Reducing Language Errors in Google Webmaster Tools

If you received a notification from Google that you have language errors on your site you can correct them by creating and mapping a complete set of HREF XML Site Maps. href_errors

 

What's Indexed Tool

This is a tool that I developed a number of years ago and I have added it into the HREF Builder suite.  This tool used the Info: command in Google to see which of the URL's are indexed. It started to solve the problem of submitting a number of pages  to Google on a site map and only a small set are indexed.  I had no way of knowing which pages were not indexed.   In the example below, the site map for Argentina has 524 pages but only 5 are indexed. submitted-vs-indexed This tool can import your XML site map or CSV file and using the info: command will tell you what pages are an are not indexed and for those that are the cache date to monitor how recent the page was added.

Business Applications:

  1.  XML SIte Map Diagnostics - the original purpose to identify those pages submitted to Google but not yet indexing.
  2. Post Launch Reindexing - you can monitor how long it takes for Google to index the new pages on the site.
  3. Post Launch Deindexing - you can monitor how long it takes for Google to drop your pages from their index

 

HREFLang Tag Overview

The HREFLang Tag is a meta tag that helps search engines understand the relationships of local country and language versions of similar pages.  By implementing it you acknowledge potential duplication of content and signal your specific request to have them associated with their representative countries or languages.

Sample Code Snippet

<link rel="alternate" href="http://www.mysite.com/" hreflang="en-us" /> <link

rel="alternate" href="http://www.mysite.com/uk/en/" hreflang="en-gb" /> <link

rel="alternate" href="http://www.mysite.com/es/es/" hreflang="es-es" /> <link

rel="alternate" href="http://www.mysite.com/au/en/" hreflang="en-au" />

In this example above from a Global Home page that also acts as the US home page, we are are telling the search engine the following: We have 4 versions of the same page but they are unique to their respective counties.  In this case the home page for the US, UK, Spain and Australia are country alternatives of each other.

When to Use HREFLang Tags?

If you have multiple country or language versions of your website you are a prime candidate for this functionality.  Especially if you have multiple English and/or Spanish language versions of the site this can be helpful in distinguishing them apart.  It is very common for Google especially to show a global or US page in a local search engines.   If you review some of the case studies such as the Absolut Vodka HREFLang Case Study you will see that when they added the HREFLang XML site map it almost immediately corrected their listings in the search engines increasing local traffic exponentially.

Required Elements:

You MUST include a reference to the page you are placing the code as well as all alternative pages.  In the example above we have 4 alterniave pages and all 4 pages have this same block of code.

Pros of HREFLang Tags

The biggest pro to using HREFLang Tags in your pages is they ensure a 1 to 1 match to each of the alternative pages.  This of course is If you are currently using a localized folder structure for your site this is often the ONLY method available as it requires your CMS logic to match the different language versions.

Cons of HREFLang Tags

Note:  Hreflang is only a signal to the search engines and not a specific directive and other factors such as links from a specific market can cause a different country or language version to rank higher in the local market.  However, in our experience of doing hundreds of HREFLang implementations they have worked in nearly 100% of the time.

 

Why Use the HREFLang Element?

While there are many applications of the  HREFLang Element, it was designed to do one thing, tell the search engine YOUR preference for the desired content to be shown to a language-specific audience.

Even the mighty Google makes mistakes when matching users to content in their own search engine.  While you cannot guarantee this is the page that will actually be shone, it is the strongest signal you can possible give the search engine to help them determine which is correct.

Key Applications of the HREFLang Element

  1.  Ensure Local Market Content is correctly Represented - This is the main benefit of using the HREFLang Element.  It allows you to tell Google that that page is specific to India or Australia.   This helps ensure your product page with local pricing, offers and contact information is correct for that market.
  2. Identify Global and Regional Language Content - To help the search engine understand what is global English or Spanish content from what is local market specific content. This is helpful to a English or Spanish searcher traveling in another country that is looking for support information.  For example, I was Paris France and wanted to find the what time the Hertz car rental office closed.  I did my search in English and was able to get a global English page that had the closing times and phone numbers along with the French page.
  3. Ensure Local Market Home Pages are Represented Correctly - To ensure when a brand name search is done the local market home page is represented in the search engine vs. a global or more dominate market language page.
  4. Enable the Global use of Dot-com domains - For many companies managing local market ccTLD domains for all of their markets is cost prohibitive.  By using a .com domain with country/language directories and the HREFLang Element you can reduce your costs and have proper representation in the local markets.
  5. Help Support Legal Case on Local Licenses - companies have been sued by partners for not adequately representing their relationships in specific markets.  In addition, you can potentially limit your exposure in markets where you should not be seen due to sales rights and other legal issues.   The use of the HREFLang is strong support of your case that you made an effort to segment and isolate content for specific markets.

There are my more applications of the HREFLang Element that we will cover on the blog and on this page over time but for now, using the tool to help the search engines match the correct content to your target market is the best application of all.

 

Manage HREFLang Files

The HREF Builder allows you to manage and quickly update HREF XML files as your content changes.   We have multiple methods to keep yoir files updated from, new Excel or CSV uploads, fetching XML index and individual XML files and dynamically updated your HREF files.

 

Preventing Unknown Language Code Errors in HREFLang Elements

Some of the most common errors flagged in Google Search Console now days are for incorrect HREFLang deployments.   This week I was contacted by a site that had received a large number of errors appear in their Search Console.   They had recently updated their HREFLang Element tags for some critical pages of a new refresh and with XML site maps for the older pages.   From an article standpoint this was a perfect project as one site had nearly all of the most common mistakes that you can make implementing the HREFLang element on a site.

Below is a screen capture of one of the county specific sites from their Search Console.  Lets try to understand why they got the errors and how to fix them.

unknown_language_codes

Incorrect Country or Language Code

The first error we see above is the "Unknown Language Code."   This is the most common error and as expected, they have the two most commonly used incorrect country and language codes.   In this case they have used the HREFLang tag embedded in the page.

hreflang_in_page_error

In the image above, you see for Japan they have set the hreflang= element as jp-JP which is incorrect.  The correct ISO 639-1 Language Code is for Japanese is "ja" not "jp" which is actually the country code.  This is why Google listed it as an "Unknown Langauge" since there is not a language with the code "JP." If they update their code as shown below, it will fix the error.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="ja-JP"href="http://www.example.com/jp/" />

In addition to Japan, they made a mistake with the UK as well.  Note, Google listed the error not as an incorrect country code but the larger error, "no return codes" which means these en-uk pages have not been mapped for alternative pages. If they had, Google would have flagged the country error of using "en-uk" rather than "en-gb."  While 99.9999 percent of sites reference the United Kingdom with "uk" as their URL syntax, the correct ISO 3166 Country/Region Code is "GB" for "Great Britain."  Using "uk" and not GB you will get a unknown country error.  You can keep your URL syntax "uk" but you must update the "hreflang" element.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-GB"href="http://www.example.com/uk/" />

Using Country Code in place of Language Code

In the screen capture above, errors 4 - 8 the site owner incorrectly used the country code as the language code.  In the image below from their HREFLang XML site map.  This can happen when your URL syntax does not represent both country and language.  They apparently used a script that inserted their URL elements into the syntax but did not check for the missing language element.

incorrect_langage_codes

The image above reflects multiple items which I have identified with different colored stars.

Blue Stars

The blue star next to hreflang-"cl" is one of the errors that is shown in Search Console.   The URL syntax shows this URL represents a page for Chile.  Since this Argentine page is also in Spanish, the correct site map syntax would be as shown below - identifying the page as being in Spanish for Chile.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="ja-JP"href="http://www.example.com/jp/product_page.html"/>

Red Stars

Interesting that none of the listings with red stars were flagged by Google as being incorrect even though they are incorrectly assigned the wrong language to these pages.  There are many countries that have a different language ISO code so it is important that they are set correctly.

The first red star for hreflang="ar" is incorrect because this page represents Argentina and is written in Spanish. However the hreflan="ar" element is telling search engines the page is in Arabic ("ar" is the two letter ISO code for Arabic language) and with no country assigned, search engines will use this page for all Arabic speaking countries.

To further complex things, the second red star for hreflang="be" is also incorrect because this page represents Belgium and is written in Dutch. However the hreflan="be" element is telling search engines the page is in Belarusian ("be" is the two letter ISO code for Belarusian language, the language of Belaruse).

Green Stars

The entries with the green stars are correct and seems only so since the country is the same as the language code which is why it is critical that you use the correct settings.

Switching Country and Language in HREFlang Syntax

Not as common a problem as the other two but one I was seeing occasionally is swapping the country and language codes in the syntax.  As we saw above, switching the country and language can have significant negative impact on your site.  was put together incorrectly.  I did not have access to their Webmaster Console to see what error Google shows, it is clearly incorrect.

swapped_country_language

The first red star shows the hreflang="ar-es" which tells is this page should be targeting Spain in Arabic.  The URL syntax is /ar so could be a global Arabic page but is actually a Spanish language page for Argentina.  Switching the country and language has a pretty dramatic impact on what the search engines read.

<xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-ar" href="http://www.example.com/ar/" />

The second red star show hreflang="be-nl" which says this is a Belarusian language page targeting the Netherlands.  This should be switched to so this is a Dutch language page representing Belgium.

<xhtml:link rel="alternate" hreflang="n-bel" href="http://www.example.com/be/" />

Similar problem for the two obvious Canadian pages.  Using "ca" in the language position tells the search engines this page is written in Catalan which is spoken primarily in northern Spain.

Attention to Detail Required

It is critical when developing your HREFLang elements either in the page or in XML site maps that the country and language elements be correct.   This is one of the reasons we have spent a significant amount of time ensuring all of the mappings in our HREFLang XML site map builder are correct.

 

 

 

Ensuring the Right Page is Ranking for the Right Country

I recently had an interesting project that helps illustrate the power of the HREFLang Element. A Fortune 50 company had significant traffic from organic search to English language markets Australia, India and UK as well as Spanish Markets of Colombia and Mexico. While traffic was high, conversions were not and most had 80 to 90 percent bounce rates. They hired a CRO expert that tuned the pages but still received few to no conversions.

I was already working with one of their business units and this came up in a global planning meeting. Upon hearing the symptoms I did a quick check in those markets with a couple of the products and immediately found the problem. In every case for the English countries, the global or US versions of pages were ranking and not the local market versions. In the Spanish Markets it was the pages from Argentina

Note: Why Argentina and not another Spanish country? In 99% of the cases where I have worked with this it is because Argentina is the first Spanish language site that is listed on the Country List of the site and the Site Map. Since it is the first, any often a duplicate of other Spanish Google gives it a dominate position.

When a user came into the page in Australia or UK all pricing, product availability and offers for the US or there were no offers as it was the global site. In addition, all the contact information was for the US. Not seeing the ability to buy in their currency or country they simply left the page.

Solution:

HREFLang Builder was used to develop HREF XML site maps for the countries. Within 10 days of the new HREFLang XML site maps submission the bounces rates were reduced, conversion rates increased and company enjoyed a 300% increase in sales to these pages.

Root Causes:

    1. Most of the link equity was to these other pages so Google felt they were more relevant
    2. The SEO agency simply checked ranks and not Preferred Landing Pages (PLP's). Had they had a process of checking to ensure the right page was ranking they would have tried to fix this long before.
    3. The CRO expert was focused only on making the landing pages better and being from the US and using IP detection most likely did not ever see the local pages.

The local markets did not even notice or necessarily care or they would have seen that it was not their page ranking.

Your Performance?

How are you performing in your key markets? Do you ahve a similar problem? If you do contact us to help you solve it.

 

 

Incorrect hreflang Implementation Error Notice

This past week Google has sent out a large number of notices for sites that have Incorrect HREFlang Implementations. The notice looks like this one below references two of the most common errors. Both of these errors are described below.

href_error_notices

Error 1 - Problem with incorrect language and region codes

About 1/3 of the errors I received calls and email about are related to incorrect country and language coded. I recently detailed a number of these common errors and how to fix them as well as preventing them in the article Preventing Unknown Language Code Errors which should cover most of your problems. This is a very common problem caused by people not paying attention to detail. In many cases the developer or SEO just mirrors the structure of the site using jp/jp or as nearly every site aligns to the UK as /uk and not GB it is not surprising that is one of the largest errors.

A quick search in NerdySearch for the incorrect country and language en-uk we find that there are nearly 8,000 sites including some very large sites that should know better. The correct code is actually en-GB. Japan is another common problem as are others that I will detail in some research I am doing on the prevalence of these incorrect codes.

incorrect_hreflang_uk

Shameless Plug - we have fixed settings so it is impossible to ever set the wrong country or language code in your XML developed with our HREFLang Tool.

How to Fix these errors?

If you log into Webmaster Console Google will tell you which ones are in error. If you are using the HREfLang Meta Element you will need to change the code you are using to generate them to set the correct country or language. Look at the language codes you are using and match them to the ISO Language Code list and do the same with your countries using the ISO Country/Regional Code List.

If you are using XML Site Maps that makes it easier to simply go in and do a Search and Replace and then upload the files. Once Uploaded go in and resubmit to the search engines for indexing. Make sure that you monitor the indexing.

Error 2 - Incorrect Bi-directional linking

In order for the HREFLang to work you need to link page A to all the alternates and then all of the alternates back to A. We see this is the number 1 error that people make especially with home grown or some of the free mapping tools. (if page A links with hreflang to page B, there must be a link back from B to A as well).

Correct Bi-Directional Linking

If you swear that you have all of your links set with A to B and B to A and you are using an HREFLang XML Site Map for each country then maybe Google cannot or will not update your XML files! I had a call this morning from a new customer that swore that they had them all mapped. We looked into their Webmaster tools account and there it We have seen this when people do not clean HREFLang XML Site Maps and load broken, redirected or URL's with canonical links to other pages. As in the example below, Google will slow or stop indexing XML Site Maps that have a lot of errors in them resulting in them not detecting the rel=alternate element and give and error.

not_index_site_maps

Shameless Plug - we build in error detection functionality into HREF Builder to catch the most common errors from redirects, 404 robots and canonical differences. The tool will not add any page with an error to the file ensuring you have 100% clean files. You can then export the list of errors and give them to the tech team to fix them.

Preventing Bi-Directional HREFLang Linking Errors

One of the first features we built into HREFLang Builder was the cross reference testing. This will detect all sorts of errors from redirects, 404 robots and canonical differences. The tool will not add any page with an error to the file ensuring you have 100% clean files. You can then export the list of errors and give them to the tech team to fix them.

Green - means that we found a match with that page between these countries

Red - means we did not find a match for that page between countries

missing_match_report

How to Fix Bidirectional Errors?

The Webmaster Console view for this error is fairly confusing but it will tell you which pages are missing the links or are missing a reference in XML Site Maps. If you have XML Site Maps then check for errors as I note above and make any fixes. Remove any that are redirects, 404 or robots blocked URL's. If you have them in pages you can use a great HREF Testing tool from the guys at Merkyl. The other option is go over and set up an account with our HREF Builder and we can import the files and find the missing pages.

 

 

 

Use HREFLang Builder to Detect Errors in XML Site Maps

Most global companies build their XML site maps dynamically from their various CMS systems. This results in the potential for numerous errors from broken pages, redirected pages and canonical pages being added to the files. In some cases, the local market versions are not even updated after the first build.
Search engines have told the SEO community their crawl rate can be significantly impacted if even 1% of the submitted pages in a site map have an error.
We have has many cases where a client has imported their XML site maps into HREFLang Builder only to find that many of these have huge numbers of errors. In one case, a Fortune 100 company learned nearly 40% of their site maps had errors. This report allowed them to identify 26 different problems and once resolved resulted in an index rate of nearly 98% increasing their traffic from organic search by 86% in the first 60 days.
Once the source files are imported, traditioanally from existing XML site maps, the user can see a difference in the URL counts as well as the number of errors. In the case below, we see Argentina has 1,814 URL's that had some sort of header, canonical or robots directive error.
import_errors
Upon seeing a report shown above, HREFLang Builder allows a user to drill down into a specific country and see the errors. In the example below, for Japan there were a number of pages that had 301 redirects as well as 404 errors. In this case they found that the XML site map and the pages were rendered without closing the folder. This resulted in every page to require a 301 redirect to add the "/" and then reload. By identifying this error, fixing the site and rebuilding the XML site map they increased the number of pages indexed as well as reduced server overhead.
xml_site_map_errors
HREFLang Builder added a testing routine into the application so not to add any pages with these errors to the XML site maps. We also identified each page that we found with an error to make it easy for the user to delete or share a list with IT to be fixed. Back Azimuth’s HREFLang Builder was designed to simply make large scale HREFLang Element implementation easier but adding into the SEO workflow has resulted in significant gains in error reduction, productivity as well as traffic and sales. Making it a must use tool for any global website.

 

New Feature – Google Index Checker

Today we launched a new beta version of our Google Index Checker is used to monitor the inclusion of the pages in Google. To identify missing pages, a user can reference an XML site map, paste in a list of URL’s or upload a Excel or CSV file from your desktop. We will soon make this available as part of a HREFLang tool subscription as well as a standalone subscription.

The application uses the info: syntax to check each URL on the list and see if it is indexed. If the page is indexed, if will capture the cache date so you know when the pages were indexed. The user can see both indexed and non indexed URL’s. Any URL that is not indexed they can use the Fetch as Googlebot to index it.

Determine Which Pages are Not Indexed

In the screen capture below we can see that most of the XML site maps have 549 pages. Many of the versions only have a few pages indexd. It is great that Google tells is that only x are indexed but we don't know which ones are not indexed.

site_map_inclusionNoIndex Report Results

In the case of Brazil, where only 42 of the URl's were indexed, we enter the URL for the Brazil XML site map and run the tool. It checks each URL and then develops the report which the user can review on the screen or export as Excel. They can see which page is not indexed as well as those that are and the cache date. no_index_report

Site Refresh Reindex Reporting

The original reason for this tool was to check sites that had been refreshed to ensure the new pages were indexed. Once you deploy the new site load the new XML site map or a crawl list and then monitor the inclusion and refresh rate. If you are interested in this tool please let us know.

 

New Feature – Redirect Checker

This tool functions as it sounds but far better than tools that check a single URL or even indicate a redirect during crawl. There are two key functional uses

Redirect Strategy Implementation Verification

I have been using this function for a number of years to demonstrate the 99% guarantee that developers will screw up redirects on a site refresh or migration. Most SEO's give the dev team an Excel file with the from URL, the redirect code, typically 301, and the destination URL. This is loaded into .htaccess or their redirect manager in the CDN. As noted I have only had 1 site get this 100% correct in over 20 years. The key is to catch the errors as soon as possible after launch to not loose the link equity.

The tool goes to each of the original URL’s and gets the header status. If the header status does not match what was provided a fail message is recorded. If the header is correct and it was set to 301 redirect we will capture the destination URL and confirm that it is the destination page. If not it will not a fail and if the actual destination is a redirect will follow until gets a termination status of 200, 400 or 500. The user can also check 410 “Gone” status.

redirect_strategy_report

Redirect Detection

The second function is a simple redirect checker. Many webmasters will get a report from Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl showing they have pages with redirects and the show the first destination. Many times working with large companies I have seen as many as 6 to 8 hops from years or moving content around. I needed a tool that would allow a large volume of URL's and check all hops until a failure header status or a 200.

To use this feature, the user loads a list of URLs or an XML site map and the header is checked for all. The tool records the header status, and the destination URL for each hop it encounters. If not it will not a fail and if the actual destination is a redirect will follow until gets a termination status of 200, 400 or 500.

master_redirect_checker

Once both of these are created, the user can rerun any of these reports to confirm that any errors were corrected without having to reload the original source.

 

Site with Most HREFLang Errors

Most global companies build their XML site maps dynamically from their various CMS systems. This results in the potential for numerous errors from broken pages, redirected pages and canonical pages being added to the files. In some cases, the local market versions are not even updated after the first build.
Search engines have told the SEO community their crawl rate can be significantly impacted if even 1% of the submitted pages in a site map have an error.
We have has many cases where a client has imported their XML site maps into HREFLang Builder only to find that many of these have huge numbers of errors. In one case, a Fortune 100 company learned nearly 40% of their site maps had errors. This report allowed them to identify 26 different problems and once resolved resulted in an index rate of nearly 98% increasing their traffic from organic search by 86% in the first 60 days.
Once the source files are imported, traditioanally from existing XML site maps, the user can see a difference in the URL counts as well as the number of errors. In the case below, we see Argentina has 1,814 URL's that had some sort of header, canonical or robots directive error.
import_errors
Upon seeing a report shown above, HREFLang Builder allows a user to drill down into a specific country and see the errors. In the example below, for Japan there were a number of pages that had 301 redirects as well as 404 errors. In this case they found that the XML site map and the pages were rendered without closing the folder. This resulted in every page to require a 301 redirect to add the "/" and then reload. By identifying this error, fixing the site and rebuilding the XML site map they increased the number of pages indexed as well as reduced server overhead.
xml_site_map_errors
HREFLang Builder added a testing routine into the application so not to add any pages with these errors to the XML site maps. We also identified each page that we found with an error to make it easy for the user to delete or share a list with IT to be fixed. Back Azimuth’s HREFLang Builder was designed to simply make large scale HREFLang Element implementation easier but adding into the SEO workflow has resulted in significant gains in error reduction, productivity as well as traffic and sales. Making it a must use tool for any global website.

 

HREFlang No Return Tags Errors

These are one of the most common errors given by Google for HREFLang.

What does this error mean?

It means simply your pages are not cross-referencing each other.

If you received this Error it means that Google found a HREFLang Entry on one page referencing it as an alternate to another page. But when it went to that page it did not find When it looked at the page referencesdi it did

In order for the HREFLang to work you need to link page A to all the alternates and then all of the alternates back to A. We see this is the number 1 error that people make especially with home grown or some of the free mapping tools. (if page A links with hreflang to page B, there must be a link back from B to A as well).

Reason #1 - You DO NOT Have Bi-Directional Linking

You can check this quickly. Go to the alternate page or country HREFXML Site Map and make sure you actually have the reference to the other site

For example, if you have a Spanish and English Site. View the source of both pages and you shold have an entry like this on BOTH sites.

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="https://www.mysite.com/en/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="https://www.mysite.com/es/"/>

If on your Spanish site you only have the single entry for itself and not the reference to the English site it is incorrect

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href="https://www.mysite.com/es/"/>

Reason #2 - Incorrect Syntax - using underscore and not dash

We are seeing site that are using the HREFLang element with an underscore and not a dash as the syntax requires.

ar_ie_syntax_incorrect

Based on our process above, we should look at both sites and confirmed that they both have bi-directional HREF elements. But do they really?

Int eh example below we see on the Argentina site they are referencing the Ireland site with an _ and not a - which is a syntax error.

Ireland Site https://www.mysite.com/ie/
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-IE" href="https://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-AR" href="https://www.mysite.com/ar/"/>

Argentina Site - https://www.mysite.com/ar/
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en_IE" href="https://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-AR" href="https://www.mysite.com/ar/"/>

Reason #3 - Incorrect Syntax - Combining HREFLang and Canonical

We are seeing people mixing the canonical and the HREFLang elements which is INCORRECT for example this site got the following error.

ar_ie_syntax_incorrect

Based on our process above, we should look at both sites and confirmed that they both have bi-directional HREF elements. But do they really?

Ireland Site https://www.mysite.com/ie/
<link rel="Canonical" hreflang="en-IE" href="https://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-AR" href="http://www.mysite.com/ar/"/>

Argentina Site - https://www.mysite.com/ar/
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-IE" href="http://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="Canonical" hreflang="es-AR" href="https://www.mysite.com/ar/"/>

Reason #4 - One or More Sites Not Validated in Google Search Console

This is an interesting problem and we typically only see a site uses a HREFLang XML Site Map including multiple sites with different ccTLD's. Google does not give this as an error but when we have checked all the other possible problems we find this is the case when the site has a single XML file but not all of the local domain versions included and verified in Search Console. .

Reason #5 - HTTP and HTTPS References

I have seen cases where the site is selfreferenceing to itself with HTTPS but the element for the other sites are HTTP. This is incorrect as they are 2 different sites. This is a problem when the site has a canonical to the HTTPS as well as a 301 redirect.

Ireland Site https://www.mysite.com/ie/
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-IE" href="https://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-ES" href="http://www.mysite.com/es/"/>

Spain Site - https://www.mysite.com/es/
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-IE" href="http://www.mysite.com/ie/"/>
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es-ES" href="https://www.mysite.com/es/"/>

Reason #6 - XML Site Map Errors prevent Bi-Directional Linking

If you swear that you have all of your links set with A to B and B to A and you are using an HREFLang XML Site Map for each country then maybe Google cannot or will not update your XML files! I had a call this morning from a new customer that swore that they had them all mapped. We looked into their Webmaster tools account and there it We have seen this when people do not clean HREFLang XML Site Maps and load broken, redirected or URL's with canonical links to other pages. As in the example below, Google will slow or stop indexing XML Site Maps that have a lot of errors in them resulting in them not detecting the rel=alternate element and give and error.

not_index_site_maps

Shameless Plug - we build in error detection functionality into HREF Builder to catch the most common errors from redirects, 404 robots and canonical differences. The tool will not add any page with an error to the file ensuring you have 100% clean files. You can then export the list of errors and give them to the tech team to fix them.

Preventing Bi-Directional HREFLang Linking Errors

One of the first features we built into HREFLang Builder was the cross reference testing. This will detect all sorts of errors from redirects, 404 robots and canonical differences. The tool will not add any page with an error to the file ensuring you have 100% clean files. You can then export the list of errors and give them to the tech team to fix them.

Green - means that we found a match with that page between these countries

Red - means we did not find a match for that page between countries

missing_match_report

How to Fix Bidirectional Errors?

The Webmaster Console view for this error is fairly confusing but it will tell you which pages are missing the links or are missing a reference in XML Site Maps. If you have XML Site Maps then check for errors as I note above and make any fixes. Remove any that are redirects, 404 or robots blocked URL's. If you have them in pages you can use a great HREF Testing tool from the guys at Merkyl. The other option is go over and set up an account with our HREF Builder and we can import the files and find the missing pages.

 

$8 Million in Revenue from Correct HREFLang Implementation

$8 Million in Revenue from Correct HREFLang Implementation

Large multinational tech company implements HREFLang XML Site maps in English markets and increased their lead volume by 843% and Search Influenced Revenue by $8 million in less than 60 days.

While working on a keyword data mining project for a large company we found a couple of localized problems with the lack of conversions in a few markets. During that project we were mapping the customer journey and developed a series of “waterfall conversion models.” When presented to the local markets a few said their lead conversion rates were not even close to the numbers we presented. Something was strange as they were getting anywhere from 5 to 40 percent of the organic search clicks so why were they not filling out lead forms?

Assuming it was a problem with the lead process we called the local toll free number, we completed the eCRM forms and they all worked and could not find what the problem was. While the forms worked, the leads were not showing in the Saleforce accounts in Australia.

While the demand generation team checked that side of things we made an interesting discovery. I just happened to notice in the rank report that the page ranking was the global English page and not the Australian page. We scanned the rest of the rank report and found that nearly 90% of the URL’s ranking were from the US or UK and not Australia.

We took all the words from Google Search Console Search Analytics Report for Australia. We isolated a specific keyword phrases where they were ranking in the top 3 and had at least a 10% click rate. A number of the words, especially product and branded terms has click rates of over 40%. We ran a rank report and all the pages that had high click rates had US or UK pages ranking.

These ranking landing pages had US and UK phone numbers, the lead forms worked but we asked these teams and yes the leads came in but since they were from Australia they viewed them as junk and just moved them into the junk bin. We found the problem – the wrong page was ranking. Note, had they been using a PLP monitoring process they would have seen this but their agency just reported on the number of words ranking for each country at different levels.

They immediately updated Google Search Console and set the geographical targeting but that did not change anything. I also developed an HREFLang XML site map for all the English markets but we needed to wait until the next site update to load it.

Once the files were loaded we started noticing changes in URL's switching over as soon as 48 hours after posting the XML files. No rank changed just the pages were switched from US/UK to Australia. Within two weeks nearly all the pages switched over and the demand generation team in Australia and Singapore had their best lead generation month ever. In total, leads increased by 843% with a total search influenced revenue attribution of over $8 million dollars.

How much money is incorrect country pages costing you? If you have HREFLang Elements in place test them using our new HREFLang Testing Tool or get started with your own HREFLang XML today.