Google announced in the Webmaster Central Blog, it is introducing the Language Targeting feature in International Targeting section of the Webmaster Tools to make debugging rel-alternate-hreflang annotations easier. The new feature identifies two common problems with hreflang annotations:
- Missing Return Links: Annotations must be confirmed from the pages they are pointing to. If one page is pointing to another page, the second page must point back tot he first page. If not, the annotations will not be interpreted correctly. In case of such errors, Google points out where it detected the error and where actually the return link should be.
- Wrong hreflang Values: The hreflang value should either be a language code in ISO 639-1 format such as "es", or a combination of language and country code such as "es-AR", where the country code is in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format. if the language or country code is not in the desired format, Google will display example URLs to help you fix them.
Moreover, the Geographic Targeting setting has also been moved to this section so that users can find all information related to international and multilingual targeting at the same place.
In May, Google shared guidelines on how to create the right homepage for your international audience depending on their language and location. The guidelines clearly stated that no matter which configuration you adopt, ensure you use the rel-alternate-hreflang annotations in all pages and make sure the pages are not blocked for Googlebot crawling.
However, site owners have been facing difficulty in ensuring the deployed annotations are usable by search engines. The release of the new feature will simplify debugging these annotations.