Google introduced a new rel-alternate-hreflang annotation to help multinational and multilingual websites get the right landing pages in front of their target audiences. Typically, web presences that serve consumers all over the world configure their sites to direct visitors to content that reflects their native languages. The new webmaster function can be used to specify particular homepages, and it is supported by both Google and Yandex, according to the Google Webmaster Central Blog.
The new annotation helps global brands produce content for SEO that targets their various demographics. To show the rel-alternate-hreflang tag in action, Google provided an example of four sites:
http://example.com/en-gb: For English-speaking users in the UK
http://example.com/en-us: For English-speaking users in the USA
http://example.com/en-au: For English-speaking users in Australia
http://example.com/: The homepage shows users a country selector and is the default page for users worldwide
At the end of each URL, a national signal is included, which helps Google’s algorithms show the right content based on geographic location. For English-speaking users in the United Kingdom, the URL uses gb (Great Britain). Google’s Pierre Far writes that the webmaster of example.com could annotate the cluster of pages with the new annotation using Sitemaps or with HTML link tags (example below).
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-gb” hreflang=”en-gb” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-us” hreflang=”en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/en-au” hreflang=”en-au” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/” hreflang=”x-default” />
What if webmasters don’t want to target based on language or locale?
The new x-default hreflang attribute value tells Google that a given page doesn’t target based on native tongue or by geographic location. Google suggests a site tagged with hreflang=”x-default” would be the default page for any international visitor (assuming there are no better pages.)
Google released another new function in late March 2013 called Universal Analytics. The tool helps marketers understand more about their site visitors and prospective customers. Through the feature, brands can gain new insights into mobile-app performance, evaluate offline and online interactions and see interactions across multiple devices. The search company continues to focus on giving webmasters and SEO experts the information they need to build better user experiences online, and these two new features allow greater content delivery to take place across the globe.