Replay: The ins and outs of Shopify SEO

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted shopping behavior online and businesses are turning to platforms like Shopify so that they can continue to serve customers.

The surge in e-commerce retailers, however, also means increased competition for organic visibility and shoppers. In this session of Live with Search Engine Land, I sat down with Chris Long, SEO senior manager at Go Fish Digital, and Ron Diorio, general manager at The Economist Store and Learning.ly, to discuss the benefits and challenges of running an e-commerce site on Shopify.

Related: Shopify SEO Guide: How to increase organic traffic to your store

“One of the biggest things a lot of Shopify store owners ask about is site speed,” Long said, “This is one of those things that’s perceived as an issue, but oftentimes, I don’t perceive it as one necessarily.” Shopify stores generally score 20 or less on Google’s mobile PageSpeed Insights, with first contentful paint taking about 3.5 seconds, he added.

The Economist Store migrated to Shopify from a different CMS in 2012. “We had an easy comparison in terms of speed because Shopify beat it right out of the box, and we had to really throw a lot of stuff onto it for it to be slower,” Diorio said.

As Diorio alluded to, loading up on apps can slow down your Shopify site. In addition to limiting apps, Long also recommended compressing images and implementing lazy loading functionality to decrease page load times. However, store owners must carefully assess their Shopify apps with respect to functionality and impact on user experience before removing them: “The real questions come when you have things that might be slowing down the store, but are responsible for 30% of revenue or something like that — those apps, you should probably keep,” Long said.

Duplicate product pages are also a facet of Shopify. As an inherent characteristic of the framework Shopify is built on, category pages link to duplicate product pages, and although they do canonical back to the correct landing page, this may dilute link equity and make it more difficult for search engines to determine which page from their index they should favor.

“The reason this is just a bit riskier . . . is you’re setting up your entire website architecture around duplicate pages,” said Long, “Basically, every single category page on the site . . . is going to push internal links to duplicate product pages, but all of the product pages that are getting internal links technically aren’t eligible to rank in the search engines.” A solution for this does exist, you can read about it in our guide to technical SEO for Shopify.

Since moving over to Shopify, The Economist Store has found ways to leverage the platform for interdepartmental collaboration, Diorio said. “We’ve had people come to us to try to understand how vouchering can be used for gifting or incentivizing people in other areas of the business and that’s been great for us, because that’s less expensive marketing,” he said, noting that this strategy also generates awareness, gets customers into the system and creates a transaction pattern for them to follow through on.

“It has been very satisfying over the last few years to find people internally who now turn to us with a problem and ask us, ‘How can you solve it?’ or us going to them and saying, ‘Let’s imagine a solution to something for you and test it’,” Diorio said. Collaborating with colleagues from other teams builds relationships and makes them more receptive to the ways in which they can help improve your organization’s visibility.

Here is the complete list of topics we discussed, with corresponding timestamps:

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 04:04 – What is Shopify?
  • 08:29 – Tradeoffs of Shopify’s CMS
  • 10:23 – SEO priorities for The Economist Store
  • 12:01 – Does Shopify have speed problems?
  • 22:04 – Duplicate content on Shopify
  • 28:08 – Site architecture on Shopify
  • 31:03 – Compromising between UX, site performance, and SEO for e-commerce stores
  • 33:26 – Benchmarking page speed according to Shopify themes
  • 35:05 – Comparing speed on Shopify and WordPress for e-commerce
  • 36:28 – The Economist Store’s migration to Shopify
  • 39:17 – How Shopify facilitates cross-departmental collaboration for The Economist Store
  • 42:25 – Factors that can hold back your SEO on Shopify and for all e-commerce stores
  • 45:43 – How The Economist Store uses an agency to help run its Shopify store.
  • 49:33 – Shopify product “debt” and orphaned pages
  • 52:17 – Shopify’s CDN
  • 54:29 – Advice for Shopify store owners from The Economist Store’s Ron Diorio
  • 55:52 – Closing Shopify SEO advice from Go Fish Digital’s Chris Long
  • 59:08 – New Shopify possibilities with Cloudflare technology

Watch the full session above and subscribe to Search Engine Land’s YouTube channel to keep up with future Live with Search Engine Land episodes.

Live with Search Engine Land’s weekly meetups are about giving great marketers a platform to inform, support and convene our global community. If you have an idea for a session or would like to join a panel, email kbushman@thirddoormedia.com.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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