3 Hidden Hreflang Challenges for Global SEO

When it comes to global SEO, the Hreflang component is one of the most significant tools for website owners, SEO experts, and marketers.

If an incorrect language or country pages show up in the SERPs, it is a common issue as far as worldwide websites are concerned.

The problem remains even if no duplicate-language website is found. It might not be a problem of an entire site but definitely an issue when it comes to visitor search queries.

3 Hidden Hreflang Challenges for Global SEO 5

Previously, people created target country signals for each market segment to assign its location by distinctive dissimilarities like ccTLDs or server locations, but then it did not resolve every geo-targeting issue.

According to an article published on searchengineland.com, there are traditional ways to use ccTLDs and geo-targeting employing sub-domains and sub-directories.

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The professionals in the industry looked at options to ensure content ranks globally sans using some of the technical ways.

When Google declared the Hreflang back in 2013, it is no wonder why global SEO experts were delighted. That is because people are still enjoying the benefits of Hreflang.

This article is about some of the Hreflang challenges for global SEO. Read on to learn more.

1. Every website not having similar content

As far as Hreflang is concerned, it works by cataloging the web page URLs with the same content on every language or for that matter country website.

The charting, mapping or clustering of similar content pages is not that complicated when every website has similar content and that too in an identical content structure. Then, this does not happen most of the time.


Moreover, there are plenty of reasons for such things to happen. It might be due to business reasons like some products unavailable in some countries. It is as simple as that.

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Again, it could due to external reasons such as the content is regulated by the policy of specific countries. Then, you might be wondering why that is a problem or challenge for businesses?

That is because no person has a grasp of the availability of content or unique content from one website to another.

hreflang tag
3 Hidden Hreflang Challenges for Global SEO 6

Many times, an individual who is accountable for the Hreflang sitemap considers the key website that he is recognizable with to reproduce the URLs.

It’s done by substituting the language-country directory in these URLs presuming there is total exposure.

When there are a couple of missing web pages on certain language or country website, it is your call to figure out whether you want to use substitute pages in the URL cluster or use it as an international URL.

2. Business cannibalization

One of the key, essential objectives for using the Hreflang is to make certain the right language or country web page shows up in the SERPs depending on the visitors’ location. It is to offer apt content to the search visitors depending on the search location.

Again, it’s done to ensure commercial conversions at the correct geographical location so that the team, which is locally based, reaps the maximum benefits out of these conversions.

You can ensure that the correct language or site page is displayed in the search results if you consult with marketing experts or similar platforms.

If an incorrect language or country page shows up in the SERPs, the conversion is considered under inaccurate local offices, or things get worse when the page fails to convert at all.

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For instance, if your page developed for the American market shows up in the search results in Russia, a website user would most likely return to the Google search result page, leave your website, and click another website link that appears more relevant to his or her location.

When this happens, you end up losing business.

An American web page might show up in the search results of Russia when the name of a product appears in English or the product number is a mix and match of alphabets and numerals, which is nothing close to Russian about the product.

The thing becomes extremely challenging and tricky if you have numerous websites in similar language that targets different countries.

Based on the findings of HREFLangBuilder research, it was discovered that 42 percent of international websites implemented Hreflang solely on their home page and essential category pages, but leaving the product pages to the discretion of Google. It results in considerable missed sales opportunities, which is a matter of concern for global websites.

3. Variations in the URL structure

Now, when it comes to variations in the URL structure, it is a major headache of SEO professionals worldwide. You think that every person uses the identical URL structures as the fundamental website, but the real scenario is that some sites become creative and use dissimilar URL structures.

It occurs often on similar domain websites and therefore, you can understand the challenges of grouping web pages in the right way from varied domain sites.

Again, when it comes to the dissimilarities in the structure of the URL, it does not occur between websites alone but also within the site.

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Some of the unbalanced URL structure examples are:

  • examples.com/us/category1/page1.html
  • examples.com/uk/category2-page2/index.html
  • examples.com/en-sg/products/category1/page1.html

The majority of the validation tools don’t scan the website to substantiate the URLs on-site or for that matter the continuation of the recorded URLs.

They do not verify if any of these URLs are being redirected or the web page has a dissimilar URL as far as the canonical tag is concerned.

It simply analyzes what you put against the substitute page logic of Hreflang. When it makes sense, then there are no issues identified and such tools work only if you are certain that all these URLs used are accurate as well as live.

Final thoughts

When using the Hreflang for your business website, make sure you have solid knowledge and understanding of the site URL structures as well as the content planning or design of every website you would like to list. It is incorrect to presume that all websites have similar content and use a similar URL structure.

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Rahul Setia was born and raised in the Kaithal, Haryana. He worked at brands like Jabong, ProProfs etc. He was also in the List of Top 100 Social Media Influencer's 2019 by Status Brew. He lives in Delhi/NCR and is a Digital Gig & Founder of Websites i.e TechBlogCorner.com, ViralMasalla.com, DealorCoupons.com. Follow me on: LinkedIn, @rahulsetia007 and Facebook.

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