I have a multi-language site for English and Chinese (Hong Kong). My previous setting for Chinese Hong Kong (zh-hk) had: <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr" lang="zh-hk" xml:lang="zh-hk">

Shortly, I began to notice browser with other Chinese language sub-codes like zh-tw and zh-cn were seeing my English site in search engines instead of Chinese Hong Kong (zh-hk), which makes sense.

I want to change my html lang to: <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr" lang="zh" xml:lang="zh">

Would this cover all Chinese language settings? Also, would Google prefer to show pages that match language subcodes of the browser/country (zh-hk for Hong Kong, zh-cn for Taiwan) than a general language code (zh)?

  • I like to mention that the search terms are in English (e.g. hp officejet). People with zh-hk are served with my Chinese site, and the rest are served with the English version.
    – jsmoove88
    Sep 12, 2012 at 12:15

1 Answer 1


...would Google prefer to show pages that match language subcodes

From: Google Webmaster Central - Working with multilingual websites

Keep in mind that Google ignores all code-level language information, from “lang” attributes to Document Type Definitions (DTD). Some web editing programs create these attributes automatically, and therefore they aren’t very reliable when trying to determine the language of a webpage.

  • I read this page as well, but I think it plays a role in search engine. It doesn't make sense that it loads the English part of my site to users who do not have zh-hk settings.
    – jsmoove88
    Sep 12, 2012 at 12:13
  • I would have thought that your English site would only be returned in Google SERPs if the user searched for an English phrase (irrespective of what language the browser is set as)? Or is this not the case? If I search for a Chinese Hong Kong phrase then it would be reasonable to expect pages returned in the SERPs that are in that language (since that is where the phrase would most likely be found), despite my browser being set to "en-GB". By default Google searches for pages in "Any Language", but this can be set in Advanced Search to a specific language if required. Or have I misunderstood?
    – MrWhite
    Sep 12, 2012 at 12:53
  • That would make sense. When you search in google.com.hk, you would be automatically switched to Chinese HK. Google would show more of Chinese websites than English. My product has mix of English and Chinese characters (e.g. HP Officejet [chinese characters]). For some reason, people with Zh-tw and Zh-cn are seeing the English part when they search for HP Officejet.
    – jsmoove88
    Sep 12, 2012 at 13:10
  • Correction For some reason, people with Zh-tw and Zh-cn are seeing the English version when they search for HP Officejet.
    – jsmoove88
    Sep 12, 2012 at 13:56
  • If I search on google.com.hk then the language defaults to "Any Language" (I'm not logged in to Google), however the location is set to "Pages from Hong Kong". Pages returned in the SERPs are certainly biased towards this geographic region, however, the language of these results is certainly dependent on the language of my search phrase. I'm not sure what is happening with "HP Officejet", but maybe this has something to do with Google's translation? eg. If I translate "HP Officejet" (English) it is returned as "惠普Officejet" (Chinese Simplified) - a marked similarity with the English.
    – MrWhite
    Sep 12, 2012 at 14:08

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