Shopify SEO replatforming starter kit to boost traffic and drive sales
Written by Debra Weinryb, Content Strategist
When migrating to Shopify there are major considerations that cannot be overlooked if you’re hoping to maintain your search engine ranking. As you change platforms, your page URLs, code structure and content will change too. Knowing this and having a strong search engine optimization (SEO) replatforming strategy will help you build traffic to your online store as soon as possible!
A Forrester report found search is a leading tool at all stages of the customer journey, used by over 90% of consumers for discovering new products, and services, for making purchasing decisions, and for brand exploration and engagements. And SEO is an integral element of your business's searchability online.
So you might be wondering, how does migrating to Shopify affect your SEO? With any site migration, your rankings may begin to drop a bit to start, however, with the right considerations and planning, Shopify can be great for SEO, and even better than your current platform.
What SEO risks can you encounter during a migration?
When you switch to a new platform, search engines like Google need to rank your site and index all your pages. Each time something changes on your site, it may affect important metrics such as your website visits, page speeds and bounce rates, which can all impact your ranking.
If you don’t take SEO factors into consideration, like the content you are offering, your site and URL architecture, and your shoppers’ user experience, you can risk losing visitor traffic and potential sales. Major SEO mistakes include not telling search engines where your links moved, not optimizing your site for mobile users, and letting outdated content linger on your website.
“When switching to Shopify, we don’t want an old link to lose out on potential conversions and hits from Google,” warns Hai-Long Nguyen, Director, System Integrations at diff who’s helped lead the replatforming SEO strategies of brands such as Effy Jewelry, Bestseller, and Urban Planet. “We understand what practices need to be done when switching from another platform to Shopify — giving our customers comfort that it will be an easy journey. Migration activities at diff include moving customer and order data into Shopify, and 301 redirects to conserve our customers’ SEO juice.”
What we’ve included in your Shopify SEO replatforming starter kit
We’ve put together a starter kit to help you ensure that your Shopify migration goes as smoothly as possible. Since each migration situation is unique in nature, the steps you will need to switch to Shopify will depend on your particular requirements. If you’re not sure how to complete the replatforming steps we’ve overviewed below, then you might want to consider hiring a Shopify partner (like diff!) to help you with the process.
The following steps will help you embark on your Shopify SEO replatforming journey:
1. Use 301 redirects to tell Google where your links moved
Most online shoppers are familiar with the ‘404 Error Page (“Page Not Found”).’ You most likely experienced it when clicking on a broken link or mistyping a URL, and your server could not find the website you were looking for.
What are 301 redirects and why do you need them for replatforming?
When replatforming, it’s extremely important that you ensure your old or removed content links to Shopify’s site structure with 301 redirects to avoid broken URLs and lost conversions.
301 redirects let search engines know that content that used to exist under your old store URL now lives at your new Shopify store URL. This ensures that shoppers will reach your new site from clicking on your former site URL and not encounter the dreaded 404 error page, whether from internal website links, or externally, such as from a backlink on someone else’s blog.
For example, your current site might have collections with a URL structure like:
Whereas your new Shopify collection URL structure uses:
If someone clicks on the old URL, and a redirect has not yet been setup, they’ll receive a ‘404 Error Page’, as that content no longer exists at that location, and you’ll lose out on visitor traffic and potential sales for your new Shopify store.
How do 404 errors negatively impact your online store?
404 errors have a significant negative impact on a website’s search engine ranking and a shopper’s user experience, significantly lowering your conversion rate, and in turn, your revenue. This is because 404 errors lower your site’s SEO authority, making it more difficult for a shopper to find the item they are looking for on the search engines. And overall, 404 errors create frustrating shopping experiences.
Why fixing 404 errors with a 301 redirect is important for migration?
In a global online marketplace, your shoppers should be able to find your products and services easily, and they should feel that your store is a reputable and trustworthy source for making purchases. Errors in your online store links can diminish the confidence that your shoppers have in that you will be able to fulfill their product orders in a sufficient and timely manner.
2. Get your site ready for Google’s mobile-first indexing
This past July, Google announced that its search engine will now use the mobile version of the site content for indexing and ranking for all new domains. While historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating its relevance to a user’s query, getting mobile-ready is now more important than ever for maintaining your search ranking!
Responsive vs. mobile only design. What’s better, anyway?
When you’re getting mobile-ready, you’ll need to choose between making a responsive site or redesign for mobile. The trend for most small to medium-sized sites is to choose responsive design, where your site is developed for the site to respond to different screen resolutions.
Small UX modifications can help you rework specific areas of your site interfaces to accommodate your mobile user experience. However, if you run a more complex website, it may not be able to adapt to mobile, and maybe it’s time to consider hiring a Shopify partner agency (like diff!) for an overall design refresh.
What to keep in mind when preparing for mobile
Optimizing for mobile means improving your site design, structure, and speed, to ensure that your site visitors don’t turn away. Here are five tips to keep in mind when preparing for mobile:
Your navigation should be simpler
If you have a complex menu structure, it may be time to reconsider your content strategy. Try to avoid more than one level of nested content for your menu for a more intuitive user experience.
Clickable buttons need to be easy to tap
A finger is bigger than a mouse pointer. To ensure elements on your site can be easily tapped, make sure your elements are large enough and have sufficient spacing on a small screen.
Images should be sharp on retina screens
Retina is becoming the standard on mobile phones, new laptops and even desktops. That’s why it’s important that images or banners should be able to enlarge without compromising on quality.
Forms need to be optimized for all devices
Field labels need to be visible and the user-view needs to zoom in when the user taps a field to enter text. Forms should trigger the right device keyboard for each field ie. numbers, text, etc.
Your checkout need to be mobile-optimized
This step is essential to ensure that customers can add products to their cart and check out. To upkeep conversions, make sure you check your entire ordering workflow to payment on mobile.
3. Continue to optimize your store after replatforming
Once your Shopify site has gone live, it’s essential to make sure your SEO efforts are carried out. The only difference is that now you’ll have access to helpful tools like Google Analytics to keep your performance on track! You’ll be able to measure organic search traffic and bounce rates from before and after you migrate to clue you into your work’s SEO impact right away.
Re-index your Shopify store to increase your Google search ranking
As previously mentioned, you may experience a slight drop in traffic after your migration until the search engines re-analyze your new site from an SEO perspective. To increase your web pages index, be sure to submit your new sitemap to Google Search Console to assist Google in re-indexing your new webpage. If the percentage of your web pages indexed on Google increases, then you are definitely on the right track to a better search engine ranking!
Keep evaluating your new website and bridge any SEO gaps
After replatforming, you’ll be able to perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) on your new site to reevaluate how to move forward with SEO in mind.
Here are four things to keep in mind for building your Shopify SEO success long-term:
Produce rich, helpful content often
Search engines want happy users who keep coming back when they have a question or are in need of an answer. When you create highly useful content, visitors will willingly return again to your site, or choose your site over others as an authoritative source, making link-earning easier.
Identify relevant and helpful keywords
Replatforming to Shopify is a great opportunity to improve your keyword targeted content and maximize your potential for search engine clicks. Make it a habit to research new keywords that help connect searchers to your landing pages, and will in turn increase your site’s organic traffic.
Review your wireframes and designs
Consider having an agency (like diff!) review your new site’s wireframes before development begins to identify the site and URL structure for your new page. Consistency is key, and the removal of a large amount of content from high-ranking pages can result in lost rankings for keywords.
Keep an eye on your URL structure
As mentioned earlier, every old page or section from your old site needs to be mapped to a relevant page. It’s necessary to keep things simple to make it easier for users to find your important pages. Checking the site before and after the migration process can help find errors.
Consider technical SEO guidelines
By carrying out SEO checks through your replatforming site, it can help avoid errors in the staging environment, before things go live. A few technical SEO guidelines include:
- XML sitemaps to help search engines better understand your website by crawling on it
- Mobile display tests to ensure that your website can be navigated easily on any advice
- Site speed tests to ensure your pages load quickly so search engines rank them higher
- Canonical links to prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the preferred version
- Metadata to be reviewed before you go live to ensure it is optimized for search engines
If you don’t have the resources to do technical SEO checks, consider working with a Shopify partner agency (like diff!) that has a team with technical expertise in the ecommerce space.
Get started and improve your Shopify SEO ranking
While the idea of replatforming may seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember all the positive outcomes that can result from your investment in planning ahead. Replatforming comes with so many opportunities for positive change, including the ability to improve your SEO.
We hope you’ll be able to get started with the tips we provided. But if you’d like more, sign up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with all things ecommerce and migration ahead!