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On the Guardian.co.uk homepage they have:

<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk" hreflang="en-GB"/>
<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.theguardian.com/us" hreflang="en-US"/>
<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.theguardian.com/au" hreflang="en-AU"/>

Each page displays different content. UK, US and AU show stories related to each country. Shouldn't the hreflang attribute show the same page with the same stories however those stories should be translated accordingly into the correct language? (Not the best example as UK, US and AU are similar) but strictly speaking, shouldn't it show the same content with the language changed?

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Yes, this doesn’t seem to be correct.

HTML defines that alternate+hreflang is for translations:

If the alternate keyword is used with the hreflang attribute, and that attribute’s value differs from the root element’s language, it indicates that the referenced document is a translation.

To be clear, the problem is not that the hreflang attribute is used (it’s correct to use it for such links), the problem is that the alternate link type is used in addition.


Search engines might of course have their own guidelines that don’t necessarily comply with the HTML specification. So authors might decide to ignore the HTML spec.

One of the three cases where Google recommends alternate+hreflang is:

Your content has small regional variations with similar content in a single language. For example, you might have English-language content targeted to the US, GB, and Ireland.

They don’t go into more detail about this case, so it’s not clear how exactly they understand "variations" and "similar", but I think cases like Guardian’s different editions are certainly not "small" variations.

  • Thanks for fixing my question up. This is what I meant with the alternate part. – mat boy Sep 1 '17 at 13:32

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