Using product variants is often the best solution if you are selling a lot of closely related variations of a product – such as dresses in different colors. But how do you implement the best SEO strategy for product variants? Should you optimize each variant – and if so, how? Or should you exclude variants from indexing? And what is the best way to do that?

The short answer is: It depends. To give a more detailed answer you need to consider a few things. In this article we will take a closer look at that and guide you to the best possible SEO-solution when dealing with product variants in Shopify.

Do people search for your product variants?

The first thing you need to find out is if people actually search directly for your products variants or not.

To do this you need access to a keyword research tool. We prefer the Keyword Explorer in Ahrefs.com but if you are a Google Ads advertiser you can also use the Google Keyword Planner or ay one of the many other tools available on the market.

lets say one of your products is a “summer dress” and you have it available in white, pink, black and blue. OK, “summer dress” may be a bit of a too broad term for a single product – it’s more sort of a category, but lets just use it for now as an example …

In Ahrefs.com we can see that most people search for just the “summer dress” but there are in fact also a lot of searches for the color variants.

So, in this case it would make sense to optimize for the variants.

As you may also notice the KD-value is much lower for the variants. KD is short for “Keyword Difficulty” and an indication of how difficult it is to rank for each keyword.

However, in many cases the number of searches for variants are very low. If for example you are selling “striped wool socks” instead of “summer dresses” we can see that even through there are a few searches for variants such as “brown” the numbers are so low that it would not justify the extra work to optimize required unique content for them.

Instead, in that case we recommend that you incorporate the description of the variants in the default product text. If there are very few searches for the variants it is most likely that the competition is also low. And consequently it is not unrealistic to have your one product page rank for both the primary product name and (at least some of) its variants.

How do you optimize product variants?

OK – so lets assume your product actually have a lot of searches for variants and you want to optimize them. How do you do that?

There are basically two ways to do this:

  • Add all your variants as separate products
  • Optimize the variants associate to a product

Most often we would not recommend the first version. It is usually easier to manage variants as variables to a product rather than as separate products.

So lets move on with the second option.

As default Shopify implement CANONICAL-tags for all variants. Assuming Google respect them (see more about that below) then you will only get the main version indexed in Google.

It makes good sense. Because Google do not want to index the same – or almost the same pages on multiple unique URL’s. It just clutters up they index with redundant data without adding any real value to search users. This is what we refer to as “Duplicate Content”.

When Google find Duplicate Content they will typically filter out the duplicated versions. There are two problems with this:

  1. You cannot control which version Google keep – it may not be the one you prefer
  2. If they filter out Duplicate Content (or apply any other quality filtering) that can hurt the rankings of all your pages – also the good ones

So we want to avoid Duplicate Content!

If you want to have all your product variants indexed you need to remove the CANONICAL-tags. How you do that can depend on your theme – and in any case you need to get into the template coding. Or you can try and find an App that can help you.

This feature will come as a feature in the SEO master App.

But even that is not enough …

Optimize all indexable product variants

Now that we got the technical side of things fixed you also need to optimize your content. as mentioned, Google do not like Duplicate Content – identical or almost identical pages. So you have to optimize the following elements:

  • The page TITLE
  • The META-description
  • The product text

As standard that is not possible in Shopify. You only have one field for each product – not for each product variants.

There are some Apps for Shopify that can help you with this. However, to be honest we have not tested them so we do not know if they are good for SEO too. So we won’t recommend any.

We are planning on having this feature included in the SEO Master App – and in this we promise it will work perfectly for SEO.

It is important for SEO that all three content elements are rewritten for each product variants. Only this way can you be sure they do not get filtered out for Duplicate Content in Google and become more likely to rank for the variant keyword.

Link images to the correct product variants

The last thing you should do is make sure that each of your images are linked to the product variant. So when visitors click on a variant photo it is selected to buy and they see the description you made for it.

By adding the variant photos to your variant listings this should work. At least it does in the themes we have checked.

Don’t trust CANONICAL-tags!

I promised to explain why you should not blindly trust the CANONICAL-tags.

The CANONICAL-tag is a way to tell search engines which version of multiple, almost identical pages, to index. As such it is more of a band-aid solution. It does not actually fix the problem of having duplicated content.

But it is important to know that the tag is just a “signal” (out of many Google listen to) – it is not a “directive”. In other words, you can’t be sure Google will respect the tag – and they do not promise to do so.

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