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Scaling international SEO? Here's what you need to know

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With e-commerce booming, it's never been more important to get the basics right with international search engine optimization. Anthony Lavall, vice-president of SEO at Croud, runs us through the essentials.

Scaling your brand internationally has never been easier. The range of APIs that exist to provide integrated functionality for online stores allow for relatively seamless expansion of services into new countries and currencies. And the burgeoning success of development and deployment platforms (such as Netlify and Vercel) allows for global caching of assets via content delivery networks; translation via API; and international payment processing.

The biggest piece of recent news for international SEO? Shopify’s announcement of their Shopify Markets solution, which will enable users of Shopify to be “global by default”. This gives customers the option to enable alternative markets simply by amending a few options via their dashboard. This will give regional currencies, multiple payments options, and tax duty options – and regional translations and domain options for any Shopify store that wants it. This is huge, not just for Shopify, but for international commerce. The opportunities that may exist in international markets today will be much more competitive in the next year as we see this new feature come into full effect.

So Shopify has integrated many of the features needed for international expansion directly into their CMS. But what does a brand need to do when moving into a new international market?

Regional currencies and multiple payment options

The ability to be able to show prices of products and services in popular local currencies (£, $, €, ¥), with a user friendly drop-down for changing currency in a global header, is a must.

Shoppers in 2021 want choice. You as a merchant will benefit from increased conversions when offering diverse payment options. The choices for the modern shopper are vast and vary from country to country but in many cases will include debit and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Amex); the payment processing services from Amazon Pay, Google Pay, and Apple Pay; the ‘buy now, pay later’ services available from Afterpay and Klarna; and cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

Shipping options and tax

The ability to ship products to international locations where a brand wants to be prevalent is of paramount importance. As is sensitivity to local tax implications: always ensure that you’ve charged customers the right price based on local country and state tax requirements.

Translation and URL syntax

Simple translations of your most common features for both ecommerce are essential – this will usually include sizes, colors, and menus. You must also translate compliance messaging, including terms of service, privacy policies, and accessibility documentation.

You’ll also need to figure out a URL syntax strategy. Depending on your business size and objectives, you may choose to either take a ‘subdirectory’ or alternate ‘country code top-level domain’ approach. Both have implications for UX and SEO.

International SEO

The above considerations are absolute essentials for any ecommerce store to sell overseas. However, capability is only step one and performing in a new market is going to require SEO success. Most important here are:

  • Hreflang annotations are critical for ensuring that the correct content appears in the correct language/country. In modern ecommerce environments, you must also be able to update them with relative ease when pages are added and removed.

  • HTML language settings to ensure that the HTML of your page is set to the language the content is predominantly in.

  • Geo-targeting settings allow you to target taxonomies of your web properties to different countries via Search Console.

  • Metadata / key element translation - titles, descriptions, URLs and breadcrumbs all need to be translated to ensure that international audiences will fluidly understand them.

  • Transcreation of performant content to take advantage of existing assets. Take your top performing content and decide whether it’s relevant for a new market. Then transcreate it into appropriate languages.

  • Creation of original content can never be overlooked.

Getting the above international SEO considerations right with a combination of tech stack changes, planning, and regional language experts will be key to performing in new markets and maximizing the impact of your existing brand authority globally. Ongoing creation of new international content in each market will help to ensure that your new audience is continually grown and nurtured.

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