This page will walk you through the key elements to think about in order to use the tool effectively.

Step 1 – Gather and Identify your Source Files

The first step will be to determine what you upload the files with the URL’s for each country version.   Currently, each county/language version must be in its own file.  Below are specifics for each file type:

Index XML Site Map Import – if you have an index XML file with a list to all of the individual country/language versions of your in XML site maps we can import that file and then create the individual country data sets.  For larger sites with many country or language versions, this is the easiest way to import all the files.

XML Site Map Import or Upload – if you have different XML site maps for each country you can add the URL for each and we can import them into the application.  If you have them on your computer you can upload them and we can import them.

CSV/Excel Upload – each file should have only the URL’s for a single country.  There should not be any other columns and remove any header rows.

Blended XML Site Map Import – some smaller sites have a single XML sitemap that has all the different country versions blended in the single file.

Screaming Frog Export Upload – if you use Screaming Frog for diagnostics you can export a master list of URL’s.  Ensure you use a ” HTML page” export.  Suggest you remove any non 200 header status code URL’s so that we get a clean import.

For more information see our Country Source Files FAQ

Step 2 – Review Country and Language Code Syntax

One of the biggest challenges of building the XML site map is matching the alternative URL’s to each other. Currently, we have been able to account for 37 of the 50 or so most common problems associated with correctly building the files. The following are some of the formats we have sorted out and you need to understand the format you are using.

Syntax 1 – Standard Country Code/Language Code Syntax – this is the most common where your UK site is managed under www.mydomain.com/en/uk/ or uk/en type structure and this is uniform across the counties. This can also work for those that use /en-uk/ structures.

Questions:  Does this format match for all countries? If you have different placements by country we will have to work with you to organize the initial load.

Syntax 2 – Country Code but Non Local Language – a big problem is that many tools want to force the local language pairing for a country but what happens when you have a site for Norway but the content is in English? Most tools would assign /no/no/ to these URL’s but it actually needs to be created as /no/en – our tool allows you to map a unique country site but set the language to English.

Syntax 3 – Global Language Version – this is the case where you do not use country designators but have common languages.  For example, if you use a /es version for “any” Spanish speaking countries then we can set it as “Global Spanish.”  You can do this by selecting the global language related to the site.

Syntax 4 – Regional Language Versions – while we know there is no country called LATAM or APAC many sites do this for their regional Spanish or English sites. These are often mapped as /latam/ or /apac/en/ so this makes it hard to map these. We have built in detectors for you to find URL’s with /apac and then assign them to a single or multiple countries in the region.  For more information please review Using HREFLang for Regional Sites.

Syntax 5 – Non Standard Folders and Country Codes –  we have encountered a number of multinationals that have business unit or product folders before the country and language designators.  For example www.bigglobalco.com/business_unit/us/en.  For this syntax, we have developed a “Regex” element that allows you to tell the too where your country and language elements are located.

Syntax 6 – Language or Country Parameters –  unfortunately, if you are using a top-level domain and language or country parameters to designate the pages for each country or language we are not able to build an HREF for these pages as they most likely are not unique pages.  A number of sites use Java plugins that “replace” local language elements but use the same base URL.

Syntax 7 – Default Language  –  If you have a global site that is not associated to any country or language or if you use IP detection you can set any version of the site to be the default version.  Using the x=default option we can tell the search engines this is the version to show when there is not a designated local version.

To set your RegEx for non-traditional Syntax please review the FAQ Setting your Country/Language RegEx Settings

Step 3 – Identify where you will put the XML Index File

Currently, the tool will build a separate XML file for each country and language and then create a master XML index file.  To develop the XML Index file we need to list the location of the individual country files.   While most sites put all of the files in the root folder there are others that add them to a /sitemaps file or even put them into the local country folders.  We have an option for you to designate where these files will be loaded so we can build an accurate XML index that eliminates the need to submit the individual files.

Site Map Location 1  – Server Root  – this is the most common location where they are saved in the root of the server such as www.mysite.com/de_sitemap.xml

Site Map Location 2  – Unique Folder in Server Root  – same as above but in a specific folder such as www,mysite.com/sitemaps/de_sitemap.xml – note you can designate any named folder

Site Map Location 3  – Country Language Folder  – in this case, you store the XML site maps in the country language folders.  Many CMS systems do this automatically for regular XML site maps and many companies want to replicate this for HREFLang XML site maps.   For example www.mysite.com/de/de/de_sitemap.xml or www.mysite.com/de/de/sitemaps/de_sitemap.xml

Step 4 – Determine the Size of the XML Site Maps

As you can imagine mapping XML files to 20 or 30 country alternative variations the file sizes can become quite large.  While Search engines allow XML site map files to contain 50,000 URL’s we find that files with a maximum of 10,000 URL’s are the optimal size.  We have allowed users to select a 10,000 and a 50,000 option.

For more information please review our XML Site Map Size FAQ.

Step 5 – Create Your Account

Once you have all your files ready and the syntax for the country and language you are ready to create sign up and create your account.

HREFLang Site Map Builder

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