Shopify is a popular website platform, growing in popularity every year and boasting an impressive 20% market share of the ecommerce market.
Created in 2004 by three Canadians, the platform has always focused on simplifying the website development process – meaning even beginners can build scalable online stores featuring 1000s of products.
A User-Friendly Ecommerce Platform
Having worked on several ecommerce platforms over the years, Shopify is undoubtedly our favourite to work on thanks to its clean interface and lack of ‘moving parts’ on the backend (Shopify hosts all sites themselves, removing an often-problematic level of integration).
When we develop a website we ideally want to be able to hand over to the client for them to be able to edit themselves – some ecommerce platforms (looking at you Joomla, EKM and Magento) are so fiddly that we often get calls to add a blog post or product, which is no fun for anyone and frankly a bit of a waste of the client’s money.
With Shopify you get that ease-of-use and more, meaning minor changes such as adding/removing products, content and making small design changes are relatively easy – so we can sit back and relax and focus on getting the store ranking as well as possible, which brings us on to a key point…..
SEO and Shopify…..A Sticking Point?
As mentioned above, we love Shopify, but out-of-the-box the sites do need a bit of tweaking to get them ranking well.
Here are a few pros and cons of how Shopify is set up for SEO:
- Site Speed
Site speed is the no.1 technical SEO factor for websites, slow sites will struggle to rank well and are also less likely to convert in general. Thanks to Shopify hosting the websites themselves, site loading speeds are usually good (provided you don’t overload with images, videos and apps) and there is very rarely any website downtime because of hosting issues.
At this time you cannot leverage browser caching, which is one downside preventing the sites from reaching the lightning-quick speeds of some other platforms.
- Meta Titles, Descriptions and H1 Setup
Meta titles, descriptions and header tags are all crucial to keyword targeting on your site.
In particular, it’s important to include target keywords in the meta title and H1 tag – which Shopify makes very easy thanks to its automatic settings for the header tag and ability to edit the meta title and description in the page editor.
- Canonical Tag Implementation
A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page.
Sounds like something CMS platforms should implement as standard? Unfortunately, this is not always the case – meaning other websites with similar content pages rank above yours.
Luckily, Shopify includes canonical tag implementation as standard, with self-referential canonical tags meaning each page will be perceived as the ‘master copy’ by search engines.
However, you can run into issues with products where both the /products/product-name URL and the collections/collection-name/products/product-name URL conflict and both are presented as the ‘canonical’. However, with a little theme customisation, you can again set the preferred URL to avoid duplication.
- Noindexing Irrelevant Pages
Making sure you are submitting relevant pages to search engines to be indexed is a crucial part of SEO – and unfortunately Shopify is a bit restrictive for selecting what to index and what to ignore.
‘Noindexing’ irrelevant pages is good for SEO as it means a search engine spends more time crawling the pages that matter on your site.
A few examples of pages that are indexable as standard but should be noindexed:
– Blog tag pages
– Duplicate product URLs (with and without variants)
– Search result pages
A solution for this is to use the Sitemap & Noindex Manager for selecting pages to be indexed, although some theme edits may also be required.
- Over-reliance on Apps
As touched on above, Shopify ‘out-of-the-box’ is quite limited from an SEO point of view. Making it more restrictiv, simplifies the platform for beginners but can be frustrating for more advanced web developers looking for greater customisation.
With its growth in popularity, these gaps in customisation have been plugged by apps – found on Shopify’s large app store – which can help you achieve a much greater level of functionality.
However, this often means that store owners become over-reliant on these apps, running several at a time which can slow the site down, increase monthly subscription costs and cause conflicts in the codebase.
Because of this, customising the theme (or hiring a Shopify developer) is often preferable to installing multiple apps.
- Product Tag Filters
Product tag filters are very easy to set up on Shopify enabling users to easily navigate through your products using your chosen variables.
This is an SEO’s dream as each of these pages can then be optimised.
Eg. If you have a generic ‘shoes’ collection set of products, these can then be filtered by colour meaning you get landing pages such as ‘red shoes’, ‘blue shoes’ and so on to optimise.
However, these filter landing pages cannot be easily optimised. They come with an ugly meta title template and you cannot add unique text to them from the backend.
This is where custom Shopify development comes into play – using a Shopify developer to manually insert this vital information and edit the boilerplate templates to allow for page-by-page optimisation.
We hope this list of pros and cons about SEO on Shopify has helped you decide if Shopify is right for your organisation.
Although Shopify started out primarily for smaller ecommerce stores, many major brands (Penguin books, Red Bull and Allbirds to name just a few) now use the platform for their web stores showing its potential.
In general, we love working on Shopify and would recommend it over other ecommerce platforms. That said, out-of-the-box it is a little more restrictive than other CMS’s meaning some extra customisation is recommended.
If you have found any other issues with optimising a Shopify store, let us know in the comments below.