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I have a site that I wish to target three regions: UK, USA & The EU region - the site is entirely in English (for the moment).

We have different indexes per region, for example:

blah.com/stuff -> UK -> 10,000 products
blah.com/us/stuff -> USA -> 0 products
blah.com/eu/stuff -> EU -> 500 products

Meaning we expect different pages to rank quite & perform quite differently in different regions.

The tricky part is, I wish to have French, German, Dutch... etc all point to the same /eu/ URL, for link equity & crawl budget reasons. Additionally, given that 38% of Europeans claim to speak English as a second language - I don't wish to target only en-fr French people for example.

We had gone with this approach, as suggested in this article & it's comments.

<!-- UK -->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/stuff" hreflang="en-gb" />

<!-- EU Targeting-->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="en-fr" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="fr-fr" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="en-de" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="de-de" />
.... etc

<!-- American Targeting-->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-us" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-ca" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="fr-ca" />
.... etc

All the hreflang tags & self referential & don't show any 'errors' in Google webmasters.

Since doing this 5 days ago, our rankings have been absolutely destroyed, losing 50% + of our organic traffic.

We have since rolled-back the hreflang tags, but would love any advice on how to best achieve our goals.

  • English users in France would be targeted with en-fr not fr-fr. You can't set language target that doesn't actually match the contents of the page. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 20 '16 at 13:30
  • 2
    hreflang doesn't change rankings (just which one of your URLs is shown when it is ranked), so I'm assuming there are other problems unrelated to the hreflang markup. – John Mueller Dec 20 '16 at 20:45
  • You can not point to a page and say that it is in language A, but the content in real is written language B. – Mindbreaker Sep 5 '17 at 8:13
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Here is the full correct targeting:

<!-- UK -->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/stuff" hreflang="en-gb" />

<!-- EU Targeting-->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="en-fr" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="en-de" />


<!-- American Targeting-->
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-us" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-ca" />

One page can have multiple annotations for multiple countries, but the page cannot be annotated in multiple languages.

http://blah.com/us/stuff should only be written in one language, presumably English (EN)

If you want to try and force* http://blah.com/us/stuff to only show up in Canada and the US:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-us" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="en-ca" />

However, since the page is only in English, we can't tell Google it's also in other languages. According to your example, the following statements are incorrect:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="fr-fr" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/eu/stuff" hreflang="de-de" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://blah.com/us/stuff" hreflang="fr-ca" />

(* = Google can override your configurations, nothing is an absolute directive with hreflang)

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