Changing URL Structure in a Shopify Migration
If you read this previous post, you’ll know that migrating to Shopify or Shopify Plus from another platform involves making several changes to your existing site.
As well as the changes to the internal linking structure, HTML code, and content changes that store owners like to make during migration, you may need to get used to a new URL structure to your previous platform.
It’s not a deal-breaker for most ecommerce store owners but it might take a little coming to terms with. Many store owners are concerned about its effect on SEO or whether it will affect traffic or accessibility by customers.
So, what options do you have? Here’s what you need to know about changing URLs when you migrate to Shopify.
Overview of Shopify’s URL structure
Of greatest concern to migrating store owners is usually that customers can find their products and collections and that rankings won’t be penalized.
Let’s first say that any impact on either of these should be very short-lived and, if you plan and manage your migration professionally in advance, you can minimize any impact at all.
Let’s take a look at the product and collection URL structures you are signing up to when you move to Shopify or Shopify Plus, as these are generally considered the most important.
Shopify Product URL structure
Shopify’s native URL structure places product URLs within a /products/ sub-folder. For example, in the KKW Beauty store, you see product URLs like this:
The use of the products folder in the URL is fixed and unchangeable in Shopify – and is one of the main gripes that new store owners have about URL structure.
In many cases, the same product may be attached to two categories and exist under two URLs. For example, in the following shoe product example:
These URLs are both for the same product, so by choosing one as the “canonical URL”, you inform Google and other search engines which URL to show in the search results.
Product URLs in Shopify automatically contain the category path, so if someone searched for a product via a collection page, the collection page will show in the product URL like this:
However, if you don’t want this to happen, it can be amended with a few changes to the template so that this is what users will see:
As you can see, there is some “wiggle room” and flexibility with the product URLs but that does not apply to collections.
Shopify Collection URLs
Shopify store owners will need to get used to all collection URLs being within the /collections/ folder. This is fixed and cannot be changed in Shopify.
So, we have:
On this page are all the products in the “Written in the Stars” jewelry collection.
Standardly, you may be used to being able to use a forward slash / in your URLs to further categorize your product collections, like this:
Under Shopify’s URL structures, this will be rewritten with a hyphen to:
What is the parent-child approach to URLs and does Shopify allow it?
“Parent and child” is a typical hierarchical approach to URL structuring that is widely seen as beneficial for SEO because it keeps pages organized logically.
It also helps customers find different versions of the product they are viewing. Amazon, for one, uses this type of URL structure.
So, a parent URL might be “t-shirt” and a child might be “royal blue t-shirt medium” or “red t-shirt large”.
However, Shopify does not support this type of “parent-child” relationship in a back-end capacity.
With Shopify, to achieve the same hierarchical effect you will need to use tags or filtered pages for an additional “layer” of categorization.
With tagging for black skinny jeans on fashion Nova, you will see this type of structure:
The page emulates a collection from an SEO perspective only – not from a back-end management perspective.
With filtering you will see this structure:
Although this system might work fine for you, some store owners find drawbacks compared to a more traditional parent-child approach. These include:
- The customization involved
- Lack of flexibility for merchandising, etc.
- Difficulties managing this format when your store grows
- Requires manual tagging logic
- Difficulties with migrating these pages if you move platforms in the future
Is a sub-directory allowed for international stores on Shopify?
Sub-directories or subfolders for international versions of Shopify stores are not currently a feature of Shopify. So www.herschel/canada.com does not exist.
You will need to use CCtlds and sub-domains.
- CCtlds are country code top-level domains and they show users and search engines in which country a website is registered, e.g., co.uk for the UK and .ca for Canada. So, for the Canadian version of the Herschel store, www.herschel.ca is used.
- Sub-domains are additional parts to your main domain name, so if your primary domain is your-store-name.com, you can set up a domain for Canada as ca.your-store-name.com.
Adapting to Shopify’s URL structure
Most eCommerce business owners reading this will be considering moving to Shopify or Shopify Plus from the likes of Magento, WooCommerce, or another platform.
These other mainstream platforms are generally less restrictive than Shopify with URL structures so the transition to your new home may take a little getting used to.
You’re probably used to being able to do the following, for example:
- Create product URLs directly from the root – e.g., /black-herschel-backpacks
- Build landing pages on the root – e.g., /black-friday
- Hierarchical category URLs based on a parent-child relationship – e.g., /tshirts/blue/medium
- Customizing how sort/order and filtered URLs work – e.g., ?filter=blue vs #filter=blue
If you’re moving over to Shopify, you’re agreeing to wave goodbye to all that and to adopt a format that is rigid and that you may consider a little more complex.
You’ll basically need to accept that all pages on your store will have either /pages/, /collections/ or /products/ in the URL.
Shopify URL structure: who turns back once they migrate to Shopify?
Most store owners adapt very quickly to the URL structure – mainly because they have to as it’s largely non-negotiable!
When they start to tap into the whole ecosystem of apps that make life so much easier on the Shopify platform, they soon forget that they had initial gripes about the URL structure.
Shopify doesn’t adopt this URL strategy just to pee off store owners moving over. It is now operating as one of the largest ecommerce platforms in the world – so much so that Amazon is looking over its shoulder.
Let’s just say that few store owners who migrate to Shopify end up going back to another platform – and if they do, it’s not usually because of the URL structures imposed on them by the Shopify platform.