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I'm currently working on a project and it will support localization. I'm trying to find out in what sense the rel="alternate" and hreflang="" works. Does the URL have to be similar? Or can the entire URL be different.

I'm trying to also localize the website URL, but I am not too sure if this would (severely) impact my search engine ranking.

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I'm pretty sure the URL can be completely different, and that would also make sense as you might actually use the different languages in the URLs.

Also you can use them cross domain where the entire domain would be different.

I haven't seen in any of Google guidelines where they stipulate they must be similar.

The idea is that the content on the pages is the same, but in a different language or the same language but for a different location.

Using the hreflang shouldn't effect your current rankings, unless you messed up the implementation, or your page ranked well before in a different local then the hreflang you intend to add to the page.

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