How does using options and variants affect seo?

Don147
New Member
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How does using options and variants affect seo?  Should I list all 52,000 light fixtures as in individual Handles, or 7430 handles with 7 color variants each?

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KieranR
Shopify Partner
148 11 38

It's a series of trade offs, both can be made to work reasonably well.

I think the first step would be to understand what people search for. Are the variants variants going to be long-tail search targets? Or are people are only searching for the primary products? Keyword research tools can help here. If there is no long-tail variant organic search volume to target, then you're trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist in your case, so just do what's easier. 

On the other hand, if there is likely to be organic traffic potential in the long tail in your category, then spend more time here.

For now I've tried to list out a few pros/cons of each approach off the top of my head:

Variant URLs - pros:

  • Variant switching between 7 colour variants is easy as nearly all themes have a built in UI to handle this
  • Easier to manage products and rules in Shopify as there is an established relationship between parent > variant and variant siblings

Variant URLs - cons:

  • URLs are not pretty
  • Shopify will output the canonical URL as the primary product, this will need to be customized to help each variant page rank
  • Variant page <titles> will show primary product title, but this can be customized
  • Variant meta descriptions will be duplicate - you can customize this or introduce some metafields to help write custom ones, but then possibly difficult to admin
  • If you set each variant to self canonicalize then you will get dupe on-page content, the descriptions and extended information will be exactly the same. Ideally you want to have unique content on each page you want to rank. But you could make the descriptions generated from product data or something like that. 

Unique handles - pros: 

  • pretty URLs
  • canonicalisation rules easy
  • custom titles/meta fields are pretty easy as you just use the standard fields
  • JSON-LD fields are pretty easy to 

Unique handles - cons: 

  • Much larger number of SKUs to manage (but can be bulk managed with the right approach)
  • Can still end up with duplicate content that may be more tricky to auto generate descriptions for.
  • "variant groups" need to be manually configured somehow, could use metafields. But each "variant" needs to be related to sibling SKUs.
  • Need to build custom UI to handle variant switching as most themes will not recognize

Other ideas:

  • Use a PIM like Akeneo or something to generate and manage all of the the product listings that could alleviate some admin overhead down the road.
  • Go headless and build out a completely bespoke frontend that avoids some of these cons, like creating your own URL routes for variants.
  • Use CloudFlare orange (enterprise only) and customize a CF Worker to dynamically rewrite variant URL's on the fly.

There are probably better people who can consult on a better approach to these kind of scale problems. Might be worth exploring how other Shopify sites are handling similar scenarios, or even reaching out to store owners in similar situations. Personally I'm more used to smaller scale sites sub-1k products.

A self defined Shopify SEO "expert". Sometimes I freelance outside the 9-5
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Don147
New Member
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I am going to experiment with some products using variants, but will put most on without for now, after researching how these products are being advertised. Thanks!

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