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Why load speed matters for your Shopify store’s SEO and what to do about it

Load speed is often overlooked by many Shopify stores when setting up and launching their store. Unfortunately, how fast your website loads plays a huge role in how it performs on search engines. Slow page speed can make it harder for search engines like Google to index your website and you end up losing potential sales and customers to your competitors, considering how 60% of them start their journey on the search engine. 

Let’s dive in deeper to understand how load speed plays a role in your Shopify store’s SEO, how Google’s algorithm works, and how to fix and maintain your site speed with just 9 best practices.

Why does load speed impact your Shopify store’s SEO?

 

While ranking pages, Google’s algorithm uses site speed as one of the factors to understand how optimized a website is. A slow page speed causes search engines to crawl fewer pages, negatively impacting how your website gets indexed. 

So even if you’ve optimized different product pages with different keywords, focused on enhancing the experience with product images, descriptions, and more, you’ll still end up losing potential customers. All because the search engine didn’t think the page existed or was worthy enough to be recommended to a consumer. 

What’s worse? 

An increased load time can also impact how visitors interact with your store. It increases the bounce rate and reduces dwell time drastically. This becomes another indicator to the search engine that your site does not have relevant content to a user’s search query. 

Simply put, your site speed starts to impact your conversions and sales. 

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9 Best Practices to Improve Your Shopify Store’s Site Speed

1. Set up Google Search Console to monitor your site speed

As Google itself puts it best— “Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.” This resource can be connected to your main site property as well as your Google Analytics.

When the console detects errors like broken links or usability issues, it sends you an alert via email so that you can fix it instantly. You can also use this dashboard to reindex new pages and monitor which keywords and sources are bringing in new traffic without having to filter through Google Analytics.

Besides detecting errors, you can use your Google Search Console to monitor how fast your site is and which pages are slowing down your Shopify store. The console also pinpoints the exact issues causing slow site speed, which pages are affected, and even provides tips on fixing it. 

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2. Set up AMP for your Shopify store

AMP stands for accelerated mobile pages. These are lightweight pages that load at lightning speed and allow your shoppers to access your content quickly. These pages are stripped down and mobile-optimized, making it easy to crawl. With AMP-enabled, shoppers looking for products similar to what you sell will be shown your product pages first due to how search-friendly your site is on their device.  

3. Minify your images before uploading

One of the many causes of a slow page, especially for Shopify stores, are bulky images. Images larger than a specific size take time to load, causing your site speed to lag as well. The bulkier your images are, the slower your site gets, impacting your search engine rankings. 

Since images are a large part of your Shopify store, especially due to product images, it’s crucial to optimize your images before uploading. You can optimize your images using the TinyIMG app. The Shopify app automatically compresses your image size without harming your image quality, making site speed and shopper experience a win-win!  

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As per our studies, optimizing images for the web can cut load time by 3 seconds and achieves SEO score of 90. 

Note: If you don’t want to install a Shopify app for this, you can manually compress your images before uploading them to your store through the TinyIMG website.

4. Only install apps you’ll use 

Don’t rush into installing too many apps on your Shopify store. While most Shopify apps are built lean, keeping in mind page speed, it takes only one app to cause issues on your site. Be it in terms of its overall functionality or speed. 

This is why you need to test out new apps on a development store and see if you actually need the solution before setting it up on yours. Installing new apps this way— by testing one, seeing site speed with the app installed, and installing each app one at a time— will also help you detect which app is causing slowdowns if any.

If you’ve already installed multiple apps and are facing a site slowdown, you can disable all apps and test each one to find the Shopify app that is causing the lag.

But as a general rule, install apps that you’ll really make use of. If there’s an app that is lying dormant, you might as well remove it from your store. 

Pro tip: Also look for apps that help you tackle more than one task. For example, if you’re using multiple marketing channels to reach your customers – SMS, email, web push, you can choose to use apps like Firepush instead of installing one for each. 

5. Post-uninstall, ensure that you remove any leftover code from your theme-liquid

Many Shopify merchants uninstall an app after using it for a while due to low satisfaction or after its need is fulfilled. In such cases, the one cardinal rule you need to follow is to clean up any code left behind by the uninstalled app. By not cleaning up this code left behind on your site, you end up accumulating a lot of unnecessary junk in your theme code. 

If you’re experienced at removing or tweaking code or are confident about learning how to, you can do it yourself! Most app developers have documented how to remove code that is left behind after uninstall. So, before uninstalling an app, ensure that you look through that Shopify app’s help documentation to figure out what code to remove from your theme code and how. 

If this documentation is not available, you can contact the app developers to help you through this.

6. Choose large banners over sliders

A slider on your Shopify storefront looks great but, at what cost? Sliders push your content down, making your website less user-friendly. They also don’t work well on mobile devices, the primary device used by a majority of online shoppers. What’s worse, due to their long load time, sliders slow down your website, negatively impacting your SEO.

So, if you’ve set up a slider as your top header (and a lot of merchants have), you might want to reconsider. When designing your Shopify store or revamping your design, it’s best to opt for a large banner instead of a slider for your storefront. You can instead create a collage for this banner to mimic the range that you want to convert through your slider.

7. Avoid quick view pop-ups

Many Shopify merchants allow their shoppers to get a ‘quick view’ of their products. These actions on your Shopify store act like a ‘pop-up’ where the product details page opens as a window within the page that the shopper was browsing.

While this works out great in theory, such quick view elements hinder your site. For customers, these pop-ups can be frustrating. Many customers may click on it, expecting to open the product page entirely, only to see a snippet about the product. Others may have to take multiple clicks just to end up looking at the product page and its reviews in detail. 

For you, these pop-ups negatively impact your page loading time. Slower page load means fewer pages indexed by Google!

These quick view pop-ups are usually implemented through the pre-made theme that you’ve installed. You can disable this feature through your theme customizer. If you can’t disable it through the theme customizer, the quick view feature may be a part of your theme code. You can work with the theme developer or a specialized Shopify developer to remove this.

On the same note, remember to not overuse pop-ups while promoting offers on-site as well. 

8. Reduce redirects and remove broken links

Your links also factor into your site speed. One of the biggest problems that many merchants face with their Shopify store SEO is that they have too many redirects and broken links that slow down their site.

How do broken links and redirects hinder your search performance?

Google’s web crawlers consider your broken links as viable pages, showing them to potential shoppers. This results in a bad experience for these shoppers who were looking for products you sell, causing them to leave. While redirects help you navigate your shoppers to the right content, too many redirects can cause a drop in your page rank.

Here are a few ways to keep your links in check and ensure they aren’t causing trouble to your site speed:

  • If you make changes to your URLs, redirect the old URL to the new one.
  • Reindex the new URL immediately through your Google Search Console.
  • Check and fix broken links through the “Index Coverage Status report” on your Google Search Console.
  • Redirect your broken links to the intended page.
  • If you don’t have a relevant page for the broken URL, you can set up a custom 404 page that lets shoppers who land on it to navigate to other parts of your store.

9. Decrease the size of thumbnail images 

If you display products on your storefront or as recommendations across your Shopify store, you may be using thumbnails to display these product images. While thumbnails help you showcase your products easily, they also slow down your pages drastically. 

If you’re using a Shopify-built theme, you don’t have to worry about this. Shopify ensures that your thumbnails are optimized to each device it is being viewed on, ensuring your page speed isn’t impacted.

But, a good rule of thumb to optimize your thumbnail images is to scale down the size of these images as much as possible. 

Prioritize your Shopify store speed to improve search engine ranking

Site speed is a crucial part of maintaining a good search engine ranking. By following these 9 best practices, you can successfully improve your Shopify store speed and stay ahead of your competitors.

As a growing Shopify store, you may need to add new features and requirements to adapt to changing shopper needs but you cannot afford to let your site performance slip. To continuously maintain a fast site speed, set up a weekly routine to monitor your site performance on Google Search Console, and understand which pages are lagging. 

This routine can help you identify problem areas, instantly fix any slow loading pages, and ensure Google’s algorithm continues to index and push your Shopify product pages to your target audience.

This guest post was contributed by Firepush. Firepush is an all-in-one marketing automation app for Shopify.

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