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Does Language Affect Your Google Ranking?

15 phút
Written by
22 Oct 2022

Every business owner wants to rank on the first page of Google, and this is easier said than done. There are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to SEO, and language is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Does Language Affect Your Google Ranking?

If your target audience speaks multiple languages, then it would make sense to offer your website content in those languages to provide a better user experience. But does this affect your organic search rankings?

The way you organize your localized pages can affect organic search rankings, so it’s essential to consider how you’ll want to structure your website before adding new languages.

This blog will explore the role language plays in SEO and how it can affect your search engine rankings.

Is Language a Google Ranking Factor?

If you want to reach English-speaking people, your content should be in English. However, if you want to rank well in other markets where other languages are dominant, you’ll need to create content in multiple languages. 

Is it clear that language plays a role in how Google ranks web pages, right?

Moreover, search engines constantly strive to provide users with the most relevant results and they are equipped with language detection tools to analyze the content. However, they also appreciate it when webmasters provide localized versions of pages. This helps search engines better serve users who speak different languages.

In an explanation of how search algorithms work, Google states:

“Search settings are also an important indicator of which results from you’re likely to find useful, such as if you set a preferred language or opted into SafeSearch (a tool that helps filter out explicit results).”

If a searcher sets their preferred language to English and location to Canada, Google will take those preferences into account when delivering results. This means that websites targeting English-speaking people in Canada are more likely to appear in that search.

The Evidence Shows that Language a Google Ranking Factor

According to Google’s Advanced SEO documentation, it’s important to let Google know about any localized versions of your page. Why is this important? 

“If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions, tell Google about these different variations. Doing so will help Google Search point users to the most appropriate version of your page by language or region.

Note that even without taking action, Google might still find alternate language versions of your page, but it is usually best for you to explicitly indicate your language-or region-specific pages.”

Well, if you have a website that is directed towards a specific country or region, you will want to make sure that users in that area are able to easily find your site. By providing localized versions of your pages, you can help improve your website’s visibility in search results.

Besides, Google recommends using different language-specific URLs for different language versions of your website’s pages. By marking each URL with the language you’re using, you’re helping search engines understand your site’s content more easily. You can organize language-specific pages in a few different ways:

1. HTML Tags

You can use the hreflang attribute in the HTML tags of a page to tell search engines which language and country the page is targeting.

<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.site.com” hreflang=”en-uk”>

This code informs that the page is intended for English speakers in the U.K.

2. HTTP Headers

You can also use hreflang tags in an HTTP header to help Google understand the language of your non-HTML files (like PDFs). This is especially helpful when you have pages or files that are in multiple languages.

3. Sitemaps

You can use your sitemap to specify a page’s language and regional variants. This involves listing each language-specific URL under a <loc> tag. For more information and code examples, see Google’s guide.

4. Different Domains For Different Countries

It’s a good idea to use top-level domain names for specific countries when you’re creating an Italian website. For example, you can use https://domain.it/, which tells search engines that your website is meant for people in Italy. This way, you can make sure that your website appears in search results for Italian users.

5. Language-Specific Subdirectories

Using subdirectories to separate content by language and country is a great way to ensure that your audience can easily find the content they’re looking for. 

For example, if you have a website targeting English-speaking users in the United States, you could create a subdirectory for them at https://domain.com/en-us/. This would make it easier for those users to find your content and navigate your site.

Google has stated that none of the following methods are used to determine the language or target audience:

“Use hreflang to tell Google about the variations of your content so that we can understand that these pages are localized variations of the same content. Google doesn’t use hreflang or the HTML lang attribute to detect the language of a page; instead, we use algorithms to determine the language.”

6. Canonical Tags

Google recommends the use of canonical tags in order to avoid duplicate content issues:

“If you provide similar or duplicate content on different URLs in the same language as part of a multi-regional site (for instance, if both example.de/ and example.com/de/ show similar German language content), you should pick a preferred version and use the rel=”canonical” element and hreflang tags to make sure that the correct language or regional URL is served to searchers.”

Google’s documentation on consolidating duplicate URLs discusses how canonical tags and language work together to help improve your website’s ranking.

“Different language versions of a single page are considered duplicates only if the main content is in the same language (that is, if only the header, footer, and other non-critical text are translated, but the body remains the same, then the pages are considered to be duplicates).”

Besides, Google has a few suggestions for how to handle canonicalization:

“Specify a canonical page when using hreflang tags. Specify a canonical page in the same language, or the best possible substitute language if canonical doesn’t exist for the same language.”

Does Language Affect Your Google Ranking? (Source: Twitter)

In 2018, Google’s Chief of Sunshine and Happiness, Gary Illyes, discussed a selection of hreflang examples that were analyzed.

“We spent over half an hour with @suzukik looking at hreflang examples with MENA, EU, ASIA, etc. region codes in hreflang, and I’m happy to report they are not working. We don’t extract a language even from something like fr-eu, let alone use it in ranking.”

Language Affect Your Google Ranking (Source: Twitter)

In 2021, John Mueller from Google suggested that it’s beneficial to have multiple language versions of content on a single page.

“I’d just avoid the situation where you have multiple language versions of the same text on a page (e.g., translation next to the original). Make it easy to recognize the primary language.”

Final Verdict about Language

One of the things that affect Google search results is language. This is because the search engine needs to be able to communicate with the user in order to provide them with accurate results. Because of this, multiple pages in Google’s Advanced SEO documentation cover how best to handle languages.

Not only does the Google search engine need to be able to understand the user’s language, but it also needs to take into account the user’s language preferences when serving up results. This ensures that the user is getting the most relevant information possible.

In contrast, Google has stated that they don’t use tags, domains, or subdirectories to determine the language or audience. In one case, Gary Illyes said that hreflang code is not a ranking factor.

So, although Google doesn’t come out and say that language setting are a ranking factor, it has been found that they do affect visibility in search for users who specify a particular language and location. This means that:

  • Your method of organizing different language versions of your site probably doesn’t have an impact on organic ranking.
  • However, using people’s preferred language probably does affect organic ranking.

Overall, we feel confident in saying that language is most likely a Google ranking factor.

Final thoughts

When it comes to SEO, there are a lot of rumors about what does and does not affect your search rankings. So many, in fact, that it can be challenging to know what is true and what is false. That’s why, in this blog post, we covered how the language you use on your site affects your SEO

We hope that the information in this article will be able to help you better understand the role that language does play in your SEO, and whether or not you should be altering the language on your site.

Overall, the more knowledge you have about your target market and their language, the higher your SEO rankings will be. So what are you waiting for? Learn more about other Google ranking factors by visiting EverRanks today!


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