Google is supporting a new markup for multilingual content. It’s designed to improve handling of the following two scenarios, as described by the company:
Multiregional websites using substantially the same content. Example: English webpages for Australia, Canada and USA, differing only in price
Multiregional websites using fully translated content, or substantially different monolingual content targeting different regions. Example: a product webpage in German, English and French
The support is an expansion of the rel=”alternate” hreflang link element. Google says it has expanded it to handle content that is translated or provided for multiple geogrhapic regions.
“The hreflang attribute can specify the language, optionally the country, and URLs of equivalent content,” the company explains on the Webmaster Central blog. “By specifying these alternate URLs, our goal is to be able to consolidate signals for these pages, and to serve the appropriate URL to users in search. Alternative URLs can be on the same site or on another domain.”
You can always use re=”canonical” for pages that have the same content in the same language that are aimed at different countries.
“We’ll use that signal to focus on that version in search, while showing the local URLs to users where appropriate,” the company says. “For example, you could use this if you have the same product page in German, but want to target it separately to users searching on the Google properties for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.”