as x-default (there can only be one #highlander #xdefault), but you can still use it by specifying it as the hreflang for many common countries. It means you can (specify multiple countries per URL). Finally, specify “/” = x-default, “/us” for US, “/fr” for France, “/eu” for many countries, and redirect “/” to the best version . .
All this applies to the homepage only. It does not apply to other pages of the site. This is because they are very complex and difficult to manage. Also, because the home page is probably the page that gets the most search impressions.
What do you find interesting about this reaction?
forum discussion at reddit.