Google Announce Markup for Multinational Site Annotations in Sitemaps

Creating and submitting a more comprehensive XML Sitemap helps to make sure that search engines like Google will know about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by bots crawling process. Quite recently, Google introduced a new markup for multiregional websites that target users in many languages that can be applied specifically on XML sitemaps which could mean smaller page sizes and easier deployment in the case of some websites.

Introducing the New Sitemap Tags
To indicate to Google that you want a specific language to be served to searchers, you must do the following: (1) create a separate URL element for each page and (2) each URL element must include a location tag indicating the page URLs, and an xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”XX” sub-element for every alternate version of the page, including itself.

Example:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/en” >
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/de” >

Wherein the equivalent markup in Sitemaps:

<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/en</loc>
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”de”
href=”http://www.example.com/de” />
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”en”
href=”http://www.example.com/en” />
</url>
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/de</loc>
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”de”
href=”http://www.example.com/de” />
<xhtml:link
rel=”alternate”
hreflang=”en”
href=”http://www.example.com/en” />
</url>

As per Google if you have several alternate URLs targeted at users with the same language but in different locales, you can indicate the English page in one of three ways:

HTML link element. In the HTML <head> section of http://www.example.com/, add a link element pointing to the Spanish version of that webpage at http://es.example.com/, like this:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://es.example.com/” />

HTTP header. If you publish non-HTML files (like PDFs), you can use an HTTP header to indicate a different language version of a URL:

Link: <http://es.example.com/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”

Sitemap. Instead of using markup, you can submit language version information in a Sitemap.

Likewise, if you wish to use the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” it’s a good idea to provide a generic URL for geographically unspecified users. However, since Google believes that the new link markup will help webmasters to stay away from the duplicate content issue. It is important to note that this markup tells Google’s algorithm to consider all of these pages as alternate versions of each other rather this is used on the page level, so you need to markup each page or set of pages individually.