Shopify SEO impacts of shorter product urls vs longer urls with collections

Recently Brian was asking about url lengths in regards to SEO:

Which is better for SEO – Navigation which gives a shorter path or navigation through the extra collections folder?

I have some collections which just have 2-3 items. I could setup my mega menu to send customers directly to a product page or through a collection. I have read contradicting info. One camp says shorter URLs, the other says that Google likes the organization.

The two different versions would look like this:

https://example.com/products/a-stick https://example.com/collections/kid-toys/products/a-stick

It could go either way.

Longer urls give you more keywords in the urls but they also weaken the product’s keywords. What that means is that there’s a larger percentage of the url taken up by non-keywords (collections, products) and if the collection name isn’t part of the keyword you’re targeting for every product, that’s even more url space lost.

They also usually require having the collection in the url which can cause problems with canonicalization (aka "which url is the main one?"). That’s an entire complex mess that would take a couple thousand words to explain.

Shorter urls emphasize the product’s keywords (they are a larger % of the url) but you’re more limited in the number and types of keywords you can use.

Product-only based urls also match Shopify’s default canonicalization which tends to help SEO overall. But you can code the theme so the final product url doesn’t use the collection, even if you clicked through a collection page. That’ll let you use a collection-based navigation option but still avoid the messy urls and canonicalization problems.

One SEO friend says click depth is very important and often forgotten about. It means how many clicks from the homepage to get to a specific page. Less clicks means a more important page in Google’s eyes BUT if you have 100s of links on your homepage then that’s weakened so there’s a trade-off there too (like all of SEO).

So there are a lot of options. There’s not one best way to do navigation.

A better way to think about this is to consider how often you change your merchandise.

If you keep products around for years, then their urls should remain stable and you’ll want to create urls with keywords that will consistently be searched for. That would also make the menu directly linking to the products a stronger choice.

If you have different merchandise every 3 months though, then your products won’t be online long enough to keep much SEO on their own. That means you might need to do much of your keyword targeting on the collection pages (and collection part of the url). You’d save the product urls for long-tail keywords that are popular now or based on dates (e.g. "best kids toys of 2020"). In this case, you’d want menus linking to the collection pages and building up that long-term connection.

The things you want to avoid is changing strategies and the urls you use. Breaking urls will cause SEO loss so pick a structure and stay with it.

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Eric Davis

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