Let’s pin down exactly what Shopify product cannibalisation is, how to deal with it and a few other Shopify tips you might already have read somewhere on the internet and ignored.
You want to start an online sportswear shop and you’ve chosen Shopify to sell from. When you add products to the site, for example, Adidas Predator Edge football boots, you would start with a URL.
Then you might decide that you’re going to add those football boots into a different collection than the one you initially added them to. Say, a collection for football boots, and so your URL will change.
Shopify automatically creates a new URL for each collection that you create on the site. What’s more, if you have the ability to “View All” on your website then the likelihood is you also have a URL for that as well.
The problem now is, as you keep adding collections to the site and you keep adding products, you end up with four URLs for the same product. Four separate URLS for one product is a friend to nobody.
With so many URLs the first problem you’ve got is cannibalisation damaging your SEO.
These four different URLs for the same product are all competing with one another for the same keywords. If this isn’t managed properly each product is getting a smaller piece of the SEO pie. You follow? If you don’t follow then maybe you need an SEO agency.
To clarify, if you’re searching for Adidas Predator Edge football boots, there’s four different URLs that could be shown in the search results. Google doesn’t know which one to show, and could very well end up showing the wrong one that you don’t want users to see. Even worse, none of them will rank particularly well and so Google doesn’t show any of them. They’re dumped at the bottom of a sea of better optimised Shopify pages. Don’t become fish food.
Cannibalisation is the first issue. The second is using canonical tags to try and manage the duplicates. So you have, let’s say, three pages with the canonical tag pointing to that one URL, well those URLs can still be accessed on the website.
If a journalist went on the website and wanted to write an article, and feature your product as part of a Digital PR campaign, then they could very easily link to the wrong URL. One that has no SEO value because it’s a non-indexable URL due to the canonical tag you’ve put in place there.
You’re therefore not getting the full value of that link because it’s pointing to the wrong URL on the site. Not ideal. Potential shit show actually.
The third issue is that it wastes crawl budget.
If you’ve got four URLs for the same page, Google is going to waste its time crawling duplicate pages when it could spend that time crawling more important pages. It could even spend that time crawling new products so that they get seen and rank faster. Instead, it’s dancing about on four different URLs for one product and ignoring the shiny new stuff that could provoke conversions.
What can we do about it?
The best Shopify tips for this problem, from an SEO perspective, are to use the same URL from all collections.
So you have that single simple URL that you started with. We want that to show in all the collections rather than multiple URLs and different collections. The product will still show up in all of your collections, but when you actually click to it, it is just that one URL. All three issues are boxed off, leaving your product to do what it deserves to in the SERPs:
- If someone links to your product, the only option for them is to use that URL on their site, meaning you get the full value from the link
- You manage the duplicate issue because there are no duplicates anymore.
- Which also means you aren’t dicking about with canonical tags
How can you implement this?
You’re going to need to make changes in the code on Shopify. When you go into the collections template, or other templates where your collection product-links feature, you remove the collection section from the code.
*We’d advise that you get a developer in to help do this so that you don’t take down the website.*
This fix changes the URL structure across Shopify. So any products, rather than having a collection version, just use that single URL.
Gymshark are great at this. You could go into any collection on the website and it’ll just be the same one product URL, despite that identical product being accessible in multiple collections using various navigations.
And that’s our Shopify tips for solving product cannibalisation. We could have just led with ‘get a developer’ but there’s not much SEO value in a three word blog.