For US businesses looking to grow their international customer base, eCommerce localization can feel daunting. There’s the sheer volume of content that needs to be translated. Deciding which languages to translate the site into, and for which target markets. And, to maximize your chances of success in each locale, you’ll need to consider your international eCommerce SEO strategy . It can feel like a lot.
International SEO for eCommerce is critical to your website’s success. And as daunting as it might feel, it doesn’t have to be a huge lift.
Here are the five basic components of a winning SEO strategy for international eCommerce – and what you need to do to execute each effectively.
UNDERSTAND YOUR CURRENT SITE PERFORMANCE
A good place to begin is looking at your site performance in the US market. While search and buying behavior trends in international markets vary considerably, looking at your domestic site analytics can be very helpful.
Use your preferred analytics tool to identify top-performing pages based on unique visits, new vs returning visitors, session length, and conversion rates. You can also geo-filter based on markets you’re curious about. It could give you an idea of which pages and products users in this country are already familiar with.
Key page identification can inform the best use of your budget in translating content that will give you the best return. Avoid the temptation to translate everything unless there is a clear benefit in doing so. Consider which parts of your website are most relevant to your target markets. Focusing on key page content as a starting point can keep the translation process and budget manageable. Doing this will also ensure you translate and optimize the most locally relevant content for each target market.
You may find that you’re already getting traffic and conversions from international customers. This data can also help you make the case for what content to localize and into which languages. Be sure to also look at low-performing pages or domestic-only product pages that could be omitted from localized sites altogether. Ultimately, translating smaller amounts of highly-targeted, relevant content is going to give you the best short-term results, unless you have the data to justify a site-wide, high-volume translation strategy.
Before you kick off translation, take the time to understand the local market landscape in each target locale. Depending on your product set and target countries, this could be as light as a quick review of consumer trends with an in-market resource. Or particular markets might require deeper market insights to assess the competitive landscape. This will determine which products might be well-received – and which ones won’t. This step will also provide key insight on how to drive traffic to your site via organic and paid digital marketing, once you’ve localized and launched your market-specific eCommerce website.
Taking the time to understand the local market landscape before you kick off translation can help you prioritize the markets most likely to respond to your offering. And which markets have the most accessible search and social platforms to help you drive engagement and conversion.
EFFECTIVE INTERNATIONAL eCOMMERCE SEO STRATEGY
When tackling SEO for eCommerce, it’s difficult to find unique, culturally relevant keywords for more than 100-300 pages without a high level of keyword cannibalization. So you’ll need to be selective about which pages you optimize.
1. Category pages
Category, or collections, pages are typically relevant for the broadest range of non-brand keywords. This makes for a great search volume opportunity. They’re a natural access point as consumers navigate to individual product pages. These pages should be appropriately localized – for language and visual experience – to support the international customer journey.
Category pages can also allow you to show consumers in a new market the full breadth of the products you offer. They can allow you to start ranking for product terms in a new market. Even ahead of product availability in a target market. Optimizing your category pages in this way can be a strong, proactive move. This way you can rank for search terms, provided you have a clear go-to-market plan for those products in the near future.
2. Product pages
While you’ll want essential product pages localized for engagement and conversion, remember they’re not necessarily important for search optimization. Optimizing your category pages for search is a much more effective approach, and consumers will navigate to individual products from there.
3. Blog/editorial content
Blog content can certainly bolster your international SEO strategy, but it’s not a critical first step for international site launch. When localized sites are up and running, prioritize a subset of blog content to help drive awareness/intent. As you look to drive international growth in your priority markets, SEO-informed blog and editorial content can be a game changer at the local level.
INTERNATIONAL ON-PAGE SEO
International on-page SEO includes keyword research, key page identification, keyword-to-key-page mapping, and translation/integration of key terms into body content and metadata.
Your international consumers will not search, engage, and convert online in the same way as domestic consumers. To get it right, you have to address local nuance, intent, and behavior of your target international consumers.
While the principle seems basic, failing to apply international SEO best practice is a common mistake for companies trying to drive qualified traffic to their global websites. International keyword research and search optimization is critical. It should be carried out by in-market experts, either concurrently with translation or retroactively on already-translated content. Without it, your brand could be missing out on the most popular and relevant keywords.
OTHER SITE ELEMENTS TO GET READY FOR INTERNATIONAL MARKETS
Your payment portal or purchasing engine does not play into SEO. But it’s obviously a critical piece to consider in the international customer journey. It would be a huge miss for an international customer to get all the way to the checkout process and then run into a language barrier. You’ll want to make sure this aspect of your site is localized for usability and local payment trends and expectations.
Likewise, avoid creating frustrated customers in your international markets by offering localized post-sales support. An FAQ page can be a simple way to offer localized post-sales information. It can also increase brand advocacy, if you aren’t ready to invest in something as involved as a localized chat bot.
TECHNICAL SEO FOR ECOMMERCE
Assuming you’re already on top of all your domestic technical SEO optimizations, there will be additional, international-specific optimizations to implement. First, you’ll need to choose how to structure your localized sites. You have a few options. Go with a gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain), utilizing a subfolder or subdomain structure. Or you can choose ccTLD (country code Top-Level Domain). There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s always best to research the benefits and drawbacks of each to determine what will be right for your particular business.
A technical SEO checklist will ensure localized elements are executed before launch. (Think hreflang tags, new sitemaps, go-live indexation checks, and UAT testing.) All of these elements are critical to the success of your localized sites.
A post-launch international SEO audit will ensure your technical set-up, along with all of your on-page optimizations, are executed correctly, setting you up for success from day one.
Launching an international eCommerce site can feel daunting. Simplify your approach by breaking the entire initiative into more manageable, iterative phases of localization, informed by data-backed decisions on what and when to localize.
Selecting a partner with in-country marketing localization expertise will help lighten the load on your internal resources. And it will also provide critical insight to help make your international expansion successful.
A successful launch and positive ROI will make it easier to make the case for localizing into new markets, as well as expanding your international digital marketing strategy to drive lasting growth and engagement with international consumers.