Congratulations! Now your online web store is running well and is profitable in your starting market. I believe Google SEO is playing a key revenue-driven role in your marketing performance tracker, except for those markets that are not accessible to Google search engine. If you are rolling out your existing product value propositions and marketing strategies to a new market, please wait for a second, otherwise, your web store might be losing the current advantage of Google SEO.
Google SEO is one of the critical dedicators in eCommerce website sales. You believe or not that SEO usually contributes at least 30% of the total revenue of an online web store in an integrated online marketing performance tracker. Also, SEO performance can be stable, sustainable along with the business growth in a targeted market, because the brand engaging content, and external influencers’ viral discussion, and review that are the key nutrition to SEO, are being accumulated more on the go.
What’s more, from the P&L perspective, SEO is a key part of a marketing strategy proposition to increase profit margin, because with the scale-up effect coming up, SEO is unlike SEM. SEO variable cost isn’t going up with web traffic and sales going up. So in a way, it can be counted as a fixed cost.
Having said that, you need to be aware that lots of detailed changes matter in website SEO performance due to going global, such as a domain name, the communication efficiency between your web and the search engine robots, or your web and the human visitors. Thus, for the purpose to avoid new market expanding impacts on Go Global SEO, I’ll go through 5 things you need to know and prepare for the go global strategy in advance. And by the end of this piece, you can master go global Google SEO strategies (GGGs Strategies), and start executing to achieve your goal moving forward.
- Site Structure
- Search Console Implementation
- Google Merchant Center
- Product-based Page Content
- Other Indirect Go Global SEO Factors
When coming up with your Go Global SEO site structure, there are a few different paths you can take:
- Subdomains: jp.example.com
- Subdirectories: example.com/jp
- Country code top-level domains (ccTLD): example.co.jp.
Each option comes with its pros and cons and the right option varies on a case-by-case basis.
ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domains): www.yoursite.co.jp, www.yoursite.cn, www.yoursite.us etc
ccTLDs are country-specific domains. Using a ccTLD is perhaps the strongest signal you can send to search engines that your site is intended for users from a specific country. Google search console and Bing webmaster automatically geotarget a ccTLD to the assigned country.
However, Significant development resources are required to create and maintain various websites. Also, you’ll need to create and implement a unique SEO strategy for each site – you don’t get to take advantage of any acquired link juice or domain authority. This means separate keyword research, content strategies, and link building for each.
From my perspective, I would not highly recommend, unless your business is a kind of global large corporation and have many resources, such as budget, manpower, etc.
Subdomain: jp.yoursite.com, uk.yoursite.com, fr.yoursite.com
A subdomain is a type of gTLDs (generic top-level domains), which is created via a registered DNS service, and considered as a bigger part of a root domain. I think the typical case of this strategy is www.yahoo.com. For example, hk.yahoo.com, etc.
However, they still require investing IT time and resources into setting up and maintaining multiple subdomains. While Googlers like Matt Cutts and John Mueller have made statements about Google’s ability to pass authority between subdomains, the truth is that they still aren’t really able to do so on a reliable basis. So the value and link juice you’ve built up for one subdomain won’t really do much to help the others.
Subfolders, or subdirectories: www.yoursite.com/us, www.yoursite.com/fr, www.yoursite.com/hk
Subfolder is also a type of gTLDs. We usually can create it through CMS such as the WordPress multi-site feature, or update web configuration file setting through FTP.
Since they are all on the same site, subfolders are easy and require little investment to set up and maintain. And because all the folders are on the original domain, you get to take advantage of any link juice and authority you’ve already acquired. You’ll also get to share any of the benefits realized from future SEO campaigns as well.
The concern from my experience is the URL structure could be ambiguous for some users: Visitors to example.com/de/ could end up wondering if they’re looking at a page that’s targeted to the country Germany or just the language. Examle.de is explicitly for the country of Germany.
From an SEO perspective, ccTLDs have the most credit in terms of a specific market strategy, when comparing with the other two. However, I’m also on a side to consider a structure that offers cost efficiency and better SEO deployment for starting to go global. In a way, I would suggest starting with the subfolder site structure and leverage canonical tag to direct the local EN page, such as /de-EN, to your primary EN language site which is used for the global presence. This is a solution to de-duplicate and present customized local page EN content in De.
If you like to know more about subfolder site set-up instruction, please learn more from WordPress multi-site or Shopify subfolder site structure App.
Setting a GEO targeting (GT) allows you to specify the country of users you want to view your website most. The specific country domain name or domain path would appear in SEPR. It’s especially helpful for a webstore that is selling products to a specific country that have different fulfillment policies, refund window, or categories, etc, which is different from other markets. (Please refer to here regarding the steps)
You’ll want search engines to show the most appropriate content language version to their users. Catering to the native tongue of search engine users also improves their experience, lower bounce rate, and conversion rate.
There are three methods for implementing hreflang on your website that you can choose from:
- In the header section of the HTML code of each page
- In XML sitemaps
- In the HTTP header of each page
Hrefland Tag Sample
English speakers in the UK:<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-gb” href=”https://example.com/uk/hello” />
English speakers in the US:<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”https://example.com/us/hello” />
Please keep in mind is Hreflang tag should be working with your GEO targeting that is listed as below. So in the GEO targeting stage, you need to basically what primary language you are ready to adopt in a specific country.
Submit XML sitemaps
Submitting your sitemap to Google Search console allows a Googlebot to crawl and index your site more effectively by giving them a full list of your site’s pages. Thus, you need to submit the XML sitemap to the top domain site and subfolder sites respectively, because each local market site should have a unique XML sitemap. You can use some plugins like Yoast SEO, SEO manager, or use some free XML sitemap generator and upload via FTP.
One tip: I suggest breaking down the XML sitemap into the page, post, product in each site, so it’s better for Google to index, but also it’s better for your site management, particularly you might be selling thousands of SKU. Also, for any variation SKUs or duplicate pages, you can leverage robot.txt and canonical tag, for the purpose to decrease the crawlability budget, I would go into more detail about this in the other article.
Google Merchant Center Product Listings Syndication (Google Shopping)
By leveraging the Covid-19 pandemic market opportunity, Google opening up its Shopping search results (SAG – Surface Across Google) to unpaid, organic listings. For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. You believe or not that comparing with your page appearing in SEPR in all information result, web store traffic from whom are considering your products, or ready to buy can increase by at least 50%, because buyers usually directly go to Google shopping at this stage.
Now there’re more than 70 markets’ sellers who can access to SAG, so the argument is how to syndicate your website product listing to Google merchant center in Go Global Strategy.
Take Shopify as an example, your current product listing can syndicate with Google merchant center in the starting market by using the Shopify Google shopping plugin, which is for free. However, it only works with your web parent URL that is used to create your original GMC account. If you are using a subfolder site structure, you need an MCA account.
Merchant center MCA Account means multi-client accounts that allow a single person or company to submit data feeds for multiple domains. You can request the MCA account in the help center and When you request a multi-client account, your current Google Merchant Center account will become a sub-account in your new multi-client account.
I recommend multi-client account owners verify and claim a website URL with the parent account login email. Typically, the parent multi-client account will need to verify and claim the top-level domain, e.g. http://example.com.
After the parent MCA has verified and claimed a URL, each sub-account can automatically inherit the claim and can set its website URL to any sub-host or path under the claimed URL tree. For example, all Japan product listings information that includes title, description, image, price, shipping, inventory, tax rate, condition, barcode, SKU, variation, can syndicate with the Japan sub-account and appear in Google Shopping Japan only.
Product-based Page Content
A lot of product pages are way too short. Some just list the name of the product and nothing more — this is terrible for SEO.
Describe your product using terms people will search for. Again, details like shirt sizes, serving sizes, fabric types, model numbers, quality grades, and types of ingredients help buyers find your products and, ultimately, decide to purchase them.
On each local site, you need to check if this localized front-end and back-end product primary information are all in place with proper keywords and fit in Google merchant center requirements.
- Product description,
- Pricing (Currency)
- Customer Review (I’ll go into detail in the other article about customer review – Bazzarvoice, Judge.me and Google Customer Review)
- Inventory In Stock
- Product URL, page meta title & meta description
- Google field (Product category, condition, Custom Identifier)
- Shipping rate
- Tax rate
- Canonical tab used on variation, product tab etc for de-duplicate content
- Product structured data (item name, value, etc)
Other Indirect Go Global SEO Factors
These are things that aren’t directly looked at or even considered by Google’s algorithm, but which have an impact on or affect things that are in Go Global SEO performance.
First of all, shopping cart & check-out path pages.
Normally these pages are suggested not indexed by Google, but pages language is a thing we need to check if it’s consistent with the local site language because it definitely affects the conversion rate if you are using English check-out in Japan market. Basically you can set up in the eCommerce shopping cart section, and payment gateway. If you are using multi gateway such as Shopify + PayPal, etc, please check if the profit-margin is impacted with a payment processing cost that might change due to pricing currency in a different market.
Secondly, newsletter subscription and email communication.
Basically online sellers like to leverage discount code to appeal new sign-ups or upsell. This ensures your email automation, such as welcome email, followed-up email, etc are all updated to the local language. I’ll go into detail about email and automation strategy in the other article.
Thirdly, affiliate program.
Affiliate marketing is a key approach to earn traffic and pay sales by conversion. Affiliate network strategy should vary in a different market. For example, the Rakuten Japan affiliate is mainly focused on Japan’s local market. We need to check if our current commission scheme in the USA for example, is adaptable or not in Japan. If the commission is not competitive enough or it results in losing money, we need to update in the local site’s affiliate program communication. Otherwise, it would affect the partner recruitment and site traffic
Fourth, CS & Online Chatbot
In-time respond to prospects and customers are critical in the eCommerce website business. According to a survey conducted by a third-party research company, customer satisfaction often is not only what you’re selling, but how you respond to their questions, reviews, and even complaints.
Basically, all marketing communication messages need translating into the local language, that is updated to Zendesk, Chatbot, etc customer communication platform.
Last but not least, Social Channels
Either way, we can agree that social signals will impact search engine rankings. There are plenty of case studies to prove this point. I don’t suggest creating a local social fan page, such as Facebook at the beginning, but influencer marketing and blog post link building are necessary for a local market
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