Shopify SEO: Guide to Optimizing Shopify [Updated for 2022]

Shopify SEO: Guide to Optimizing Shopify [Updated for 2022]

The Shopify SEO platform has been steadily growing in popularity over the years. Looking at builtwith usage statistics, we can see that CMS usage has more than doubled since October 2017. Currently, 4.24 out of the top 10,000 sites and 3.02% of the top 100,000 are using Shopify.

Since we’ve worked with a good amount of Shopify stores, we’d like to share our process for common SEO fixes we help our customers with. The guide below should outline some of the common adjustments we make to the Shopify store.

Shopify SEO

What is Shopify SEO?

Shopify SEO is a set of SEO adjustments that are unique to the Shopify platform. While Shopify stores come with some useful things for SEO, like blogs and the ability to redirect, it can also create SEO issues like duplicate content.

Some of the most common Shopify SEO recommendations are:

  1. Remove duplicate URLs from internal linking architecture
  2. Remove Duplicate Paginated URLs
  3. Create blog content for keywords with informative intent
  4. Add “Products,” “Articles,” and “Breadcrumblist” Structured Data
  5. Determine how to handle product type pages
  6. Compress Images Using Crush.Pix
  7. Remove Unnecessary Shopify Apps

We’ll see below how we handle each of these recommendations:

Duplicate content

In terms of SEO, duplicate content is the top priority issue we have made by Shopify. Duplicate content occurs when duplicate or identical content exists on two different URLs. This creates problems for search engines because they may not be able to determine which of the two pages should be the canonical version. On top of this, many times the link signals get split between pages.

We’ve seen Shopify create duplicate content in a number of different ways:

  1. duplicate product page
  2. Duplicate archive page via pagination

Duplicate product page

Shopify builds this problem into its product pages. By default, Shopify stores allow their /products/pages to serve on two different URL paths:

  • Canonical URL path: /products/
  • Non-canonical URL path: /archive/.*/products/

This requires setting up Shopify accounts by making sure that all /collections/.*/products/pages include a canonical tag for the associated /products/page. Note how the URL of the address differs from the “Authenticated” field:

While this certainly helps Google consolidate duplicate content, a more dangerous problem arises when you look at the internal linking structure. By default, Shopify will link to the non-genuine version of all of your product pages.

Additionally, we’ve also seen links to non-canonical versions of Shopify URLs appear when websites use “swatch” internal links that point to other color variants.

Thus, Shopify by default builds the architecture of your entire site around non-canonical links. This creates a high-priority SEO problem because the website is sending conflicting signals to Google:

  1. “Here are the pages we link to most often internally”
  2. “However, the pages we link to frequently are not the URLs we really want to be ranking on in Google. Please index these other URLs with some internal links”

While canonical tags are generally respected, remember that Google treats these as pointers rather than instructions. This means that you are up to Google to make a decision about whether the content is duplicated every time these pages are crawled. We prefer not to leave it to chance, especially when working with massive amounts of material.

Adjusting the internal linking structure

Luckily, there’s a relatively easy fix for this. We have been able to work with our dev team to adjust the code in the product.grid-item.liquid file. Following those instructions will point your Shopify site’s archive page to the canonical /product/ URL.

Duplicate archive page

Also, we have seen many Shopify sites that create duplicate content through the site’s pagination. More specifically, a duplicate of the first archive page in a particular series is created. This is because once you are on a paged URL in a series, the link to the first page will have “?page=1”:

However, it will almost always be a duplicate page. A URL with “?page=1” will almost always contain the same content as the original non-parameterized URL. Once again, we recommend that a developer adjust the internal linking structure so that the first paged result points to the authentic page.

Product type page

While this is technically an extension of Shopify’s duplicate content from above, we thought it warranted its own section because it’s not always an SEO problem.Shopify SEO

It’s not uncommon to see Shopify stores where multiple product URLs are created for the same product with slight variations. In this case, this duplicate content can cause problems because many times the original product is the same, but only a minor feature (color, for example) has changed. This means that multiple pages can exist with duplicate/similar product details and images. Here is an example of duplicate pages created by a variant: https://recordit.co/x6YRPkCDqG

If left alone, this once again creates an instance of duplicate content. However, the SEO of the variant URL is not the problem. In fact, some sites can benefit from these URLs because they allow you to have indexable pages that can be customized for very specific conditions. Whether or not these are beneficial will vary from site to site. Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do your customers ask questions based on different phrases?
  • Do you have the resources to create unique content for all of your product types?
  • Is this material unique enough to stand on its own?

For a more in-depth guide, Jenny Halasz wrote a great article on determining the best course of action for product variations. If your Shopify store has product types, it’s worth determining quickly whether or not these pages should exist at a different URL. If they must, you should create unique content for each and optimize each for that type of target keyword.

Crawling and indexing

After analyzing quite a few Shopify stores, we have found a few SEO items that are unique to Shopify in terms of crawling and indexing. Since this is often a critical component of ecommerce SEO, we thought it would be a good idea to share with people who apply to Shopify.

robots.txt file

By default, Shopify creates a robots.txt file with pre-written “Reject” commands for your store. We find that in most cases, Shopify’s default robots.txt rules are sufficient for most store owners. You can see an example of Shopify’s default robots.txt rules here:

Here are some sections of the site that Shopify will not allow crawling:

  1. admin area
  2. check out
  3. Command
  4. shopping cart
  5. internal search
  6. policies page

However, as Shopify stores become larger and more customized, there is a greater chance that you may need to adjust the robots.txt file. Fortunately, as of June 2021, Shopify now lets you update the robots.txt file.

To edit the Shopify robots.txt file, store owners must create a robots.txt.liquid file and then create custom rules to specify any changes.

To create a robots.txt.liquid file, store owners can take the following steps:

  1. Login to your Shopify admin area
  2. In the left sidebar, go to Online Store > Themes
  3. Choose Action > Edit Code
  4. Under “Templates,” select the “Add new template” link
  5. Find the dropdown on the far left and select “robots.txt”
  6. Select “Create Template”

This should create your Shopify robots.txt.liquid file. You can then add rules to your robots.txt.liquid file by adding the Liquid code. Fortunately, adding this code isn’t too difficult, and Shopify does a good job of shedding light on how to do it in their official documentation. Following these steps should allow you to have more control over which URLs are crawled on your Shopify site.

sitemap.xml

By default, Shopify will generate a Sitemap.xml index file at the URL path “domain.com/sitemap.xml”. Shopify’s sitemap.xml index file will automatically create links to child sitemaps that include URLs for the following page types:

  1. Product page (sitemap_products_1.xml)
  2. archive page (sitemap_archive_1.xml)
  3. Blog Posts (sitemap_blogs_1.xml)
  4. Marketing page (sitemap_page_1.xml)

This sitemap.xml file will be updated dynamically as new pages are added/removed in the site. In general, the Shopify sitemap.xml is good to go with out of the box and doesn’t need to be adjusted.

One thing to note is that Shopify will include any published pages in the sitemap.xml file. The most common problem we see is that legacy pages that are published but are no longer linked to the site are included in the sitemap.xml file. It is worth crawling your sitemap.xml to find any examples of published pages that are included in the sitemap but are not critical for search engines to crawl.

Adding a “noindex” tag

While you cannot adjust robots.txt, Shopify allows you to add a “noindex” tag. You can exclude a specific page from the index by adding the following code to your theme.liquid file.

{% if template contains ‘search’ %}

<meta name = “robot” content = “noindex”>

{% end if %}

Also, if you want to exclude an entire template, you can use this code:

{% if handle contains ‘page-handle-you-wanted-to-exclude’ %}

<meta name = “robot” content = “noindex”>

{% end if %}

Redirect

Shopify allows you to implement out-of-the-box redirects, which is great. You can use it to consolidate old/expired pages or any other content that no longer exists. You can do this by going to:

  1. online stores
  2. Guidance
  3. url redirect

The big thing to keep in mind is that you need to delete a page before you can implement a redirect on Shopify. This means that you will want to be really sure that you are not going to use the page in the future. To make this process a little less stressful, we recommend implementing the “Rewind Backup” app.

Log files

As of now, Shopify doesn’t allow you to access log files directly through the platform. Shopify Support has confirmed this.

Fast Simon Implementation

Fast Simon is an enterprise solution that adds strong personalization features to your Shopify store, and is becoming increasingly popular. If your Shopify site is using Fast Simon technology, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking steps to accommodate any potential indexing issues from improper implementation.

Confirm that Fast Simon is pre-rendering your website content so that Google doesn’t run into crawling and indexing issues. This will give Googlebot a server-side, rendered version of your site, making it easier for them to interpret the content. For more information you can read our case study here.

Structured data

product structured data

Overall, Shopify does a great job with structured data. Many Shopify themes should have “product” markup out-of-the-box that provides important information to Google like your product name, description, price, and more. This is probably the top priority structured data on any e-commerce site, so it’s great that multiple themes do this for you.

Shopify sites can also benefit from expanding product structured data to archive pages. This involves adding product structured data to define each individual product link in a product listing page. The good folks at Distilled recommend including this structured data on category pages.

Article structured data

Also, if you use Shopify’s blog functionality, you must use “articles” structured data. This is a great schema type that lets Google know that your blog content is more editorial in nature. Of all the informational content schemas, “paragraph” seems to be the one that Google might prefer as it is referenced in their official documentation. However, a “blogposting” schema is also another type of structured data that you can add to your Shopify blog.

Breadcrumblist structured data

One addition that we regularly add to Shopify sites is breadcrumb internal links with breadcrumblist structured data. We believe breadcrumbs are important to any e-commerce site, as they provide users with easy-to-use internal links that point to where they are within the website’s hierarchy. Also, these breadcrumbs can help Google better understand the structure of the website. We generally suggest adding site breadcrumbs to Shopify sites and marking them with Breadcrumblist structured data to help Google better understand those internal links.

Implementing Structured Data on Shopify

If you want to implement structured data and have a developer on hand, they might be good to combine the above structured data types. This ensures that these schema elements will always be present on your site.

However, if your development resources are more limited, we find that Schema App Total Schema Markup is a great option. This will include structured data types such as products and blogposting schemas on the appropriate pages of the site. Plus, it will also add an offer catalog schema to mark each product within a category page. Their support is also fantastic as they help the team with any technical issues you may face.

Improve Shopify site speed

One of the biggest complaints about Shopify is that it suffers from slow speeds. However, in comparison to other e-commerce platforms, we find that Shopify performs quite well. Out of the box, Shopify Fastly uses a CDN and takes advantage of browser caching to give you a solid performance base. In the past, we’ve actually benchmarked the average speed metric of 400+ Shopify sites. Below are the average performance metrics for the Shopify sites we tested in our dataset.

  • First Contentful Paint: 3.8 seconds
  • Interactive time: 22.1 seconds
  • Total Page Size: 4.41 MB
  • Total Image Assets: 2.1 MB
  • Request: 171

In terms of performance improvement, below are the things we generally recommend our clients to do:

  • lazy load images with lazy library
  • Automatically compress images using Crush.pics
  • Remove any underused Shopify apps
  • Manually resize and compress large images on high priority pages
  • Migrate tracking code to Google Tag Manager

keyword research

Doing keyword research for Shopify stores will be similar to research you would do for other e-commerce stores.

Some common ways to generate keywords are:

  • Export your keyword data from Google AdWords. Track and optimize the ones that generate the most revenue for the site.
  • Research your AdWords keywords that have a high conversion rate. A high conversion rate indicates that this keyword is more transactional, even when the volume is low.
  • Review the keywords for which the site currently gets clicks/impressions in Google Search Console.
  • Research your high priority keywords and generate new ideas using Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
  • Run to your competitors through tools like Ahrefs. Using the “Content Gap” report, you can find keyword opportunities where competing sites are ranking, but yours is not.
  • If you have keywords that use the same modifier, you can use mergewords to automatically generate a large number of keyword variations.

keyword optimization

Similar to Yoast SEO, Shopify allows you to customize key elements like your title tag, meta description, and URL. Where possible, you should use your target keywords in these elements.

To adjust these elements, all you need to do is navigate to the page you want to adjust and scroll down to “Search Engine List Preview”:

Adding Content to Product Pages

If you decide that each individual product should be indexed, ideally you will want to add unique content to each page. Initially, your Shopify products may not have exclusive on-page content associated with them. This is a common problem for Shopify stores, as many times the same description is used across multiple products or no description is present. Combining product descriptions with on-page best practices will give your products the best chance of ranking in SERPs.

However, we understand that it takes time to create unique content for each product you offer. With customers in the past, we have taken a targeted approach about which products to customize first. We like to use the “Sales by Product” report that can help prioritize the most important products to start adding content. You can find this report in Analytics > Dashboard > Top Products by Units Sold.

By taking this approach, we can quickly identify some of the highest priority pages in the store to optimize. Then we can work with a copywriter to start creating content for each individual product. Also, keep in mind that your product descriptions should always be written from a user-focused view. Writing about the features of the product they care about most will give your site the best chance of improving both conversions and SEO.

Shopify Blog

Shopify includes the ability to create blogs, but we often see it missing from a large number of Shopify stores. This makes sense, since revenue is the primary goal of an e-commerce site, so the initial creation of the site is product-focused.

However, we live in an era where it is becoming harder and harder to rank product pages in Google. For example, the screenshot below shows the top 3 organic results for the term “cloth diaper”:

While many believe this to be primarily a transactional query, we are seeing Google ranking two articles and a product listing page in the top three results. This is just one example of a major trend we’ve seen where Google is starting to rank more informative content above transactions.

By delisting a blog from the Shopify store, we feel that it has resulted in a huge missed opportunity for many businesses. Incorporating a blog gives you a natural place where you can create this informational content. If you’re noticing that Google is ranking more blog/article types of content for keywords mapped to your Shopify store, your best bet is to go out and create that content yourself.

If you run a Shopify store (or an e-commerce site), we urge you to take some of the following steps:

  1. Identify your top priority keywords
  2. Manually execute google query for each
  3. Pay attention to what type of content Google is ranking on the first page. Is it primarily informational, transactional, or a mixture of the two?
  4. If you are looking primarily for mixed or informational content, evaluate your content to see if you have any content that matches the intent of the user. If so, improve the quality and optimize.
  5. If you don’t have this content, consider creating new blog content around informative topics that meet user intent.

As an example, we have a client who is interested in ranking for the term “CRM software”, which is an extremely competitive keyword. While analyzing the SERPs, we found that Google mainly asked “What is CRM software?” About was ranking informational pages. Since they only had one product page that highlighted their specific CRM, we suggested that customers create a more informative page that talks about what CRM software is in general and the benefits it offers. After creating and optimizing the page, we soon saw a significant increase in organic traffic (credits to Aly Mickler):

The problem we see on many Shopify sites is that informational pages get very little attention, despite the fact that they perform well in search engines. Most Shopify sites should use a blogging platform, as it will provide an opportunity to create informative content that will result in organic traffic and revenue.

Apps

Similar to WordPress’s plugins, Shopify offers “apps” that allow you to add advanced functionality to your site without manually adjusting the code. However, unlike WordPress, most of the Shopify apps you get are paid. This will require either a one-time or monthly fee.

Shopify Apps for SEO

While your best bet is likely to be working with a developer who is comfortable with Shopify, here are some Shopify apps that can help improve your site’s SEO.

  • Crush.pics: A great automated way to compress large image files. Important for most Shopify sites as many of these sites are highly image-based.
  • Schema App Total Schema Markup: This app can be used when you don’t have a Shopify developer able to add custom structured data to your site.
  • Smart SEO: An app that uses meta tags, alt tags and JSON-LD . can add
  • Yotpo Reviews: This app can help you add product reviews to your site, making your content eligible for rich review stars in the SERPs.
  • Rewind Backup: Creates a backup of your site. It’s great to implement before making development changes or adding redirects.

Is Yoast SEO Available for Shopify?

Yes! As of January 2022, Yoast is available on Shopify. You can find the app here.

Limiting Your Shopify Apps

Similar to WordPress plugins, Shopify apps will put additional code on your site. This means that adding a large number of apps can slow down the site. Shopify sites are particularly susceptible to bloat, as many apps are focused on improving conversions. Often times, these apps will add more JavaScript and CSS files which can hurt page load times. You will want to make sure that you regularly audit the apps you are using and remove any apps that are not adding value or are being used by the site.

Customer results

We’ve seen great success with our customers using the Shopify store. Below you can see some of the results we have been able to achieve for them. However, please note that these case studies do not include only the recommendations above. For these clients, we have used a combination of some of the recommendations mentioned above as well as other SEO initiatives.

In one example, we worked with a Shopify store that was interested in ranking for very competitive terms around the main product their store was focused on. We evaluated their top-performing products in the “Sales by Product” report. This resulted in a great deal of effort working with clients to add new content to their product pages as they were not initially optimized. This combined with other initiatives helped them improve their first page rankings by 113 keywords (credits to Jennifer Wright and Laronda Sparrow).

In another example, a client came to us with an issue that they weren’t ranking for their branded keywords. Instead, third-party retailers who also carried their own products often overtook them. We worked with them to adjust their internal linking structure to point to canonical pages instead of duplicate pages created by Shopify. We have also optimized their content on relevant pages to make better use of branded terminology. As a result, they have seen a decent rise in the overall ranking in just a few months.

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