Shopify is one of the fastest growing ecommerce platforms around, currently valued at over $100 Billion. Designed primarily for small businesses and startups, Shopify has grown rapidly even during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to its user-friendly design.
Created in 2004 by three Canadians looking to find an ecommerce solution for their online snowboard business, many major brands (Mister Hound and Comfort Club to name just a few) now use the platform meaning it has moved beyond just smaller retailers.
The platform has always had simplicity at its heart – meaning even business owners with no web development experience can set up an online store, but how good is it for SEO compared to other platforms available?
- Site Speed
Site speed is arguably the most important factor when it comes to ranking a website, and is due to get even more important in future Google algorithm updates.
Shopify is a little different from other website platforms in that they handle the website hosting – which is reliable and fast, if a little inflexible compared to more bespoke solutions.
Due to the locked-in nature of the hosting, some improvements – such as leveraging browser caching – cannot be made, preventing Shopify sites from reach the top speeds of other platforms.
- On-Page Keyword Targeting
Whether it’s a product or content page, keyword targeting is vital for SEO. Meta titles, descriptions and header tags (the H1 tag in particular) are extremely important for ranking that URL for a specific term.
One of the ways to rank for specific keywords is to include them in the page’s meta info. This is very easy to do on Shopify with a simple input box allowing you to input and preview the meta info for that page.
- Canonical Tag Implementation
A canonical tag is an important element of optimising a website – it is the way a site owner indicates that the version of that page is the original, thus helping it to rank more effectively
Although this sounds like something all CMS platforms should implement as standard, this is not always the case – leading to copied versions of content ranking higher than the original.
Thankfully Shopify implements self-referential canonical tags as standard meaning your site will be protected against ‘copycat’ versions.
- Lots of Low-Quality URLs Created as Standard
You want to ensure search engine crawlers are only indexing the most relevant URLs on your site so you can direct traffic to the pages that matter on your site.
Unfortunately, ‘out of the box’ Shopify sites tend to have lots of irrelevant URLs created featuring thin content or duplicate content to other pages. Examples of URLs that should be noindexed or at least have their canonical pointing to another page are:
– Blog tag pages
– Duplicate product URLs – some include variant IDs
– Search result pages
There are apps which allow you to noindex these URL types, otherwise some theme code editing will be required.
- Over-reliance on Apps
The trade-off with Shopify’s user-friendly design is with how much custom coding can be done. Many SEOs may find this frustrating as they are used to a greater level of control.
This restricted backend functionality has meant apps are often required to perform a range of website facts– with Shopify’s huge app store helping to fill in the gaps.
However, whilst apps are easy to install and customise, they tend to slow the site down quite a lot meaning it can actually decrease your keyword rankings.
- Limited Product Tag Filters
Product tag filters can easily be set up on Shopify, with products ordered by size, colour or any other variable you decide upon.
This is usually good for SEO as these variants can hight long-tail keywords such as ‘size 10 mens shoes’.
However, unfortunately these filter pages are very difficult to optimise as the meta info and on-page content is all ‘locked-down’ as standard.
This is where a Shopify developer or freelance SEO consultant comes into play – they will be able to edit the Shopify theme files so custom text and meta information can be added on the page, meaning these URLs will also be optimised to show higher in search engines.
Hopefully this list of positives and negatives for Shopify and SEO can give you a good idea of if the platform is right for your online business.
In general, Shopify is a fantastic ecommerce platform that has made setting up an ecommerce store a lot easier and more accessible for small businesses and startups. That said, out-of-the-box it is not that well optimised for SEO meaning several edits are required to its core offering.