Tips on How to Solve the Most Common Shopify SEO Problems

Gone are the days when website owners have to wait for the progress of SEO campaign to end before they can sell their products online. Today, you can take advantage of the E-commerce platforms such as Shopify which has been known as user friendly. In as fast as 15 minutes, you can launch your online store. But there is a catch – is Shopify good for SEO?

While Shopify has been designed to be easy to use, its simplicity presents issues with flexibility especially with its predesigned functionalities. After reviewing and consulting to tons of Shopify stores, I have decided to post this article in order to help the best way I can in solving the most common Shopify SEO problems people face when creating their online store. So here you go. I have listed down Shopify SEO tips to resolve these mistakes. 

Site Structure & Linking

Typically, a tree-like structure is considered as an optimal site structure

Structuring is defined as the process of putting pages and their links in the right places while smart linking is creating the connection among these pages and their links. This is an elementary concept for most webmasters. However, some overlook the correlation of structuring and smart linking. In effect, this impacts the flow of link juices which are necessary to increase usability and popularity. Ideally, for a structure to be considered optimal; there must be no deadlocks. This means that there must be continuity. Internal links should point to the page you are trying to optimize. 

Look at this diagram closer. If this diagram is a city map, you would not want to come to a dead end as there will be no other choice but to go back. Take an even close look:

So here are the simple yet essential rules when considering site structure and linking:

  1. Point internal links only to the most important page for SEO so it receives appropriate link juice abundantly.
  2. Create continuity of pages and their links. Ensure no deadlock pages.
  3. Make sure keywords used as anchor text leads to relevant pages.
  4. As much as possible, link only from text blocks found on the pages

    For any e-commerce site, these rules are applicable but they present some SEO Shopify problems. Unlike other online stores, Shopify is designed to create multiple folders in the URL like “products” and “collections”. You will notice this in most Shopify URLs which will appear like: http://eqsmartwriter.myshopify.com/collections/all. Except when you create another page on your online store named “collections” and it is also placed on your navigation bar, this will not hurt SEO.

     

    To illustrate, here’s a typical mistake made by one of three Shopify online store owners:

    It is very noticeable here that the word “collection” was used excessively and placed in the navigation bar while hiding the valuable categories and the most searched words by potential customers. This blunder turns off not only your visitors but also the search bots. If this was my online store, I would just delete “shop” link and replace it with all the collection categories. This will only take me 3 clicks per collection category. Here’s how to do it in the Shopify admin page:

     

    Indexation and Duplicate Content

    Next to our list of the most common SEO Shopify problems are indexation and duplicate contents. When we say indexation, most webmasters would agree that before your online store goes live, you have to ensure that your xml sitemap and robots.txt file are in place where they should be. This will make search bots crawl your online store much easier.

    As an added functionality, Shopify automatically generates these two. Most online store owners do not pay attention to exerting effort in ensuring the search bots find their sites. The main problem with xml sitemap is that it doesn’t invite and lead the search bots to the pages you want them to crawl. This is because xml sitemap is simply not designed to do that.  This makes xml sitemap less useful in providing information about the pages you want web spiders to crawl.

    Don’t panic. This situation can be resolved by HTML sitemap. If you want to kick start your site, never forget that this is a prerequisite. Guess what, most webmasters overlook this requirement. Take it from the Big G’s Webspam team leader, Matt Cutts. He reiterates that he would rather use html sitemap than xml.

     

    Things to remember when using html sitemap:

     

    • Make your html sitemap nice and clean. Remember that the goal is to ensure product pages are easily crawlable and understood by the search bots. Avoid using too many images that make the pages look messy and lack of substance. Thus, make the navigation elements simple.
    • Avoid placing more than 200 links per html sitemap page
    • Anchor text used must be relevant to the products listed on your html sitemap.
    • HTML sitemap is ideal to be placed in the footer. This must be consistent in the entire site.

     

    Another common SEO Shopify mistake is using redirects. As it implies, it is the process of rerouting from one link to another. Based on my observations, majority of new Shopify online store owners do not pay attention to the 200 server response code that they get from both site version www and non-www. They probably have no idea of its importance. In as easy as 2 clicks inside the Shopy admin, you won’t have to deal with this problem: 

     

    Crawlability is not just about the texts found by search bots. You won’t believe it but there are lots of Shopify online store owners who unbelievably bombard their pages with cute images. These images hurt SEO especially when they are tied up to links which lead to other pages on their site. Instead of using images, it is best to use simple text link. The primary purpose of indexation is telling the bots what your site is all about. The bots can’t interpret an image as compared with text links that provide them better information.

    On the other hand, duplicate content is considered to be the biggest blunder to overlook when creating and managing an e-commerce site. While you can always ensure you don’t do it intentionally when posting blogs, for instance, there are some technical incidents that lead to duplicate content. Shopify has anticipated this issue so you will find most themes with rel canonicals properly implemented. This will prevent the pages that are intended to be hidden crawlable. If you ever stumble upon pages of your online store lacking the required canonicalization, use this pattern when you update the code of your theme.liquid file:

    Same issues are found with files and folders. For instance, it will not be ideal if old blog posts will still be indexed as they are no longer updated with the users’ searches. This presents a challenge since Shopify is not designed to stop the bots in indexing less useful information on your site. Although the robots.txt file can’t help, you can still update the headers of the page using the theme.liquid file. This should help you do this: 

    {% if page_title contains 'Whatever' %}<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow, noarchive">{% endif %}

     

    Content Optimization

    Before even thinking about how the bots crawl your site when it’s ready for go live, it will be a smart move to ensure proper keyword research and analysis is performed. Guess what, not many Shopify webmaster take this step. For the nth time, I’m emphasizing the importance of keywords research, analysis and placement. This is so crucial especially for title, headers and contents. This is the most important part of SEO for Shopify yet it has become the most notorious SEO Shopify problem.

     

    Keyword Usage

    Proper usage of keywords can help you create a better homepage along with the pages of categories and sub-categories. Just one minute, think like a potential customer of your online store. What word or phrases will you use to find the product you are looking for?

     

    In a nutshell, this list will let keyword research serve its purpose:

     

    • Know your audience then come up with a list of keywords that they might use to find your products.
    • Using this keyword list, utilize trusted tools in your analysis such as Google Keyword Planner. You can also decide which keyword to use by comparing their search volumes utilizing Ubbersuggest tool. SEMRush tool can also help if you want to know how the competition is doing.
    • Filter your list. Avoid keywords that are too common and too competitive. You would not want to use keywords targeted by tenured sites. Downloading SEO Quake plug-ins can help you determine how long a site has been online and for you to know their reputation on the internet.

     

    Proper keyword research can always lead to optimization of your title tags including the headings and anchor text. The primary key in keyword optimization is simple – never annoy the search engines and your potential customers by bombarding your contents with repetitive use of your chosen keywords. Create informative and genuine contents.

     

    Title and Content

    Irrelevant and misleading titles and those that are focused in attracting search bots are the usual SEO Shopy problems I have noticed. The optimum number of characters for a title to be considered SEO and user friendly is less than 70 characters. How would you like to appear on search results? Like this?

    On the other hand, content plays a vital role in ensuring optimum gain. It has to be unique, concise and well-written for organic traffic to make that click to action. Bear in mind that if human visitors dislike your content, there is a slim chance search engines will rank your online store as high. Be creative enough to write unique product descriptions. Having said that, don’t think about copying product descriptions found in more popular sites such as Amazon and Ebay. Imagine a potential customer looking for a product uses the same description that you copied from Amazon. He will probably get these search results:

    Analytics

    For any excited online webmaster, overlooking the importance of measuring success is yet the biggest SEO Shopify problem. How would you know the effectiveness of your site SEO when you don’t know how many people visited your site? Shopify has been equipped with the most effective visitor tracking tool – Google Analytics. Refer to the image below to see how easy installation is. By simply copying your unique Analytics code onto your Shopify admin page, you can start counting your potential customers! 

     

    Google Analytics is a good tool to help you analyse the organic traffic that lands on your online store. Don’t worry about analytics bug. Simply install Tag Assistant developed by Google.

     

    Let’s do a quick run-down of the most common SEO Shopify problems:

     

    • Deadlock pages are found on your site almost everywhere. No choice but to go back. No continuity of navigation.
    • Unnecessary connections of pages and links on your site structure
    • Essential categories are not displayed on your site’s navigation pane
    • XML sitemap is used instead of HTML
    • 200 OK response code is obtained for both version of your site
    • Links found in images are not reflected in plain text links
    • Duplicate contents are allowed by not using rel canonicals
    • Search results are still showing your pages that are supposed to be hidden
    • Title exceeds the acceptable 70 character range
    • Products descriptions can be found elsewhere on the internet such as Amazon and Ebay
    • Poor implementation or not using Google Analytics at all to track your traffic

     

    These SEO Shopify problems should be prevented before it leads your online store to a huge loss of profitability opportunity. It is imperative to take advantage of what Shopify offers in helping you achieve your goals in marketing your products. You and I have the same goal – to maximize our resources that will propel our online store big time. Your comments and suggestions are welcome. Feel free to add. Happy selling!

    About the Author

    Anna Korolekh, international marketing manager and, in past, an SEO consultant at Promodo. Anna started her career in online marketing in 2007 from content-writing, later she was employed by the UK company Bullseyemedia as a link-building specialist and finally came to Promodo in 2011. As an SEO consultant Anna has worked with large sites of the following niche: gambling, dating, travel, ecommerce. Anna is a certified Google Analytics individual and a regular contributor to Promodo and external blogs, also a regular speaker at the webinars

    Richard Bairstow is the founder and CEO of We are Underground and is recognised as a leading authority in the Shopify Theme marketplace with 5 of the best selling published themes within the Shopify theme store and over 20,000 active Shopify customers.

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