What does Shopify Markets mean for international SEO?

Joe Ball

SEO Director

28th September 2021

~ 4 min read

This post summarizes the news that Shopify is planning to launch international markets within their content management system (CMS), and how this update may impact your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and strategies for small, medium or large businesses.


What is Shopify Markets?

Shopify is one of the biggest players in eCommerce, known for offering a templatized, easy-to-use, and user-friendly CMS. However, Shopify has not previously been at the forefront of offering international solutions for business owners utilizing their platform. This is something they are working to address, particularly with the launch of Shopify Markets in September 2021.

Within the recent announcement are a number of updates in relation to international marketing, payments, fulfillment and language translation. The launch of Shopify Markets includes new updates and features, including:

  • International SEO solutions regarding the use of multiple domains and, more interestingly, the rollout of international subfolders (more to come on this later!)
  • Translation of store content into as many as 20 different languages
  • The ability to convert your storefront pricing into 133 different currencies worldwide
  • Increased support for new payment methods across different countries, as well as support handling duties and import fees when shipping internationally

When can I start utilizing these new features?

Shopify users and business owners are able to apply for early access to these new features, but there is not a lot of clarity on how many applicants will have access, or when the international rollout will be available for every single Shopify business owner.

There are notable differences between the standard Shopify plan, which is used by the vast majority of Shopify users, and the Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus plans. On top of the capabilities offered by the standard Shopify plan, the Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus plans include additional features, such as:

  • The ability to set individual market pricing as opposed to automated converted pricing
  • Customizable catalogs and storefronts on a market-by-market basis to improve localization for specific countries where desired (more on why this matters later)
  • A greater breadth of fulfillment locations per market

Will the Shopify international market changes improve my site’s SEO?

It certainly might! International SEO is challenging - there are no two ways about it. There are many decisions to make when building an international SEO strategy that both protects and enhances SEO performance in existing and new markets. Some of those decisions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Choosing whether to use country code top-level domains, international subfolders or international subdomains - and deciding which of the three will set you up for the most SEO success
  • Effectively and conveniently handling hreflang annotations from country to country and from page to page
  • Managing the translation of content to ensure Google is viewing an appropriately localized website in any given international market and language

Historically, Shopify’s simplicity, ease-of-use and accessibility to all levels of business owner, regardless of digital expertise, has driven its meteoric rise to among the top CMS providers globally. It’s therefore been welcome news that Shopify has developed a way to simplify internationalization for business owners who may have previously wanted to expand their businesses into new markets, but feared the difficulties that often come with global expansion. Prior to Shopify Markets, finding solutions to the challenges listed above would have demanded additional investment in development resources.

So, what will the final rollout of these features look like, and do they fully address core international SEO needs? Although we don't yet have the answers to these questions, theoretically the announcement suggests that Shopify Markets can allow for the optimal implementation of international SEO, utilizing subfolders while syndicating critical needs such as hreflang and localized content.

Is Shopify or Shopify Markets right for my SEO needs?

While it may sound like Shopify has just addressed an important SEO need through their recent update, marketers must still carefully consider their decision to use Shopify or Shopify Markets over other CMS platforms.

In the SEO community, there are still question marks around Shopify’s suitability as a CMS that stands up to intense scrutiny. In truth, there are few, if any, out-of-the-box solutions that do. For the reasons why Shopify is so wildly successful, are the same reasons why it might not be the right solution for every prospective business owner. For example, while having heavily templated solutions allows for fantastic ease-of-use, there is inherently a lack of flexibility for more advanced digital marketing nuances and an inability to gain absolute control over website changes. You can read more about some of the SEO limitations of Shopify in our three-part blog series.

Naturally, there are other things to consider when choosing a CMS with international capabilities than just ease-of-use. Spotify Markets details the fees involved with these new features, starting with a 0.85% fee on every international sale, increasing to 1.5% if Shopify Payments is not the chosen payment provider. There is also a 1.5% fee per order when currency is converted. A small or medium-sized business owner may accept this as a necessity to grow their business, but larger companies may not see this as a scalable and long-term solution.

Ultimately, it's up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each CMS to decide which would best support you in reaching your business goals. If you're interested in learning more about Shopify Markets and how it can impact your international SEO capabilities, please get in touch with our SEO team.

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