The HREFLang element simply tells Search Engines to consider all of the pages listed in the HREFLang element as alternate versions of each other.
HREFLang functionality can be implemented either as a meta tag placed in the section of the site or as an XML site map. The meta element is best for sites with only a few language versions as it reduces the number of rows of code that are required on the page. Using the meta element also requires the addition of logic to your page templates to map to the local alternative pages.
For sites that are numerous language versions and/or don’t have the ability to build the logic to add the meta elements, the XML site map method is the easy way to go.
Each page needs to be mapped to its language alternative, and that is where the problems start. There are hundreds of possible problems but the following are the most common and the main reason for Google’s latest batch of error notices.
For example, if you have a product page that is in English and has a global page but also has pages targeting the US, UK and Australia and other than price, dimensions and telephone number the content is nearly the same Google may view these pages as duplicates.
Below is an example of how the HREFLang Meta tag may look for this site on all of the country version pages:
Alternatively, a site may choose to use an HREFLang XML Sitemap and the following is an example of how the HREFLang XML Site Map would look for the site.
Check out the rest of our HREFLang Knowledgebase for any other questions you may have.