Shopify Insights

Is Shopify Good for SEO? – The Honest Review

There is no reason not to embark on SEO for your digital store. SEO is a super cost-effective marketing channel compared to ads and Influencer marketing. Is Shopify good for SEO? This article will review the strengths and weaknesses of Shopify SEO.

After reading this article, we hope that you will have enough insights to choose your perfect eCommerce platform.

Is Shopify good for SEO?

For most parts, yes. Shopify has nailed all basic SEO features. It has lots of built-in features & apps that effectively get your page indexed and ranked in search engines. Furthermore, it’s probably the most easy-to-SEO eCommerce platform ever.

Yet, as SEO experts dive deeper into optimizing their eCommerce store, Shopify shows some limitations. Since Shopify is a closed platform, it allows less flexibility and customizations than other open platforms. 

Thus, Is Shopify good for SEO? It depends on your business’s marketing strategy. Will SEO play an important role in your business? Will you need advanced SEO optimizations? To help you define the need for your business, we will get down to what Shopify SEO can and can not do.

What Shopify can do: Shopify features that drive SEO success

Generate XML sitemap

The XML sitemap gives search engines a better understanding of your digital store’s structure. As a result, the search engines bot will crawl more easily and index your site better. 

In Shopify, an XML sitemap is automatically generated for your site at yoursitedomain/sitemap.xml. Then, after verifying your domain and submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console, you are good to go. 

Enable 301 redirects

When your URL has earned a good ranking on search engines, you will not want to change it. Since making adjustments to a link will remove its name on search engines’ ranking. However, if you have some broken links, you need to change them while retaining the old URL ranking. So, you should create new URLs with attractive content, then redirect the broken URLs to the new ones. That’s why 301 redirection is a useful SEO feature.

Shopify users can relaxedly make use of this feature.

Shopify 301 redirection

Auto-generate the Robots.txt file

The Robots.txt file tells search engines which page to crawl and which page not to. To be ranked well on search engines, you must make sure every indexed link is unique and valuable. If not, search engines should not index them. 

For example, it is not necessary to crawl, internal search pages, admin pages, or checkout pages.

In Shopify, a default robots.txt file is automatically generated so that novice users do not need to care about its existence. The default robots.txt is claimed by Shopify to work nicely for most stores. 

You can check the robots.txt file at domain.com/robots.txt

Mobile-friendly

Mobile Commerce is on the rise to be the most dominating shopping channel. You can see it. More and more people now make their purchases on smartphones. Going along the currents, search engines now highly prefer sites with great users mobile experience. To put it in another way, the more mobile-friendly your store is, the higher chance it has to rank well on search engines.

Luckily for all Shopify users, the platform provides plenty of mobile-friendly themes with responsive design. Your store will look gorgeous and run smoothly on all devices while improving SEO at the same time.

Shopify theme
(Photo/Shopify.com)

A good deal of SEO apps

From image optimization, AMP integration to Google snippets’ management, meta tags checkers,… lots of SEO plugins in the Shopify app store will make your life easier. Let’s skim through some common SEO features to utilize with Shopify apps:

  • Image Optimization
  • Creating rich Google Snippets
  • Writing Image alt tag automatically
  • Fixing broken links
  • Creating SEO-friendly blogs
  • Control your indexing
  • Keyword checker
  • Meta tags checker
  • Creating an HTML sitemap

Speed up your store

In the time we are living, people have no patience for a slow website. Speed indeed becomes a decisive factor in the search rankings race. And Shopify, luckily, claimed that they are working hard to make it fast by default

Shopify’s effort is made by using a faster global network and CDN, as well as automatically converting all images to Webp. For your information, Webp is 30% smaller than JPEG with seemingly alike quality making the site less heavy. 

But really, is Shopify fast?

The answer is Yes. Shopify is famous for its racing speed. While other platforms require users to have their own server, Shopify does not. And since website speed also relies on the site’s servers, with Shopify, business owners do not have to invest in qualified servers for an amazing speed. 

On top of that, there are many simple practices to make your Shopify store even faster. For instance, compressing photos, choosing a lightweight theme or avoiding too many extensions.

Google Analytics integration

Google Analytics is probably the most powerful tool for traffic, conversion tracking, analysis and more. It’s free, and it provides every data & insight you need to make a better SEO judgement.

You can easily add Google Analytics to your Shopify store to start tracking and analyzing with no fractions.  

Canonical tags

For an eCommerce store, it’s super common to have duplicate links with the same page contents. For example, a product page can be accessed by both:

If search engines index both links, you will have two links compete with each other for the same ranking. By using the canonical tags, this problem is solved. 

The canonical tags tell search engines to only index one out of many duplicate things. And in Shopify, they are set automatically.

SSL security 

Online shopping requires users’ credit cards and phone numbers to make transactions. Thus, privacy is the top concern for users. Search engines also prefer SSL as it contributes to the site’s authority and trustworthiness. Google has made a statement about it in its 2014 article

The SSL security provides a safe and private cyber experience. It is recognized by the “HTTPS” protocol and easily activated on your Shopify store. 

Basic Structured Data

Structured data is another way to tell search engines about your products. To be more detailed, their name, price, colours, sizes, etc. Having understood clearly what your product has to offer, search engines like Google can display them better on search results

product structured data
Ratings and products information are shown thanks to the help of Structure data (rich snippets)

With Shopify’s structured data, Google can find names, prices, descriptions of your products. For search engines to show more info such as colours, sizes, etc. you may need coding or help from Shopify apps. 

On-page SEO made easy

Search engines recognize your page content with keyword & topic relevancy analysis, then, deliver the most relevant results to users. On-page SEO is a set of practices to optimize copywriting content for this purpose. Basically, it includes:

  • Writing title & description 
  • Writing alt-tag for images
  • Writing URLs
  • Insert headings to your page’s contents for a cleaner look and easy navigation

The whole process of On-page SEO is easy on Shopify. Shopify already asks you to fulfil this information when you add a new product. Scroll down to the last section of the add product page and you will find the search engines listing preview as following:

on-page optimization

Shopify SEO: Problems to expect

Most of the problems with Shopify SEO comes from the fact that it is a closed platform. Thus, Shopify does not support full customizations. Consequently, Shopify does not give the good flexibility as Magento or WooCommerce. Many technical SEO experts regard it as a huge drawback.

Shopify users can fix some problems by buying Shopify apps or asking a developer’s help. 

Yet some problems require further customizations that Shopify does not allow. Then, all we can do is wait for Shopify to address them in their future release. 

Here are some problems that might occur: 

Can’t edit the sitemap

Although the sitemap generated by Shopify is lovely enough for most common uses, as your site grows bigger and gets more complicated, you may need to customize it. 

Unfortunately, Shopify does not enable users to edit their sitemap at the moment. 

Limited structured data function

As mentioned above, the structured data service given by Shopify is really simple. With it, Google can only recognize the product’s name, price tag, and description. A fashion seller, for example, of which products range in size, colours and many other attributes will dislike this. 

Fortunately, the app is here to save the day. But again, more apps mean more budget and the risk of slowing down your store.  

Limited blog posts feature

When it comes to organic traffic, one can not simply leave out blog posts. In fact, the majority of SERP (search engines results page) is blog posts. Consumers love blogs for good reasons. They need a useful, informational guide to help them decide the most suitable products for their needs. 

However, Shopify’s blogging interface is really simple. It does not offer good features for blogging such as:

  • Gallery uploading
  • Add a no follow tag for outbound links
  • Map & CTA button inserting. 
  • Comment
  • Share to Social Media

Thus, to create an engaging blog post, you have to rely on your theme’s blog feature or additional blogging apps. 

Shopify SEO blog
The blog of some Shopify themes looks really simple. (Photo/Shopify.com)

Some problems with duplicate contents & canonical tags

Shopify uses robots.txt and canonical tags to prevent unnecessary links from being indexed by search engines. Of course, these methods have proven to be effective. Yet they are not the best when addressing the issues. 

In actual work, you may find these troubles with duplicate links

  • Non-canonical links in a page’s internal structures giving search engines’ mixed signals
  • Duplicate paginated collection pages 
  • Breadcrumbs URLs are not indexed in a proper way
  • Non-canonical links indexed ( because Google only use the canonical tags as a hint for duplicate contents)

So how to solve these? 

You need to rely on external apps giving you full control to not index, not follow every link. Otherwise, please turn to a coding expert or wait for Shopify’s future update. 

Further troubles with subcategories, URL & site’s hierarchical structures

Shopify provides us with a fixed hierarchical structure without the ability to add subcategories. While this works perfectly fine for small businesses, as your inventory grows bigger, it turns out to be inconvenient. The lack of subcategories makes it difficult to organize your products effectively. 

However, any efforts to add subcategories out of the Shopify structure may create a messy hierarchy for your store. As Google inevitably rely on the structure to understand your site better, you may need to overcome this when you optimize SEO further.

Regarding this problem, we had better wait for Shopify’s further improvement.  

International SEO limitation

Shopify has just paid attention to international SEO recently in 2020. The latest effort is to enable the international subdomain, ccTLDS with multiple XML sitemaps and JSON.file support. 

However, global SEO is far from Shopify’s strength. And if you are a multinational store owner, there are more things to do: 

  • Learn to set up a multinational Shopify store
  • Create contents in local language (mechanical translations are not welcomed)
  • Use local resources to build backlinks and outbound links
  • Make sure canonicalisation is done properly
  • Set Google Search Console to target internationally

FAQ & Conclusions

These FAQs help you even better decide whether Shopify is the right platform for you.

Which is better for SEO: Shopify vs Magento vs WooCommerce?

Each platform is good for each special need. 

If you are non-tech savvy, on a tight budget and interested in basic features, go for Shopify. Despite Shopify’s SEO limitations, your store can still thrive beautifully. Make sure to make the most out of its features and learn to fix lots of limitations with online instructions. 

If you aspire for more optimization and are willing to pay more, Magento and WooCommerce are the ideal matches. Having full control over SEO features, your store will claim a good ranking in no time. Although customization always goes with high costs, let’s think about it. It’s not just about SEO. It’s also about scalability, powerful inventory functions, and more. 

Do I need to spend more money on Shopify SEO?

Theoretically, no. But in general, yes. With the default SEO function and a smart SEO strategy, your store can still go somewhere. However, plenty of SEO apps are there for good reasons. They save time, fix considerable issues, drive traffic amazingly, and so on. Therefore, it’s just hard to ignore all those benefits.

Does SEO really matter?

Again, yes, it is. Depending on your business needs, SEO effort can go from really fundamental to ultimate optimizations. But at the end of the day, it’s something every business should do. 

Now you know if Shopify is good for SEO and what platform is right for your business. We hope that you can make a well-informed decision. Stay tuned to Simicart for more eCommerce blogs that help your selling journey easier.

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Chi Tran

A wanderer at heart who tries to embrace all small beauties, live healthily and learn every day.

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