International SEO for eCommerce

SEO for your international sites is just as important as with your domestic market and language. Ranking highly on Search Engine’s is the life blood of many an online shop so you need to put the effort in to perform well internationally.

Fortunately much of what is true domestically is true internationally so here we won’t go through all the basics but will focus on what is specific for international. Firstly, you need to:

Tell Search Engines Where you Want to Be Ranked

You should do this with your URL There are three good ways to do this:

  • Using a new top level domain, e.g., .es, .hk
  • By adding a subdomain to your existing domain, e.g.
  • Or by using a sub-directory on your existing domain, e.g.

The best way to get a higher ranking is by using a domain with a top level domain that will be registered in the country you want to optimize for. A subdomain or sub-folder will likely be easier for your technical team to manage and this is a good argument when deciding how to proceed but ultimately if you’re looking for the best result, it will be with a local top level domain.

Ideally you would also host this local copy of your site on a local IP but this can then get pretty hard to manage, but it’s still worth investigating with your tech team to see if there’s a way you could do this.

Next you should:

Tell Search Engines What Languages Are Available

Ultimately the language that gets ranked in a search engine will be the language of your content, so make sure you localize your content if you want to rank highly in a country / for a language.

Localizing your content isn’t only your product catalog but also your site content, titles, Ts&Cs, meta tags etc… Remembering it isn’t only about the language but also what is likely to be searched by someone who speaks that language. There are often more than one way to say the same thing in most languages.

On top of this, specifically with Google, you can use a HREFLANG tag. This HTML tag lets Google know which languages a page is available in and where to direct a user of a particular language. The tag looks like this;

<link rel=”alternative” hreflang=”lang_code” href=”url_of_page” />

It essentially says, “there’s an alternative page, in this language, found at this URL” Google will then send users of that language to the alternative page if they find themselves on the wrong language page.

You MUST send your user to a translation of your page if you want to avoid being penalized for duplicate content.

SEO As Usual

Building up SEO beyond localizing appropriately with the right keywords, putting in place a top level domain and ensuring the language tags are right is much the same as you would locally. Get out there on local social media, build local links back to your website, get local followers and interact with local pages.

If you need some more help on the basics of SEO I can recommend SEO for Beginners by James Knight or indeed SEO for Dummys. They both cover the basics of SEO well and as always with Internationalization of your sites, if you learn something new – apply it domestically as well!

About Mark Ellis

Mark is the VP for Growth and Partnerships at Webinterpret, a leading Cross Border Technology company. Before that Mark was leading the operations for eBay's European cross border program. He has over 20 years of eCommerce industry experience, guiding and delivering strategic change in retailers, working with companies such as Dyson, Regatta, Boots and Arcadia Group, leading multi-million dollar programs for industry giants like Dunnhumby and working with small businesses delivering innovative retail solutions.

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