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SEO limitations on Shopify & how to overcome them pt. 26 min read

6 min read

This series will discuss the SEO limitations marketers may face when using the e-commerce platform, Shopify, and share insight on how they can combat these issues. In this second part of this series, we will address one of the biggest issues found when using Shopify – duplicate content.

In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of  robots.txt and sitemaps in search engine optimization (SEO), and the difficulties of customizing them in Shopify. We learned that the extensible markup language (XML) sitemap lists important pages that you want to have indexed, including pages like blogs and products, that are valuable to your brand and users. But with Shopify’s defaulted sitemap, you can only include the four primary categories: products, collections, blogs, and webpages. 

We also learned that robots.txt files notify Googlebot on what can and cannot be crawled on the site. By managing how your site is crawled and indexed, Google is able to properly rank your page in its results. So what exactly is being crawled by Googlebot that helps your page rank on search engines? The answer’s fairly simple – your content!

Why Content?

Any information that lives on the web for user consumption is considered content. The types of content that live on your website will depend on your business goals. If you’re using Shopify, it’s likely that your goals are geared towards driving sales, so ideally you’d have attractive and informative product pages that are optimized for search and conversion. 

But how is this relevant to SEO? If you want your web page to be searchable, you want to create content with the goal of driving organic search traffic, while also providing additional value to the user. The content should be relevant to the customer’s search intent, so that you can earn higher rankings and grow your number of returning customers over time.

What is duplicate content?

One of the greatest obstacles marketers may face when working with Shopify is the issue of duplicate content. But what exactly is duplicate content? 

According to Google, Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

If you have two pages with identical content, Google will consider them as duplicates. While the platform is unable to determine whether or not your duplicate pages are meant to be deceptive, it will typically remove them from its search index anyways – this is to prevent users from using duplicate content to trick search engines in order to gain an advantage in ranking. 

Below is an example of one of Croud’s clients who utilized Shopify to sell some of their beauty products. We tracked some of the keywords that are associated with their products’ URLs to monitor their ranking on the search engine results page (SERP). In the start of August, this particular keyword, ‘argan anti wrinkle cream’ was ranked on the third page of the SERP, because the brand’s product page held duplicate content. 

Once Croud addressed this issue and the proper adjustments were made, we were able to boost the ranking of this keyword from page three to page one. This is a clear example of how duplicate content could negatively impact your page ranking and lower your brand visibility to potential customers with search intent for your particular products.

A quick way to prevent this issue is utilizing a canonical tag. According to Moz, “A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a specific Uniform Resource Locator (URL) represents the master copy of a page. This helps prevent problems caused by identical or ‘duplicate’ content appearing on multiple URLs.” 

Canonical tags help Google consolidate your duplicate content through internal linking. But by default, Shopify links to the non-canonical version of all your product pages throughout your site. This creates a high-priority SEO issue because the website is sending Google conflicting signals on what should be indexed.

Duplicate content on Shopify

So just how does this tie in with Shopify?

Shopify’s framework implements collections by grouping products into categories, which ideally makes it easier for customers to find products. However, every time you associate a product with a collection, Shopify creates an additional URL which results in two pages with identical content. With link signals split between these two pages, search engines struggle to determine which of the two pages should be deemed the canonical version.

Below shows two different automatically rendered URL paths of Shopify’s /products/ pages:

  • Canonical URL path: /products/
  • Non-canonical URL path: /collections/.*/products/

Shopify accounts for this issue by ensuring all /collections/.*/products/ pages include a canonical tag to the associated /products/ page. 

Fortunately this can be amended by getting rid of the code responsible for the dynamic generation of URL structures. On your Shopify theme’s liquid files, look for your “collection-template.liquid” file. Once you find the file, perform a search (using Ctrl + F) to find {{ product.url | within: collection }}.

Change the code below: 

<a href=”{{ product.url | within: collection }}” class=”product-card”>

to:

<a href=”{{ product.url }}” class=”product-card”>

The reason we use this solution is because the code {{ product.url | within: collection }} indicates that products found ‘within’ any collection, utilize the collection name in the URL. We want the product URL to show up in internal links across the site, regardless of the collections it can be found in. Since we want the product URL to be canonicalized throughout the site, we need to change the code to {{ product.url }}, so that the canonical product URLs will be visible from any collections page. Keep in mind, doing this will not eliminate the collection URL. Instead, it will continue to be a live page with the canonical tag directing users to the product page.

With all this being said, hopefully you now have a better idea of what duplicate content on Shopify is, and how it can negatively impact SEO – especially for your product pages! We want to add value to our content pages, not harm them. By making sure we prevent instances that can drop or even remove our ranking position in Google’s results, we can focus more on how to attract visitors to the webpage through keyword optimization, content organization, or content promotion! We will explore more limitations with Shopify and provide workaround solutions to help improve your SEO performance in the next blog post of this series.

To learn more about the limitations of Shopify, or to speak to someone on our SEO team, get in touch