Search engine optimization is a make-or-break factor in the success of your eCommerce store. If your site runs on Shopify, you enjoy its many benefits like ease of use, accessible design features and a sea of apps that help you bring your vision for your website to life.
And yet, one area where Shopify has gotten a bad rap through the years is SEO. Many of Shopify’s built-in features are counter-intuitive to SEO best practice and pose challenges for developers who are trying to change them. But a new development in the integration between Shopify and Cloudflare promises to alleviate many of these issues.
If you’re currently running your website on Shopify, it will soon get easier to fully integrate with the Cloudflare platform and use edge SEO to remedy some of the more tedious search issues. If you’re thinking of migrating to Shopify, this is one more example of the platform’s continuous push to innovate and provide the features that will best serve its users.
What’s Changing With Shopify and Cloudflare?
To understand what this new Cloudflare capability means, it’s easiest to look at it in terms of the problems it solves. Search Engine Journal highlights four major ones:
Ability to modify the Robots.txt file
Your robots.txt file tells search engine robots how to crawl the pages on your website. Namely, it tells bots whether they can or cannot crawl certain pages. As it stands, Shopify does not allow merchants to make changes to this file.
For most stores, Shopify’s built-in robots.txt file is sufficient as-is, but there are some scenarios where you might want to make changes to it. For example, if you use a portion of your site for staging to test design changes before making them live, you wouldn’t want people to be able to find that in search results. Or, if you use one version of a product page during the holidays and another version the rest of the year, you don’t want shoppers to be able to discover both of them at once.
Now that Shopify will fully integrate with Cloudflare, developers can take advantage of edge SEO using tools like Sloth and Spark to add additional lines to the robots.txt file as needed.
Ability to change URL structure
Another common gripe from the SEO community is with Shopify’s forced URL structures. You’ve probably noticed that when you add a new product to your catalog, Shopify automatically generates a new URL for it, which looks like this:
Similarly, if you create a product collection, the URL for the collection page will automatically look like this:
Once again, for the majority of stores, this URL structure is sufficient and works just fine for search engines. The most important thing for search engines when it comes to URLs is that they’re A) clean and B) logical. But again, there are special circumstances where you might want to change the default URL structure.
For example, let’s say you’re partnering with an influencer who will hand-pick a selection of your products for a special promotional collection. You might want the URL for products in that collection to look like this:
You can’t do this out of the box with Shopify, but the new Cloudflare capabilities will give developers more control over this. In certain cases like the one mentioned above, doing so could arguably make more sense for search engines (and users, too) and improve site speed.
Access to log files
Your website’s log files keep track of all the requests that are made to your hosting server for content. In addition to diagnosing performance issues, log files can be a treasure trove of information for SEO analysis, like identifying pages that aren’t crawled enough or flagging unimportant resources that are getting crawled too often. Problem is, Shopify doesn’t give users access to these log files.
Using Cloudflare Workers, it will be possible to collect a form of a log file, which can then be run through a typical log file analysis tool to get the benefit of all those insights.
If you’re an international retailer that has different product offerings, inventory and shipping policies from one country to the next, managing your web presence gets complicated. One solution we’ve found is to use a dual-storefront approach, where visitors from the U.S. see one version of the website and visitors from, say, Mexico see a different version.
To help search engines understand the relationship between these website variations, we have an attribute called hreflang. Shopify users can currently implement hreflang with apps like Weglot and Helium, but propagating the changes can take several hours, during which time search engines may flag errors. With Cloudflare Workers and edge SEO, the changes can be completed in a matter of seconds.
What This Means for eCommerce Merchants
If all of these new capabilities sound great to you (and they certainly do to us), you’re probably eager to start using them. At the time of publishing this post, merchants will need to request enabling of the expanded orange cloud integration directly from Cloudflare. However, per an April 13 tweet from a Cloudflare product manager, the enablement will soon be rolling out to all users.
This is great news for Shopify merchants as it gives you a new layer of control over your website and how it functions. Plus, it’s the answer to many of the SEO issues users have flagged, and it’s in keeping with how we’ve seen Shopify consistently add features and integrations that support what users want and need. It’s what makes the platform, we think, the best eCommerce solution on the web.