Shopify is a behemoth of eCommerce. The platform is suitable for beginners and established businesses alike as it’s not hard to figure out how Shopify works. The ease-of-use is one the reasons this platform is so popular – but is it sufficient in all areas? Is it sufficient for SEO?
Generally, developers at Shopify have taken care of some of the most important SEO aspects, like sitemaps, meta data, and robots.txt. It does offer a decent amount of flexibility, albeit lacking in some areas, for example, URL structure and blogging.
It’s important to mention that Shopify themes play a big part in how much flexibility you get. There are completely minimal templates out there that you can install and use for free, as well as powerful Shopify themes filled to the brim with tools and features.
In this article, we’re going to talk about where Shopify shines and where it lacks in terms of search engine optimization.
Shopify SEO: strengths
Shopify doesn’t shun SEO – the platform offers a handful of ways to help you secure a high spot in search engine rankings. And since a lot of tools are already provided to you, you need to know how to take advantage of them. For example, you should be aware of how to leverage existing features to drive traffic to your Shopify store.
The best Shopify SEO tip we can give you right now is: get to know the strengths and the limitations of the platform. And we’re going to take you through all of them one by one.
Being able to write and edit any page’s meta-data is incredibly important. A title tag is the first thing people notice when they search for any keyword. And the words you choose for the title can have a huge impact on whether people will be interested in opening a new tab and visiting your online store.
There are a lot of opinions and agreed-upon best practices when it comes to conducting the best meta title and description for your Shopify store. But it would all go to waste if you were not able to edit it yourself.
Editable main content
When it comes to the most important content in your store, you have a total control of it. Depending on a Shopify theme, the design can be more focused on content or visuals. But regardless of a theme you choose, you can edit such important sections as Shopify product descriptions, category names, pop-up copy, or any marketing-related and purely functional content on your website.
And if you’re lacking ideas for content or don’t know where to start, you can always get some help setting up your Shopify store from ChatGPT or other AI tools (as you probably know, there’s an abundance of them). Sometimes a little nudge is all you need to get the ball rolling.
Image optimization tools
Images play a big part in SEO optimization for any kind of website – eCommerce included. When it comes to uploading images on your Shopify store, you want to strike the perfect balance between high image quality and no loss in website speed. WebP image file format gives you that opportunity – it provides modern image compression capabilities by reducing image file size up to 34% more than JPG and 26% more than PNG format.
Of course, there are more ways of optimizing images in Shopify, for example, writing ALT tags and making sure that images are responsive across different screen sizes. All of these optimization techniques provide benefits for your store’s SEO, and, therefore, shouldn’t be overlooked.
Automatic sitemap generation
A sitemap is one of the cornerstones of website SEO as it helps search engines discover and index your store pages faster. As a simple text file (XML file), it contains all of the website’s URLs. When search engine bots crawl your website for indexation, all they need to do is read that file to understand your site’s structure.
Shopify sitemaps are generated automatically, so you don’t have to spend time worrying about adding URLs manually. If you want to see how a sitemap looks, all you need to do is add /sitemap.xml to your website’s URL.
If Shopify didn’t allow you to use redirects, it would greatly reduce the usability of the platform. Any store owner should be familiar with how Shopify redirects work and why they’re important. And while we do have separate articles on the topic, we can quickly go through the main use cases.
Imagine you have a page that doesn’t work for you anymore, and you don’t want people to visit it. In most cases, deleting that page would hurt your SEO, as it most likely has accumulated backlinks. Losing backlinks can lead to a huge loss in rankings and traffic. Therefore, redirects act as a good way to move page visitors to another page without losing too much.
Shopify currently only allows 301 redirects but those are the most common anyway, so it’s not a big drawback. And redirecting pages on Shopify is very intuitive. You can do it manually one by one, you can import redirect page lists straight to Shopify, or you can let Shopify create automatic redirects when you change the page’s URL. All in all, that’s a pretty well designed system.
You can manage Shopify URLs by editing the slug – which is usually your product, collection, or blog post name. This way, you can optimize the URL for a keyword, so it’s easier to discover. Editing URLs also gives you more control over your store’s SEO. If Shopify generates a slug that’s too long, you can shorten it so it looks more organized and more SEO-friendly.
Editable Robots.txt file
Shopify generates a standard robots.txt file for your store so you don’t have to worry about generating it yourself. It’s great because Shopify helps online store owners manage their crawl budget even if they have no idea what that is or what benefits it brings.
Generally speaking, when you use Shopify, you don’t have to worry about indexing on non-indexing pages which takes a lot of burden off your shoulders. However, in some cases, you might want to edit your Shopify robots.txt file. Since 2021, Shopify allows you to do that. We must note, though, that it’s advisable not to play with it too much if you’re not an SEO expert or a developer, as you can bring more harm than good to your store.
Themes optimized for speed
Needless to say that site speed is one of the most important website success metrics. Bad speed is not a direct ranking factor on Shopify but there’s more to that. Let us explain. If your website is slow and people constantly leave before everything loads, it increases your bounce rate and sends signals to search engine crawlers that your website is not relevant to users.
Developers who create Shopify themes focus on making sure your Shopify store is optimized for speed and performance. They do that by implementing strategies like automatically optimizing site images, and creating light-weight code that doesn’t overload the system.
Most of the Shopify themes are optimized for mobile use which is great news because in the current climate, having non-responsive websites is simply not a very smart business move. At least 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase on their phones, and over 50% of all online holiday shopping in 2022 has been made on mobile devices.
The numbers clearly show that if you’re not optimizing your store for mobile devices, you’re missing out on potential customers and revenue.
Uptime is a way to measure the reliability of a platform. That includes online storefronts, checkout, Shopify POS, Shop Pay, Shopify payments and Shopify itself. Shopify currently runs on 99.9% uptime across different geographic locations in the last 90 days.
User-friendly SEO optimization in general
Shopify is built to be user friendly and easy to use – the setup is quick, and available tools are very intuitive. Moreover, there are tons of Shopify guides online that provide clear step by step instructions of any issue you may run into.
If you created your Shopify account right now, you wouldn’t need to spend another week trying to understand how the platform works. And this is one of Shopify's biggest strengths.
Shopify SEO: problem areas
Shopify and SEO go together pretty well but it could certainly be better. And while a lot of shortcomings can be fixed with third-party apps, it doesn’t fully fix some of the problems. Let’s explore some areas of concern and see if possible workarounds exist.
No native product review functionality
As of right now, Shopify doesn’t offer native product review functionality. It’s quite a substantial disadvantage for your store’s SEO since product reviews can create valuable UGC (User Generated Content) and send signals to search engine crawlers that people are talking about your products. Not to mention that displaying reviews in your website can help build trust with your audience as you’re seen as a serious business.
That being said, you can add product reviews to your Shopify store with the help of a third-party Shopify app or a landing page builder like PageFly.
Duplicate content issue
Search engines penalize website owners and SEOs for duplicate content because it’s seen as a malicious SEO tactic. And Shopify might cause you duplicate content problems without you intending anything even remotely malicious.
You can run into duplicate content with canonicalized pages, by misusing hreflang tags, using product tags that create categories, and using identical product descriptions, to name a few.
Good news is that duplicate content issues can be solved by adjusting the code, or installing a plugin. The hard part here is finding the root of the issue but once you find it, you can 100% solve it.
Forced URL structure
Shopify doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to the URL structure. And this is something a plugin or an app cannot really fix.
Currently, you’re only allowed to edit the last part of the URL which is the product name. Shopify forcibly adds /collections/ and /products/ to URLs and you cannot remove or edit it. It’s a shame because long URLs can have a negative impact on SEO. Clunky URLs can make it harder for search engine crawlers to understand your website structure, and, in turn, slow down indexing.
However, it’s not all bad. If your store structure is neat and organized, and there are no duplicate pages, Shopify URL structure will not hurt your SEO.
Basic structured data
Structured data is code that tells search engine crawlers extra information about what your website is about. By implementing it, you get what’s called a rich snippet – a Google search result with additional data displayed, e.g., ratings, reviews, price, etc.
You can add structured data to your Shopify store but the tool used by the platform is very basic, which can be a huge drawback for those who are serious about their SEO efforts.
If you want to implement structured data on Shopify, you need to use a Shopify app like TinyIMG, or adjust the code yourself.
Creating sub-collections on Shopify is possible but if you’re running a big online store, it will be time consuming. Not to mention that you might also have to adjust the code, which it’s not something you really want to get into if you’re not experienced with it.
Shopify automatically generates a sitemap for your store but you can’t edit it. For most merchants that’s not a problem since Shopify already does a pretty good job optimizing it to benefit your store’s SEO. But as your store grows, you might want to add, edit, or delete some items from the sitemap. As of right now, you can’t do that with Shopify.
Limited blog features
Blogs on Shopify are fairly minimal in terms of functionality. It’s understandable why an eCommerce platform wouldn’t put a lot of focus on blogging but, unfortunately, these limitations do affect SEO. For example, currently, there are no ways of conveniently categorizing blog posts, unless you want to “cheat” your way through it by creating multiple blogs. And this method doesn’t solve a problem but barely masks it.
You can use Shopify apps like Bloggle to go about native Shopify limitations. However, most apps require monthly subscription payments, and it can be a huge burden on someone starting a business.
Sure, Shopify isn’t the most blog-friendly platform there is but there are some stunning Shopify blog examples that might just get you inspired.
Overall limited customization
Customization on Shopify is generally very theme-dependent. Some Shopify themes are extremely minimal, some are very complex with tons of features, tools, and plugins.
So when it comes to usability, Shopify is great – it’s easy to get started, and it doesn’t take long to launch your store from the moment you create your account. However, when you want to access more technical features that are important for SEO, you often have to find workarounds.
How to work with SEO on Shopify?
As you’ve probably already understood, Shopify, with all of its functionality, still isn’t the most perfect platform for SEO. However, lots of Shopify stores successfully rank high in search engines, so it’s also important to not get too caught up in a few obstacles.
Let’s talk about how to make SEO work with Shopify.
Implement the best practices
No matter the platform, there are a lot of universal SEO “rules” that work across the board. By implementing the best Shopify SEO practices, you can be at the top of the rankings game. Don’t forget that the greatest key to success is you, not the platform you choose.
Avoid common SEO mistakes
Just as it’s important to follow some of the proven SEO practices, it’s equally as important to avoid common SEO mistakes. We would say that reading up on SEO mistakes is the first step to success because such practices as keyword stuffing, no internal linking structure, weak content or non-optimized metadata can really sink your website to the depths of search engine rankings.
Use a good SEO app
We don’t doubt that you can do everything by yourself but a lot of SEO tasks are pretty tedious, and if you really want to grow your store, we highly encourage you to look into Shopify SEO apps.
Here at TinyIMG, we offer a powerhouse of an app with features that will make your life as a business owner a lot easier.
TinyIMG performs such tasks as image compression, lazy loading, script control, SEO reports, and metadata optimization, to name a few. You can improve your site’s speed and increase visibility on Google with a few clicks, while you can focus on less laborious tasks.
Regularly analyze your store performance
A key to success for any online business is carefully analyzing data, and understanding which strategies work and which don’t. In order to not spend too much time working on practices that do nothing for your business, set up Google Search Console for your Shopify store.
TinyIMG app also generates regular site audit reports that will help you fix issues as soon as they come up.
Conclusion: is Shopify SEO-friendly?
Shopify offers a range of SEO strengths, including editable meta-data, WebP image format support, redirect creation, and automatic sitemap generation. However, it does have limitations, such as the absence of native product review functionality, forced URL structures, and limited blogging features.
Despite these drawbacks, many successful Shopify stores have achieved strong SEO rankings by following best practices, avoiding common SEO mistakes, and using strong SEO apps. Ultimately, Shopify can be SEO-friendly if you leverage its strengths and work around its limitations effectively to optimize your online store's performance in search engine results.