Case Study for SEO in E-Commerce

Note: Thanks to Pierce Brylinsky, who helped me research and diagnose this issue.

There is no doubt that Shopify has grown in popularity over the years. We have seen that more companies are choosing Shopify as their preferred e-commerce platform.

The platform has not only attracted small to mid-sized businesses, but we are seeing more and more major retailers like Staples and Dressbarn using the platform.

It’s clear that Shopify attracts sites with the greatest technology requirements.

A lot of these large Shopify stores use Fast Simon technology for multi-faceted navigation, category page customization, improved in-site search, and more.

In this column, we’ll look at the Fast Simon integration, some of the issues that have arisen, and tips you can use to make your problem run smoother.

Adding Fast Simon to Shopify: A Case Study

Fast Simon is a shopper interaction tool that can help increase conversions and average order value by automating some CRO tasks using AI, and it integrates with WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Magento as well.

We had a customer apply Fast Simon in December 2020, and while there seemed to be improvements initially, we can see organic traffic and visibility plummeted sharply in May 2021.

Screenshot of site analytics by author, October 2021.

Although the timing of the Fast Simon application did not quite match, we still wanted to investigate further into the issue.

When we looked at other sites that use Fast Simon, we found that many of them appeared to have seen a decline in organic visibility in the past couple of years.

For example, here’s the organic traffic timeline for maternity:

Motherhood Maternity Organic Website Traffic, a Case Study of Fast Simon and ShopifyMotherhood Maternity Analytics screenshot by author, October 2021.

Here’s the organic traffic for Steve Madden:

Retailer Steve Madden Website Analytics screenshotRetailer Steve Madden Screenshot of site analytics by author, October 2021.

We’ve already seen similar SEO trends for other sites using Fast Simon.

Of course, the correlation is not causal and there is no telling when these sites implemented Fast Simon.

However, all of this combined with our customers’ lower rankings definitely made us want to investigate more.

We loved the UX improvements Fast Simon made to the site and wanted to see if changes could be made to strengthen the technical foundation for SEO for our clients.

Thus, we started making Shopify SEO adjustments for our customers keeping in mind that there might be better ways to improve the platform.

Fortunately, we were able to significantly improve the classification by following the process below.

1. Enable Preview

When we first started working with the website, one of our main concerns was that a lot of the main content on the website is loaded through JavaScript.

For example, when JavaScript is turned off, this is what is loaded into a category page:

Category page has Fast Simon issues on ShopifyScreenshot of category page by author, October 2021.

By reviewing the raw HTML, we were able to confirm that the content was not rendered on the server side.

While Google can crawl JavaScript, this means that the second wave of indexing from Google must parse through JavaScript to properly index the content.

While Google has improved its ability to crawl JavaScript, this has led to some uncertainty as to whether or not Google is able to get full indexes of its pages.

Additionally, when looking at Google’s rendering tools, we found that individual page content is loaded into tags

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