Why is hre-flang x-default important?

Why is Hre-flang x-default important

International SEO’s fundamentals revolve around the web of interconnected hre-flangs tags. These tags are responsible for marking pages of specific languages so that Google can serve the correct language pages to users. 

However, there are 7,100 known languages and 193 countries in the world. How can Google’s algorithms know the best page to show users at all times? That’s where the x-default tag comes in.

Defining x-default hre-flang

The x-default hre-flang tag is best defined as an annotation that signals to Google that a page is without specific language-bound targeting and can be served when no other language version is deemed appropriate for that user.

In simple terms, think of it as the default page when no other suitable page is found for a language. Hence, it is a page that does not target any users of a specific geographic area or language.

Ideally, this page should be presented in the primary spoken language page of your most important customers. So, if you are a business in Spain but your primary purchasers are English-speaking residents in the United States, the page served should be in US English.

What are the best use cases for using hreflang x default?

The hre-flang x-default can be used in multiple ways to direct users. We see the biggest companies in the world using multiple methods for varying case scenarios. So, what’s the best way to use hre-flang x-default?

The x-default tag is perfect for a language selector page (where users can select their appropriate language for themselves). The second best option is to place it on an English-speaking section like en-us (or the most commonly spoken language the company might be targeting). Websites in the West assume that visitors will most likely know English and will more likely go through the website if they are directed to the English version. This is the predominant strategy today.

Language selector page

Check Nike.com and their use of a language selector page: (appropriate for x-default)

Sample hre-flang language selector page.

Nike’s location selector page can use hre-flang x-default.

FedEx’s global language selecting page is another great example of a page that is suitable for the x-default tag. Users can land on this page and select the appropriate language.

FedEx hre-flang language selector page

FedEx’s Location Selector page has potential use for hre-flang.

For languages and regions other than those included in hre-flangs

Website owners and managers can only create so many official pages with appropriate translations and regions. So for the rest, you can mark the x-default pages served to users globally that do not suit a specific language page.

The latest trend in hre-flang is to set English-speaking pages and sections as x-default. Apple, Nike and Adobe all direct users to the US version page(s) for users outside language targeting. 

Need help with your company’s SEO? Reach out to our team and check out our services for local SEO here.

Frequently asked questions

Where should the hre-flang x-default tag be placed in the source code?

According to the SEO team at Adobe, “Geo routing language links for SEO should be the first thing in the <head> tag”. Hence, like Schemas and many other SEO items, you must place this not only in the head, but also serve it first.

Adobe.com’s recommendation for hreflang placement.

Adobe’s source code reveals their comments on placing hre-flangs links.

What are some samples of x-default landing pages?

See the following examples here:

  • Apple directs all global users not fitting a language page to their English home page URLs
  • Adobe directs all users of non-targeted pages to their home page


What is the best way to direct users to the correct language pages without hre-flang?

Ideally, users land on default pages for their language region. For example, French users land on Google.fr. French users using Google.ca will land on French versions of websites showing on the search engine results page (SERP). However, users can always land on a hre-flang marked page that is not right for them. 

For instance, people who live in France might land on an English (US, CA) webpage. Google recommends robots.txt-blocked javascript that can analyze users’ IPs and direct users to that page. See Apple.com’s example of non-SEO interfering with user movement.

Apple directing users to correct language location with IP analysis.

Apple’s method of suggesting and directing users to target websites.

What is an alternate hreflang x default? 

X-default tagged versions are also alternate versions of the language pages (alongside other versions). Therefore, this page will also be tagged as an “alternate” option in the hre-flang code.

Sample: <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://example.com/” hreflang=”x-default” />

Momin Malik

Momin Malik

Momin Malik is Senior SEO Consultant and Project Manager with experience in optimizing search engine rankings for B2B SaaS clients. He believes a deep understanding of search engine algorithms and data-driven strategies is important to drive measurable results. Here he posts his musings to help viewers understand Search and manage SEO and Web projects.

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