How to link to your Shopify products without screwing up your long-term SEO
Questions about Shopify’s urls for products in a collection are a frequent visitor to my inbox. When a customer was running an SEO audit, he got back a lot of reports about duplicate title tags. In his words:
here is something I found classified as duplicate titles (using ScreamingFrog). Both are automatically created by Shopify.Any suggestions for the 150,000 duplicates like this that ScreamingFrog is reporting?
What’s going on is that a Shopify theme has two options when linking products:
- directly to the product page
- to the product page with a collection
If your Shopify theme links to a product with the collection (#2), that can cause Google to find and index multiple pages as duplicates.
e.g. one for the product-only url, one for each collection that product appears in.
Shopify adds a canonical tag to pages that is supposed to say "https://www.example.com/products/ABC-123 is the main url to use" but from what I’ve seen and heard from others, Google only takes that as a suggestion. If your store and other sites link to the collection page more, that might outrank the product page and bypass the canonical tag.
Some SEO tools pick up on this duplication and flag those as problems.
What I now recommend is to change your theme to use the non-collection urls for products (#1).
It will temporarily hurt traffic and SEO as Google reviews the new linking structure. After that review, the end result is that Google will start to use the product version only. This means your product pages won’t disappear from Google if you ever update your theme, change your collections, or change what products belong in a collection.
It also means that there’s a much greater likely hood of the one correct product page getting indexed and ranked by Google.
Another option is to manage the canonical tag and linking manually but that usually takes a lot of effort from the store, their SEO, and their web developer to get working. I have one customer doing this but their SEO-game is very advanced and drives almost half of the their sales.
Even if you decide not to change this in your store, be aware that when you upgrade or switch themes the new theme might switch the url style which can cause the same result. I’ve seen lots of stores accidentally wipe out their SEO temporarily because a new theme switched all of their products.
I really wish Shopify would warn stores about this stuff before a themes is published. Or if Shopify had some option outside of a theme for how to create links.
Oh well. Until then, you’ll just need to be extra careful.
Today would be a good day to Install JSON-LD for SEO if you haven’t yet.
It can take some time before Google awards Rich Snippets to a store so if you want to be competitive for this holiday season, you should get this done soon.