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Recently I discovered that we can add hreflang to our <a> tags to inform about the language of the page which is being linked.

It seems to me that it is a perfect fit for links pointing to localized version of a current page. However, the question is whether search engines actually pay attention to this attribute? If not, then it is just a couple of extra bytes which can only harm SEO (even if by little).

I was long thinking about adding some extra info to such "localized" links as it kind of makes sense. We do have those on the website, but we do not really want them to be treated in the same way as other links. After all, localized versions of the website should live in parallel and we do not necessarily want search engines to think that Page Rank should flow as easily between them as within them.

Would be great if someone could share their insight.

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The a hreflang attribute is indeed a semantically correct way to signal that a linked page is in a different language than the current page.

Regarding SEO, it never makes sense to worry about the possible detriment of adding a few bytes here and there. It would take about 50-100KB of extra page weight before I would even consider splitting hairs, and probably 300-500KB or much more before you could possibly realistically see any small measurable effect on SEO.

On the flip side, search engines should be smart enough to read the html lang attribute of the linked document after they follow the link, so by no means feel like you need to implement these attributes. I don't see any statements from Google about how they interpret a hreflang attributes (only the more popular link hreflang), so my best guess is that they don't pay much attention to it.

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    On last point, worth adding that Google explicitly "don’t use any code-level language information such as lang attributes". support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192?hl=en – GDav Jun 4 at 11:51
  • @GDav Thanks for finding that. The section that that quote is from is about "how google determines language of a page" though, so I don't think that strictly rules out that they use it for any other purpose. – Maximillian Laumeister Jun 4 at 17:26
  • What other purpose are you alluding to in your answer? – GDav Jun 8 at 14:47
  • Locale determination, for example. The article you linked says they use meta tags as one signal of many for locale, unlike with language determination. – Maximillian Laumeister Jun 8 at 18:05

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