We are pretty sure that if you have a multilingual website with the tag hreflang implemented, you have realised recently that Google Webmaster Tools displays a warning that your page is experiencing an incorrect hreflang implementation:
What Google means in this case is that some parts of the website are applying the tag hreflang incorrectly. In particular, there seems to be a problem with the language and region codes, or maybe the bidirectional link is not properly implemented. (If page A links to page B using the tag hreflang, then B has to link to page A).
Google makes this implementation of the tag to provide the correct language to a regional URL. Then Google will return a more accurate search result to the precise users for that specific search.
We can find several tools to easily check if the hreflang tag of your webpage has been correctly implemented. We know http://hreflang.ninja, which tells us the errors found on the different language tags:
Many times the hreflang tag is not correctly aligned with the languages or countries of our website. In these cases, the error might be more complex to deal with if we are using a tool that is not capable of identifying it. Here it is recommendable to perform a manual check to detect whether the hreflang values are actually showing the correct language or country for the webpage.
We have to bear in mind that the value assigned to the attribute hreflang identifies the language in an ISO 639-1 format, optionally ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 for the region and an alternative URL. In many occasions we find errors in the implementation of the tag like the ones we show here:
Wrong country code:
en-gb: English content for British users.
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-UK” href=”htttp://ejemplodeurl/en-uk/” />
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-GB” href=”htttp://ejemplodeurl/en-gb/” />
Wrong language code:
es-mx: Spanish content for Mexican users.
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”sp-mx” href=”htttp://ejemplodeurl/sp-mx/” />
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-mx” href=”htttp://ejemplodeurl/es-mx/” />
Google is stressing this kind of errors especially, explaining which are the most common, as we can see on this screenshot:
As time passes, we see that Google is notifying more and more via Webmaster Tool, so it is important to review it every two days and fix possible errors that we may find in our site. Doing this will make Google understand that our site is updated and free of errors, which will very possibly improve our ranking.