Google’s John Mueller advises SEOs on the correct, and incorrect, ways to use hreflang attributes on a web page.
In a thread on Reddit, a user asks whether hreflang attributes can be used in anchor tags. In testing, the user found that Google didn’t pick up on any hreflang attributes when placed in anchor tags.
Mueller responded to the thread saying “we don’t do that” – meaning Google doesn’t look for hreflang attributes in anchor tags. He goes on to advise the ways in which hreflang attributes should be used.
“Use link tags in the head if you want hreflang to be picked up. Hreflang is hard enough when you do things technically correct, don’t make it harder by hoping it works in non-documented ways.”
To be clear, Google looks for hreflang attributes in the <link> tag within the <head> of an html document. Hreflang attributes will be ignored if used in anchor text.
The SEO who started the Reddit thread notes that hreflang attributes were found in anchor text when checking the code of someone they work with. It would be interesting to know why they thought it was a good idea in the first place, but the Reddit user didn’t state why.
More Resources on Hreflang Implementation
Other misconceptions surrounding hreflang are debunked in this article from Bill Hunt: Hreflang Implementation: The 8 Biggest SEO Misconceptions.
You can learn how to implement hreflang correctly in this article from Dan Taylor: How to Use Hreflang for a Multilingual Website.
Lastly, it’s important to know that hreflang is not a ranking signal in and of itself. However, it will help drive more targeted traffic. I covered that topic in more detail here.