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SEO Considerations for Shopify: How Shopify Limits Your SEO
December 9, 2021
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms available currently with almost 50,000 websites in the UK using the Shopify platform. This is thanks to its easy to use navigation, a great collection of exciting themes and a tempting pricing structure that attracts small start-up businesses and major brands alike, often resulting in a wealth of success.
However, websites that use Shopify have also experienced some problems with SEO due to the way in which the platform is structured. In this article, we dive deeper into these issues and find examples of how Shopify causes major problems to websites’ SEO*.
*Please be aware that we have reviewed issues that would occur for users of Shopify without further development work going into the platform
Forced URL Structure
One of the main drawbacks of using the Shopify platform is that they have a predetermined hierarchical structure that your website and URLs have to follow. Following a logical structure on your site is essential for performance in search, as it indicates a clear path for both users and search engines. Therefore, if you want your site to be fully optimised, having control of your site structure and being able to create custom URLs is essential.
On Shopify, every page you create on your site will have a folder that cannot be changed, for example:
Because of this issue, you are unable to create a subcategory of the root collection, you will have to create a new category altogether. Due to this structure, multiple URLs are created for the same page, leading to further problems.
One of the major issues that arise from using Shopify is the duplicate content created due to its internal linking structure. Multiple URLs are present for the same page and the same content which means that duplicate content is produced. We found examples of this when looking into Nicce Clothing and evaluating their HTML tags.
There are multiple paths reaching the same product page. This creates duplicate product pages with the same item and content but a different URL. Below are some examples of this occurring.
All of these URLs
Lead to the same page with the exact same content
How this impacts SEO
Duplicate content can be very problematic for search engines as they are unable to determine which of the duplicate pages should be returned in the SERPs. This leads to cannibalisation, making it harder for each of the pages to rank and the search engine giving the preference to other webpages.
NICCE has combated this with canonical tags to show search engines the preferred version of the page. By having a canonical tag, Google will essentially count both of these duplicate pages as one and will make the canonicalised pages non-indexable.
Delay the Indexation Process
This can delay the indexing process as it makes it more difficult for search engines to discover your pages. Google is likely to follow the pages which follow the structure. So when trying to find a product page, it is likely to go through the direction of the home page, category page and then to the product page. But this will have a different URL if it went directly to the product page. Even though the canonical tag will direct Google from the long URL to the product page, this can delay the indexation process.
Another issue caused by duplicate pages and canonicals is index bloat. Index bloat is when there are too many pages on a website being indexed which do not add any substance to the website. In this case, it’s these duplicate pages which are canonicalising to other pages. Even if Google is being told to serve 1 page, avoiding duplicate content, it still crawls all of those pages. This leads to SEO problems as it wastes the crawl budget, decreases the original quality of the domain and lowers the ranking potential of the other pages.
Updated Robots.txt Capabilities
As mentioned above, one of the limitations of Shopify was the inability to edit the robots.txt file, which prevented website owners from directing to Google which parts of the site to not index and other directives. However, since June 2021, Shopify has updated their platform to enable users to edit the robots.txt file.
All Shopify sites start off with the default robots.txt file which Shopify states is suitable for most of the sites that will be on their platform, but if users wish to, they can now edit it. Users are able to make changes to the robots.txt file by accessing the robots.txt.liquid theme template.
You can now make the following changes to the robots.txt file:
Allow or disallow certain URLs from being crawled
Add crawl-delay rules for certain crawlers
Add extra sitemap URLs
Block certain crawlers
How To Access The robots.txt.liquid Theme Template:
Go to Themes from your Online store
Click on Actions and then select Edit Code
Choose the Add a new template, and then select robots
Click Create template
Make the edits to the template as you wish
Save the changes made in your published theme
While this is a welcome change for website owners, Shopify has given warning to those who edit it that this is “unsupported customization” and that the Shopify support team will be unable to help with edits made. Shopify warned that “Incorrect use of the feature can result in loss of all traffic”.
Non-optimised Tag Pages
Tag pages allow the user to filter the products available within that category according to their requirements. This is especially useful if you have a large and varied inventory. However, with Shopify, you are unable to create content for these pages. This can be problematic if you have different variations of the same type of product, for example, a clothing company that wants to have a separate page for zipped hoodies and pull-over hoodies. You can create these different pages, but it is difficult to add content to these sub-category pages. The example below shows an example of a root category page and a tag page that comes under this category with the exact same content.
How To Work Around This Issue
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to add custom content to the tag pages through the admin panel. You will need to add code for every tag, which can be time-consuming and increase the length of the code. For adding custom content to the tag pages, without creating duplicate page titles, you add the following code to your collection.liquid file.
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