Overcoming the Obstacles of Shopify SEO

Shopify undoubtedly is the most used e-commerce platform these days, simply because it has made it a lot easier for business owners, with even novice level of understanding in website development, to set up and manage their online store and grow their brand by offering a wide range of tools and features.

However, the success of an online store depends a lot more on how much it can leverage its SEO capabilities when trying to rank in top positions in SERPs.

Despite being the most preferred eCommerce platform among eCommerce business owners, Shopify has some SEO limitations that stop it from tapping into utilizing its full potential as a platform when implementing SEO strategies.

Here we will be discussing those limitations and what can be done to overcome them when trying to market your online Shopify store.

1. Shopify Won’t Let You Customize the Sitemap

A well-structured sitemap enhances crawlability and ensures that search engines index your content accurately.

Although Shopify automatically generates an XML sitemap for you which saves you both time and manual work, it doesn’t allow any customization to the sitemap.

This lack of customization can conflict with your SEO efforts by not allowing you to prioritize certain pages when prioritizing the pages for crawling and indexing or even control the frequency of crawling certain pages to update the content.

As a large online store with hundreds of categories and subcategories, you would certainly want the freedom to prioritize these pages as well as the crawling frequency over others.

Apart from that, the inability to customize your sitemap stops you from excluding unnecessary pages from the sitemap index such as user profiles, cart pages, pages for payment, or even product variants.

In the long run, this might even contribute to outdated content in SERPs since you wouldn’t be able to stop product pages that are not part of your product catalog anymore.

How to Resolve Sitemap Limitations in Shopify?

There are a few methods using which you can overcome this limitation of Shopify.

For instance, you can block payment-related pages and user profiles using the Robots.txt file. Or, you can optimize the pages using the “no-index” meta tag to stop search engine bots from indexing them in SERPs.

As for the product variants, you can set up canonical URLs for those pages to tell search engines what are the preferred pages for indexing.

You might also want to try a Sitemap Builder plugin for Shopify that lets you control the structure of your sitemap and exclude pages as per your preference. There are tens of free to paid Shopify plugins available for sitemap customization.

2. Shopify Offers Very Limited Blogging Functionality

Content is considered king in the modern era of SEO, not only does it help build authority but also helps convert traffic into leads.

And, being an eCommerce website, you already have a very limited scope of adding content to your pages since the majority of pages are of products or categories that can only contain product or category-specific information.

To overcome such limitations, you can leverage a blogging strategy and produce content that is closely tied to your products and promote it to attract relevant traffic. This is where you might feel a limitation with Shopify.

While Shopify outperforms others as an e-commerce platform, the blogging functionality it offers is fairly limited and lacks many of the advanced blogging features.

It can be really frustrating for business owners who want to implement a robust content strategy that complements their product offerings and generates high-quality traffic for conversion.

How to Resolve Blogging Limitations in Shopify?

To overcome this limitation, you can integrate a dedicated blogging platform and install a blogging app for Shopify into your online store that lets you promote your products through content.

Apart from that, you should also leverage a good internal linking strategy to ensure your product and category pages are internally linked to your blog pages, so both website visitors and search bots can explore your products easily.

3. Shopify Creates Content Duplicity

As a fair SEO practice, Search Engines motivate websites to produce more unique content and might reward you for it as well as punish you for publishing duplicate content such as a drop in rankings.

Shopify’s default structure only adds fuel to this fire. For example, a single product can be accessed through multiple page URLs, such as the original product page URL and the page URL of the same product from every collection or category it has been added to.

Although Shopify automatically generates canonical tags for these product pages which resolves most of the issues; however, some of these duplicate URLs might get indexed when implementing internal linking strategies and end up creating URL variations. This can not only confuse search engines but also dilute your authority for those product pages.

Therefore, you might be stuck with no other option but to carefully identify such pages through Google Search Control and set up no-index tags on all of them, which can be a lot to handle if you are managing a large Shopify store with hundreds of products.

Apart from that, the functionality of a Shopify website often involves product variants based on various product features such as size, color, and material. Each of these variants can be accessed through their specific URLs, which causes a lot of identical content issues on your website.

Moreover, Shopify also creates different versions of page URLs based on tags and filters, primarily for category or collection pages. These pages are ultimately the same but with a slight content variation, creating a lot of duplicate content on the website.

How to Resolve Duplicity in Shopify?

To avoid this issue and consolidate your page authority, you should implement canonical tags for product variants and tags and filter pages as well. For pages that are less critical, you can consider using “no-index” tags instead and prevent search engines from indexing them.

As a precaution, consolidate similar content into a single, comprehensive page rather than spreading it across multiple pages. This not only helps users find the content on the page that is closely related but also consolidates authority.

Apart from the on-page content, you should also be cautious about contextual information that you pass to search engines, i.e., structured data. Using a structured data app over your existing theme which might already have some structured data information, can create a lot of confusion and duplicity for search engine bots.

4. Shopify has a Restricted URL Structure

URL Structure is an important aspect of implementing a holistic SEO strategy since a short and precise URL not only includes the target keyword but can also guide the search users about the location of the page in the website hierarchy as well as the relevancy to their searched terms.

In general, the URL structure in Shopify does not inherently represent a hierarchical structure. This can make it challenging to convey the relationships between different pages and categories on your website.

This helps create page URLs that are not SEO-friendly, especially for collections and product pages which contain auto-generated elements in page URL structure such as “/collections/” and “/products/”. It leads to extended URL length and might restrict you from including target keywords.

Apart from that, Shopify automatically generates page URLs based on product titles and page names which often include stopping words such as “and”, “the”, or “of”. Shopify’s inability to exclude these stop words from page slugs only complicates the issue even further.

Thus, depending on the length of product names or page titles, Shopify-generated URLs can become long and complex. This might not align with best practices for concise and keyword-rich URLs.

To avoid such a mistake, cross-check the structure for every page URL before publishing it and letting it indexed on Search Engines.

5. Shopify has a flawed Breadcrumbs Structure

Breadcrumbs not only enhance user navigation but also provide search engines with a clear hierarchy of your website’s structure.

While Shopify does offer breadcrumbs, they are not as customizable and SEO-friendly as possible in some other eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce and Magento for instance.

To be precise, the breadcrumbs structure in Shopify doesn’t follow the website structure properly. It might not look like a bigger concern for a small-sized website; However, it proves to be quite inadequate for complex websites with a diverse structure of categories and subcategories.

This inability to modify the breadcrumb structure according to the website’s structure hinders both user experience and SEO, which can lead to less effective indexing and potentially lower rankings.

How to Resolve Flawed Breadcrumbs Structure in Shopify?

To overcome this limitation, you would have to customize the website code with the help of a Shopify expert or use a third-party app that lets you customize the breadcrumb structure to achieve the same.

Apart from that, you can focus on including Structured Data to provide search engines with clear information about your page hierarchy. This can improve search engines’ understanding of your site’s structure.

6. Shopify Page URLs ending with a Trail

Shopify often appends additional characters or strings at the end of page URLs, called “trails.” These trails can be random characters or words related to the page, such as a simple forward slash (/).

These URLs can not only create confusion for regular website visitors but can also raise concerns with search engines, resulting in affected interpretation of the pages for Search Engines and indexing of the content. For instance, “www.example.com/xyz” and “www.examplel.com/xyz/” are not treated as the same by default despite being a replica with the same content. This division can dilute your page authority and confuse search engine algorithms.

To avoid such an issue, you would have to track these URLs using Google Search Central and set up redirects or you can just customize your Shopify theme with the help of a Shopify expert. 

Some web servers and platforms treat page URLs with trailing slashes as separate from page URLs that don’t contain a trailing slash.

Although a website visitor might not notice such a difference, search engines treat these pages as unique entities. Since the content is the same on both pages, they get treated as duplicate pages.

How to Resolve Trail Issues in Shopify?

The first and most important step is to choose a consistent format for your URLs, either with or without trailing slashes, and stick to it across your entire website.

You should keep in mind that Shopify appends trailing slashes to all the page URLs by default. If you prefer page URLs without trailing slashes, you must configure your store accordingly or work with a Shopify developer to adjust this behavior beforehand implementing the page URL structure.

Maintaining consistency in URL structure helps search engines understand your content structure more effectively and helps avoid any suspicion of duplicity.

For page URLs that have been indexed, you can focus on implementing canonical tags to signal search engines about your preferred version of these pages.

This informs search engines about which page you want to prefer over other similar ones while effectively consolidating the ranking signals and avoiding any duplicate content issues.

If you are shifting from one page URL format to another, you should set up 301 redirects to ensure a seamless user experience and also transfer the SEO authority.

Apart from that, you must also ensure your XML sitemap reflects your chosen page URL structure. This helps search engines discover your content accurately and index only the preferred version of your page URLs.

7. Complex Customization of Robots.txt File

The robots.txt file is crucial for any website in guiding search engine crawlers on which parts of your website to index and which to exclude.

Although Shopify now allows customization of the robots.txt file, it is not as simple to implement as in other eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce where you can simply replace the existing file on the server. It means that you have to manually modify the theme file “robots.txt.liquid” of the website to implement the changes.

Shopify generates and manages the robots.txt file automatically for all stores hosted on its platform. This automated approach is deep-rooted in Shopify’s aim to provide a simplified and secure environment for users without requiring extensive technical expertise.

Shopify’s default robots.txt file prioritizes protecting sensitive information and optimizing crawling behavior for eCommerce stores.

This can be limiting if you have specific requirements for search engine crawlers or want to prevent indexing of certain parts of your website for SEO reasons.

How to Resolve Limited Robots.txt Customization in Shopify?

If there are only a few numbers of pages you wish to exclude from indexing, you can simply implement the “no-index” meta tag on those pages. However, you have to implement it for every individual page.

If you have advanced technical knowledge, you can consider implementing workarounds using subdomains or directories and controlling the crawler access to search engine bots by manually customizing the code in the robots.txt file, located within the theme files.

Or, you can use any of the robots.txt plugins available on the Shopify app store which lets you customize your robots.txt file without having any coding skills or updating any theme file.

Apart from that, if you wish to, you can also influence crawling and indexing using the structured data markups and the sitemap of your Shopify store. These tools provide alternative ways to guide search engines in understanding your content and its importance.

8. Duplicate Meta Tags in Shopify Due to Pagination

Pagination is commonly used for breaking down long lists of products or content into multiple pages. However, Shopify’s default pagination structure can lead to content duplicity issues.

Different pages displaying parts of the same content may be indexed separately, which causes paginated URLs to have the same title tags and meta descriptions.

Pagination is essential for presenting a large number of products or content pieces. However, this default behavior of the Shopify structure leads to content duplicity issues, as multiple pages display the same title tags and meta descriptions.

How to Resolve Pagination Issue in Shopify?

You can focus on implementing “rel=next” and “rel=prev” tags to guide search engines in understanding the logical flow of paginated content. And, in addition, you can use canonical tags to direct search engines to the main version of the content and manage pagination.

This helps consolidate link equity and reduces the risk of diluting your authority across multiple paginated pages.

You can also implement appropriate robots meta tags, such as “no-index, follow” on these paginated pages. This will prevent search engines from indexing these pages while still allowing them to follow and discover the rest of your content.

Another different approach to this can be the implementation of the “pagination” schema markup of the “Article” structured data class to guide search engines in understanding the relationships between paginated pages. This can enhance the user experience by providing a seamless navigation flow.

However, this method only works for content pages like blogs and articles. For pagination URLs of collection or category pages, you can implement the “relatedLink” schema markup of the “CollectionPage” structured data class.

9. Shopify favors Character Limits over Pixel Length in Meta Tags

Meta titles and descriptions are essential for telling both users and search engines what a page is about. However, Shopify imposes character limits on these elements, which can sometimes result in truncated or incomplete meta information being displayed in search results.

Ideally, pixel lengths should be considered since search engines like Google prefer pixel length over character length. The reason is certain characters (like ‘W’ or ‘M’) take up more space than others (like ‘i’ or ‘l’). Opting for pixel length ensures that each search result gets a fair chance to promote itself.

Shopify recommends keeping meta titles within 50 to 60 characters to ensure they are fully visible in search results. Titles exceeding this limit will be truncated, potentially affecting the user’s understanding of the content.

How to Resolve Character Limitations in Shopify?

You should always focus on prioritizing key information within the character limit, and use tools to preview how your titles and descriptions will appear in search results.

To ensure this, focus on writing meta tags that convey the core message concisely while adhering to the character restrictions.

For meta descriptions, Shopify recommends limiting it to around 150-160 characters. This ensures that the description is presented coherently in search results, providing search users with a clear idea of the page’s content.

You can choose to use some third-party tools available on the web to determine the pixel length of your title tags and meta descriptions before finalizing them.

10. Shopify Allows Dynamic Customization on the Home Page Only

While Shopify provides the option to customize the home page using its drag-and-drop builder, this level of dynamic customization is limited to the home page only.

Other important pages, such as product pages or collection pages, have more restricted customization options, potentially restricting you from creating unique, SEO-optimized landing pages.

How to Enable Dynamic Customization in Shopify?

You should focus on exploring available customization options for other pages in Shopify, such as modifying product templates and using third-party apps to achieve an advanced level of page customization.

However, you might need to maintain a balance between customization and maintaining a unified design across your entire online store.

11. Shopify Offers Very Limited Image Optimization

Images play an important role in eCommerce websites, both in terms of user experience and SEO. However, the built-in image optimization features in Shopify are fairly limited. This greatly impacts your page speed and affects search engine rankings.

You have less control over alt text optimization, image compression, and other SEO-related image attributes compared to what dedicated image optimization tools and plugins can offer you.

Alt text is crucial for web accessibility and search engine optimization. Not only does it help visually impaired users understand images but assists search engines in understanding your content.

However, in Shopify, the character limit for alt text is restricted, which can make it challenging to provide comprehensive and descriptive alt text for images. This limitation might hinder efforts to improve SEO and overall accessibility.

Apart from Alt text, Shopify doesn’t properly support lazy loading for image compression. Lazy loading is an image compression technique that defers the loading of non-visible images, which can help improve initial page load times.

Although Shopify introduced lazy loading in 2020 to its platform, its implementation has certain limitations. For instance, default lazy loading might not work as effectively across all browsers and devices, potentially affecting the user experience for a percentage of your audience.

Another limitation of image optimization in Shopify is limited file format support. While Shopify supports common formats like JPEG and PNG, it lacks support for more advanced formats like WebP.

WebP can offer better compression without compromising image quality and help reduce the overall size of the images better than what JPEG and PNG offer. These limitations can impact your On-page optimization efforts.

How to Resolve Image Optimization Limitations in Shopify?

Before uploading images to Shopify, you can optimize them using various third-party tools to reduce file size while simultaneously maintaining their quality.

12. Shopify Offers Limited International SEO Capabilities

International SEO involves optimizing your website to target audiences in different countries and languages. It goes beyond just translating the content on your online store.

It includes adapting the structure of your Shopify store, its content as well as the technical aspects to resonate with diverse audiences while simultaneously following search engine guidelines.

Effective international SEO leads to increased organic visibility, higher rankings and authority, and ultimately, increased conversions and revenue.

While Shopify offers a range of features for eCommerce success, its capabilities for international SEO are not as complete as some specialized platforms. Some of these challenges include limited usage of the hreflang tag, limitations to language and currency localization, and uniform metadata.

Hreflang tags are crucial for specifying to search engines which language and region a specific page targets. Shopify offers limited control over its implementation, which stops you from precise targeting of its optimum usage and potentially leads to content confusion for search engines.

As for the support of multiple languages and local currencies, the process of implementing these features is complex. Any change in the default settings of Shopify for language and currency localization might require help from Shopify experts to ensure the correct usage of these features.

Apart from this, Shopify often uses uniform metadata across different language versions of the same page. This can result in non-satisfactory titles and descriptions for each region, directly impacting the CTR (Click-through Rate) and user engagement.

How to Resolve International SEO Limitations in Shopify?

There are various third-party apps and plugins available on the Shopify app store that can help you enhance the international SEO of your online store.

These apps can offer more advanced control over features like hreflang implementation and metadata customization.

Another workaround for these challenges is if you have the technical expertise, then you should consider implementing custom code to enhance international SEO elements. This might involve manually inserting hreflang tags or adjusting metadata for each target local region.

While Shopify might not offer full control over language versions, you can still create content that targets your specific audiences. You can create region-specific content to provide localized value and increase user engagement.

As far as uniform metadata limitations are concerned, focus on customizing titles and meta descriptions wherever possible. You can highlight region-specific offerings and benefits to attract users to click on your search engine results.

Moreover, if your international SEO strategy involves serving content on different subdomains, focus on creating region-specific subdirectories. This might provide more control over language and region targeting.

In conclusion, Shopify is a versatile and user-friendly eCommerce platform, but it comes with inherent SEO limitations.

By understanding these limitations and implementing dedicated and strategic workarounds, you can battle the challenges and create an SEO-optimized online store that maximizes your search engine visibility and drives sustainable organic traffic.

As Shopify keeps evolving its platform over time, staying updated with its developments and exploring third-party integrations can enable you to overcome these limitations effectively.

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