I followed a Google tutorial for profile pages on my website. The tutorial claims:

For sites that have their template localized but the keep their pages’ main content untranslated:

Step 1: Once you have the canonical picked out you can use either rel="canonical" or a 301 (permanent redirect) from the various localized pages to the canonical URL.

Step 2: On the canonical URL, specify the language-specific duplicated content with different boilerplate via the rel="alternate" link tag, using its hreflang attribute. This way, Google can show the correctly localized variant of your URLs to our international users.

So, NO return tag is asked for on the language variant pages. Still, the Webmaster tools show me missing return tags in the thousands.

Is the tutorial outdated? Have I missed something?

Here is an example of a profile page:

Canonical url - according to tutorial this page sets all language variants using hreflang:


Language Variant – according to tutorial a language variant ie. not the canonical page only have a rel="canonical" link that points to the canonical page that has the links to all language variants.


1 Answer 1


Yes, I believe the Google blog post from 2010 is outdated. The revised guidelines suggest using Hreflang when either the content is fully translated, or even if the template is translated and the main content remains in the same language.

Now the guidelines for using Hreflang are pretty clear: there must be links back. i.e., all links need to be bidirectional.

I'd suggest not using rel=canonical at all. Just use Hreflang tags and you should be fine. Using canonical and hreflang together will only confuse Googlebot.

  • Thanks so much, Nick. I will try this and post my findings once I see a difference. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 21:11
  • I added a comment to googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ch/2010/09/… to make it clearer. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:49
  • Using canonicals is fine, but they should point to their own language/regional version (en->en, fr->fr), and not go across versions (avoid fr->en). Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 10:50
  • 1
    @JohnMueller Great! I saw this 5 years after it had been posted … :-D Better late than never, they say … Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 21:13

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