Shopify Link and Folder Structure for SEO

under Shopify SEO.

Internals links and site structure make up key components of how search engines understand your site. Getting them right is a crucial part of out-competing similar sites in search results by better clarifying when your pages make good answers to searcher's queries. Let's talk about how to approach that in Shopify.

How To Edit A Menu In Shopify

Menus play a very important part in how users navigate your site, how search engines understand your site's navigation, and how they determine which pages should turn up for which types of search queries.

Links that appear in your menus appear on every page of the site. If a link appears in the menu, that page is assumed to be one of the most authoritative on your site, allowing it to rank for more competitive search terms.

At the same time, your menu shouldn't be too cluttered. For starters, a cluttered menu isn't user friendly.

Additionally, the more links on a page, the less authority each link passes. Pages designed to rank for more specific queries shouldn't necessarily receive a link from every page on the site, since confining the links to a smaller section of the site (like a collection) helps search engines better understand the context where they are relevant.

To edit the menus on your site, navigate to Online Store > Navigation in the left sidebar:

shopify menus screen

From this page you can either click on the menu you want to edit, or click the Add menu button in the top right to add a new one. The interface for both is identical, so for now we will be using assuming you are editing a menu, but you can use all of the same fields when you are creating a new one.

At the top of the page is a Title field:

shopify menu title

The title of the menu is simply what it is referred to behind the scenes in the Shopify interface. This title never appears for users or in the code that search engines crawl. It has no SEO impact, so name it in a way that makes it clear to developers and anybody else who will work on the back-end of your site what the menu is used for and / or where it is located.

To the right of the Title field is the option to set a Handle for the page.

shopify menu handle

The handle is used by developers to refer to the menu in your site's theme code. By default, it is the same as your menu title (with hyphens instead of spaces). Only developers should change the handle for a menu, since doing so could dramatically hurt your site design, create technical errors, or cause SEO problems.

The handle itself is not visible to users or accessible to search engines, so again it has no SEO value.

Below the Title field is the Menu items section, which is where all of the magic happens:

shopify menu items

We will discuss how to use it in the next few sections.

How To Add Collections, Products, And Other Items To A Menu In Shopify

In our posts on SEO for Shopify Collections and for products, we covered how to add Collections and products to your Shopify menu.

The process is essentially the same for both, as well as other pages or menu headings.

First, click Add menu item at the bottom of the section:

shopify add menu item

You can add an unclickable menu header by simply typing a Name in the pop up and entering a hashtag for the Link field, then clicking Add:

shopify add unclickable menu header

This will create a listing in your menu that doesn't go anywhere when you click on it. If you're wondering why you would want to do this, it's because if you are going to use drop down menus to group collections or products under one menu heading, clicking on that menu header will not take you to the link, it will merely open the drop down menu. (More on drop downs later.)

To add a product, collection, or page, type the name of the item in the Link field. A menu will pop up with your options, which you can choose from:

Shopify Link and Folder Structure for SEO 1

Remember to set a Name for the link as well. The name need not be identical to the title of the target page, and in fact should usually be quite a bit shorter, ideally just the most important word associated with the page.

Click Add to add the menu item to your menu.

How To Create A Drop Down Menu In Shopify, And Rearrange Menu Items

You can rearrange the order of your menu items as well as create drop down menus with some simple drag and drop operations in the Menu items section.

For example, if we wanted to move our "Catalog" collection so that it was listed after "Collection 000," we just need to click and hold the menu item's handle:

shopify rearrange menu items

We would then drag it down underneath and to the left of the "Collection 000" item, then let go of mouse button to drop it into place:

shopify moving menu item

shopify menu item dropped into place

To create a drop down menu, we drag a menu item and hold it underneath and to the right of the menu item that we want to act as the header for the menu. For example, suppose we wanted to add a product to the "menu header" item we created earlier (the one with no associated link).

To do that, we would first add the product by clicking Add menu item and going through the steps as discussed above:

shopify add menu item

shopify product added

We would then drag "Product 1" (as we've called it here) underneath and to the right of "menu header" so that it will appear in a drop down menu that pops up when the user clicks on (or hovers over, depending on the them) "menu header."

shopify adding menu item to drop down menu

shopify menu item added to drop down menu

If you did it correctly, the menu item ("Product 1" in this case) will appear indented underneath your desired heading. In this case, when users interact with the menu on the front end, it will lead them to a drop down menu that includes "Product 1." Note that the changes will only take affect after you click the Save button.

user interface shopify drop down menu

You can add more items to the drop down menu by clicking Add menu item to [name of the menu header] listed at the bottom of the drop down options:

add menu item to menu header

To conserve space in the drag and drop interface, you can click the arrow next to the new menu header to collapse the drop down menu:

collapse shopify drop down menu

shopify drop down menu collapsed

Note that this doesn't change how the menu works for your shoppers.

SEO Tips For Drown Down Menus

It's important to send consistent signals to the search engines with your drop down menus.

First, the structure of your drop down menu should match up with your internal link structure, breadcrumb menus, and so on. That is, if a menu item is listed in a drop down under a menu header like this:

menu header > menu item

Then breadcrumb links on the menu item page (discussed later in this post) should look like this:

Home > menu header > menu item

If the menu item is a product and the menu header is a collection, the menu item should also definitely belong to that collection and be accessible from that collection page.

Whether or not you decide to include an item in a drop down menu primarily comes down to two concerns:

  • Is the page important enough that you want users to be able to access it from every page on the site?
  • Do you want the page to divert SEO authority from the rest of the site by adding a link to every page on your site.

In most circumstances, one usually implies the other.

You certainly don't need to include every item that appears in a collection in a drop down for that collection, especially if your site has a large number of products. At no point should the drop down menu get so cluttered that it is inconvenient for users to navigate.

Including every page on your site in a drop down menu creates what is called a flat architecture. This is generally a bad idea, unless your site has a very limited number of pages, because it means that every page on your site is given equal SEO authority and it is more difficult for search engines to determine in what context your pages will be relevant in search results.

Drop Down Menus Can Harm Your Collection Page SEO

If your Shopify theme requires users to click the menu header in order to see the drop down, as opposed to merely hovering their cursor over the menu header, this creates an important limitation. If you list any items underneath a Collection in your menu, that Collection can no longer be accessed directly from the menu.

Since, clicking on the Collection only allows you to see the drop down, rather than taking you to the Collection page, there are no clickable links to Collections that you have made into menu headers. In some themes, the html link is removed entirely, in others it may simply be inaccessible to users.

From an SEO perspective, this means that Collections made into headers likely will not rank as well, since they no longer have a link from every page on your site. This may be true even if the html link is still present, since Google is smart enough to recognize when a link isn't clickable. While it's unlikely Google would consider this a "cloaked" link in the sense that it deserves a penalty, the odds that it will not pass any SEO authority are high.

If you need your drop down menus to open on a click instead of a hover (which makes sense in our mobile-first era), but still want the collection to be accessible from the menu, you can add a menu item to the drop down with a name like "[Collection] Home" that links to the collection page itself, placing it under a menu header with a hashtag (#) link as discussed above.

How To Create A Hover Drop Down Menu In Shopify

If you do want the drop down to open when users hover their cursor over the menu header, make sure that this is only true for desktop devices, since there is no way for users to hover on a touch screen devices.

You will need a developer to make the changes.

The relevant code is in the theme.js file and looks like this:

$openBtn.on('click', $.proxy(this.requestMeganav, this));

The 'click' attribute needs to be changed to 'mouseover'

$openBtn.on('mouseover', $.proxy(this.requestMeganav, this));

Note that doing this alone likely won't be enough, since other issues are likely to arise such as:

  • Mobile users having no way to access the drop down menu
  • Menu won't close when users move their cursor away from the menu header
  • Menu will close when users hover over it a second time

A competent developer will know how to address and deal with these issues.

How To Add Breadcrumbs To Shopify

Breadcrumb links are a series of links that help searchers easily identify where they are on your site and navigate their way through its hierarchy. They usually look something like this:

Home > Collection > Sub Collection > Product

Breadcrumb links are useful in helping search engines understand the semantic hierarchy of your site because they provide a link from every "child" page to all of its "parent" pages, the pages that act as a sort of category that the sub page belongs to.

This nested organizational structure provides context for both the "child" page and the "parent" page, helping search engines better understand in what context they make sense to display in search results.

For example, with breadcrumb links in place, a "red shirts" page under a "women's" collection would tend to rank for "women's red shirts" even if "women's" doesn't appear anywhere on the page.

Meanwhile, the "women's" collection would also tend to rank better for a wider variety of queries if it has a large number of relevant "child" pages that link back to it with breadcrumb links. The links add relevance and authority, and indicate that the depth of the collection's content is deeper than what is on the page itself.

Unfortunately, Shopify has no native breadcrumb functionality, so in order to add breadcrumbs you need to edit the theme code.

Have your developer refer to this Shopify document to understand how to add breadcrumbs to your pages.

Make sure that:

  • The breadcrumb links display on every page of the site, not just a specific type of page like product pages
  • The breadcrumb links display in a mobile-friendly format
  • If for some reason a product belongs to multiple collections, or a "child" collection is accessible from multiple "parent" collections, or some other similar situation arises, only one version of the breadcrumb links should ever display, no matter how users got to the page

Test your breadcrumb links before publishing them to the main site to verify that they have these properties.

What Do Tags Do In Shopify?

Shopify tags aren't visible for users, but allow you to perform operations on the back end so that you can easily apply bulk changes to all products that share the same tag.

Tags do impact which products show up in your site's own internal search results, however, so it is a good idea to tag your products regularly with any relevant keywords.

To add a tag to your product, from the page for that product, go to Organization section in the right sidebar and type a tag into the Tag section:

add shopify tag to product

Using Tags To Suggest Recommended Products

Product recommendations are a good way to incorporate relevant internal links, by showing users products that are related to the product they are currently viewing. Search engines may take the context of these links into account by noting that similar products link to one another through the recommendations while different types of products do not. This association helps search engines better understand your site semantically.

You can group similar products together using tags, then link them to one another from their recommended product sections. This is more fluid than the rigid breadcrumb link structure and can help broaden your site's long query potential, provided you don't abuse tags and only group together products that are actually related. (Again, we want to avoid a flat architecture.)

Have a web developer review this Shopify document within the section titled "Creating a related products section based on grouping tags" to learn how to set up related product sections based on tags.

Shopify URL Folder Structure

A major issue with Shopify's SEO is that, by default, when users access a product from a collection, the URL looks like this:

https://www.example.com/collection-1/product-1/

While the product page can also be accessed from a URL like this:

https://www.example.com/product-1/

And if the product is listed in multiple collections, there is yet another URL for every collection it is accessible from:

https://www.example.com/collection-2/product-1/

This can generate a large number URLs with identical content, diluting your SEO authority.

Shopify uses the rel=canonical tag to point all URL variants back to this one:

https://www.example.com/product-1/

But Google does not always obey the rel=canonical tag and duplicates often still get indexed. Even when they don't, how much if any SEO authority is transferred from non-canonical pages to canonical ones isn't particularly consistent.

As we mentioned in our guide on technical SEO for Shopify, you will need your web developer to edit your theme so that all links to the product look like this:

https://www.example.com/product-1/

This is done within the product-grid-item.liquid file, where this markup:

{{ product.url | within: collection }}

will need to be replaced with just this:

{{ product.url }}

Conclusion

Menus, breadcrumb links, recommended products, and folder settings are important on-site features that help search engines understand your site and turn it up in appropriate search results. Make sure your settings here are on point and carve out your place in the search landscape.