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  • Writer's pictureBrent Payne

Canonicalized URL has incoming hreflang

When a URL is referred to as the alternate hreflang yet is redirected or canonicalized to a different URL, an issue arises.

Why is this important?

Search engines perceive hreflang tags as directives for indexing. For instance, an English webpage with a hreflang that links to a French variant is suggesting that search engines should index both the English and French variations as language-specific equivalents.

If, however, the said English webpage points to another URL through canonicalization (let's say a Canadian version), it's effectively an instruction to ignore the English page in favor of the Canadian page for indexing purposes.

In essence, while the hreflang asks to index the English page, the canonical tag directs otherwise, causing potential confusion that could lead search engines to disregard both signals and make independent decisions regarding indexing.

What does the Optimization check?

The hint is activated for any URL specified as an alternate in the hreflang yet is also directed to a canonical URL.

Note: This Optimization shares similarities with another Optimization: "Has outgoing hreflang annotations to canonicalized URLs." The primary difference lies in this Optimization's focus on the target of hreflang annotations (incoming), whereas the other Optimization focuses on the source page (outgoing).

Examples that trigger this Optimization:

This Optimization would be triggered for a URL if:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

and it is listed as an hreflang alternate on another page or on itself;

<link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="en-us" /><link rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="fr-fr" />

How do you resolve this issue?

Conflicting instructions like these necessitate determining the source of the error. It might be that either the hreflang or canonical is incorrect. If left unchecked, search engines might make an incorrect assumption.

To clarify signals for search engines, identify the accurate hreflang URL potentially through a manual review.

Subsequently, take the right steps:

  • If the hreflang is accurate, update the canonical to be self-referential.

  • If the hreflang URL is off-base, correct the hreflang annotations to indicate the proper URL.

Further Reading


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