Hreflang in Shopify - setting up for Shopify Multi-language


When facing international expansion to offer your products outside of your main country, you inevitably start to localize your additional sites for currency, logistics and at times accessories and features. With this in mind, having additional websites of your products creates issues with Google and your SEO due to duplicate content, and will hit your authority when it comes to organic search rankings. This is because the user experience algorithm requires clarification - which is why Hreflang in Shopify is a must when it comes to setting up your online stores.


What are you solving?


Commercially, there are problems being solved by having additional sites with your portfolio and it is more than automatic translations. Selling your products in a different currency pushes you into multiple stores. Beyond having various Shopify stores, replicating the Shopify Theme, and adapting the products for the country being targeted, language translations can use Google's tools to achieve it if necessary. This means your English language site is a copy-n-paste to a new Shopify Account, change the currency, and add a Google Language toggle if need be.


Leveraging your main Shopify Store


The best part is that you are replicating the funnel in which you have fine-tuned, the user interface design will look familiar to the audience yet be in their currency. Visual design can all be replicated, and interaction designing can then be deployed across all the Shopify accounts. You can start selling quickly in English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and any country which uses English as a mother tongue. You do have to install again the same Shopify Apps in each store, where some have multi-store pricing. With your native language replicated, some with a translation App, the search results get challenged.


The Hreflang solution for Organic Search Results


After the commercial needs are satisfied, now you need to satisfy the Google Search Console's complaints and violations to get your SEO in order. Google expects you to have user-centered designs for a positive user experience - making the web a nicer place to navigate and find what you are looking for. Your eCommerce website is part of this paradigm.


Href is an HMTL attribute, and HrefLang is as well with the designation that alternate pages are to be considered for language and country/region. Do note you cannot duplicate two different languages and countries/regions to the same site - otherwise, you defeat the duplicate content issue.


To assign a designation of a site, with the following site structure:

4 websites: www.maindomain.com, uk.maindomain.com, ca.maindomain.com, eu.maindomain.com



Codes for the HrefLang designations can be obtained here: https://hreflang.org/list-of-hreflang-codes/


For the Rest of World, you must designate differently to a "default" site:


Using the EU site as the rest of the world is not quite the alignment but will work fine in capturing many countries and many languages, which is your most diverse set of regions and languages outside of the English-speaking mother tongue sites.


Your overall structure should look like this:



How do you deploy into your Shopify Stores?


There are rules you must follow for a successful deployment - this is checked by the Google Search Console as it measures your consistency and that you have working sites at each designation:

  1. Reciprocating Links - each page must reciprocate and link back. so the Canadian page links to the UK, the UK must link back to the Canadian page. In simple terms, the structure must be the same on each site.

  2. All pages must be "working" on the links, no 4XX, 5XX, it must be 200 in status.

  3. Every site must also self-reference itself and initialize it to ensure that this site is clearly identified.

In other words - you must copy and paste the same structure on all sites, and they must be all correct and working.

Adding it in Shopify can take several approaches - it can be added in the Sitemap XML file for example, or through your HTTP headers, but for most is via your HTML Tags. However, for the more savvy users/developers, they will go for the theme. liquid file, and add it there. It is a centralized location and will give you the most propagation with the least effort. This is what it would look like on the liquid file:


hreflang="x-default" href="{{ canonical_url | replace: shop.domain, 'www.eu.maindomain.com' }}" />

hreflang="en-CA" />

hreflang="en-GB" />

hreflang="en-US" />


Of course, the "maindomain.com" would be your online store's domain. However, you are editing your Theme, and if that's beyond your capabilities, you might need assistance from a Shopify Expert to execute this step properly. To propagate it to all your product pages and across all your sites, using a Custom Field is a good approach to achieve this, creating a new Meta field which will then propagate the HrefLang Meta field on all the pages.

There is a Shopify App that can offer you the Custom Fields: https://apps.shopify.com/custom-fields-2


Conclusion


While this approach highlights the importance and the first steps a Shopify Store can take in International waters when it comes to its eCommerce, it is important to note that by having additional online stores, you are taking greater risks in SEO - this means that you need to Audit your SEO on all stores to ensure the HrefLang is correctly defined and delivers the user experience intended. Search results will reflect your site more accurately depending on where the search came from, the currency they live in, and while the experience is improved, Google will rank you positively. Errors can be found in SEO Audits, or Google Search Console will catch issues as well as give you email notifications. If you need assistance in this area - feel free to reach out to us at wish@thegenielab.com


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