Shopify gives you a huge opportunity to reach out to customers across the globe, which is one of the reasons it is trusted by some of the world’s biggest brands.
But if you want to break into new markets, you need to optimise your SEO for international search.
Here’s how to get started optimising your Shopify store.
How to Expand Internationally with Shopify
Research your Target Markets
Whether you decide to target a specific country or a language will have a significant impact on your content, URL structure and more.
Here are some key points to consider for international SEO for Shopify sites.
Targeting a country works best if you want to aim a range of specific products at a new market. For example, you don’t want to ship restricted products or heavy items with excess shipping costs.
Or you may be looking at introducing a different pricing structure or content for your country-specific store.
Targeting by language is an easier option because you offer your existing storefront in a different language.
For example, you could use a language and currency selector so the customer can choose the most appropriate option. But conversely, you won’t be able to offer specific products or a different pricing structure.
Using a machine translation is the easy option. But only a professional human translation can capture the nuances of language and figures of speech to make your content unique and compelling.
Target Cultural Differences
When translating your brand for new cultures, there are a few things to consider. For example, how will your brand’s tone of voice appear in a different language?
Are you using appropriate colours and layouts? Are you marketing the right products?
Taking the time to look at cultural targeting will ultimately pay off in international page rankings.
Avoid Duplicate Content
Duplicating content is a no-no for SEO. And that becomes more important when you’re considering an international SEO strategy.
For example, you could end up with a localised store that outranks its parents in the wrong areas.
There will be areas of overlap. For example, if you create a US-focused version of your UK store, you’ll need to use similar, not identical, keywords.
Localising your existing store can be expensive, so ensure the new version works for you, not against you.
Choose the Right URL Structure for your Needs
Getting the URL structure right is critical. It’s how search engines know how to deal with your international pages and who should see them.
The right option for your international SEO strategy will depend on store performance, budget, market opportunity and resources.
Ideally you would be clear on this targeting before you undertake any Shopify website development.
ccTLD or Unique Top Level Domain
Shopify.it is an example of a ccTLD. First, a two-letter code tells a search engine the country where the site is registered.
Then Google interprets the code as being targeted at users in that country. So, for example, Shopify.it is intended for users in Italy.
- Automatic geo-targeting is ideal for a country-targeting approach
- Sends a clear message to search engines, making it the best strategy for ranking on international search
- Not suitable for language targeting
- It takes time and money to maintain
- Launch and ranking can be slow
Using a subdomain means your content is stored at your top-level domain, while the country is defined as a subdomain.
For example, es.shopifystore.com sets country targeting at a third-level domain.
- Lower maintenance than a ccTLD
- Not as effective for international search as ccTLD
Instead of using a subdomain, content sits in a subfolder of the root domain. The folder is then defined using a country code, for example, shopifystore.com/en-gb/.
This is the supported functionality when setting up international targeting via Shopify Markets and the Geolocation app, thus taking away a lot of the set up time associated with the other methods.
- Sends stronger signals than a subdomain while being easier to maintain than a ccTLD
- Has a better chance of ranking your website faster
- Supported via Shopify Markets
- Signals can’t match a ccTLD
- Makes targeted local strategies more problematic
gTLD using language parameters
This strategy involves creating a unique domain totally separate from your original storefront.
The different country versions of the site are often linked to by country codes/flags in the website header for the user to easily navigate to.
- Complete flexibility for content and branding strategies
- Strongest signals for search engines
- The most expensive option, requiring ongoing maintenance
- You’ll need to start from scratch with SEO
- It can be challenging to maintain alignment with the parent domain
A gTLD is a generic Top Level Domain that targets language speakers rather than a geo-location.
For example, a typical URL would look like shopifystore.com/lang=?de, where the language parameters are German.
- gTLDs don’t dilute your domain authority
- Easier to maintain than other options
- Google does not recommend this option
- Relying on language parameters requires frequent SEO audits
How About Shopify Markets & The Geolocation App?
Shopify have recently improved the native functionality for international SEO thanks to their Shopify Markets feature and accompanying Geolocation app.
This is a great solution for merchants looking for a simple all-in-one option to instantly expand into new markets, creating localised pricing and delivery options that are well-optimised for SEO. Shopify advanced users even have the option for a quick and easy setup of international sub-folders, that come already set up to SEO best practice.
Whilst larger companies with more staff involved may want the extra expansion possibilites of separate domains, for smaller merchants this is undoubtedly the easiest and most cost-effective option.
We have written about this extensively in our post on Shopify Markets here.
International SEO Can Be Tricky – Use an SEO professional
Whether you’re already trading in international markets or still at the research stage, getting your Shopify store primed and ready for international SEO is the best way to take advantage of the opportunities.