Multilingual & multi-regional sites: Language recognition

Wed 29 February 2012 12:00, Tom Scheffers

A lot of companies offer their services worldwide in multiple countries or they are doing business in bilingual countries. For example Belgium, where both the French and the Dutch language is spoken. If so, it is very important to adapt strategies towards the region and language of target groups. This and upcoming blogs will provide you with some practical Google tips to help setting up multilingual and multi-regional sites which are clear for the users and search engines.

Google and language recognition
Google attempts to define the language of each page in your site on page level. You can make it more easy for Google by using only one language per page. Google recommends to offer all the content of one page in one language, for example the description-tag, the title-tag and the menu. An other solution is to create a multilingual website; a website which contains the same content in more than one language.

Next to using tags you could use the rel="alternate" hreflang link-annotation, which you can add to your website's html-code. With this annotation you can set the language and even the geographical preference on a page level. It also offers the possibility to indicate which pages have similar content in a different language.


A Belgian webshop has both French and Dutch content. The Dutch content is hosted on, the French content is hosted on In this example the use of the annotation should like like this:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="nl-BE" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="fr" href="" />

In case you would like to offer an extra site for another country, you can ad another annotation. For example if the Belgian webshop decides to offer a site for the Dutch market, it should be indicated like this:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="nl-NL" href="" />

The annotation is URL-based, so it is important to link to the specific corresponding page with the rel="alternate" hreflang link annotation.

The next step:
The next step will be to define your target groups and adjust the strategy for the geographic targeting of your content. To be continued in my next blog.



  • Comments (3)
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Comments (3)


  • Imagine a site dealing with 12 languages or more.

    Using -rel="alternate" hreflang- correctly means they have to include 12 of those tags in-every-single-page and do it right because it has to be reciprocal between same content in different languages.

    A site having so many languages usually indicates it is a large international company having to deal with many local teams worldwide and each of them managing different content that comes and goes.

    No way it is going to be adopted.
    Add rel=canonical to the mix and we have the recipe for the perfect disaster.

    Google does a pretty good job handling multilingual sites if they are constructed properly so what is the advantage of hreflang?

    It is not going to help you rank better, just localize your content a bit more better.

    Again, no way.

    Wo 29 feb 2012, 22:42

    • archangeled

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    Di 25 aug 2015, 07:18

    • airbrushnowing

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