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Google recommends more sites use x-default

May 8th, 2023

Google is now recommending webmasters review their use of the hreflang x-default value on sites which are already using hreflang to help searchers find the right version of a page on their site.

What is hreflang x-default?

The “hreflang” attribute in the HTML of a webpage is used to specify the language and regional targeting for that page. When you use the “hreflang” attribute, you are telling search engines which language and geographic audience a particular page is intended for. This helps search engines deliver the most relevant content to users based on their language and location preferences.

The “hreflang” attribute can have several values, such as “en-US” for English targeting users in the United States or “fr-CA” for French targeting users in Canada.

The “hreflang x-default” value is a special usage of the “hreflang” attribute. When you set a page’s “hreflang” to “x-default,” it indicates that this page should be considered as the default or fallback version when no other specific language or regional version of the page matches the user’s preferences.

In the context of international SEO, using “hreflang x-default” appropriately can help ensure that users who do not fit any specific language or regional criteria are directed to a default version of your content, improving the user experience.

Do I need to use hreflang x-default?

Whether or not you should use “hreflang x-default” depends on your specific website structure, content, and international audience. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  1. Multilingual and Multi-Regional Website: If your website is available in multiple languages and regions, and you want to provide a consistent default experience for users who do not match any specific language or region, then using “hreflang x-default” can be beneficial.
  2. Default Content: If there is a specific version of your website that you consider the default version for users who don’t have a specified language or regional preference, setting “hreflang x-default” to that version is a good practice.
  3. User Experience: Consider the user experience. If not using “hreflang x-default” would result in users landing on random pages that don’t match their language or regional preferences, using “hreflang x-default” can help guide them to a more user-friendly default experience.
  4. Website Goals: Your website’s goals and the importance of a consistent user experience for all visitors, regardless of their language or region, should guide your decision.
  5. Content Availability: Ensure that your default page, specified by “hreflang x-default,” contains valuable and relevant information that can serve as a fallback for users. It should not be a generic error or placeholder page.
  6. Implementation: Properly implement “hreflang” annotations in your HTML code to specify the default page, and ensure your XML sitemap and international SEO strategy align with this implementation.

It’s important to note that “hreflang x-default” is optional and not always necessary. If your website primarily targets a single language or region and does not have distinct content for different languages or regions, it may not be relevant.

URL Discovery and How to Use It

The URLs you indicate in “hreflang” annotations, including “x-default,” may serve the purpose of URL discovery. This can prove beneficial, especially for extensive websites featuring intricate structures, where ensuring that every localized URL is effectively interlinked can be challenging.

In the below example the example site is using en-us to indicate a language based page and a country selector if the language is unavailable:

<link rel="alternate" href="https://example.com/en-us" hreflang="en-us" />
<link rel="alternate" href="https://example.com/country-selector" hreflang="x-default" />

International SEO can be a daunting task and we are here to help. If you have any questions about your multi language site and how best to serve your customer and ensure they see the right content at the right time contact our expert SEO Consulting Company today!

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