Nothing in life is perfect and as wonderful as Shopify may be for helping online store owners create intuitive shopping platforms, there are some undeniable SEO issues that present roadblocks to success for eCommerce businesses.
Although it takes some extra work to properly perform search engine optimisation on Shopify sites, it’s absolutely possible to overcome the SEO hardships that many users encounter with their stores, so long as you have the right team providing technical guidance.
Why Does Shopify SEO Matter?
The entire eCommerce business model hinges on your products appearing in search results; if your Shopify website has not been properly optimised, then you simply can’t expect to make a high volume of sales.
SEO is doubly important when it comes to Shopify because there are a number of well-documented issues with the platform’s practices which can throw users for a loop when it comes to getting their sites properly indexed and ranked.
Common Shopify SEO Problems
It’s important to point out that as a whole, Shopify is not inherently bad for SEO. These are simply the individual issues that owners have encountered when optimising their Shopify stores, but when you understand that these problems may potentially arise, you’ll be better equipped to avoid them.
Duplicate Content and Inconsistency with Canonical Tags
Duplicate content is sometimes necessary on eCommerce sites (particularly if you have products that can apply to more than one of your category pages); Shopify attempts to prevent their stores from being penalized for the use of duplicate content by using canonical tags. In itself, this is actually a positive SEO practice—Google encourages the use of canonical tags to prevent confusion with similar URLs.
A canonical tag essentially tells Google which page within a set of similar or duplicate pages is the master copy; this allows the search engine to crawl and index the canonical page without worrying about the copies.
Shopify mitigates the fact that they generate duplicate content on product pages and collection pages by adding canonical tags to one; the problem is, Shopify does not utilise an internal linking structure which abides by the canonical tags. In fact, Shopify links to non-canonical pages by default, which sends Google all sorts of mixed messages.
Essentially, by applying canonical tags to one set of pages, Shopify is telling Google “look at these pages, prioritise these pages,” but by linking internally to non-canonical pages consistently, Shopify reverses that initial statement.
In turn, the possible positive SEO impact of canonical tags is basically undone, and stores can still be penalized for duplicate content. The good news is that a knowledgeable development team will be able to update your internal link structure so that canonical tags are always prioritised and Google isn’t sent any more mixed signals.
It Can Be Difficult to Add Meta Tags If You Don’t Know How to Code
Meta tags are the behind-the-scenes players on your site that tell search engines what information can be found on your page, without the search engine actually having to scan the content. These include title tags, meta descriptions, and alt text (among others), and they can have a major impact on SEO.
If you can’t easily edit your page title, or the description of what can be found on the page, then you’ll have a hard time properly optimising your store. Unfortunately, some Shopify theme templates to require that you have some basic coding knowledge to maneuver effectively.
This can be incredibly daunting for store owners, because you’re essentially left with two options: resign yourself to completely abysmal levels of SEO, or invest in the assistance of a technical team who also has the SEO skills to optimise your page while they’re completing other customisations.
Product Descriptions Have to Be Addressed Manually
When you first create your Shopify store, many of your products are likely to feature duplicate content, sparse content, or no descriptions whatsoever. In the world of content marketing, these options are simply unacceptable.
In order to meet minimum SEO standards, product descriptions should be about 300 words long, and they should each be unique, even if some of your offerings are very similar. This is the only way that your items have any hope of ranking as search engine results pages.
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly time-consuming to create unique, individualized content to add to each and every one of your product pages. This isn’t necessarily an SEO pain point that’s directly related to Shopify, but one that’s born out of eCommerce in general.
The problem with Shopify sites is that if you are not diligent, certain product pages may slip through the cracks. This is why it’s so important that you monitor Google analytics and Google search engine console—Shopify may not remind you that you haven’t added a product description, but the data from these accounts will point out the oversight.
Adjusting The Robots.txt File Isn’t An Option
Although Shopify will allow you to use a “no index” tag, they do not allow you to adjust the robots.txt file on your site, which severely limits your ability to control which of your pages are crawled by Google.
Certain parts of your Shopify store simply do not need to be indexed; and in fact, some pages can actually have a negative impact on your site’s SEO. The robots.txt file is generally considered the best way to direct Google away from the pages that you don’t want crawled, but Shopify’s documentation states explicitly that it can’t be used.
While this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means and there are plenty of workarounds that you can figure out with the right team, it does make proper optimisation a bit more difficult.
Although there are other difficulties that users have pointed out with Shopify, these are some of the broadest SEO troubles store owners have encountered. While these problems are certainly impactful, there are some elements of SEO that Shopify is getting right.
User-Friendly Aspects of Shopify SEO
Search engine optimisation is a far more involved topic than many people realize, and while Shopify may have a few hiccups to work out as a platform overall, there are some areas that they have already mastered.
Namely, many Shopify themes do a great job of providing Google with structured data. This is key information such as your products’ names, prices, and other relevant details. Though structured data often needs expanded to some extent, something is always better than nothing.
Additionally, there is a range of different Shopify apps that store owners can utilise to make their experiences with the platform more enjoyable. In fact, there is even a Shopify app for SEO that can simplify the process of optimising your site. There is also an app that will assist you with processing and adding large images to improve the load time on visually dynamic stores, and one that helps with filtering in product reviews, both of which are important (and often overlooked) elements of SEO.
Shopify may not be the easiest platform to optimise effectively, but it’s still possible to create an online store that’s engaging, user-friendly, and in accordance with Google’s algorithm.
Dispel The Myth That Shopify Is Bad for SEO with The Right Assistance
The truth is that Shopify isn’t bad for SEO when you have a team of Shopify Website Development experts on your side. At Australian Internet Advertising, we understand the difficulties associated with Shopify SEO and we can help you work around them to convert more leads and enjoy greater success than you ever dreamed possible; contact us today to discuss how.