How Shopify theme changes can impact or even reset your SEO

The other day Cindy asked about upgrading her old theme and how it might impact her store’s SEO.

Anytime you change anything on your store or a page there’s a risk it could impact Google’s ranking and Rich Results. The larger the change, the larger the potential impact.

That said, changes can also help your store. If a theme upgrade is better organized or uses more modern SEO options, it could improve traffic.

There are three big things I’ve noticed that have the largest potential impacts with theme upgrades:

  1. Navigation changes. If your product pages are linked to less due to navigation/menu changes, that can weaken your store’s overall SEO.

  2. Domain name changes. Changing your domain name can reset your store’s SEO but they are rare.

  3. Url changes. Changing product handles, collection handles, or moving products out of collections can change what urls the products are accessible at. This can cause 404 errors which Google uses as a signal to remove that page from the search results.

Of the three, #3 is the one most likely one to happen. Mostly because it’s really hard to know when a change will do that and most stores don’t even know it’s a possibility.

I’m planning to write an article about it so it can be handled safely but there’s a lot of complex issues it needs to include.

One silver lining with #1 and #3 is that they are temporary. Even if a store’s SEO is impacted, it’ll usually recover within a few months as Google discovers the new urls and layout.

Now timing that might be a problem. If you perform the upgrade too close to a busy season like right now, you could cause a drop in traffic right when you were expecting more sales.

If you do upgrade, here’s a few things you can do to protect things:

  • Big one to prevent #3: Preview the new theme version and check how the links are created to products. You want to make sure the product links are the same format as your current theme.

e.g. they both are /products/something and not /collections/the-collection/products/something.

  • Make sure you don’t remove products from an important collection. Adding products to a collection is okay, as well as editing an unimportant collection.

  • Make sure you don’t change any collection or product handles.

  • Add content to your important pages. Google always likes more content and they’ll visit pages with it more frequently. The more content you have, the faster any temporary drops can recover.

Using JSON-LD for SEO can also protect some of your Rich Results during a theme change. It, combined with what Shopify does behind the scenes can help ensure Google doesn’t think every page in your store is new and needs to be re-indexed.

Though an aggressive theme redesign can make a mess of things.

Eric Davis

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