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Hreflang links considered toxic?

     
6:22 pm on Oct 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I know sometimes toxic link scanners used to find potentially damaging back links will look for "things" on a page. These may include back links in the side bar on every page, etc. Still many of my toxic link reports are showing the hreflang urls on my site in the source code.

I have a network of websites, including my .com site along with a .us domain, .co.uk, etc. Each link like example.com/stuff.html will also recommend that people who land on THAT exact page should also check out an alternate link called example.us/stuff.html with the hreflang tag of en-us instead.

BUT now reports consider these links toxic? Should I just ignore these warnings because Google overall sees the purpose of each site?

Do you think it's because all of the pages are too similar? I do share the catalog/products for every store. The currency is different but overall product images, name, descriptions are all the same. Should I find ways to change a little bit more on each product page? I see on Amazon, the same product is found on both .com and .ca urls but minus maybe different recommended product upgrades, the content is a 100% spot match.
10:09 pm on Oct 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think you'd have to work pretty hard to make rel-alternate-hreflang links truly toxic. The only thing you should focus on in terms of rel-alternate-hreflang is that you're using it solely to notify search engines of alternate versions of a page written in another language. This allows the search engines to offer the most appropriate version of your content to users. The similarity of he content is to be expected and will not harm your rankings. When you use rel-alternate-hreflang, you want to make sure that the target page pointed to in the 'href' attribute contains a reciprocal rel-alternate-hreflang pointing back to the originating page. Google has a very good hreflang tutorial page [support.google.com] on the specifics, and the International Targeting section of the GSC will show you if there are any problems with your usage.
2:18 pm on Nov 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So in your opinion, does the following alternate url structure work?

.ca = EN-CA
.en = EN-GB
.com.au = EN-AU
.in = EN-IN
.us = EN-US

as far as my .com site which is unlisted, should I set it up as.

.com = x-default
.com = EN

or both?

I've been told that you have to use EN if you have EN-CA and EN-GB because you must define EN by itself. Others say no it's x-default. Or maybe it's both? Then others tell me to remove .com altogether because it's confusing the other ones? I really don't know.
4:22 pm on Nov 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Let me start by saying that in your case, the <link rel="alternate"> tags are going to have little practical effect. Your sites with Country Code Top Level Domain names (ccTLDs) are geographically targeted to users in the corresponding countries - with good reason (currency, for one). And since they're all in English (with perhaps some minor variances), the situation where a search engine might consider serving an alternative almost never arises. There's no problem with the language choices you list here (I'd use 'en' for the .com), so go ahead and deploy these tags as you please as long as you remember to post the reciprocal tags as I mentioned above.

I shouldn't have left the impression that there was *any* chance this tag could cause problems. These tags and their links cannot be harmful. If you use them improperly, the search engines will simply ignore them. Any automated tool that detects and flags them is simply wrong. Good luck!
5:40 pm on Nov 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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You can see Google's recommendations regarding rel="alternate" hreflang= metatags here: [support.google.com...] if you want to know more. The instructions and explanations are all there.