How to fix hreflang tags with errors: 7 Issues and Their Solutions with Netpeak Spider

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How to fix hreflang tags with errors: 7 Issues and Their Solutions with Netpeak Spider

Problems with the hreflangs can highly affect your targeting and ranking. And since hreflang mistakes vary, each requires specific solutions. So, whether you face multilingual issues, duplicate content matter, return tag errors, conflicting hreflang and rel canonical, or other popular mishaps, this article will come in handy.

Netpeak Spider made a short guide for the seven most crucial hreflang tag issues. Scroll down to learn more!

Why Is Hreflang Important?

Hreflang tags play a crucial role for multinational companies as they help display the correct page version for users whose language and locale stem from the same region. The search engines could confuse which version to promote to which person. The lack of hreflang tags leads to multiple language versions of the same website, which misleads the users.

Here is an example of how Amazon appears to German and American users.

As you can see, depending on the location, we see two website versions. One subdomain comes with .de, while another with .com helps deliver the relevant information to the relevant consumer.

Common Hreflang Mistakes

Implementing hreflang is a challenging thing for big and complicated websites as well as for new websites. These mistakes can be a stumbling stone for global SEO success. Thus, to simplify the whole process, let’s see how to resolve the most common hreflang tag issues and improve your SEO.

Hreflang No Return Tags

Some pages don't include hreflang links to all the other pages of the group. Regardless of the chosen version, each URL should point to every other URL, designating the canonical ones. There are no limits to the number of languages corresponding to the return links. All 50 links should have hreflang links to all 50 languages you have. Every page should include hreflang tags referencing the corresponding alternatives to avoid ignoring search engines. In other words, each link should have a self-referencing hreflang tag. For the, it should be as follows:

And the same goes for, returning it back to the de. version:

Alt: Return tags for multilanguage links.

Language and Region Codes Issue

The hreflang attribute considers a pair of values separated by a dash, for instance, en-US. The first key is the language code in ISO 639-1 format (the second code, which can be optionally used, is the region code in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format), and it represents a different URL. Use the proper region and language codes for your pages.

Here is an excellent example from the Google manual:

Don’t forget that the ‘hreflang only one language’ topic is also significant, since you need hreflangs even when you have a single-language website, but localization for different countries.

Consider making labeling easier by using a language code alone. For instance:

de-ES: German language content targeted for Spain.

en-GB: English language content targeted for Great Britain.

de: German language content without specified region target.

Combining Sitemaps with Hreflangs

You can tell Google, by using an XML sitemap, what language and locale each URL has. The xhtml:link attribute is used in XML sitemaps to supply annotations for every URL. Every URL contains a self-referencing hreflang attribute, which links to the relevant URL. Here's the code example:

The link has a self-referencing URL for de-ch and two other languages. Ensure you put the new URLs in your sitemap's <loc> element. Don’t forget to add such a code for each link with the return tag!

Hreflang Cannot Consolidate Link Authority

There is a misleading belief that hreflang tags share or consolidate link authority. But let’s be clear: it is a false assumption with no further conflicts. Links and canonical tags can either pass or share authority, but hreflang tags are left out in this scheme. Each website page has been region-specific, and you will find alternate versions of the page with language information if appropriate.

Hreflangs are hints, not rules, which means that other sources can step over them.

Hreflang Duplicate Content Issues

Non-translated and local pages are duplicates. If you have English content on several URLs for the UK, US, and Australia, you could only have the prices and currency adjusted. However, without hreflang, Google can easily regard them as duplicated content. Hreflang instructs Google that it's the same content presented for different audiences.

Yet, this method has its limitations when dealing with duplicate content. The hreflang attribute directs Google to a different page in a specific language but doesn't suggest the preferred page like the canonical tag.

Conflicting Hreflang and Rel Canonical Tag

You can and should use both the rel="alternate" href="" hreflang="y" attribute and the rel="canonical" attribute together. Every language version should include a rel="canonical" self-referring link.

Here is the main page:

But don’t mix the hreflang and rel="canonical" on the en-gb page variant. In this case, only the canonical tag changes! After all, this matters the most during the smooth functioning of this collaboration. The hreflang links should be directed to the canonical version of each URL to ensure that they work together smoothly.

Ignoring Absolute URLs

The indexing problems and the subsequent misunderstanding of search engines about your hreflang tags can result from using relative URLs instead of absolute URLs (<link rel="alternate" hreflang="es" href=""/>). The reason is that relative URLs only provide a partial destination to a page, while search engines need the complete trail to locate a page.

Noindex Pages & Hreflang Tags

It's okay to inform Google that some language versions shouldn't be indexed with <meta name="robots" content="noindex">. Hreflangs help bots understand page relationships. If you don't want a language page indexed, use a noindex tag on that page. However, avoid including a noindex page as an alternate language in href attributes because this is a useless action that doesn’t help Googlebot.

How to Fix Hreflang Tags with Errors with Netpeak Spider?

Now that we have discussed the most hreflang tag issues and how to fix them, let’s check how Netpeak Spider can automate this process and save you time. Our hreflang validation feature offers a wide range of hreflang issue reports. Here is how to proceed:

Preparing for Hreflang analysis

Navigate to the Netpeak Spider tool. In settings, click the ‘Advanced’ option and select 'Hreflang.'

Netpeak Spider

Select Hreflang Parameters

Pick all options in the ‘Hreflang’ section of the ‘Parameters’ tab. ‘Hreflang Language Code’ stands for the language code of the page from the hreflang attribute. ‘Hreflang Links’ is the number of alternate language URLs in the hreflang attribute in the section’s tag or HTTP response header ‘Link: rel=”alternate.”

Obtain Hreflang Errors Report

After the crawl, you will receive results with nine potential issues related to the hreflang attribute, such as:

  • Hreflang: Missing Self-Reference
  • Hreflang: Incorrect Language Codes
  • Hreflang: Relative Links
  • Hreflang: Duplicate Language Codes
  • Hreflang: Links to Non-Compliant URLs
  • Hreflang: Missing Confirmation Links
  • Hreflang: Inconsistent Language Code in Confirmation Links
  • Hreflang: Missing Alternate URLs
  • Hreflang: Duplicate Alternate URLs

For your convenience, you can also create a ‘Special issue report’ with all the mishaps mentioned above. This feature is accessible in the ‘Export’ drop-down menu, as in the screenshot.


If your site has no hreflang tags or has hreflang tags with errors, you should quickly check on the matter. Do you have a multilingual website and are stuck in link attributes? Tell Google about having multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions through hreflang. If by any chance it doesn’t work out, check our guide to find out common hreflang mistakes.

No matter if you face conflicting hreflang and rel canonical, sitemaps troubles, hreflang no return tags, or noindex, Netpeak Spider is there for you! Benefit from our hreflang audit to get the most in no time. Doing so will help Google Search point users to the most appropriate version of your page by language or region. Intriguing? Then start your successful SEO audit journey now.