Choosing the best SEO strategy for your international domains

Each method for setting up international domains has its own considerations for search engine optimization (SEO). You can use one or more methods to create your region-specific URLs.

If you're not sure about which method to use, then review the following information before you begin.

SEO considerations for subfolders

Subfolders are subdirectories or paths within your primary domain, which is the domain name that's displayed in the address bar while customers browse your online store. For example, if your store's primary domain is johnsapparel.com, then you can create a subfolder for Canada with the URL johnsapparel.com/en-ca and a subfolder for France with the URL johnsapparel.com/fr-fr.

If you're setting up Shopify Markets for the first time, then subfolders are the best option for the following reasons:

  • Subfolders require minimal setup.
  • Subfolders allow you to direct visitors automatically to the URL that matches their language and location preferences.
  • Because subfolders use your primary domain, your region-specific URLs benefit from your store's existing search ranking and domain authority.

SEO considerations for subdomains

Subdomains are a subset of your primary domain that you add as a prefix to your domain. For example, if your store's primary domain is johnsapparel.com, then you can create a subdomain for Canada with the URL ca.johnsapparel.com and a subdomain for France with the URL fr.johnsapparel.com.

Because subdomains belong to your primary domain, you can set them up for free on both Shopify-managed domains and third-party domains. However, they might not benefit as strongly as subfolders from your primary domain's search ranking and keywords, and might take longer to develop domain authority.

SEO considerations for top-level domains

Top-level domains are the extension at the end of a domain. To use top-level domains for your region-specific URLs, you need to buy a separate domain name with a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) extension for every target market that you want to set up. For example, if your store's primary domain is johnsapparel.com, then you can buy a .ca domain for Canada with the URL johnsapparel.ca, and a .fr domain for France with the URL johnsapparel.fr.

Only use top-level domains when you have a specific targeting strategy for a new market that you're expanding into. Because top-level domains are completely separate from each other, each region-specific version of your store develops its own domain authority and search ranking. As a result, this method takes the most time and effort to build up your SEO.

SEO considerations for using your primary domain only

Your primary domain is the domain name that's displayed in the address bar while customers browse your online store. If you don't want to set up region-specific URLs, but you still want to offer localized shopping experiences with different languages and currencies, then you can use just your primary domain in combination with hreflang tags.

For example, if your store's primary domain is johnsapparel.com, then you use the same URL for every language and currency that you set up. Depending on which languages you enable in your Shopify admin, hreflang tags are added to your theme to tell search engines which countries your domain is used to target.

Because this method uses only one domain, search engines only generate keywords and search ranking for your primary domain. However, customers aren't automatically redirected to their local language and currency, and search results don't display localized versions of your store.

To enable customers to choose their local language and currency, you need to add a country selector to your online store. You can add a country selector by using the free Geolocation app or another country selector app that supports Shopify Markets.

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