1

Say I have 4 URLs:

  1. www.example.com/en/main-content
  2. www.example.com/en/almost-identical-to-main-content
  3. www.example.com/fr/main-content
  4. www.example.com/fr/almost-identical-to-main-content

The second URL in the list has a canonical tag to the first URL in the list, and the fourth URL in the list has a canonical tag to the third URL in the list.

In terms of Languages, URL's 3 and 1 are alternate versions of each other, and so are 4 and 2.

Google require that each alternate version have a two way tag, one from each page pointing to the other one. Is URL 2 allowed to point its alternate tag to URL 3, as URL 3 anyway has a canonical to URL 4, or must it point at URL 4?

  • Canonicals should used for duplicate pages (at least 90% duplicate), not for similar pages. – Stephen Ostermiller Dec 11 '18 at 12:21
  • @StephenOstermiller they are 95% duplicate, just one small difference. Edited to clarify. – youngcouple10 Dec 11 '18 at 12:30
2

The canonical+hreflang markup for your urls should be like:

www.example.com/en/main-content

<link rel="canonical" href="www.example.com/en/main-content">
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/en/main-content" hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/fr/main-content" hreflang="fr" />

www.example.com/en/similar-to-main-content

<link rel="canonical" href="www.example.com/en/main-content">
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/en/similar-to-main-content" hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/fr/similar-to-main-content" hreflang="fr" />

www.example.com/fr/main-content

<link rel="canonical" href="www.example.com/fr/main-content">
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/en/main-content" hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/fr/main-content" hreflang="fr" />

www.example.com/fr/similar-to-main-content

<link rel="canonical" href="www.example.com/fr/main-content">
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/en/similar-to-main-content" hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="www.example.com/fr/similar-to-main-content" hreflang="fr" />

Canonicals are for canonicalization, hreflangs are for exact interlinking of multilanguage structure - don't mix their goals!

  • Thanks for this, is this from your experience or is this actually documented somewhere. I would have thought that as they are Canonicalised, you should be able to point to any of the URLs. I agree that your version makes a lot of sense semantically. – youngcouple10 Dec 11 '18 at 12:36
  • :) both - from Google's documentation and from experience. Indeed, you could point your hreflangs from the canonicalized urls to canonical too. It would make more sense in terms of canonicalization. But, thinking straightly, it would give Google wrong signal - because in this case hreflangs would point not to exactly corresponding language version. We have to deal with the machine - thats why i always prefer to send mostly clearly interpretable signals. Don't overestimate Google - its just a robot. Sending mixed signals we are at risc, that all of our signals will be ignored. – Evgeniy Dec 11 '18 at 12:43

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