Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Specifying the lang attribute for SEO purposes

Ok this might be all obvious to some of you but came as a surprise to me, but this little atttribute can have a big impact on your rankings!!

I do SEO for a few pan-european websites that are obviously in different languages. We have been struggling to get the same ranking results on the German and French version of a site although the competition for the keywords we are targetting is less than the ones we are targetting for the English site. SO why is this? I'm stunned that I missed this (it was actually a client that pointed it out to me, albeit a very SEO savvy client, thanks Paul!).

Ok you are thinking get to the point you rambling Norwegian. Basically, the lang attribute is a language code that among other things tells the search engines what language a website is in. I dont' know why I thought this would happen automatically. So if you have a german site you need to specify in the lang attribute that the content is in German if you want to rank for german keywords. Obviously if the lang attribute says "lang=en" the search engines thinks the site is in English. Doh!

For more information on the lang attribute

Feel free to comment!

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11 Comments:

At December 06, 2006 5:09 pm, Anonymous Bill said...

Hi Lisa,

This is one that I try to make sure that I use since people can set their preferences in Google and other search engines to specific languages, too.

The attribute is set on a page-by-page basis, so if you have a site that uses a mix of languages, it can help to make sure that each page has the appropriate language attribute set for it.

 
At December 07, 2006 10:48 am, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

Hi Bill,

SEO by the Sea genius! Wow I'm truly honered to have you visiting my blog!

Thanks for the comment and the tips about mix of languages.

 
At December 12, 2006 3:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice how you remove my comment because you dont like the truth that the site is poor. Perhaps you should find another job because clearly you have no idea of what you are doing. The language attribute you mentioned, that is SEO basics and for someone who is meant to be in SEO for 8 years should know that. Having the client TELL you about it, well, i can see why you dont have any AL Listers company wise. I notice the Saab sites that got work done on them, if i was the manager i would be looking for another SEO because again there really bad.

 
At December 12, 2006 6:43 pm, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

I haven't removed any comments actually! You are entitled to your opinion. If you are such a big shot, how come you have posted a comment as anonymous?

I have been in England for 8 years not in the SEO industry. I have worked in SEO for 1 1/2 years.

As for A-listers, that's not what it's about. The whole beauty about SEO is that it's not how much the companies chuck money at it but how well you do it. For my client Powownow I have managed to get a PageRank 7 and they are listed on the first page of Google for 7 of 10 of their top VERY competitive keywords.

As for the Base One website (which is my companies), yes it does look visually pleasing but is not ranking great YET. This is simply because my agency is NOT a SEO only agency. I'm sure you know as a "professional" SEO you have to do alot of bartering and discussing with designers and programmers and alot of the time you have comprimise. If it was only up to me our site would have ten times more content, a sitemap, additional text based navigation plus a hundred other things that would improve our rankings. But it's still early days (the Base One websites were only launched a few months ago), i'll get them to the top. Just you watch me.

Lastly can I please request that you don't leave comments unless you have something productive to say. To lash out on a fellow SEO is not going to get you anywhere.

Good luck!

 
At December 16, 2006 11:27 am, Blogger David said...

Great points Lisa, don't let a naysayer discourage you from providing information at any level. Besides if Bill commented on here that shows you are providing value. Keep on bloggin'

 
At December 16, 2006 12:40 pm, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

thanks David! It's very frustrating when people like "anonymous" try to get you down. But I'm a "Viking", i can handle it =) My mum always told me that if you are willing to stick your head out, you are going to get slapped in the face every now and then =)

 
At December 21, 2006 1:44 pm, Anonymous lisa said...

The language tag my be seo basics but I also forgot about it for my first european language pages despite several years of seo experience.

But unlike Lisa, I found it made no difference not having it in. The site ranked well in google.com and .co.uk, and ranked well immediately in european googles without lang tag. When I put it in, it made no difference.

 
At December 21, 2006 6:08 pm, Blogger Lisa Ditlefsen said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your comment, that's really interesting that it didn't make any difference. I suppose the lang attribute might be more relevant when you have more than one language on a site?!

 
At December 21, 2006 10:42 pm, Anonymous the other lisa said...

It was a three language site. The languages were divided by directories named after the country codes (de, fr). Maybe that helped. I'm also only talking really about google. I dont check the others often enough to know.

 
At June 21, 2007 3:54 pm, Anonymous koyama said...

Hi Lisa,

I came across your post because I was trying to find out whether search engines actually do pay attention to the lang attribute. I thought that Google might instead be reading the content and identify the language by direct means looking at the content and checking the words using dictionary look-ups.

If this was the case then the lang attribute would lose its importance with respect to SEO just like the case was with keywords and description in META tags.

Could you tell us whether you actually did see improved results with respect to Google indexing after putting in that lang attribute? I assume so, but you didn't say it explicitly.

Finally, if search engines do pay attention to the lang attribute in general, do you know whether it suffices to supply a language code in the HTTP header as described at the W3C site.

Thank you for starting this valuable discussion.

 
At July 11, 2007 1:50 pm, Blogger Dami said...

I am not so sure if the lang attribute actually used by Google and I question that your results maybe becuase of another unknown factor. As far as I know it is only server location and country specific domain names that Google then uses to determine the location.

 

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