Shopify is one of the most popular and effective eCommerce platforms on the market, and for good reason. The platform offers robust, user-friendly features and seamless processing for e-shops of all kinds. But, as with anything, it’s important to know the particulars of any given eCommerce platform when deciding which one is best for your business needs. With that said, let’s explore the ins and outs of Shopify.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an e-commerce platform that allows for nearly any business to set up an online or in-person shop to sell their products. Shopify is an ideal platform for a wide variety of vendors to promote and sell their products or services.
From seasoned entrepreneurs who want to promote a product that is years in the making to a local artist who is just beginning to get his or her business off the ground, Shopify currently helps hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs from over 175 countries get their business off the ground. Today, the platform is home to over 1 million businesses and it is the third-largest online retailer in the United States, only falling short to Amazon and eBay.
Below are the different ways in which you can promote your brand or product through the platform:
- Physical products including things that you make by hand or have manufactured
- Digital products such as e-books, downloads, email templates, etc.
- Services and consultations
- Memberships such as subscription boxes or access to member-only content
- Ticketed experiences
- Classes and lessons
- Renting out a physical product
Is Shopify Bad for SEO?
Shopify has proved its worth to businesses all over the world, but it is also associated with SEO problems. In the world of e-commerce, SEO, or search engine optimization, plays a pivotal role in how successful a business is, with higher-ranking sites showing up higher on search engine results pages (SERP).
Shopify may have some issues with SEO in a similar way that Squarespace and BigCommerce have issues with SEO; they operate on a locked platform that is difficult for the everyday Internet user to tweak. This means that users cannot simply log into the back-end of the site and make changes to improve SEO.
For example, sitemaps are auto-generated and uneditable, it’s hard to edit URL structures and users can’t directly access Robots.txt. We delve deeper into some common Shopify SEO issues below.
Technical SEO Problems on Shopify
The technical shortcomings of Shopify’s SEO issues may play a larger role in your budding business than you think. Although the specific limitations of the platform may not be apparent when you first begin, you’ll notice a frustrating plateau of progress that can be difficult to escape.
Canonical URLs are the HTML portion of the link element. The canonical URL communicates to Google (and other search engines) to crawl the site page and how to organize it accordingly. In the case that there is a canonical URL issue, copies of the same content are being passed along to Google which can have a negative impact on SEO.
For example, the following made-up URLs are all so similar that Google may not know which one is the most relevant:
Shopify SEO issues relating to canonical URLs refer to pages that are similar that can be accessed via multiple URLs. While Shopify provides a redirect tool, you’ll find that it doesn’t work properly if the page that you’re trying to redirect already exists. Those who are new to the world of SEO likely won’t be able to figure out the most effective way to produce the results that they want.
A breadcrumb navigation system, when done the right way, can help simplify the actions needed for a user to navigate to a higher-level page. However, another Shopify SEO shortcoming is the fact that it automatically creates breadcrumb URLs of products under a category.
This relates to the canonical URL issue above as there is usually more than one copy of the URL in Google’s index. The conflicting URL structure that Shopify creates makes it difficult for users to find the information that they want, as Google pushes out multiple versions of the same page.
Working with Robots.txt
Robots.txt is a file type that communicates with search engine crawlers to let them know what specific pages or files the crawler can and can’t request from your site. This file type is typically used to oversee and manage crawler traffic to your website.
Here’s where Shopify SEO issues come to light: they do not allow for users to edit robots.txt files themselves. In this case, Shopify communicates with Google and other search engines to let them know whether or not certain pages need to be crawled.
Looking behind the scenes on your site, you’ll likely find a lengthy list of URLs that Google is disallowing from appearing on the search engine results page.
Shopify vendors or specific products that contain a space or a “+” in the URL will also be blocked from Google’s index. Two-word vendors or products appear in a URL such as “/collections/vendors?q=barre+class” will be blocked.
The robots.txt oversimplification on Shopify’s platform is frustrating to many vendors, as it creates additional hurdles to overcome in order to get their product or service in front of the right audience.
Working with Tag Pages
Any user-friendly website will be organized on the back-end, and the easiest way to achieve this is by using tags. Not only are tags an intuitive way to organize a Shopify site, but they help users easily identify what they are looking for on your site.
One significant downside of working with tag pages on Shopify is the user’s inability to optimize the pages with ease. For example, let’s say you’re using Shopify to set up an e-commerce site for shoes. Some of the tag pages would look similar to those below.
In this example, “women’s shoes” is the main collection page and the specific variations such as “running” or “sandals” are on the tag pages. Unfortunately, further Shopify SEO problems prevent users from adding content to those types of tagged pages. To add content, you have two choices:
- Edit your Shopify theme: Shopify’s platform comes with fixed themes that can be tweaked to add customization. If you want to add content to specific pages, there is a code that must be added. This custom tag must be put onto every page that needs customization, making this a time-consuming and tedious process.
- Download an app: There are a variety of apps and add-ons that you can use on your Shopify site. None of the current apps or add-ons allow users to have full editing control over the pages and the additional apps can end up slowing down your website’s speed.
Many Shopify users aren’t well-versed in working with tag pages which creates another hurdle to overcome.
One of the most prevalent Shopify SEO issues is duplicate content. Duplicate content is multiple versions of the same piece of content that are tracked to different URLs. In the case that the same content appears more than once, it can impact search rankings. Google may not know which content to feature and which to hide, negatively impacting websites that have it.
The aforementioned tags issue on Shopify is linked to this duplicate content issue. Because specific Shopify products are organized by tags, this creates separate pages that need to be indexed. These pages will show the same content that is located on the main collection page, automatically generating duplicate content.
To fix this issue from occurring, Shopify users will have to de-index the tags manually. You can also try adding content to the tag pages but only do so if you know how to navigate Shopify properly.
Content-Creating Issues on Shopify
Adding Custom Fields
Another frustrating Shopify SEO problem is its inability to add custom fields. Custom fields are a way to store data that is permanently linked to each contact. If you were hoping to make a Shopify site that features many custom add-ons and modifications, this can quickly become expensive due to the addition of custom fields.
Unlike open-source platforms that allow for the customization of each page, product, or category, Shopify does not allow its users to make these edits easily.
Character Limits for Titles and Meta Descriptions
Page titles and meta descriptions inform readers of what the page is going to be about before they open your page. Google typically uses pixel width to determine how much text to show in titles and meta descriptions.
Shopify, however, uses character limit as a means to determine how long page titles and meta descriptions can be. This becomes an issue when you have an ideal page title or meta description in mind and it ends up being too long. Editing the text down isn’t a major complaint, but a small inconvenience that can grow frustrating with time.
Problems with Blogs on Subdomains
Content marketing is an integral part of any successful brand, including those just getting started on Shopify. Unfortunately, Shopify comes with many limitations that prevent it from being a strong blogging platform.
Finding a way around this issue is tedious but possible. You’ll want to install WordPress, but since it’s not possible to save it to a Shopify subfolder, you need to host it on an exterior site. This is a large task for those who aren’t experienced.
Is It Possible to Have Strong SEO Results on Shopify?
As the world becomes more digital, it’s crucial for brands both big and small to create a tailored SEO strategy in order to not only thrive but survive. Shopify’s SEO issues are constantly giving users a difficult time doing so, which can ultimately take a toll on the brand’s success.
SEO is a facet of digital marketing that can quickly become tedious and overwhelming, especially to new Shopify users who are busy thinking about getting their website and brand up and running, not thinking about how to rank at the top of Google’s results page.
While it’s possible to get around some of the SEO roadblocks that Shopify presents, doing so is a large time investment for Shopify vendors.
Our Experts Can Help
If you’re looking for guidance from seasoned SEO experts, our team at Catapult Revenue can walk you through important aspects of Shopify and SEO for eCommerce that will impact your brand. Not only do we know and understand SEO, but we specialize in helping brands grow via Shopify customizations. Allow our team to step in and handle all things Shopify and SEO so you can focus on doing what you do best. Reach out today and we’d be glad to provide a full assessment, free of charge. Simple as that.