Shopify is an innovative e-commerce web platform that allows people to build a web commerce store easily by using templates and drag and drop builders. It is an easy solution for someone that isn’t technical to build a beautiful looking e-commerce store with the functionalities that they need to run an online business.
Even though it looks good on the outside, there are several issues that new Shopify store owners are often unaware of when they decide to host and build their web commerce store.
Website owners can successfully rank their Shopify site using SEO. However, there are several things that can easily prevent their site from ranking well in the search engines.
From the Shopify projects that I’ve worked on, there tends to be a common theme that revolves around the technical setup, which affects how the HTML of the site is rendered and the file and content accessibility. And by the time that it is identified, the Shopify store has already been built and trying to implement a workaround solution is often too late.
In this post, I will share what I’ve seen SEO working for Shopify stores. You will receive insights on the actions that you can take to improve the SEO performance of your Shopify web store.
Technical SEO for Shopify
What kind of issues tend to occur with Shopify?
- Page bloat
- Not HTML friendly
- Requires manual fixes
- Poor site architecture
- Broken links
- Redirection issues
- Page speed
Thankfully, we can solve many of these SEO issues by applying fixes in the following areas.
Shopify website theme
I typically find that the source of the SEO problem on most Shopify websites are due to the theme design that’s being used. Unfortunately, many people get duped into using a theme that claims to be SEO-friendly, when it actually isn’t.
Drag and drop builders can be notorious for injecting additional code into web pages, which affects the way the web page content gets crawled and indexed.
The other issue is that there are so many beautiful and professional-looking themes on Shopify. And many of these themes are advocated for based on their looks or design. However, it is advised that a technical audit is done to assess the theme’s SEO-friendliness prior to installing the theme on the Shopify e-commerce store.
Domain name hosting
You can host your domain with Shopify or configure the settings from your DNS provider to point the domain name to your Shopify web hosting.
It is important that this is setup correctly, as it can impact the way broken links and redirects are managed on Shopify.
I faced an issue with a client who had this setup on two different hosts. (www was on the Shopify host and the non-www was on an external domain host)
They had done a migration and they had implemented 301 redirects in the Shopify CMS. What they didn’t know was that the 301 redirects weren’t working because they weren’t configured correctly.
Due to the DNS and hosting setup, they had to configure the redirects through their other web host to point to the Shopify domain.
Had everything been migrated and setup on the Shopify domain, the issue wouldn’t have occurred.
The issue resulted in that client losing Page Rank from inbound links. Once we identified the issues, we were able to correct the redirects and get the link juice flowing back to the site, which then lifted the site’s SEO ranking performance.
Shopify sites are designed for e-commerce transactions, which means your site needs to transfer information such as credit card information over SSL.
Shopify provides SSL certificates for stores hosted on their platform. 
The web hosting solution for the Shopify CMS is on Shopify’s network of servers which is operated by Fastly on their CDN (Content Delivery Network). 
Unlike with other CMS platforms, you are tied to hosting on Shopify’s web hosting solution. Their web hosting is pretty good, however you will need to check for any downtime with the Shopify servers that may affect the site’s performance. This is something that you won’t be able to control.
It is important to minimize the file size of the web page so it can be served quickly to web users from the Shopify servers. This means ideally keeping your web page size to ideally less than 1MB.
To accomplish this, you will need to develop your web page theme
Resource: Page loading speed optimization
One of the major selling points with Shopify is that users can easily customize their site by installing apps. This means the users don’t have to customize the code to get functions working on their Shopify site.
The downside is that these apps add more code and size into web pages, which slows down the page loading speed of the web page.
These web apps are great aesthetically, but do affect the web page performance.
That’s why it is important to identify the functionality of the apps and to determine whether the function should be manually coded or whether an app should be used.
A few apps come to mind.
- Shogun – Drag and drop editor
- XML Sitemap app
You will also find that the cost to invest in these apps will incur a monthly cost. And paying for 10 or more apps will quickly increase the overhead costs of your site.
You need to check that the different versions of your domain point to the correct version. Shopify makes this easy by adding the different versions of your domain into the Shopify CMS. However, each version of the domain should be tested to ensure that they redirect correctly.
I have worked with a client that had the version of their domain installed, however the domain wasn’t hosted with Shopify. This caused broken links (soft 404s) on the site and also caused the site’s SEO ranking to decrease.
Ensure that the correct domain variations are installed and that the version with the most inbound links is used as the primary domain.
The other versions of the domain should be correctly redirecting to the primary domain.
What if there is a subdomain hosted on another host?
You will need to setup a management plan between the two hosting providers to make sure that the domain redirects are correct.
One of the biggest issues you will face managing an e-commerce store is duplication. Shopify automatically uses the canonical tag to minimize any duplication risks that may affect the SEO performance of the website.
Even though this is automatically installed, you should check the site for duplication and make sure that the canonical tags are being used correctly on the website.
Shopify has a dynamic XML sitemap that will update with any changes on the website. The XML sitemap can be found at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. 
Google’s robot will crawl up to 50,000 lines in the XML sitemap. If your Shopify store has less than 50,000 web pages, then the dynamic XML sitemap will suffice.
If your site has more than 50,000 web pages, then you will need to look into an XML sitemap solution that will categorize the web URLs that you want the search engines to find, crawl, and index.
The title tag is automatically generated within Shopify.
The meta description tag is automatically generated within Shopify.
Mobile responsive site
You want to make sure that your Shopify store is responsive for mobile devices. Check that the theme’s developer makes updates to ensure that the theme will resize correctly based on the dimensions required to display on a mobile device.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
Accelerated Mobile Pages are a simplified HTML that’s lighter and will display the content quicker on mobile devices.
This isn’t automatically installed on Shopify web themes. There are apps that will create an AMP version of your site that can get indexed and served by Google. However, you will need to test that AMP is compatible with your web theme.
It’s ideal to check this prior to purchasing your theme.
If you need to invest in an app, there will be an ongoing monthly cost to use AMP on your site with the complete features.
Additional resource: Mobile SEO
You can create search-engine friendly URLs in Shopify within the CMS at the page level. You simply need to navigate to the web page that you want to optimize and change the link. Just make sure that a 301 redirect is added from the old URL to the new URL.
Breadcrumb trails create internal links and also help with the site’s search relevancy and navigation. Check to see that these are configured in your Shopify store and that it is compatible with your shop’s Shopify theme.
Use search-engine friendly search boxes and forms
It’s important to check and test the search boxes that are being used on your website. This is because the search engine robot may attempt to crawl and fill out forms that it finds on the site in an attempt to act like a web user. [5, 6]
Usually, these issues would be found with a server log analysis. Since this isn’t possible with the Shopify platform, you will need to test the search query boxes and the way the results are rendered to prevent any crawling or indexing issues from occurring.
301 redirects can easily be managed in the Shopify platform. You simply need to go into the navigation section of the console to apply the redirects, which will automatically default to a 301 (permanent) redirect.
Once the redirect is implemented, you still need to check that the redirect is working correctly for functionality and with the server response code serving a 301.
Check for redirect loops
Redirect loops can become a big problem on Shopify sites. If your Shopify site’s content or products change frequently, then you will find that you will be redirecting old URLs to live web pages.
The problem starts to mount when the redirected pages point to another redirect. This reduces the flow of Page Rank being passed from one page to the other.
Where an even bigger problem occurs is when links from external web pages link to redirect loops on your Shopify site. This can cause SEO performance issues and should be identified and fixed as soon as possible.
Check for dead redirects
This is a big issue that I’ve encountered when working on Shopify sites. There’s the option to configure redirects within the CMS, however there can be issues within the CMS that will cause the redirects to stop working.
It’s important to use a broken link checker to alert any redirects that might not be working.
Another way this might occur is through redirect loops to a dead link. In this case, it is important to identify the broken links and any redirect setups that might loop to these dead links.
Broken links have to be managed well in an e-commerce platform and the same is true with Shopify. If your Shopify store’s stock doesn’t rotate or change much, then it will be easier to manage. However, if your stock rotates or changes quickly, then you will need to manage the redirections, out of stock items, and broken links on the site.
One of the common issues on Shopify with items that are out of stock is that it triggers a soft 404. Even though the page might display correctly with the item showing as being out of stock, the server response is a 404.
It’s important that 404 errors are managed correctly with redirects.
For web pages or URLs that are permanently gone, a 410 response code (Gone) should be implemented. However, this is not possible on the Shopify platform. So the best solution to implement is a 301 redirect.
It can be easy to accumulate orphan pages on your Shopify site. You want to avoid this by having a process in place that will prevent orphan pages going live on the site.
For Shopify sites that don’t have a staging platform, test pages can go live and they can be left to get indexed on the site. This can cause duplication and web crawling issues.
Ideally, you want to have access to a staging platform with your Shopify site.
Secondly, you want to do an audit to check that the pages that are live on your Shopify site are linked in accordance with the SEO site architecture that you need to get rankings on Google. This will ensure that the pages that are published on your Shopify site are linked from another web page on your site.
You can install apps to inject JSON schema into your Shopify website. However, I would argue that it is better to format your site with good structured HTML data either in the website’s theme (so it can be updated dynamically) or to apply it on within certain web page content.
The structured data that is used can help search engine robots better understand what the web content is about.
It can also create the opportunity for the site’s content to get rich snippet features in the organic search results.
Resource: Structured data and Schema for SEO
I cannot stress enough how important it is to setup the site architecture of your Shopify site from the outset. You will need to understand how everything works together on Shopify, and how to categorize your site’s content based on relevancy and being able to get the web pages to interlink for site navigation. You will need to consider how you will set up the following.
- Product pages
- Product tagging
- Blog Posts
- Blog tagging/categorization
- Navigation menu
In a nutshell, products will fall into collections based on the way that they are tagged. You need to plan this based on relevancy. These collections can then be added to the navigation menu with their product cluster groups.
Collections should focus only on grouping products.
Blog posts should only serve information that will serve as the site’s content marketing and blogging strategy. These blogs should be tagged/categorized by their content theme.
Conversion rate optimization
This isn’t directly related to SEO, however it will help to improve the overall performance of your Shopify store.
It’s important that the page layouts in your site’s theme have been tested for conversions. It’s also important to know if customizations can be applied to the Shopify theme without impacting the SEO implementations on the site.
My personal recommendation would be to test landing page templates with paid traffic and split test the pages for conversions. Then make the HTML customizations on the landing pages that will be used for the site’s SEO campaign.
Content Optimization for Shopify
Niche selection and penetration
The first thing I would suggest before you invest in a Shopify web store is identify the niche that you want to penetrate and assess the competitiveness of that niche.
Trying to penetrate a highly-competitive or saturated market in the SEO space will prove to be difficult and will likely require alot of investment in order to gain SEO rankings that will drive organic search traffic to your website.
You can optimize the page titles on the editing page inside the Shopify CMS. Check the page title styles of the top ranking sites for your target keyword and optimize the page title with a call to action within the required character limit. In Shopify, it says to have a maximum of 70 characters. However, aim for 65 characters or less.
Review the top ranking web pages to see what their meta description style is. You want to implement a similar style with the target keywords for the web page. Make sure that a call to action is added to help improve the click-through rate from the search engine listing.
Once you have crafted the copy, you can upload the meta description at the page level. Although Shopify says that up to 300 characters can be used, limit the meta description to 160 characters.
Web page content
You want to publish content that will engage the web visitor and search engine so that the content will rank higher in the organic search results and convert visitors on your website.
Search engines will crawl the site’s web content and index it in their database like a library.
Search engines will then recommend the content that should be served for a search query. Ultimately, search engines want to provide the best recommendation for their users search queries.
The more valuable information that is on the web page, the more likely the user is to engage with the web page.
Depending on the intent of the searcher, you want to optimize the web content so that the user extracts the most value out of the web page. Should they do this, they shouldn’t have the need to leave the page. They should also feel motivated to save or share the content in their network as well.
On Shopify, you will create and publish the following types of content.
- Web pages
- Product page
- Collections page
- Blog page
- Home page
You want to incorporate the following into your web content strategy.
Whether you are publishing a blog post, product information, or sales copy, you want to opt for long-form content that will address and answer the questions that the searcher is looking for based on their search intent.
As a rule of thumb, content should be at least 300-500 words. However, publishing valuable content that is 1000 words or more can amplify your Shopify stores SEO visibility.
For blog posts, this can be expanded to 2000 words or more.
Make sure the content is unique.
Issues tend to occur on Shopify with duplicate content. So identify any web pages that may have duplication issues and prioritize making them unique based on the SEO keyword traffic strategy that you plan to implement.
You can easily increase the content length of your site by encouraging reviews, comments, and ratings of your site’s products or content.
To boost the SEO performance of your web pages, you want to include strategic internal links from other relevant web pages on your site.
You should see the biggest impact come from internal links that are within relevant contextual content. However, they can also be added to menus as well.
Useful Resource: Internal linking for SEO
You can share images that will engage the reader based on the intent that they have for visiting your web content.
They may want to engage with statistics, transformation images, product demonstrations, high-resolution photos, memes, or other types of image content. Understand the intent of their search and publish images that aligns with that intent.
This depends on the intent of your audience and you will need to conduct split tests to see how the videos affect the web page’s SEO performance and conversions.
Image Optimization for Shopify
The images on Shopify should be optimized for their size, engagement, and search relevancy. Something that you need to keep in mind is that when you upload images to the Shopify server, it will store and serve 3 different versions of the image that you have uploaded.
The way that Shopify serves the image to render in the web page means that a size dimension will be added to the image file name.
Although this isn’t huge, it can become an issue if you have optimized your images for specific keyphrases, only to learn later on that the Shopify server has changed the file name without your knowledge.
Resource: Image SEO guide
You can also apply more on-page SEO with our guide.
Links to your web pages will help search engines find, crawl, and index your site’s web content. It’s important to get links shared in relevant web pages across the web so your site’s rankings can improve.
To create link opportunities, your site must share content that web users find value in linking to.
You can see this post that discusses how to create content that gets links.
You can also apply tactics from these 60 link building techniques to earn more links to your website.
Based on a link building case study that we’ve done for another client, we start to see traction at around 150 referring domains. This can vary by industry and competitiveness as well.
What are some limitations with Shopify?
You cannot do a server log analysis.
This is one of the biggest limitations with Shopify since as an SEO, you want to see the crawling pattern of search robots on the e-commerce website. Unlike hosting an e-commerce store on your own hosting and being able to download the server logs, Shopify doesn’t provide access to these logs. 
This means the only way to see a crawl pattern is to run your own search crawler tests. This will be useful, but not as useful as if you were to do your own analysis of the server logs with the exact data from the search engine robots crawling pattern.
Below is the latest quote from a Shopify representative in regards to accessing server logs on Shopify.
Don here from Shopify!
It’s not actually possible for a merchant to access server logs here for security reasons.
These server logs contain confidential information on a shared server meaning access would be given to information which we’re not permitted to share with other merchants.
One thing you can do to see activity in your store is to use the /admin/activity URL extension after yourstorename.com to see any changes made to your store.
Hope that clears up the situation for you here, though you can always reach out to us via our support site. 🙂
You cannot make changes to the robots.txt
If you want to block certain pages or files from being indexed, you are unable to do this with the robots’txt file in Shopify. 
No indexing pages can be challenging.
You have to manually go into the liquid file to manually add the <noindex> code for web pages. 
Fixing the site architecture can be difficult if already implemented incorrectly.
This can be a big problem if you need to do major repair work to the site’s SEO architecture. It might result in lost rankings and traffic in order to correct things and build the site’s success over the long-term.
The Shopify pricing model has an inexpensive entry-level recurring price to get your site up and running. However, the costs start to mount up once you start adding paid apps to your Shopify store.
Additionally, you will find that you will need to upgrade your subscription plan for your Shopify store as the success of your store increases.
If Shopify is a cost-effective solution for your e-commerce business, then by all means use Shopify as your web commerce store of choice.
You can replicate alot of the same functions and web designs that Shopify offers on other CMS platforms or even with a custom build.
For example, you can build your e-commerce store on WordPress with the same functionalities and web design. It is more technical and may cost you more upfront, but you will usually only have the upfront cost to deal with and minimal ongoing costs.
If you are planning to launch a Shopify store, please make sure to check the theme and your site’s planning with the SEO checklist provided here.
If you have already launched your Shopify store, conduct an audit using the checklist on this page to identify the SEO issues that should be fixed.
When Shopify sites are optimized well, they convert and grow the site’s revenue growth substantially within the following 24 months.
If you have experience working with Shopify, please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
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