Posted: 4 Minute read

Shopify SEO: Best Practices for International Expansion

Your e-commerce business is going from strength-to-strength. The next logical step is to start selling into new, international markets. But, how do you ensure your brand is discovered on international versions of search engines like Google? The Velstar team has some top tips to help you answer that question…

What is international SEO?

Despite what many people think, Google - or more precisely, the results it displays - are not the same worldwide.

Google a term in the UK, and you’ll be presented with a certain set of results. Google the same thing in Germany, and you’re likely to get a completely different set of results. 

This is understandable. Google wants to provide contextually useful results, and search and buying behaviour can vary considerably from country to country and culture to culture. 

International SEO then, refers to the practice of optimising your Shopify store so that it appears at the top of the search results in those countries you are targeting. 

For example, if you intend to sell your products in the UK, Germany, France and Belgium, then international SEO means you’ll have a distinct SEO strategy for each of those countries. 

Shopify SEO best practices

So, how do you go about creating SEO strategies for overseas territories? It’s not something we can cover in granular detail in this article, however below we’ve set out the main best practices to follow. 

1. Research

What works in one country may not work in another. As we said above, different countries have different consumer behaviour. 

Thus, a search term that may be searched by lots of people in the UK may not have an equivalent search volume in Germany. 

This means that you can’t rely on your UK keyword research for other territories. You should conduct keyword research for each country you’re targeting. You might be surprised at the differences you spot!

Consider the example below. Blue Nun wine is arguably one of the most well known (if not the most well regarded) German wines. Yet, compare the difference in search volume for this product between the UK and Germany:

Differences in search volumes internationally

Perhaps counterintuitively, ‘Blue Nun wine’ has far higher search volume in the UK than it does in its own country of Germany. 

It’s these kinds of (perhaps unexpected) insights that can emerge during international keyword research, which makes the exercise so valuable. 

Bear in mind that taxonomy changes per country as well. For example, corn in the UK, becomes maize in the U.S. 

Tip - don’t forget that, although the biggest search engine in the world, Google isn’t the biggest search engine in every country. For example, in Russia (and many of the territories of the former Soviet Union) the biggest search engine is Yandex. Likewise, internet search in China is dominated by Baidu. Whilst these all work in a fundamentally similar way, there are nuances that are worth being aware of. 

2. URL structures for international markets

Whilst it’s entirely possible to market your business internationally from a top-level domain alone, setting up a nationally-appropriate URL structure can massively help your country-specific SEO efforts.

So, what are your options? There are three main types of international URL structures: 

  • Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs).
  • Subdomains.
  • Subdirectories. 

Country-code top-level domains

ccTLDs use short letter codes to indicate to search engines which country a website is registered in. 

For example, sportswear giant Adidas automatically targets users in Germany with the following ccTLD:

Adidas' German Website


An alternative approach is to use subdomains. As the name suggests, subdomains sit within a primary domain address.

Subdomains include the country code at the beginning of the root domain name. Subdomains not only allow you to create country-specific sites, but they also benefit from the authority that the main domain may have already from an SEO-perspective. 

Subdomains also have the bonus of not requiring you to purchase and manage multiple new domain names. 

Here at Velstar, we’re a big fan of subdomains from an SEO-perspective, as they’re excellent at building region/country specific authority whilst also being tied to the root domain. It’s a win, win!

A great example of the use of subdomains is U.S. men’s grooming brand Cremo. To target U.K. consumers (and build their authority with the UK version of Google), they use a subdomain:

Cremo UK store


A subdirectory, also known as a subfolder, houses a subset of your website content. The subdirectory is appended as a suffix to the right of your root domain. 

Like subdomains, subdirectories have a number of benefits, such as deriving authority from the root domain, and being easy to manage (not requiring you to buy and manage multiple domains etc). 

It’s an approach that’s favoured by brands as big as Apple, which uses a subdirectory for it’s UK site:

Apple UK store

There is no one-size fits all solution for your URL structures. In many cases, your choice will be largely made by the platform you choose. 

If you use Shopify, then you’ll find a greater degree of flexibility compared to other platforms as Shopify allows you to use either subdomains or subdirectories. 

Regardless of which URL structure you choose, the key point is that you use it consistently throughout every market (e.g. don’t use a subdomain for one country and a subdirectory for another). 

3. Implement Hreflang tags

International Shopify stores tend to have a large amount of duplicate content. For example, your products may exist on, and 

This can cause confusion for search engines like Google. 

This is where Hreflang tags come in handy. They are an HTML attribute that tell search engines when they are alternative versions of a page intended for different regions and languages. 

4. Craft unique content

When it comes to your Shopify store’s content, remember the differences in languages and terminology. 

Avoid using Google Translate (or ChatGPT) as this often generates incorrect translations, and you could end up making some very embarrassing mistakes. Instead, consider employing a native speaker from the country you’re targeting to write highly relevant and unique content. 

Remember, also, that different countries have different tastes in products (as we saw earlier with our Blue Nun example). So, ensure your website is filled with content that is actually culturally relevant. 

5. Link building and outreach campaigns

Finally, you need to build links in the countries you want to reach. 

From guest blogs and online magazines, to social media collaborations and podcast appearances, it’s time to get your brand’s name out there. Get creative, the possibilities are endless!

Your Shopify SEO agency

If you have global domination in your sights and are looking to scale your Shopify business internationally, you’ll need to make sure you implement these Shopify SEO best practices. Not only will they boost your search performance in the regions you want to target the most, but they will also provide your customers with a better user experience, which will ultimately lead to more conversions. 

As a leading Shopify SEO agency, our team of organic search experts has helped numerous brands conquer internationalisation, and we can do the same for your brand. Get in touch today!

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