Last week Google announced a new feature to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). This feature, called the International Targeting tool, has been hinted at for quite some time and on July 1st it was released to the public.
Just to set the scene, GWT has been a good friend to those who worrk in Search Engine Optimisation for some time, and the tool is used regualrly to monitor a site's technical issues. However, now this friend is branching out and making friends with the web developers of the world. The new tool will predominantly help developers with their Hreflang code, as it will show specific issues occurring with sites' Hreflang.
So what is Hreflang all about?
The web developer perspective:
Rel-alternate-Hreflang is the attribute to communicate to Google if there are alternative language based web pages for the specific web page the attribute is placed on. It allows the webpage to specify the language of the linked document and so helps Google to understand the relationship between two pages.
The SEO’s perspectve:
Rel-alternate – Hreflang doesn’t limit you to just tagging pages with a language but you can also specify the location. One can signal to Google algorithms that although two pages may have substantially the same content, the small differences between them are still important on a regional level (e.g. for users speaking different languages or based in different countries). In short Hreflang tag helps you to tell Google which version of the web page should be shown in which country, and thus creates a better user experience.
So why and what did Google create this tool for?
The reason Google are implementing this new tool is because when Google robots are crawling the net they commonly see errors on multilingual/multi-regional sites. The International targeting tool will show you common issues with your implementation of Hreflang. The tool shows specific issues that you can fix, and where the errors are occurring - from missing return links from specific language codes to unknown language codes in general. But to be a little more specific it focuses on two main areas:
• Wrong region or language code
• Any problems with missing return links
So happy hunting web developers, this tool should save you hours of bug-tracking agony.
For more information
Two good sources - how and when to implement Hreflang:
Information on the new Hreflang tool in WMT: