In the beginning of this article, we noted that you should create a Google Search Console account. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to submit your sitemap. Submitting your sitemap on Google Search Console allows your store to be crawled and indexed by search engines. This simply means that a crawl bot visits your ecommerce site, explores the homepage, and makes its way down all your product categories, collections, and product pages and back up again until it’s complete. It does this so it can list them on search engine results pages.
The good news is that Shopify creates a sitemap for all stores right out of the box. You won’t need to build your own—this is only recommended for truly advanced SEO managers. If you’re on the Basic plan, you’ll get one auto-generated sitemap; if you’re on the Shopify plan or higher and use international domains, then you need to submit the sitemap file for each domain.
Next up is to fix any potential errors on your site. If you’ve just submitted your sitemap, you’ll have to wait until a crawl has taken place to get this insight, so perhaps bookmark this section and come back to it in a week or so. Here’s what to do:
- Log in to Search Console and view the Coverage report. On the left hand side, click Index > Coverage. You’ll see a graph appear with the tick box options Error, Valid with warnings, Valid, and Excluded. For now, you want to pay attention only to Error.
- Identify any 404 errors or redirect errors (if they’re reported). Search console will report these in the list as:
- “Submitted URL not found (404),” which is when the page does not exist on your site. To the user it displays a page-not-found message. This error occurs because somewhere on your site you are linking to this broken page, or another site is, and the search engine crawler is trying to index it. This is bad for SEO and users because you’re sending them to a dead end. It’s essential we fix this issue. Click on “Submitted URL not found (404)” and you’ll get a list of all the URLs that are returning errors. Click “Export” on the top right of the screen and export to your spreadsheet program of choice.
- “Redirect error” is when a Googlebot crawled the URL but the page didn’t automatically update to the new location for the user. This is because the chain is too long, there is a redirect loop, the URL exceeds the maximum URL length, or there is a bad or empty URL in the redirect chain. As above, click on “Redirect error” to get a full list of these URLs and export the list.See more about SEO.
- Fix 404 and redirect errors in your store. This is where being handy with spreadsheets can help you out. These problems can be complicated to fix, but here’s what to do:
- Reference your spreadsheet of 404 errors (this is the sheet marked “Table”). Now you need to find the most relevant page to redirect to. For example, on our Kinda Hot Sauce demo store, if we discontinued a product it would make sense to redirect its page to either the closet match or the collections page. Make a note of these next to the URL (you can remove or hide the “Last crawled” column). If you can’t find a match, redirecting to the home page is a good default.
- From your Shopify admin, go to Online Store > Navigation. Click “URL Redirects” and then “Add URL redirect.”
- Next, I’ll briefly recommend how to fix redirect errors. Redirect loops make visitors and search engines literally get stuck in a loop by trying to load a sequence of two more pages on your website that all point to one another. The redirect is configured so that page C should load page A, page A is configured to load page B, and page B is configured to load page C.
- Now you need to identify which redirects are broken by referencing both your Google Search Console and your Shopify redirect exports. If you feel competent on spreadsheet programs, combine the sheets and filter them so you can get a list of where the errors lay. If not, copying the URL error cell then using the Find function (“Cmd+F” on Mac, “Ctrl+F” in Windows) can work, but it’s a lot of clicking around and back and forth.See more about SEO.
- Similar to updating 404 pages, make a note in your spreadsheet of where you want the redirect to go to, then head to Online Store > Navigation > URL redirects. Use the search box to find the redirect you need to edit, click on it, and update the redirect.
- After all this, the next step is to make sure your work has paid off. You can do that by returning to Search Console and checking the Coverage tab every few days or weeks until you have caught all the errors.