SEO Applications of Rel = “alternate” Tag Fully Explained

SEO Applications of Rel = “alternate” Tag Fully Explained


    In order to satisfy the search intent of the user, it is vital for Google to understand the various relationships between pages on a website and on the internet. Once such tool that is used to explicitly tell search engines about these relationships is the rel=” alternate” tag implemented as 

    <link rel=”value”> .

    However, link-related attributes have been used for many other purposes for over a decade, including loading a CSS stylesheet, favicon, and displaying a printable version of the page.

    alternate tags explained

    In this blog, we will be talking about the rel=” alternate” tag and its application in search engine optimization.

    👉Exploring the rel=”alternate” hreflang

    The rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” attribute, hreflang attribute is used to indicate to search engine the desired audience for which the page is intended. It is one of the most important steps while optimizing your site for International SEO. This can be solely based on language (e.g. “English”), or a combination of language and geographical location (e.g. “English in Canada”).

    👉What does it look like?

    Here’s an example defining two alternate versions of the same page for the United States and Spain.

    👉Benefits of the rel=”alternate” hreflang tag

    • It allows you to present separate language variations of a page to specific audience demographics.
    • It also allows you to present different versions of a page to a specific audience based on your preferred targeting.
    • By indicating to Search Engines that they are different versions of the same page, they provide the added benefit of resolving duplicate content issues.

    👉Using rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

    Simply put, the best use of this specifier is when the same website has the same content in different languages.

    So let’s say you have an English website at

    You also have a Japanese version of that webpage at

    Google has developed three ways to show that a Japanese URL is Japanese, which is the equivalent of an English page.

    <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”” />

    👉HTTP Header

    If you have non-HTML content on your web pages, a good example is a PDF file, you can use rel=”canonical” HTTP headers to indicate the canonical URL for HTML documents.

    Link: <>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”


    Instead of using markup, you can submit a language specific version via a sitemap.

    <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

    <urlset xmlns=”″














    For each supported language to identify all language variants, including itself, rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” must be set.

    Regarding regional content: defining content for a certain language and a particular region can be quite difficult,

    For example, a website that serves the U.S., Germany, and Japan could very well have the following regional variations:

    • (Generic English version of content – language-specific; English)
    • (English language, displays prices in pounds, example of regional specific content)
    • (English language displays prices in U.S. dollars, example of regional specific content)
    • (Japanese version of the content)


    This is what the actual tag markup should look like:

    <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en”

    href=”” />

    <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us”

    href=”” />

    <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”ja”

    href=”” />

    You need to update the HTML for each URL in the set of alternates. The markup above tells Google to consider all of these pages as alternate versions of one another.

    👉Supported Values

    There are specific values for both languages and regions, which fall into the ISO 6391-1 format for languages and the ISO 3166-1 format for regions.

    Make sure you use the proper syntax for both countries and regions to ensure the proper functionality of your rel=“alternate” tags.

    👉Defining Mobile Versions of Desktop Websites using the rel=” alternate” media tag

    The rel=” alternate” media attribute is used to differentiate and relate desktop and mobile pages. It indicates to the search engines when to show the mobile page and when to show the desktop version. 

    This tag is only important when you have separate mobile and desktop websites.

    👉What does it look like?

    Here’s an example of how the tag works to define a mobile website and sets the condition when to show it.

    <link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=””>

    Future Trends and Innovations in rel=”alternate” Tag

    As the digital landscape continues to evolve rapidly, the future of rel=”alternate” tag usage in SEO holds promising opportunities for innovation and adaptation. In this section, we will explore predictions for the future of rel=”alternate” tag usage and emerging trends and innovations that may shape its evolution to meet the changing needs of search engines and users.

    Predictions for the Future of rel=”alternate” Tag Usage in SEO:

    Increased Emphasis on Multilingual SEO:

    With the globalization of online businesses and the increasing diversity of internet users, there will be a growing emphasis on multilingual SEO strategies.

    The rel=”alternate” tag will play a crucial role in facilitating multilingual SEO by allowing webmasters to specify alternate language versions of their webpages, ensuring that users are directed to the most relevant content based on their language preferences.

    Integration with Voice Search and AI:

    As voice search technology continues to gain popularity, there will be a greater demand for content optimized for voice search queries.

    The rel=”alternate” tag may evolve to incorporate voice search optimization strategies, allowing webmasters to specify alternate versions of their webpages optimized for voice search, such as featured snippets and conversational content.

    Enhanced User Experience for Mobile Users:

    With the increasing use of mobile devices for internet browsing, there will be a greater focus on providing enhanced user experiences for mobile users.

    The rel=”alternate” tag may be used to specify alternate versions of webpages optimized for mobile devices, ensuring that mobile users are presented with content that is tailored to their device type and screen size.

    Emerging Trends and Innovations in rel=”alternate” Tag Implementation:

    Dynamic Content Variations:

    One emerging trend in rel=”alternate” tag implementation is the use of dynamic content variations to provide personalized user experiences.

    Webmasters may use the rel=”alternate” tag to specify alternate versions of webpages with dynamic content variations based on user preferences, behavior, or demographics.

    Personalized User Experiences:

    Another innovation in rel=”alternate” tag implementation is the provision of personalized user experiences through targeted content delivery.

    Webmasters may leverage the rel=”alternate” tag to specify alternate versions of webpages personalized to individual users, such as personalized recommendations, customized offers, or tailored messaging.

    Integration with Structured Data Markup:

    The rel=”alternate” tag may be integrated with structured data markup to provide additional context and information to search engines.

    Webmasters may use structured data markup in conjunction with the rel=”alternate” tag to specify alternate versions of webpages with structured data annotations, such as product details, event information, or location data.

    The future of rel=”alternate” tag usage in SEO is filled with exciting possibilities for innovation and adaptation. As the needs of search engines and users continue to evolve, the rel=”alternate” tag will play a crucial role in facilitating multilingual SEO, optimizing for voice search and mobile devices, and providing personalized user experiences. By staying abreast of emerging trends and innovations in rel=”alternate” tag implementation, webmasters can leverage this powerful tool to enhance their SEO strategies and stay ahead in the competitive digital landscape.

    👉Benefits of using the Mobile Attribute

    • Helps to differentiate the website based on its intended device.
    • Helps to prevent duplicate content issues.

    👉Final Thoughts

    There are many SEO benefits to the rel=” alternate” tag. To summarise, it mainly helps in resolving the various relationships between different web pages, and hence helps search engines create semantic relationships between similar web pages. 

    In this way, it can show the right type of content to the right user, hence enhancing the user experience.