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New x-default hreflang value for country selector/redirector homepages

The homepages of multinational and multilingual websites sometimes point visitors to localized pages, either by redirecting them or by changing the content to reflect the user’s language.

Now we have a new hreflang annotation for such pages to help our algos understand this setup better.

Details and code example here:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2013/04/x-default-hreflang-for-international-pages.html

And not just that! There is an extra little surprise for you :)
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augusto fagioli's profile photoSerkan Ünsal's profile photoChristian Holzschuh's profile photoAaron Chronister's profile photo
21 comments
 
Hi Pierre, if the content of the page is changing completely according to country, then is it still beneficial to use it ? Or is it for "same content + different language" case ?
 
Congrats! this features really makes sense to me
 
+Serkan Ünsal country is applicable as well here, yes (e.g. if you have content in German for Switzerland, Germany and Austria).
 
+Frank Neitzel scanning that article briefly, I see it only covering English pages. So for those they used 'en' as an indicator for the 'main' page which works.
But assume you are multi-lingual, and you have a main page showing the map of the world for the user (you can find plenty of examples on the internet for this). This is where x-default would be applicable.
 
Hi Pierre, what is the advantage of setting the x-default hreflang tag to not setting the x-default tag and just leave it blank? In a country selector page I just would not set any hreflang tag. Is there actually a difference now?

Is the tag only designed for the homepage or can it be used for subfolders too? E.g. like
 domain.com/us/ for US
 domain.com/uk/ for UK
 domain.com/restofworld/ -> x-default tag for rest of world
 
+Christian Holzschuh It can also be used on subfolders as well.
The advantage is that you expose the full information. So for instance, if ranking might show both /us/ and /restofworld/, for a user in USA you might still prefer to have the /us/ first. Without adding /restofworld/ to the annotations you can not provide this preference signal.
 
+Christopher Semturs 

So there is some confusing information from older hangouts and posts. In an older hangout ( https://plus.google.com/+PierreFar/posts/9zA3a96XahN ) +Pierre Far  mentioned using hreflang in combination with canonical on pages in English that are duplicates except for something like monetary units. Basically he said Google would default to the canonical unless there was an alternate specific to that regional engine, then it would serve the correct regional variation.

Then in a later post ( https://plus.google.com/107360801496590056394/posts/SpSnNfv3f1a ) +John Mueller  mentioned they had dropped that from the help section because it was confusing people. And Pierre mentioned not using canonical just for currency variation.

So is this "default" hreflang meant to eliminate the need for canonical on these?

CNET is going to be moving to a new structure and I want the proper regional URL to show up for the correct regional Google, but I don't want to get hit with duplication and have those pages appear only in the default engine if I'm not using canonical. And on the flip side, I don't want the canonical to do the same thing if I use them both.

So, for example:

www.cnet.com/product-review
www.cnet.com/uk/product-review
www.cnet.com/au/product-review

Am I good with just using the hreflang tag and no canonical back to the first one and using the new default tag on it? Content will contain regional currency, date, etc variations.

Thanks.

Aaron
 
Hi +Aaron Chronister ,

the thing is, rel-canonical in combination with hreflang is useful, but only in a very concrete small specific usecase. That applies to almost nobody and confused almost everybody.

Hence we stopped mentioning that combination, and you should definitely not bother. Just add the proper hreflang annotations to all involved pages and you are done. Your description on the last paragraph sounds good.
 
Thanks +Christopher Semturs I had it figured out and was doing an internal doc on the whole thing, then that came out and I had to bang my head on my desk a few times :) 

Thanks for the clarification. I'll leave canonical out of it (although it still makes more sense to me to have it since those 3 URL's will be 99% identical but I digress. As long as google treats the hreflang correctly and recognizes it's region specific and not duplicate I'm good).

Thanks again.
 
Does hreflang="x-default" still apply if it's a global site but only uses English as the language? The only thing we change is the currency via the country selector.
 
If there is not URL change you wouldn't need it. If URL's change then yes. You're default would be your main one (say US) with the x-default and the other URL's, and your country URL's would list all the alternates.
 
To clarify: If you choose a default it is what it means: The 'default'.
So if you have pages for en-uk, en-us and en-au, and define your en-us to be the 'default' it means that you want users from de-de, en-nz, ... - to go to that page. Whether the USA-page is the best choice or not depends on your page.
+Aaron Chronister I don't understand your comment on url-not-changing. 
 
+Aaron Chronister That was actually exactly what I meant with my previous question. Thanks for asking more precisely and thanks for the answers +Christopher Semturs. I guess in short we can conclude; canonical in combination with hreflang is out. x-default is in, for websites with duplicate content, but targeting different markets/countries.
 
+Christopher Semturs I meant having a single URL that uses location detection to dynamically change content on a single URL. So www.example.com is the only URL. There would not be /en-us/ and /en-uk/ etc.

Not an ideal solution but I don't know his situation. Sounded like he has a one global site with no regional directories or subdomains.
 
+Aaron Chronister this is a scenario we strongly recommend NOT to do.
Doing so will make it impossible for search engines to get your UK-specific content, for instance.
So if you have a page http://www.example.com/ which changes it content based on perceived user region, you should still have the region-specific content also available at specific URLs (e.g. www.example.com/en-UK). And then use hreflang to cross-link all of those pages.
 
Right. That's what I assumed (I wasn't sure however how Google would handle that). We're going to have region specific URL's. That was actually +Daniel Benny Simanjuntak question. So Daniel, make sure you have region specific URL's with the hreflang tags even if it's all in English.
 
+Christopher Semturs So I came up with some example use cases. I think I did it right so it might help others, but let me know if I got it wrong. Beware of long comment.

For URL's in the English but different regions. ie: published on the US site, in addition to UK and/or AU with US site being default.

http://www.cnet.com/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-gb" href="http://www.cnet.com/uk/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-au" href="http://www.cnet.com/au/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://www.cnet.com/product-review/" />

http://www.cnet.com/uk/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-gb" href="http://www.cnet.com/uk/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-au" href="http://www.cnet.com/au/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://www.cnet.com/product-review/" />

http://www.cnet.com/au/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-gb" href="http://www.cnet.com/uk/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-au" href="http://www.cnet.com/au/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://www.cnet.com/product-review/" />

So, this specific example URL would show up in each engine as follows:
Google.com - http://www.cnet.com/product-review/
Google.co.uk - http://www.cnet.com/uk/product-review/
Google.com.au - http://www.cnet.com/au/product-review/
Rest of world - http://www.cnet.com/product-review/

For URL's in with duplicate content in different languages. ie: same story published in Japan and China.

http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="zh" href="http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="ja" href="http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/" />

http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="zh" href="http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="ja" href="http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/" />

If we want to set a default domain, say Japanese, that the rest of asia would see outside of those two languages it would look like this:

http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="zh" href="http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/" />

http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/ <link rel="alternate" hreflang="zh" href="http://www.cnet.com/china/product-review/" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="http://www.cnet.com/japan/product-review/" />
 
You might want to distinguish simplified/traditional Chinese, but other than that your annotations look reasonable.
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