SEO: hreflang-tag for multilingual recruitment websites

Written by: Endouble Endouble
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Endouble is building more and more websites for international clients. Many of these websites are multilingual, or target audiences in multiple geographical regions. On the occasion of HR Tech 2015 in Paris, we’ll be posting a few short blogs, about SEO and Universal Analytics for multilingual and international recruitment websites.

Hreflang-tag for multilingual recruitment websites

Search engines like Google seem to be perfectly capable of automatically detecting the language of your content. However, to prevent any confusion of languages ​​and countries (like bilingual Belgium in the previous blog, about domain choice) we recommend using language-tagging in the source code of your website. For this purpose, Google introduced the rel="alternate" hreflang="x", or in short: the hreflang-tag. This tag is used by search engines to direct the visitor to the page in the right language. Oddly, this tag is only rarely used.

Multilanguage

The hreflang-tag is relevant if your website is multilingual. This is the case when the website is available in multiple languages, but also when the website contains content in different languages ​and ​even if there are only minor differences. As with American English and British English. In all these cases, the hreflang-tag is helping search engines understanding your website.

Placing the hreflang-tag in your source code

In principle, the hreflang-tag can be used in three different places, from which we only explain the first (and easiest accessible one) in this blog:

  1. In the <head> section of the HTML
  2. In the HTTP header of your templates
  3. In the XML sitemap that’s submitted to Google Search Console

What the hreflang-tag looks like

Most websites have a default language; the language version of the website that will be served if none of the other languages ​​offered matches the language of the visitor. Often this will be English. The hreflang-tag for the default language is the following:

<link rel="alternate" href ="http://endouble.com/" hreflang="x-default" />

Links to alternative languages ​​that are available, must be added to the the code following the example below:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://endouble.com/nl/" hreflang="nl-nl" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://endouble.com/be/" hreflang="nl-be" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://endouble.com/fr/" hreflang="fr-be" />

Replacing eg. "fr-be" with only "fr", will signal that the website is available in French, regardless the region. In the specific case of a recruitment website with vacancies in a particular country, we strongly recommend to specify language AND region, as for example French vacancies in Belgium will be less relevant to visitors from France.

Tags like the ones in the example above, target two countries. They direct Dutch visitors, and Dutch and French-speaking Belgians to the corresponding language version, while it directs a visitor from France to the default version.

The effect on SEO / ranking

Although there is no proof of a direct effect on the ranking of your pages in the search results, using the hreflang-tag may improve findability. A better understanding of your website will help search engines providing better relevance to their visitors. This might even improve your conversion. So as long as the quality of your content is sufficient, specifying languages might help maintain and improve your SEO traffic.

Is hreflang-tag missing in the code of your multilingual website?

Don’t panic. Since hreflang is just helping search engines, the absence of the tag will not harm your website nor its traffic. Would we recommend adding it? Yes!

Next in this series of blogs

Our next blog in this series on the occasion of HR Tech 2015 in Paris will uncover best practices for tracking and analyzing your multilingual recruitment website with Universal Analytics.