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How to create a Multilingual Shopify store in 2023

Why is Shopify a good option for internationalized eCommerce?

How to translate a Shopify store

In order to proceed, you will need to ask yourself several questions, which will necessitate a brief planning phase.

Angry worker staring at laptop

What languages will I be translating?

What should be my store primary language?

This is entirely up to you; if you follow the correct steps, it should have no effect on your SEO, so it really comes down to which language you prefer to work with the most. My first language is French, but I prefer to work in English, so my store is set to English and I translate into French.

Which theme should I choose?

Shopify has very rigorous theme store requirements and an approval process for the themes listed on the Shopify theme store, therefore I can vouch for them based on quality.

I’ve personally created custom themes for my clients, and it takes a lot of effort to match the quality of an officially approved theme. You can also use a free theme to start and test your market, but I would recommend upgrading to a premium theme for the built quality and core web vitals any day.

Shopify Themes

The big mistake to avoid here is getting a theme from Theme Forest or other sources; I’ve dealt with these in the past, and you’ll pay a high price in site speed and store quality for skimping on your initial investment in your online business.

In the long run, having one of theses themes will cost you a lot of money in lost sales since you will not rank as high as you could have been and may end up having a bad conversion rate.

What Shopify apps should I be using?

I’ve tried out several apps in the past to see which one is best for me. My main criteria were straightforward: multilingual support, multilingual SEO, ease of implementation, a reasonable price (ideally free), and excellent customer service.

I also made certain that I could use both automatic translations and manual translations on top of them.

I found a few competitors, but T Lab AI Language Translate emerged as the clear winner. The app is free and simple to use; it offers manual and automatic translations via Google NMT (neural machine translations), which I found to be quite good overall. They also accept multiple currencies and have a language switcher.

Its closest competitor is Weglot, which has 2000 free AI-translated words, but this app did not provide me with the freedom that T Lab did.

Should I use automatic translations?

Google translate logo

Automatic translations are a great way to quickly translate your store, but they are not without flaws. AI and machine learning are catching up to humans, but nothing is worth a human translation just yet.

What I would recommend here is to use T Lab’s automatic translations within your budget constraints, manually review each one, and translate by hand the easiest one.

Another good strategy I employ is to open a second tab and use the free Google Translate.

What is the cost of a Shopify multilingual store?

If we add up everything in this article, we have one Shopify monthly subscription (38$ CAD or 29$ USD), we could use a free Shopify theme (0$) or a paid one (ranging from 250$ USD to 350$ USD), and we could use a free app in T Lab or pay a maximum of 29.99$ USD if we want to go fully automatic.

The total initial cost ranges from zero dollars (free) to around three hundred dollars (USD).

The total monthly cost ranges from 29$ USD to 58.99$ USD per month, which is not bad considering most good web hosting will cost you the same price for most web platforms and may not even include translations or eCommerce.

How to setup a Shopify store for multiples languages

The obvious first step is to set up a Shopify store; as a Shopify Partner, I can collaborate with you to set up a development store that will be free until you go live. Please contact me even if you intend to build it yourself; as a partner, I receive a small monthly fee for referring you, which helps to support my work.

This allows us to build and create your store without rushing and enable billing when you are ready to go live, or you can choose their 14-day trial.

The first step after logging in is to install a theme. For demonstration purposes, I’ll be using Dawn, a free Shopify theme. It doesn’t have a lot of customization options, but it’s built with modern best practises, so it’s a good place to start. It is also a very valid theme for starting to sell and market your ideas.

Click Online store and Themes on the dashboard’s left side. Then select Dawn and press the publish button.

Multilingual Shopify store Setup

The second step is to download T Lab – AI Language Translate from their app store by going to their app store page and clicking the Add app button. This will take you to a very simple process for installing the app; simply press Install app on the second screen.

Multilingual Shopify store App

This will take you to the app configuration page once completed. Simply click the configure languages button, select the languages to be translated, and then add and publish them.

Multilingual Shopify store Choose languages

In my case, I added French because this is a bilingual site, and English was chosen as the primary site language.

Multilingual Shopify store Publish languages

That’s all! Your store is now multilingual, and the setup took only 2 minutes. However, there are two more steps that must be taken to ensure that search engines recognise your languages and that users can select their preferred languages.

The importance of hreflang tags

You may be wondering what hreflang tags are. It’s straightforward: the most important factor in ranking your multilingual website and in informing search engines which pages represent which languages.

It is frequently overlooked, but if not addressed, it will severely harm your SERP ranking.

I use a Chrome extension called Hreflang tag checker to ensure that all of my websites are built correctly, and I strongly advise you to do the same. Even if your website is not currently on Shopify, you can use this extension to ensure that you are properly configured. This is a recurring issue I’ve seen with custom-built websites.

Fortunately, Shopify does it automatically and adds each language’s URLs to your sitemap. I would still advise you to double-check it before going live with your store.

You can also use this code snippet to set your store’s canonical URL.

  {%- if canonical_url != blank -%}
    <link rel="canonical" href="{{ canonical_url }}">
  {%- endif -%}

If you followed my instructions and used a Shopify-approved theme, you should not have to make any changes to your code.

How to translate Shopify URL slugs

Long have I believed URL slugs to be a ranking factor for search engine optimization and chastised Shopify for not allowing us to change them, but after digging deeper into the web, I discovered an answer from Ahrefs containing a conversation with John Mueller, Google’s Search advocate himself, confirming that URL slugs are only a very lightweight factor and the language doesn’t matter.

This is entirely dependent on who you believe your users are; if you believe your audience is mostly French, it may be a good idea to choose French as your primary language for readability on social media when you share your URLs.

Multilingual Shopify store language switcher

How to change Shopify language – Language Switcher

It’s a breeze with T Lab. Simply open the switcher tab from the app view and select Go to Shopify Theme Editor.

Multilingual Shopify Store Language Switcher

This will take you to a page where all you have to do is toggle on the language switcher, and you’re done!

Conclusion

We’ve finished! You now have a fully operational, multilingual Shopify store and can begin building.

I hope you found this article helpful, and if you ever feel overwhelmed by building a store on your own, please contact me; it will be my pleasure to work with you on your online business.

Until then, have a wonderful day!