HTML Meta Language Tag – Implementing International SEO

Every business would want to reach out to an international audience and expand its online presence. International SEO is the right way to expand the reach of the business to target foreign market. But, there are many additional elements you will need to consider to implement a successful international SEO. One of the most fundamental phases for international targeting is optimizing the website to ensure it can be crawled, indexed and found by search engines and visitors. When you decide to target a foreign market based on its language, you will need to specify the language to search engines using HTML Meta Language Tags. In this post, we discuss in detail about the language declaration to implement international SEO effectively.

HTML Meta Language Tag – Why It’s Important?

In HTML, the language declaration is an attribute used to state the language of the page content. The meta language tag can be used in the head section of the document to embed the document location. It is recommended to use the ISO 639-1 language codes when defining the content of the lang tag. For English, it looks like:

<html lang = “en”>…</html>

While for the French language, it looks like:

<html lang =”fr”>…</html>

This attribute is used by a variety of programs and search engines to figure out what language the page is written in. Search engines use this value to serve the right content to the right user. When you create international versions of your web page to increase the reach of your business to foreign markets, you need to ensure a number of things. Apart from the indexability, crawlability and relevance of the page, it is also important to redirect the visitors to the most relevant page depending on their location or language settings which you can detect through the browser settings. While this may not always work, it is a good idea to validate that all your international versions are being crawled and indexed by the search engine so that the users are correctly redirected to the most appropriate version. Making use of HTML Meta Language Tag, you can specify the language for each of your content page so that search engines can correctly identify the language targeting of a page and always display the right version of your page versions to the relevant users.

Specifying a language using this meta tag is important for:

  • Text to speech conversions (when user speaks Canadian French and not French)
  • Identifying the right fonts for display
  • Choosing the right dictionary for spell-checks in browser forms (use of UK English and not US English)
  • Correct rendering of the page – delivering the page in its most natural language possible

This information is used by search engines to determine which pages they should include in search results asked by users from different countries based on the language of their preference. This ensures that all your page versions are rendered effectively and served to the target visitors, increasing the effectiveness of your international SEO to grow your business and increase the online presence while enhancing user experience.

Meta Language Tag & Its Impact On SEO

If you are targeting a location with a language other than English and you decide to target the country on the basis of language used, it is essential to tell the search engines what language you are targeting. You should find out what language the native speakers of the particular country speak and translate the web page to that language. You can inform the search engines about the language and location you are targeting with the use of hreflang attribute or meta language tag. These bits of codes indicate the language your page content is available in. While Google uses the hreflang attribute to identify the language of the content and serve the right content to the users, other search engines like Baidu and Bing use meta language tag to serve the content in an appropriate language to the users. This meta tag may not help increase the traffic to the website. Its goal is to make the most appropriate content available to the visitor. It helps the search engines swap the correct version of the web page into the SERP based on the user’s language and location preferences. Such a language-based targeting can impact rankings and help you achieve successful international SEO.

Content Language Content En US

Certain search engines like Bing do not support the hreflang attribute used when the website is targeted to international markets. In such a case, content language attribute is used to help the search engine determine the language being targeted. In the head section of the page, a <meta> element with the attribute http-equiv=”content-language” specifies the language of the page.

Here is the example of the code for this declaration:


<meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”/>


The attribute ‘content’ includes a 2-letter ISO 639 language code followed by a hyphen and the relevant ISO 3166 geography code. Examples:

  • en-us: English, United States
  • de-at: German, Austria
  • es-ar: Spanish, Argentina
  • de-de: German, Germany

While Google reports this meta tag as deprecated, Bing still recognizes it to understand the language and targeted audience of the web page. This is why it is a good idea to implement this tag in the head section of the page using appropriate language codes.

We hope this guide to HTML Meta Language Tag helps you identify the international SEO potential of your website and you can now use these attributes in the right way to expand your business reach. You can share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section below.