Hreflang tags don’t co-relate to an increase in SEO rankings
Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller answered a question regarding the impact of hreflang tags on search rankings.
Twitter user Yung Deficio asked the following question:
“Is there any chance someone would see a rank increase after implementing hreflang? Is there any “trust” transferred with the tags, or is its sole purpose telling crawlers the language and region of the page?”
In response, John Mueller stated that using hreflang does not have an effect on SEO rankings.
“No. Hreflang does not change ranking”, said John Mueller.
The href attribute was introduced by Google in December 2011 which helps users notify Google about the relationship between web pages in alternate languages. If you have a website that serves content in different languages, you can use the hreflang attribute to inform search engines of these variations. This helps Google to display the correct version to the users.
John Mueller has often discussed the complexities of hreflang tags and advocated using them only when absolutely necessary.
He provided the following advice on the Reddit thread in r/TechSEO:
“It’s easy to dig into endless pits of complexity with hreflang. “Let’s create all languages! Let’s make pages for all countries! What if someone in Japan wants to read it in Swahili? Let’s make even more pages!” My guess is most of these “pages created because you can” get very little traffic, add very little value, and they add a significant overhead (crawling, indexing, canonicalization, ranking, maintenance, hreflang, structured data, etc.).”
Here is John Mueller’s recommendation when it comes to hreflang attribute:
“My recommendation would be first to limit the number of pages you create to those that are absolutely critical & valuable — maybe that already cuts the pages you’re thinking about. Think big here; if you’re talking about individual pages within a medium-sized site, it’s probably a non-issue. On the other hand, if you’re considering copying your whole site into 20 languages x 10 countries, that’s something else.
Past that, for hreflang, I’d focus first on pages where you’re seeing wrong-language traffic — often these are pages that get a lot of global, branded queries, where it’s hard to determine which language content they want. A search for “google” can match a lot of language pages, hreflang can help to differentiate. On the other hand, a search for “search engine” is pretty clear & matches pages where you write about “search engine” already, so pages like that don’t need as much help being language-targeted. That said, sometimes the balance between “save effort by thinking” and “just do it everywhere” is not that straightforward to determine.”
He offered similar advice in the Twitter thread below: