It’s been widely discussed in the search industry whether or not implementing hreflang incorrectly will affect your overall search performance, i.e will Google give you a penalty for implementing hreflang incorrectly? It turns out that Googlebot simply ignores it. I originally thought that it would cause some kind of damage, a penalty, a loss in rankings, something .. but it turns out that nothing will happen.
What Google Say RE Incorrect Hreflang Implementation
Here’s the tweet from Garry Illyes on Twitter regarding incorrect hreflang:
@marieldoesseo nope, we'll just ignore it
— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) August 1, 2015
I’m glad they have decided to clear this up publicly, as a lot of webmasters were starting to get bombarded with hundreds of hreflang errors in webmaster tools, for some thousands if they have a fairly large site. It’s relatively easy to implement incorrect hreflang as some pages can represent more than one URL.
What are my thoughts? Continue fixing, don’t ignore them. Even though Google have specifically stated that they will ignore your incorrect hreflang and it won’t have any direct impact, e.g penalty or something – it may cause damage somewhere else along the line, as Google ignoring it may cause damage itself as the right page won’t be served to the correct user.
Google’s pretty much saying that if you implement hreflang incorrectly, they’ll ignore it, but you won’t receive the benefits as if you did have proper hreflang markup.