Shopify is one of the world’s most widely-used platforms for running a web store, so it stands to reason that they would have solved all of the significant SEO issues by now, right?
Your main content pages, homepage, and blog index all show up. Your products, though, aren’t indexed much at all. Maybe a few of them are, perhaps none of them are. So why is it that your site is barely indexed after weeks or months of trying?
What’s going on?
There are quite a few reasons why Google might not want to index your product pages. You’ll have to do a little sleuthing to determine which applies to your site.
Luckily, we’re here to help.
The first thing you want to check is to make sure you’re not indexed. Some people, especially newcomers to the eCommerce world, might not know precisely how to check this information. It’s always a good idea to make sure the issue you’re experiencing is a legitimate issue that you need to resolve. Otherwise, you’ll waste time searching for solutions to problems that don’t exist.
Google may index your site, but you may not rank well enough to be visible on the first page or two, especially if you’re selling products with a lot of competition.
The easiest way to check this is to do a site search for your product names. On Google, type in a site search operator on Google followed by a product name:
It may be best to start with a product you know is on your site, which Google should have already indexed.
If it shows up, then Google has indexed the page, but you aren’t ranking well enough to show up in Google’s organic results. That’s not entirely a bad thing; you need to work more at your organic SEO to boost site rankings across the board.
If nothing shows up, you have indexation issues. You can verify this by checking your Google Search Console for indexation coverage reports. Google will tell you how many pages it has indexed and if they have discovered pages but hasn’t indexed them. They will also tell you if you have any specific site-wide SEO issues you need to solve.
It’s always good to keep an eye on reports like the Manual Actions report and solve any issues it mentions. These are hugely detrimental to your site’s ranking and indexation.
Another common issue is checking too soon. What do we mean?
When you first set up a new site, it takes a while to get established. Google doesn’t like indexing and ranking sites that are too new because it would be easy to exploit for spam purposes, and they don’t want to rank your website based on a half-finished, under construction page.
And, of course, Google has to handle the entire internet, so it can take them a while to get through their queue to get to you.
There’s also the Google sandbox to consider. Google will often place a brand new site into a sandbox and play around with your ranking to see how your website compares to others and get initial user data. Then, after a few months of extreme variability, your ranking will settle.
Of course, Google also seems to have made a significant change recently. Over the past few months, you may have noticed a lot of previously-unknown sites popping up in the top spots. Current theories are that Google is giving brand new sites a lot of exposure to “prove themselves,” shake up their industries and light a fire under the complacent giants. After another few months, the theory is that many of those sites are going to drop off the map, having failed to prove themselves adequate to compete. It remains to be seen what will happen, though.
Either way, the issue is the same for you: you’re checking back too soon to see accurate results, and variability from day to day makes it impossible to troubleshoot. The best thing you can do is wait and push for traditional organic search strategies, like content marketing/blogging and link building.
One widespread issue with Shopify is with indexed collection pages.
Shopify allows you to organize your products into collections. This component is a valuable feature for various reasons, including organization, ease of applying bulk changes to an entire group of products, and many other conveniences. The trouble is that collections are part of the URL structure when they don’t have to be.
As such, you’ll see two URLs for the same product:
If a product is added to more than one collection, it can also show up in multiple versions of that first URL.
Google can handle this in two ways. First, they might levy a duplicate content penalty on your site, especially if this happens across thousands of pages. Second, they might pick one version of the URL to make their “real” version of the URL and ignore the rest.
You can control this second option by using canonicalization. Shopify usually does this, but they might pick the wrong version of a URL to canonize, which causes indexation problems if you want the shorter product page URL to be the canonical URL. You’ll need to fix it across your whole site and request a reindexing of your site.
Google doesn’t treat copied content the same as original content. They don’t want you to pull your content from another site unless you have express permission to do so via a syndication agreement (and even then, it’s a wise idea to canonize the original version).
When setting up a store, particularly if you’re dropshipping, you need to fill out product pages for all of the products you’re listing. If you’re listing hundreds of products, that’s a lot of work or expense if you’re hiring ghostwriters to write up the descriptions.
The easy solution is to copy the product descriptions from the vendor or another store selling the same thing. After all, it should work for you if it works for them.
Google has indexed the original version, and they can see that you’re just copying it. Why would they index you when an older, presumably better version exists already?
All of your product descriptions and the content on your product pages should be unique when possible. You can (usually) use the same product images and technical details, though that doesn’t help users choose you over others; unique textual content will help you stand out and rank above everybody else who isn’t putting any effort into their product pages.
How much content do you have on your product pages?
Google likes pages with plenty of content, though “plenty” varies depending on the context. A blog post should be 1,500+ words long, but a product page doesn’t need to be quite that packed.
That includes your product description, your tech specs, your features list, etc. It’s not that difficult to find 300 words to say about pretty much anything, but it can be time-consuming to produce the content in the first place.
Start with your most valuable products and work your way down the list. Buff up your content and add more descriptions, more helpful information, and anything that a user might find helpful or that might enable you to work in a keyword.
Another major issue with modern SEO is Google’s metrics, called the Core Web Vitals and Page Speed.
Page Speed is simple; it’s how long it takes for a page to appear fully loaded and ready to use after the user requests the page. Core Web Vitals are more specific aspects of page speed, like how long it takes for the most significant chunk of content to render and how long it takes before the page is stable. Google PageSpeed doesn’t just measure raw load times; it also measures your user experience. If significant elements shift around and are clunky while they’re loading, that can hurt your PageSpeed score even if your website is lightning quick. You can read more about the web vitals here.
You may have long load times if you set up a Shopify store out of the box with no real optimizations. Anything over a second is getting too long, and anything over two seconds is risking a “Poor” Google Page Experience rating. Anything over three seconds means Google will likely label your site as unresolved and move on.
If you’re having ranking issues, this is an excellent place to start before moving to the next steps.
Sometimes, Google won’t index your product pages because it can’t find them.
Google has to travel the internet via links. If your products are only available via a search function, it might be difficult for Google to locate them. They don’t put random keywords in your search bar, after all.
You can solve this in several ways.
Once Google can find your pages, they’ll index them just fine, assuming you don’t have any other problems.
Above, we mentioned canonicalization as a solution to specific problems. Shopify does some canonicalization by default, but it’s not perfect. It can get it wrong.
A common issue is canonizing URLs for an alternate-language version of the page or even canonizing URLs that don’t exist. When your page says it’s not the canonical version of the page, Google will follow the instructions to visit the canonical version to index that one instead. If that one doesn’t exist, exists in a different language, or is substantially different, you’ll have indexation issues.
To check, view the source code for your page, search for rel=” canonical,” or even just the word canonical, and see where the URL points.
In Shopify, you can edit canonicalization on the product collections page. The “URL and handle” box is in the search engine preview section.
Make sure any page that isn’t showing up has the proper canonicalization tags attached.
There are dozens of different things that can go wrong in SEO, so we’re limited to just covering the most common issues. If you’ve gone through this list and it still hasn’t solved your problem, you may have a more esoteric issue. Feel free to leave a comment, and we (or someone else in the community) may be able to give you a hand. Otherwise, this post would be 20,000 words long, and no one would read it, right?
It’s never impossible to fix indexation issues; it just requires you to figure out what the problem is in the first place.