Creating an International Website

Looking to make your website easier for international buyers? Here are some of the first considerations to think about when making your new site.

  1. Pick a site segmentation strategy

How do you want users to get to the international part of your website? You can create a country level domain (aka international domain) that brings people directly to that webpage that is tailored to their culture/language. You can create a subdomain or a subfolder on your website as well, where you aren’t necessarily creating an entirely new site for each country, but sub-pages on your current site. The most important think to think about here is what the entry point on your website will be for international users.

  • International domain (i.e. ; country code top level domain
  • Subdomain (i.e.
  • Subfolder (i.e.
  1. Pick languages

There’s a good chance that your business already receives a significant amount of international traffic to your website. If your business website uses Google Analytics, the tool can help you pick the initial language (or languages) you want to start with. In Google Analytics you can find this information by navigating to the “Geo” tab and then clicking either “Language” or “Location.”

  1. Translate your content

Translating your website is where you should put the bulk of your efforts and resources. If a customer is going to purchase your product or service, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what your product or service offers.

You can use paid services like Bablic or Smartling to translate your website. Beware free solutions like Google and Bing Translate.  You’ll want the site to read naturally to the person of that language, which can be achieved by using a fluent and competent translator.

  1. Redirect your visitors

Step 1: Add a link element. Specify the language in your website homepage with a HTML link element pointing to the different language versions of your website.

Step 2: Give link options to visitors. You can add a series of manual links on your website that points international visitors to the proper language version of your website.

  1. Submit to search engines and utilize SEO

Google, Bing, & top search engines in the countries you’ve translated. StatCounter is a global statistics company that uses data collected from over 2 million websites globally. You can find the top search engines in many countries with StatCounter’s global search engine market share page. For example, 60% of people in China use Baidu.

Use key words – like “international shopping,” “international orders accepted,” etc. to increase SEO. Can also look up popular searches for similar products in specific countries.

A Word About International Sites and E-commerce

Money and payment providers often add complexity to international websites. While your site might be translated in French, it’s possible your payment provider isn’t available for people in France, or your payment provider might not accept the currency of the country. Be up front by letting your international visitors know right away if your payment processor accepts their country’s currency.


Here are some other key considerations…

Pay close attention to regulations. Of course, selling internationally brings a whole new set of rules. Once you’ve decided where you’ll sell, take the time to look into specific rules and regulations for that country. A few key areas to consider:

  • Duties and taxes.Find out if duties and taxes will affect the prices of items you plan to sell in target markets. Make sure you understand the rules that apply to your products so you can let your customers know about any expenses they’re expected to pay from the outset.
  • Customs.All your international shipments will have to make their way through customs, the agency that regulates shipments entering a country or region. Each package will need a customs form on the outside; some shipping services even help take care of this – do some checking to see if yours does.
  • Free-trade agreements.These agreements are good news for international sellers because they help reduce or eliminate tariffs for some products. The US has agreements with 20 countries, and while taking advantage of these agreements might mean more recordkeeping work for you, the savings are worth the extra effort.

Think about shipping and returns. The best practices you already apply to shipping are even more important when selling internationally.

  • Set clear delivery expectations. International shipping can take longer and cost more for customers, so it’s vital to keep them in the loop. Give accurate delivery estimates based on country and list shipping costs in an easy-to-find place.
  • Establish a return policy, and when putting your policy together, consider:
    • Any requirements as detailed by local consumer laws.
    • Refund stipulations, like when you’ll issue them and whether you’ll give store credit or a cash refund
    • Time limit for returns
    • Restocking, return delivery, or other fees.

With all these considerations, where do you start when building your site?

  1. Check your payment provider

Many payment providers have rules and restrictions in place for countries you can accept payments from. PayPal,

Square, Visa, and other payment processors can let you know where they accept payments. Different ecommerce platforms will work well with different payment methods. If you’re looking for a payment provider to assist in international payment processing, be sure to look for one that has a strong global reputation. To signal trust to customers on the different payment processing options available, you could add their logos to the footer of your website.

Research local buyers’ preferred payment methods. These vary significantly depending on the country. It probably won’t surprise you that most people prefer paying in their local currency. Some payment providers will let you list products in a number of different currencies. If you can’t offer payment in local currency, make sure to give a currency conversion so customers can see what they’re paying.  PayPal, for instance, will give you access to local funding methods, without the hassle of having to open multiple merchant accounts overseas. You can accept payments in more than 200 markets in 25 currencies. And it’s already built into the top ecommerce platforms and carts, so setup is easy.

  1. Pre-calculate shipping costs

International shipping is more expensive than local shipping due to distance, tariffs, and taxes. Before you start selling internationally, make sure you calculate shipping and handling costs to ensure you come out profitable at the end. This includes not only international shipping fees, but also fulfillment costs, warehousing, and shipping supplies.

You also have the option to tailor shipping methods available and how you charge for shipping based on the customer’s destination country, including slow and expedited options, flat-rate shipping, real-time rates, or free shipping over a certain threshold. **Look at Canadian websites

  1. Optimize your online store

No matter where your customers are shopping from, your store’s website is the buying hub. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to open unique online stores tailored for each country or region. Another option is to optimize your current website for international buyers with a multi-language translator tool or create landing pages optimized and tailored for different countries or regions.

For example, many ecommerce brands will provide an option (sometimes with flag icons on the top of the page) for international customers to view a page that’s in their language and featured products available in their area.

  1. Get a third-party fulfillment partner

A third-party logistics (3PL) partner can help you with almost every aspect of digital fulfillment and shipping when launching into a new international market. When researching 3PLs, ask them about their international fulfillment services and how they can help you get set up quickly. Example: Amazon, Alibaba

As always, remember to reach out to a SBDC International Trade Consultant to receive confidential one-on-one consulting as you embark on your international business journey.


Written by Sarah Mailloux, Certified Export and Trade Counselor

Newsmakers for March 22Sarah has years of experience helping businesses start, pivot, and grow. She specializes in market research & design, international business, and business ideation/start-up. She also has 5+ years of Wealth Management & Business Reporting experience. Sarah is an entrepreneur herself, consulting universities and business through academic coaching, instructional design, and non-profit marketing. She has a BS and MS in International Business, is an Export Certified Advisor, an is a Certified Ideation & Commercialization Coach.