Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there, so despite the fact that Shopify's SEO isn't the greatest, knowing how to work with the platform from an SEO perspective is vital as an agency or a brand that can't currently switch platforms. We recently discussed some important aspects of technical SEO for Shopify, and we'd like to continue in that vein today.
Shopify Collections make up an important part of how the platform works, and keeping SEO in mind while setting up your Collections is important if you want to maximize your search traffic. Let's talk about how to do that.
What Is A Shopify Collection?
Shopify collections allow you to group products together into categories so that it is easier for users to find relevant products and navigate through your site.
From an SEO perspective, if collections are also handled properly, they can be used to communicate semantic information to the search engines through your internal link structure and possibly folder architecture.
This makes it easier for Google and other search engines to understand what types of queries the product pages listed under a category would be relevant for. It also adds depth and context to the collection pages themselves, so that they can also potentially rank for more, and more relevant, search queries.
How Do Collections Work In Shopify?
From the user's perspective, a collection shows on your site as a webpage featuring images of the products that belong to that collection.
If your theme and plugins are set up to allow it, users will also be able to filter and sort products in that category. They can then select a product they are interested in by clicking on its picture, which will take them to the product page.
How Do You Use Collections In Shopify?
Before we get into the details of how to set up and optimize your collections, let's talk about how you should use them overall as a part of your SEO and marketing strategy.
Collections usually make up the bulk of the links in your main navigation if you are running a store with more than a half dozen products. This means that when a user lands on any page of your site, one of the first things they will see is what collections you have.
Collection names should communicate to the user what kinds of products they will find. For this reason, it's important to choose collection names that are very specific and clear, as opposed to clever names that obscure what users will find when they visit the collection page.
For SEO, collection names should also be chosen so that they incorporate keywords that your target consumers would be searching for. To some extent, that semantic information will also be passed on to any product pages listed in the collection, assisting your product pages in turning up for more general queries than a search for that specific model name.
Structurally, it's best if collections are mutually exclusive. In other words, it's generally a bad idea to include a product in more than one collection. This can lead to technical difficulties like duplicate content, but it can also confuse the search engines about which queries your products are relevant for, or which category page to list in search results.
Avoid using too many collections, since this creates a cluttered main navigation that confuses users, as well as an excess of internal links on every page that dilutes SEO authority.
If your site needs more than seven or so collections, it's a good idea to start breaking up your primary collections to include sub collections. Sub collections are deeper in the site's link architecture, and possibly folder architecture, communicating that they are more specific and less broad to both users and search engines.
How Do You Create A Collection?
To create a collection, click Products in the left navigation menu and selection Collections. Now click the Create collection button.
You will be taken to the Create Collection page.
Collection Title, Description, and Website SEO
At the top of the Create collection page you are asked to fill out a Title and optional Description:
The title determines the headline for the page. By default, it will also set the title tag of the page, which is the title that will show up in search results.
The description will be included below the title to introduce users to the collection, to give them some context of what to expect on the page. By default, it also sets the meta description, which sets the snippet of text that appears below the title in search results.
There is a separate section of the Create collection page that allows you to set the title tag and meta description separately. You can do this by scrolling down to the Search engine listing preview section and clicking on Edit website SEO.
This allows you to edit the title tag and meta description separately from the title and description for display on the page itself:
You may be wondering why you would want these to be different.
Since the title tag acts as a sort of call to action from the search results page, while the headline acts as a sort of greeting for users after landing on the page, it doesn't always make sense for their text to be identical.
Both the title tag and the headline heavily influence search engine rankings. Keywords used in them are assumed to be more descriptive of the content on the page than any other part of the page. Using different text in the headline and the title can slightly broaden the scope of queries your page could rank for, while using the same text can give the page more of a laser focus in search results.
Both are valid options, provided the user's experience of the page in search results and on the page itself are considered a top priority.
There is perhaps even more motivation for the collection description and meta description to be different, however.
The collection description is the only part of the page that typically includes any text other that product names and pricing information. Search engines use text on a page to better understand the page's context, allowing it to turn up in more relevant search results and more novel search queries.
Padding this text with clutter isn't recommended, but if you can use it to handle common buyer objections and questions, it will help your page turn up for searches related to those topics.
While user experience should be taken into account, and your collection description shouldn't interfere with using the collection page to find products, there is no technical limit to how long it can be.
This is not the case for the meta description, which is cut off after about 158 characters. The meta description also doesn't directly impact search results, only whether a user thinks the page is relevant enough to click through.
Again, the meta description should act as a call to action and summary for users, while the description displayed on the collection page itself should elucidate any details.
Under the Collection type section, you will need to select whether you want a Manual or Automated collection type.
If you use automated collections, you can select rules, called CONDITIONS, to determine which collections a product will automatically be added to. We actually usually recommend against this, for reasons we will get to in a moment. But before we do, let's go over how it works:
First, you will need to select whether the product needs to match all conditions or any condition to be included in the category. This just means that if you set more than one condition by clicking the Add another condition option, the product needs to meet every one of those to be included if you select all conditions, and only needs to meet one if you select any condition.
You can set a product attribute from the first drop down:
This tells Shopify to check the text or value of the product attribute you select: the title, type, vendor, price, tag, compare at price, weight, in or out of stock, and variant title.
You can then set what type of condition you are placing on this product attribute from the next drop down:
In the third field, enter the text or number you need your condition to meet.
So, for example, if you were to select Variant's title and contains, with the text "natural" in the third field, every product with a variant title containing the word "natural" would be included in the automatic category.
Why do we recommend against using automated collections?
- Making sure to add a product to a collection manually is no more difficult than making sure to add a product tag, word in the title, or any other attribute that you would later use to add it to a collection with a condition.
- Condition based collection selection can add products to multiple collections, creating potential duplicate content and other technical SEO issues.
- There is little reason to use automated collections unless there has been poor site-structure planning. Clear product categories are good for navigation and SEO. Categories defined by whether or not a word turns up in a product tile, for example, are sloppy and error prone.
None of this is to say it's never the right choice. A "Value" section defined by all products under a certain price may make sense, for example. But, in general, automated collections offer no benefit and all risk when it comes to both SEO and ease of navigation.
For the reasons discussed above in the Automated Collections section, we recommend selecting Manual for your collection instead:
To add a product to a collection manually, scroll down to the Products section.
From here, you can either type the name of a product (or a word from a product name) into the Search for products field, or you can click the Browse button.
Doing either will open an Add products pop-up, difference being that if you typed text into the field you will get a list of products filtered to include product names including your text:
Now select the products that you want to include, and click the Add button.
The Products section will now include the products that you added. You can remove a product from the category by clicking the X next to the product.
You can also add products to a collection from the product creation/editing page. In the right navigation, scroll to the Collections section and search for the collection. A drop down will appear that will include your category name if you searched properly. Simply click on it, and be sure to click the Save button.
There is an option to add an image to your collection. It depends on your theme, but typically this will be used to create a banner or "hero" image at the top of the collection page.
The Collection image section is on the right hand side of the collection creation page. You can drag and drop an image here, or click the Add image button and select an image from your computer.
After adding the image, click there is an important SEO setting we want to avoid skipping over. Click the Edit link:
Click Edit image alt text. The image alt is an html tag that is meant to act as replacement text for the image if the browser can't load it, the user is visually impaired, or for some other reason the image isn't visible. It is also used by search engines to understand what the image is, making it easier for your image to turn up in relevant image searches.
Enter a brief description of the image in the Image alt text field. Again, this text should functionally act as a replacement for the image and make sense as much to users as it does to search engines. Do include relevant keywords that describe the image, but in a way that is user friendly. Click the save button when you are done.
How To Publish And Make A Collection Visible In Shopify
Once you've set every relevant field of your Shopify Collection's settings, don't forget to click the Save button at the top of the page:
To publish your collection, go to the Sales channels section at the top right of the collection creation screen and click the calendar icon:
Select the time and date that you want the Collection to publish from the pop up calendar, then make sure to click the Save button up top again.
Add Your Collection To The Menu
In order for users to find your collection, and for search engines to index it and send SEO authority its way, you will need to add your collection to the menu.
From the left navigation, select Online Store and click the Navigation link:
Click the menu that you want to add the Collection to.
Scroll down to the Menu items section and click Add menu item:
From the Add menu item pop up, click the Link field and either start typing the name of your Collection or browse for it from the pop up menu. Click on your collection. If you can't find it, this is likely because you set it to publish at a later date. It's not possible to add a collection to the menu if it hasn't been published yet.
After selecting your collection, the name of your collection will be added to the Name field in the pop up. The Name field sets the "anchor text" for the link that will appear in your menu. That is, it is the clickable text that users will see.
You may need to shorten the name setting in order to make your menu look less cluttered and to reduce keyword repetition in the menu. Once you've done that, click Add:
Remember to click the Save button at the top of the screen to save the change to the menu:
Now you're all set, the Collection will be added to the menu, accessible to users and search engines. We will speak more on the importance of how to add collections to menus in a way that creates an optimal link structure in a later post.
How Do You Remove A Collection From Shopify?
Deleting Collections from Shopify is fairly straightforward, but you will need to take some extra steps to avoid introducing SEO complications.
Make sure you have a copy of the Collection URL before you delete it. This is because deleting the collection will create a 404 page. While Shopify automatically removes Collections from the menu if you delete them, there may still be links to the page elsewhere on your site. Links from other sites to that page will also go to a 404 page. You will want to set up a redirect to a good substitute if one exists so that any SEO authority that existed on the Collection page is recovered and sent to a different one.
To delete the collection, navigate to Products > Collections in the left navigation menu, click the check box next to the Collection or Collections you want to delete, then click Delete selected collections from the Actions drop down menu:
A pop up will ask if you are sure you want to delete the selected collections. Bear in mind that one a Collection is deleted you can't get it back, so if you think you might need to use it later, click Cancel and hide the Collection instead. We'll show you how to do this in a moment.
If you're sure you want the collection deleted, click the red Delete button and the collection will be removed.
After deleting the collection, we recommend using Screaming Frog or a similar crawler to search your site for any internal links to 404 pages. If you find any, you should remove or change the links.
Additionally, you should set up a redirect from the deleted collection page to an alternative collection, if a good substitute exists. See these instructions on how to do that.
How To Hide A Shopify Collection
There are two fundamentally different kinds of "hiding" a collection in Shopify.
- Remove the page from the store entirely, so that users will see a 404, while still keeping the page in your back end database so you can restore it later
- Remove the page from the menu, so that users can't find it, but the URL itself is still accessible
Unless the page is fundamentally out of date and can't be updated, or is creating duplicate content issues, you likely don't want to remove it from the store entirely, since this results in you throwing away any SEO authority the page previously gathered.
Removing A Collection From The Menu
To remove a Collection from the menu without making the page go 404, navigate to Online Store > Navigation in the left menu, then click the link for the menu you want to remove it from:
Now click the trash can icon next to the collection you want to remove from the menu:
Click the Remove button from the pop up menu that follows, and the Collection will be removed from the menu without creating a 404 page.
Removing A Shopify Collection Entirely From The Front-End While Retaining A Copy On The Back-End
To effectively delete a Collection from your public store, without deleting it from your database so you can restore it if you need to, navigate to Products > Collections in the left navigation, select the Collections you want to hide, then select Make collections unavailable from the Actions drop down menu:
Again, this will create a 404 for users who attempt to access the page, so if a good alternative page exists, make sure to set up a redirect. Also make sure to remove any links to the page on your site.
Collections make up an important part of the Shopify platform. Knowing how to set them up with SEO in mind is a valuable skill, so keep the above in mind.