This is one of the biggest queries in the ecommerce world.
For most brands and businesses, you don’t start out with an unlimited budget for paid advertising and you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to invest in custom shopping cart development, fully fleshed out branding, content, and more.
For SMB’s and entrepreneurs, the idea of bootstrapping your business is commonplace.
Because of that, a lot of merchants rely heavily on SEO that they (or a skilled agency) can do themselves. In 2020, SEO is still the only way to “earn” traffic from search engines without directly paying for it.
So when an online merchant is considering what ecommerce platform to build their store on, SEO is a huge consideration.
Shopify, being one of the more popular ecommerce platforms out there, should have pretty comprehensive SEO capabilities, right?
Let’s dig in and see how good Shopify is for SEO.
Easy Set Up for All Skill Levels
What we really like about Shopify is its ease of use. No matter your skill level or experience with ecommerce platforms, Shopify does a great job of making it painless to set up a store. There’s a certain technical aspect to SEO that you need to have setup in order to succeed.
If you’re working with a custom ecommerce platform, there are a lot of basic components that help build a site’s SEO capabilities. URLs, taxonomies, site architecture and more all contribute to how structurally sound a website is for SEO. Obviously, the more structurally-sound your setup, the better your site’s SEO can be.
Shopify has all the basic site components already figured out and they’re easy to set up for people of all skill levels – a major pro.
When you get into the nitty gritty of building out your website, you need to have access to customize your basic SEO components like URLs, Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, image alt text, 301 redirect rules and HTML copy.
While it’s not necessarily a feature that is only unique to Shopify, they include all your SEO necessities with a clean UI and some clear guidance on how to utilize them.
Plugins to Boost SEO Performance
While Shopify does a good job of providing users with the basics, there isn’t much in the way of extending capabilities that you can do (we’ll talk about that in the next section). However, Shopify has an extensive plugin and app network so there are a lot of developers out there that have created plugins that allow you to help improve your SEO.
SEO plugins that help extend Shopify SEO capabilities include:
- Structured data
- Broken link management
- Title templating
- Index rules
- Bulk title and description editing
- Image alt text
- 404 errors
- “Out of stock” rules
- Meta data templating
Ultimately, there’s a lot that you can do with SEO right out of the box, and with a little investment in a plugin or two, there’s a lot more that you can take control of.
When you are building your website, you want things to just work the way they intended. Shopify does that in a lot of ways, but there are some inconsistencies with how that platform works.
Flexibility on Product and Collection Pages
It’s 2020 and merchants need more flexibility with their collection pages.
Because Shopify was designed to be so easy to use, it has a certain rigidity to it. Notably, one of the biggest drawbacks is that you have limited capabilities and flexibility with two of the most important page templates for ecommerce: collection pages and product pages.
If you have a need for something relatively simple, like content below a product feed on collection pages, or extended product information on a product page, it will require customization. In fact, the most recent piece of information on having content below your product feed on collection pages is a forum post from 2017.
There’s a big problem with the limitations, specifically on collection pages because you’re limited in how much indexable content you can include without pushing content very far down the page. That’s a very big trade off between having high quality content on your collection pages and poor UX.
Blog Post Organization & Architecture
We’re a little torn on this one. Shopify has a great blogging platform, but it lacks organization. The way Shopify blogs work is that you have individual posts and then you can organize them by category.
If you had worked with a platform like WordPress or Ghost or really any other publishing platform, you would assume that all posts would live under the /blog/ directory once published. But Shopify does something interesting in that they allow you to categorize your posts into specific blogs.
Once categorized, your posts now live under an additional subdirectory in the /blog/ subdirectory.
As an example, I created a “News” category on my mock site.
Then, I assigned a post to my “News” blog that I created.
Now, when I view the post live, it lives under /blog/news/ directory.
Shopify blog’s URL taxonomy and blog creation process creates issues especially if you don’t understand how it works or aren’t organized with your blog creation. You could easily end up with dozens of individual blog feeds and thin blog content published across each.
The problem with Shopify blogs comes down to the intuitiveness and somewhat strange way that it handles the necessary creation of new blog feeds when you publish.
Shopify Uses a Proprietary Coding Language Called “Liquid”
For Shopify, you’re working with a proprietary coding language called Liquid, it can be somewhat of a learning curve, even if you’re familiar with traditional coding languages. In a way, this is a drawback for the Shopify platform. Any customizations or improvements you’d like to make to your site to improve SEO will have to be done through a liquid developer, limiting your talent pool and forcing you to work within the confines of the liquid code base.
You Will Probably Need Plugins
We included the use of SEO plugins as a pro, but it’s also a con to the Shopify platform. If you want to do anything beyond the fundamentals, you really have to turn to their plugins. Unlike WordPress, which is also a platform that relies heavily on plugins for extended functionality, Shopify typically charges a premium for plugins so you’re going to end up paying more for that extra SEO capabilities, cluttering up your site to achieve customizations, and slowing things down in the process.
If we had to give Shoipfy a grade for SEO, it would be a solid “B.” Here’s why:
The Good Stuff
- Shopify platform is easy to use for all skill levels and they have a good infrastructure and architecture right out of the gate
- Shopify offers merchants easy access to SEO basics so you can improve your SEO fundamentals without any additional customizations to the theme
- If you do want to extend your SEO capabilities, you can turn to a plugin or two to accomplish more
The Bad Stuff
- There are limitations to the core templates that every ecommerce website uses, notably the collection and product pages
- Shopify gives you a blog, but we don’t like how it works – not intuitive for the most part
- Liquid theme presents some limitations on the level of customization you can do for your site and how easy it is to find development talent