Customizing URLs, removing "/pages" directory

Shopify Partner
6 0 4

One of my clients has a standalone site and Shopify site at different sub-domains. I want to consolidate these sites under Shopify with a single consistent theme for maintenance. This would involve migrating and creating around 50 pages in Shopify.

When I started making these pages I noticed Shopify forces a URL path of "/pages/page-name". I have not used "/pages/" as a URL path since the early 2000s as it is not instructive and ends up with a folder potentially having hundreds of pages. This is not SEO friendly and specifically uses an unrelated keyword in the URL structure. For SEO, shorter URLs are better. There is also the fact that someone typing in the URL has to type in "/pages/", not user-friendly. For products, it makes more sense but it's really poor for "pages". I'm really disappointed at how this works at Shopify and we have no ability to perform URL rewrites.

There are many other Shopify customers asking for this as well. Given that this is really an SEO issue, I thought I'd create another thread in the e-commerce marketing forum. Here is another thread on Shopify Discussions: https://ecommerce.shopify.com/accounts/reset?token=84772a2f1b927c1b33f4460a20f7f9ea

So... a few questions:

  1. How can we get Shopify to make this a priority or at least provide some solution?
  2. What are others thoughts on how this impacts SEO?
  3. Has anyone found a solution to remove the "/pages/" from the URL?
  4. Does anyone know of a way to do URL rewrites?
DerekM
1 Like
Shopify Expert
244 0 38

I consider it a very small SEO issue. Search engines look at a lot of things, and an extra word in the URLs is not going to be important. It may even help them group related pages.

I'd focus on what would really effect what they think your pages are about, and thats the content.

Technical SEO Consultant - Specialising in setting up Structured Data for Rich Snippets, Google Analytics for advanced reports and the Google Search Console for efficient crawling.
1 Like
Shopify Expert
2000 13 313

In reply to @Derek:

  1. Shopify code has been running for ten years now. It is not likely the URL scheme is going to suddenly change. /admin, /products, /collections, /blogs etc are here to stay.
  2. If SEO is important for success, since many many billions of dollars in transactions flow through Shopify, SEO on Shopify must also be a success.
  3. No one has ever, nor is it likely anyone ever will, remove /pages. Not unless Shopify re-invents from scratch, which I would not hold my breath hopeing for.
  4. Shopify is a hosted platform. You cannot hack it with hacky URL rewrites as per old skool Apache etc. You can however issue redirects from URLs you may have SEO juice for to shiny new Shopify URLs so you don't lose said juice. 
Custom Shopify Apps built just for you! hunkybill@gmail.com http://www.resistorsoftware.com
0 Likes
Shopify Partner
6 0 4

@Tony - Ok but that's kind of like saying the page name or that title tags are a very small issue. These things add up and honestly, it's not a best practice for certain types of content. The grouping may go either way. When I have 50 "pages" it's really not grouped well all under /pages. On that note, there isn't an effective way to create sub categories/groups for pages. Consider how Wordpress allows pages to have parents and children.

@HunkyBill

  1. Just because it has been running for 10 years does not mean it shouldn't be improved. 
  2. This may be a false equivalence or unqualified conclusion. Can you prove that these successful Shopify sites, more specifically /pages, have gained favorable SERP placement for competitive and saturated keywords using the Shopify SEO options? How many of these sites have to use one sub-domain for their pages, hosted elsewhere, and one for their shopping cart? This is apparently one reason that Shopify created the Wordpress plugin.
  3. I'm curious why this seems to be anathema for you. I've seen you defending the /pages URL path on many other forum threads where other Shopify owners dislike it. If it works for you great, but why shouldn't others want something different? I'm a developer and I'd be surprised if this was all that difficult, but maybe the Shopify developers coded themselves into a corner. See 4 for a solution.
  4. Offering URL re-writes could be the solution. URL rewrites are not a "hacky" solution just as redirects are not hacky. These functions provide an advantage for organizing and managing website links. They are also widely supported on most frameworks, web servers, and hosting solutions. Shopify is a hosted solution platform indeed but why can it support redirects but not rewrites? I do appreciate the redirects but it is also a newer addition to Shopify. Supporting rewrites would make Shopify better.
DerekM
1 Like
Highlighted
Shopify Expert
244 0 38

@Derek

I do hate the fact there is no real category structure available.

Search engines use link structure as the main grouping mechanism. Folders may be considerred, but links indicate the true intent of a websites structure.

We are all guessing at what matters. Sometimes educated, and sometimes from rumours. From my time in the industry I have not seen any considerable benefit come from SEO freindly URLs. But I have seen major gains from well written title tags, relevant content and backlinks.

As you say, every little bit helps. That's why SEO has Optimisation in it. And ideally, I would go for the shortest URL with only words that relate to the page in it. But at times we have to chose our battles. And I say fix what has the most influence and least work, and leave the hard to fix low influencers till last. I put removing a word from URLs in the latter.

Fixing something that has been the core part of a design is most likely not trivial. I bet large parts of the system depends on the URL structure they chose. Most likely the folder for a URL triggers what part the the CMS deals with it. Drop that folder and they will have to totally re-invent how to detect if it's a page, product or collection. Their system probably does this using URL rewrites. Letting shop owners fiddle with that is a recipie for disaster. But, then, more work for me in fixing things ;-)

I'd prefer that they work on a category strucuture than work on slightly altering how URLs look.

They also have to consider the effect on exising stores if they do change the URL structure. They could kill traffic to 1,000s of stores in one swoop. Do they auto redirect, make it a manual option to switch on, or only let new stores use the new structures.

Technical SEO Consultant - Specialising in setting up Structured Data for Rich Snippets, Google Analytics for advanced reports and the Google Search Console for efficient crawling.
0 Likes
Shopify Partner
6 0 4

Good points Tony!

Search engines also provide some rank benefits for pages closer to the root, which is part of the reason I don't like the /pages structure. It's not a relevant keyword and pushes the /pages/ further from the root. True, it's not as important as title, content and quality backlinks but it is a best practice.

Many product pages are also not the best place for some inbound marketing content, so this makes the /pages more important. For me, the URL structure makes sense for /products, /blog, etc. but not for /pages. When I started designing websites almost 20 years ago I put all the pages in one /pages subfolder and it was a standard practice. SEO and the SE algorithms have evolved and this structure at Shopify feels like a step backward.

In my opinion, giving advanced users URL rewrite options or the ability to remove the /pages structure would be beneficial. The URL rewrites could be a relatively easy solution. I'm not suggesting this should be done for all stores, but that it could be done if an advanced user wants to. 

I would greatly appreciate a better category structure as well. At the same time, if it only provides more sub-folders under /pages, it would only push the pages further from the root.

DerekM
0 Likes
Shopify Expert
244 0 38

"Search engines also provide some rank benefits for pages closer to the root, which is part of the reason I don't like the /pages structure"

This is a common misunderstanding. Being close to the root is about how many clicks it takes to get from the home page to the page in question. It's not about folders.

I agree that pages should and can be used for writing ever green (valuable for life) content. I see many websites focusing on blogging when they haven't got their core content sorted out. Get them up to scratch first.

A Googler on keywords in the URL: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-keywords-in-urls-a-small-ranking-factor-21577.html

Technical SEO Consultant - Specialising in setting up Structured Data for Rich Snippets, Google Analytics for advanced reports and the Google Search Console for efficient crawling.
0 Likes
Shopify Partner
6 0 4

Good points again Tony! 

I agree that the closeness of the page to the root benefit is debatable and could be misunderstood. There is also advice that shorter URLs and fewer folders are generally better.

https://moz.com/blog/15-seo-best-practices-for-structuring-urls

All of these things can boost authority but to what extent is questionable. It's also possible the recommendations for these ranking factors will change.

The fact is, we are limited in our ability to optimize the Shopify site URLs for the ever changing SEO best practices or personal preferences. If Shopify said, "sorry this is not something we can do based on limitations in their system" it's something I could decide to accept or not. But I have not seen them actually address this in a clear manner. Otherwise, if they can make this improvement, why not?

DerekM
2 Likes
Shopify Expert
244 0 38

Good article reference Derek. Rand has some good points especially those covering secondary effects of a URL structure.

I'd still say adding 6 characters to URLs in a system that never goes past the one folder is not a major panic situation. Nice to not have them, but not the end of the world.

Technical SEO Consultant - Specialising in setting up Structured Data for Rich Snippets, Google Analytics for advanced reports and the Google Search Console for efficient crawling.
0 Likes
Shopify Expert
2000 13 313

@Derek: 

I'm curious why this seems to be anathema for you. I've seen you defending the /pages URL path on many other forum threads where other Shopify owners dislike it

Fair enough. It is like this. It does not matter. Saying it matters with no evidence but your gut feelings, or because a blog post or ten exist that say otherwise is not evidence. Most people dislike this URL structure out of some weird sense of esthetics rather than any technical knowledge. That is where I find my energy. 

Only if Google, Bing or heck any other search engine explicitely said that it was wrong would I re-consider. And they never have.

I love how Tony sums this up perfectly. Focus on your content and miraculously your products will be found and bought. This is the art of SEO & selling products and so all this effort, energy and pouting over URL structure is like being in the operating room full of doctors with patients that need their tonsils pulled out, and they are standing around argueing about whether the nurses on the second floor should wear blue or cobalt scrubs. Just operate on the patients and move on. Do the work at hand. And no, it does not matter what colour scrubs they wear to work.

Custom Shopify Apps built just for you! hunkybill@gmail.com http://www.resistorsoftware.com
0 Likes