Shopify & Fast Simon: An Ecommerce SEO Case Study

Note: Thank you to Pierce Brelinsky, who helped me research and diagnose this issue.

It’s no question that Shopify has been growing in popularity over the years. We’ve been seeing that more businesses are choosing Shopify as their platform of choice for eCommerce.

Not only has the platform attracted small to medium size businesses but we’re seeing more and more major retailers such as Staples and Dressbarn using the platform.

Clearly, Shopify is attracting sites with bigger technological requirements.

A lot of these larger Shopify stores are utilizing the Fast Simon technology for faceted navigation, category page personalization, improving internal site search, and more.

In this column, we’ll take a look at a Fast Simon integration, some of the issues that arose, and tips you can use to make yours go 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 integrates with WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Magento, as well.

We had a client implement Fast Simon in December 2020 and while initially there appeared to be improvements, we can see that organic traffic and visibility took a sharp drop in May 2021.

Site analytics screenshot by author, October 2021.

While the timing of the Fast Simon implementation didn’t match up exactly, we still wanted to investigate the issue further.

When we looked into other sites that used Fast Simon, we found that many of them appeared to have seen organic visibility drops in the past couple of years.

For example, here is the organic traffic timeline for Motherhood Maternity:

Motherhood Maternity site analytics screenshot by author, October 2021.

And here’s the organic traffic for Steve Madden:

Retailer Steve Madden site analytics screenshot by author, October 2021.

We actually saw similar SEO trends for other sites that utilize Fast Simon.

Of course, correlation isn’t causation and there’s no telling when these sites implemented Fast Simon.

However, all of this combined with our client’s ranking declines definitely made us want to investigate more.

We loved the UX improvements that Fast Simon made to the site and wanted to see if changes could be made to strengthen our client’s technical SEO foundation.

Thus, we began to make Shopify SEO adjustments for our client keeping in mind that there could be better ways to optimize the platform.

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

1. Enable Prerendering

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

For instance, when turning off JavaScript, this is what was loaded on a category page:

Category page screenshot by author, October 2021.

Reviewing the raw HTML, we were able to confirm that the content wasn’t getting server-side rendered.

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

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

As well, when looking at Google’s rendering tools, we saw that an individual page’s content was getting loaded in very long