Shopify is the largest e-commerce content management platform in the United States, if not the world, so I take particular interest in how the CMS manages SEO with their native tools. Today I’ll go into detail how the Shopify system processes redirects.
How Does Shopify’s Redirect Tool Work?
The default redirect tool within Shopify will only 301 redirect when the original page is deleted. When the old URL/page is deleted then the system produces a 404 error code (“broken link”) and that 404 triggers the 301 redirect. This is what I received when I sent a support message to Shopify:
Google will see the 301.
If the redirect isn’t in place Google will see the 404.
If the page is still published, the redirect won’t fire so Google will see the content (200)
That process isn’t ideal nor is it an industry SEO best practice to be deleting a page immediately after applying a 301, but Shopify is a different animal and limited in terms of a CMS and SEO.
The good news is that if there were significant problems with this process, we’d know about it considering how many sites use Shopify. I was able to confirm in an email with Shopify that Google will see the 301 in this not-so-ideal-Shopify process.
Simply put another way, if the redirect isn’t in place Google will see the 404. If the page is still published, the Shopify 301 redirect won’t fire and the page will load, thus the search engine will see the live page. Here’s more on redirects in Shopify’s help guide.
Are There Other Shopify Options?
The process we detailed above is also how the popular Shopify redirect apps work too. There’s no workaround to it. The best-reviewed Shopify add-on and the one I would recommend is EasyRedirects. Here’s the answer I received from EasyDirect support when asked whether the 404 comes before their 301.
Our app is only able to redirect from a 404 page to a live page, the redirects won’t work if you try redirecting from a live page. Hope this helps answer your question :)
They have decent customer service – I was able to get a couple questions answered within 24 hours.
If you have dozens or hundreds of pages to redirect, we would recommend using one of Shopify’s apps so that you can apply redirects in bulk as opposed to doing it manually and individually. The app allows for bulk redirects and 404 error management. The EasyRedirect Shopify app has both a free and a paid version.
That’s really affordable especially if you have a lot of redirects to apply. I would recommend the paid version to automate and track any problems with the re-directions that pop up in the months after.
From there, I’ve confirmed with EasyRedirects that one can downgrade to the free version when things settle and comfortable that the new URLs have been properly-redirected and are indexed by the search engines.