Last updated on 3rd October 2023 at 19:02 by Alex Nicholas
Shopify is a popular eCommerce platform that empowers small businesses and online store owners to set up and manage their digital storefronts with ease, and whilst Shopify offers an array of features, tools, and services that make it a great platform for many online stores, it also comes with some inherent SEO issues that may negatively impact your store's search engine rankings.
In this article, I'll delve into the challenges of Shopify SEO, exploring the key Shopify SEO issues that can make it difficult for store owners to optimise their websites for search engines, how to fix SEO issues and attract organic traffic.
As a Shopify SEO consultant, I use and love Shopify for many reasons, but there are some things you should be aware of.
No Control over the Robots.txt File
One of the primary SEO issues cited with Shopify is the limited control store owners have over their site's robots.txt file and Shopify's inability to fully customise the robots.txt file.
The robots.txt file is a machine-readable file that instructs search engine bots on how to crawl and index your website and can cause problems with your search results visibility if not handled correctly.
And whilst it would be nice to have complete control over this file, in all honesty, it's not the end of the world because Shopify does a good job of handling it.
Duplicate Content Issues
By default, Shopify adds the “/collections/” URL to your store, and when a product is used within several collections you'll end up with more than 1 URL for the same product, which can be an issue for search engines because they could be unsure as to which URL to use and can negatively impact your SEO efforts.
This is an issue that Shopify store owners need to be aware of.
With the platform automatically generating multiple URLs for the same product pages and applying canonical tags inconsistently, search engines may have difficulty understanding which pages to index and display in search results.
To give you a better understanding of what I mean, let's take a look at the example below.
Each of these URLs is showing the same product which is duplicate content, and whilst they canonicalise to the main product page, my-shoes, this canonicalisation can go wrong and will need to be fixed by a developer.
Strange URL structure
Truth be told, this is a complete non-issue, but I've added the URL structure to this post because I sometimes see eCommerce site owners moaning about it.
And their problem is this – they don't like the URL paths having /collections/ or/products/ in them. That's it!
They don't like the way that the URL paths look and they can't be changed.
With other CMSs such as Magento, the URL structure can be changed to be more visually appealing, but in all honesty, the customers simply don't care about it and it doesn't make any difference to the SEO of your store.
No access to the sitemap
Not having access to your sitemap is a disadvantage and is something that I believe sellers should have access to because you have to assume that Shopify will optimise it for search engines correctly.
You can't add or delete anything which is important for larger and growing stores.
What SEO tasks should Shopify stores focus on?
When it comes to focusing on important SEO tasks that make a difference to your rankings, Shopify store owners are no different to any other content management system (CMS) owners, such as WordPress or WooCommerce, and should focus on the SEO basics that move the needle when it comes to ranking in Google.
These 3 Shopify SEO best practices are vital for all eCommerce store owners:
Content that meets user intent
Your content must meet the needs of the user, and by meeting the needs I mean giving them the content they want because without publishing content that meets user intent, your site will not show up in the SERPs.
This might sound complicated, but in all fairness, it's not. You simply have to look at the SERPs for your main search term and see what results Google is showing.
For example, if you perform a search and the 1st page is full of eCommerce category pages, then to compete you need to make sure that you also create a category page.
However, if the 1st page is full of long-form articles and not eCommerce sites then you too must create an article to satisfy that user intent.
You will from time to time see mixed results because Google isn't completely sure or there is a genuine mixture when it comes to what people want for that search term, and if that's the case then you need to make a judgment call as to what type of page you want to create.
Be aware though, that intent can and does shift over time. So if you suddenly lose rankings for a page, check to see what Google is now displaying in the SERPs.
Links still matter, period. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for eCommerce store owners they'll always be very important.
Backlinks are a huge signal and ranking factor and are something that you MUST build if you're to be successful in anything resembling a competitive niche.
But one thing that nearly everyone that talks about backlinks misses or doesn't understand is that they also increase the breadth of keywords your pages will rank for.
And to give you an idea of what I mean, without links a page might have 5000 impressions per month, but with the right backlinks that same page could have over 15'000 impressions per month, meaning that Google is showing you to browsers more often and for more keywords.
Schema markup is often overlooked by store owners, which is a big mistake because with Schema you can gather reviews and allow them to appear in the SERPs.
And by using the right Shopify app to make your schema show up in the SERPs you'll automatically draw attention to your products which will entice people to click on your pages, especially if you have a number of positive reviews.
As you can see from the image above, the reviews stand out from everything else due to the colour and the fact that they are positive. And seeing as the further away from position 1 you are the less likely your listing is to be clicked on, having reviews appear can only be a benefit.
The top SEO e-commerce themes that Shopify provide will go a long way to enabling your reviews to show in the SERPs, but you'll still need to use a good review program that's trusted by Google, such as reviews.io.
Is Shopify good for SEO?
The simple answer is yes, Shopify is good for SEO because it allows you to get all of the basics right and in place so you can concentrate on the really important aspects of SEO such as link building.
I've written a more detailed post on the benefits of Shopify and SEO, so be sure to check it out if you want more details as to how your Shopify might perform from an SEO point of view.
And if you're in the consideration phase of your eCommerce journey and want more details on Shopify as a platform then check out my Shopify review where you'll get a detailed breakdown of why I recommend it to most online sellers.