How to Translate Your OpenCart Shop In Different Languages

Did you know that 72.4% of online shoppers prefer to use their native language when shopping online?

What is even more compelling: 55% of global consumers said they only buy products from websites that provide them with information in their own language.

Do you notice a lot of visitors of your website coming from other countries or speaking other languages? If your answer is "Yes", it might be time to think about translating your shop. As the statistics above confirm, this is the best way to reach all those non-English speaking markets. This is also known as international SEO (or geotargeting).

International SEO means that you'll want to tailor your website's content to the country that the visitor is coming from—you'll want to use their currency, language and even time zone, you'll use SEO keywords in their language.

International SEO will allow you to target either specific countries or specific languages.

For example, you can target the country Germany in particular or you can target all German-speaking countries.

How does SEO work internationally?

Search engines try to deliver the most relevant results to their users. That's why search results are localized—they are tailored for the country the user is in and the user's native language. For example, if you're located in Italy, by default Google will redirect you to the google.it website.

To optimize your website for non-English language searches, you will need to do more than simply translating the content in another language.

To find out how to properly localize an ecommerce site, we have to take a look at how search engines rank websites in localized search results.

Since Google accounts for 67% of all search engine traffic, I'll only focus on how Google ranks localized sites.

How does Google pick which websites to display in localized search results?

They look for the following signs:

  1. Use of a country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) (.co.uk, .de, .com.au, and so on) is generally a strong signal that your website is localized for that country
  2. Manual geotargeting via Google Webmaster Tools. Changing the "International Targeting" setting in your Google Webmaster Tools will allow you to tell the search engine that your website is localized for a specific country.
  3. Server location. If the IP address of your website is in the same geographic region as the people searching through Google, this might be a sign for the search engine that your website is localized. However, Google doesn't rely too much on this signal, because some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure.
  4. Other signals. These could be the addresses and phone numbers on the "Contact us" page, the use of local language and currency, links from other local sites, etc.

Signals 1 and 2 are the most important ones in the above list.

Telling Google that your shop is localized

You have 3 options.

A: Purchase Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs)

These are country-specific domains like .co.uk, .de, .com.au (e.g. yourstore.de, yourstore.co.uk), and so on. This is by far your best bet if you're targeting a specific country. Google say it's a clear sign for them that the website is localized for the country in question.

  • Pros:
    • Best chance to rank higher in localized search engine search results
    • Increases trust in potential customers
    • Local sites are more willing to link to a local ccTLD (better for link building)
  • Cons:
    • There might be legal complications (e.g. to register a .com.au domain, you need to own a registered business in Australia).
    • Separate sites per country instead of separate sites per language

B: Subdomains for each localized website

Instead of getting a ccTLD for each country, you can use separate subdomains (e.g. de.yourstore.com). A subdomain will be harder to rank locally than a ccTLD, but it offers other advantages.

  • Pros:
    • Every backlink to one of the subdomains benefits your entire site.
    • Content can be grouped by language instead of by country
    • Easy to set up
    • You can use geotargeting in Google Webmaster Tools for the country-specific subdomains (you can tell Google which country you are targeting with each subdomain)
  • Cons:
    • Your website must compete against ccTLDs in local search engine results
    • It can be confusing for your customers
    • Your potential customers will not have as much confidence as they would with a ccTLD

C: Subdirectories for each localized website

Your last option is having country-specific subdirectories (e.g. yourstore.com/de).

  • Pros:

    • Every backlink to one of the subdomains benefits your entire site.
    • Content can be grouped by language instead of country
    • Easy to set up
    • You can use geo-targeting in Google Webmaster Tools with the country-specific subdomains
  • Cons:
    • Your website must compete against ccTLDs in local search engine results
    • It can be confusing for your customers
    • Your potential customers will not have as much confidence as they would in a ccTLD

What can you do right now?

  1. Take a look at your Google Analytics data. Does it make more sense to target a specific country or a specific language?
  2. Choose one of the above options.
  3. Purchase the necessary ccTLDs, if you decided to use that option. Don't do anything yet if you chose one of the other 2 options.

What's next?

In the next article of this series I'll tell you how to create each localized shop in OpenCart.

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