Google didn’t stop working during the summer of 2022 and gave SEOs some shocking news when they announced that by the 22nd of September 2022, they would be withdrawing access to the International targeting tool that was found in the legacy tools in Search Console. 

You might be wondering why this tool is so important… Well, it had two extremely useful functions, mainly for websites targeting different countries or languages:

  • The ability to monitor hreflang issues
  • Functionality to set a specific country to target for your website

Why was this important?

The ability to quickly and easily see what hreflang issues Google knew about on your website were a great way of diagnosing internationalisation issues that your site might (or might not!) have.

Image Credit: Google

Additionally, the ability to assign a target country for a website was a great bit of functionality to just be sure that your website is being shown to the correct target audience rather than making an assumption. With this functionality, you could easily have (for example) a .com domain that targets a Spanish audience - however, with this functionality gone; we now need to rely heavily on the correct hreflang setup to ensure we are showing our content to the intended audience. We cannot assume Google will do this for us.

So, what now? 

While Google is no longer showing the reports or targeting for a country, it doesn’t mean that they stop showing your site to specific languages or to users in specific countries... 

Instead, this now means Google will use hreflang as a direct indicator of which language and which country your content is most suitable for, rather than any Search Console assumptions. This means if your site previously used the ‘country tick box’ in Search Console to determine your target country, it’s likely you will need to look at setting up hreflang properly in order to continue showing your content to your target audience.

Of course, if your site’s content is in English, it will continue being displayed to English users. However if your site targets users across multiple locations or multiple languages, then this change is more likely to impact you most.

So how do we set up Hreflang?

Each page on a website should have hreflang set up if you have:

  • Pages being targeted to specific locations
  • Pages being targeted to specific languages
  • Pages that are translated into other languages
  • Pages that are tweaked for different locations depending on service/product/pricing.
  • Any combination of the above

You should, of course also have specific pages for each language/location target, and this should ideally follow a logical structure, such as a folder URL setup - For example:

  • - English
  • - Spanish
  • - German

Note that you do not need a URL setup for every country and language setup. For example, if your English content pages target US and UK English users, we can assign two hreflang rules to indicate they are appropriate for both user types.

Additionally, we can set up a “catch-all” hreflang rule for all English-speaking users regardless of their location, with a simple hreflang="en" rule. This will indicate the content is suitable for any English speaker in any location.

The first thing any good SEO agency would do as part of a technical audit is to verify that hreflang is set up correctly. With Google Search Console’s hreflang report, we could previously find this information very quickly - but no more! Thanks, Google!

So instead, we can use the hreflang report of Screaming Frog, a tool we commonly use for auditing technical issues. Here, we will see all the problems your site may have with internationalisation. Some common errors include: 

  • No hreflang tags at all! - A clean slate, an ideal starting point for getting hreflang implemented.
  • Hreflangs not returning a 200 status code - e.g. pointing to a page that doesn’t exist.
  • Incorrect language codes being used - e.g. ensuring we use “en-gb” when targeting English, UK users.
  • Hreflang links not being returned - e.g. where the English page might point an hreflang tag to the German page, but the German page does not do the same in return.
  • Not having a self-referencing hreflang - e.g. where an hreflang tag points to a different URL entirely, creating a conflict.

Setting Up Hreflang Tags

While hreflang as a term sounds complicated, it needn’t be. We have created a helpful Hreflang Tool to quickly determine what tags you need on a page-by-page basis to ensure your content is seen by the right users in the correct country, reading the right language.

Our hreflang tool will then provide you with the exact code required to get your pages' country and language targeting perfected.

If you have a larger-scale website, we'd recommend a full hreflang audit to be completed by an agency or SEO expert. If you're interested in hearing more about how our team could support you with this, please get in touch; we'd love to hear from you. 




Andy drives high-quality, high-converting organic traffic to a wide range of businesses, from local companies to global brands.

A strategic search marketer, Andy’s expertise lies predominantly in ecommerce websites and technical SEO, and is particularly adept at finding opportunities to provide quick wins and long-term return on investment.

More about Andy

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