4 Multilingual Ecommerce SEO Pitfalls to Be Aware of 4 Multilingual Ecommerce SEO Pitfalls to Be Aware of

Entering the worldwide marketplace promises ecommerce businesses more revenue and at the same time more headaches.

Especially, if you can use the same content multiple times, simply because several countries speak the same language (e.g. English for USA, Canada and Australia). The reality of search engines rules requires ecommerce owners to do more than just changing the domain name from .com to .ca or .au. Read about the pitfalls you may encounter on your path to your multilingual online store promotion.

Pitfall #1 Serving translations without changing the URLs

A common problem is when you have translated the whole site into another language, but have forgotten to change the URLs. Any words written in the URL string are read by the search engine bots and also take part into your ranking evaluation process, so please make sure to adjust them for each language your store accommodates.

Bad implementation:

example.com/en/womens-slip-resistant shoes/ example.com/fr/womens-slip-resistant shoes/

Good implementation:

example.com/en/womens-slip-resistant shoes/ example.com/fr/ chaussures-antiderapantes-pour femmes/

Pitfall #2 Absence or poor implementation of rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

These two tags are important to have in your page’s code as they help Google understand what country you want to target and ensure that Google serves the right language variant of your site to users from different countries.

Tags rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” are recommended to be used by stores that have content translated or targeted to different users from different regions, however, they don’t fix duplicate content issue in any way.

See how rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” should be applied correctly:

Case #1: different language for different countries

http://es.example.com/ http://us.example.com/

To guide Google that your Spanish version is the Spanish-language equivalent of the English site, include in the <head> section of the page http://us.example.com/ and in the <head> section of the page http://es.example.com/ the following:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-ES” href=”http://es.example.com/” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-US” href=”http://us.example.com/” />

The same should be done for all other pages of all language versions of your store.

Case #2: one language for different countries

A tricky one, let’s use an example for a product page where a black jacket is available in English for shoppers from Australia, UK and Canada. Here is a piece of code that should be used for such a page.

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-uk” href=”http://example.co.uk/en/women/black-jacket/” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-au” href=”http://au.example.com/en/women/black-jacket/” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-ca” href=”http://ca.example.com/en/women/black-jacket/” />

What to keep in mind:


Each page needs to have rel=”alternate” reference to all translations including itself.


You should refer to the language equivalent of the exact page, not of the root domain.

Bad implementation: Good implementation:
de.example.com/product-name-in-german.html alternates to es.example.com de.example.com/product-name-in-german.html alternates to es.example.com/product-name-in-spanish.html

Pitfall #3 Auto-redirecting users to a certain language version

Sometimes sites use online IP search to detect the region of a visitor’s location and automatically send them to the corresponding country version of the site. This may be a case of best intentions, but this does not always match the user’s needs. Google officially recommends to avoid this situation, as these redirects could actually prevent visitors as well as Search Engines from crawling the right data.

Pitfall #4 Mixing tags rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical”

Simply put, the rel=”canonical” tag is used to handle duplicate content issue, while rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” tags should be applied together to show connection between different language or country versions of one site. See the example below of correct implementation of rel=”canonical” tag. Go to Pitfall #2 to check rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” best practices.

Good implementation of rel=”canonical”:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/en/outdoors/slip-resistant-shoes/
example.com/en/women/slip-resistant-shoes/ example.com/en/outdoors/slip-resistant-shoes/

As a final thought, I would like to remind about the possible multiregional or multilanguage site solutions. The best results in terms of rankings on search engines will bring separate domains for different regional versions of the site, e.g. example.co.uk, example.au, example.ca.

Subdomains are less beneficial option, but still possible. For example, for users from the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada the store will be available at co.uk.example.com, au.example.com, ca.example.com respectively.

The most challenging in terms of SEO will be to distinguish the site regional versions by placing in different folders – example.com/uk, example.com/au, example.com/ca. Webmasters don’t usually recommend this option.