In a headless setup, the front end of the store and the back end of the store are “decoupled” – in other words, they stand independently of one another. This means the content, product listing and customer facing information (the front end of the store) is separate from the business logic and commerce management (the back end of the store).
As a result, this headless setup separates the customer-facing concerns from the system-facing concerns.
If you’re not familiar with headless CMS vs traditional vs decoupled CMS then read this article:
This post won’t go into detail about pros and cons or the decision-making process, if you’re undecided on headless then we’d recommend reading Pauls post here: https://paulnrogers.com/introduction-to-headless-ecommerce/
Paul talks more about the pros, cons, examples of headless CMS platforms and the setup considerations for eCommerce stores.
Instead, we’ll be focusing on the SEO eCommerce considerations to be made.
While headless and decoupled architecture is nothing new, the demand for this kind of solution is, as businesses look to deliver content to locations outside of the standard web browser.
Traditional eCommerce CMS’ have prioritised serving content to desktop-first as this is where the majority of traffic comes from and where most customers transact. Therefore, the traditional approach of a connected front end and the back end has worked fine.
However as consumers buyer behaviour switches to different devices and locations it causes different challenges around how marketers can target content to these customers across an omnichannel strategy.
As a results demand has grown for:
Headless ticks all of these boxes!
For more detail about each of these, read this Magento post: https://magento.com/blog/best-practices/future-headless
Headless CMS’ are built from scratch which allows them to accommodate the individual business demands.
As a result, each solution is essentially bespoke offering a range of unique challenges for SEO.
Over the past 12-18 months, we’ve worked with a range of eCommerce sites with varying size catalogues that have adopted a headless CMS approach.
We’ve typically worked with clients at 2 stages:
If you have any non-brand SEO traffic and are looking to move to a headless solution – you need to get an SEO expert involved during the migration.
We’ve outlined examples to consider below however as mentioned each set up is bespoke so there is no ‘definitive’ SEO guide to a headless CMS as there would be for Magento/Shopify.
The more challenges and considerations we encounter through our experiences we will be adding them to this list.
Below is a mixture of the experience we’ve had across numerous headless CMs setups:
Even though Google has made strong progress in recent years, it still struggles to read some frameworks, see the example below:
We’re going to discuss these different tests in more detail in a blog article coming very soon, so subscribe to us to hear about it first when it’s live!
Once you’ve identified that Google can read and index your content – this is only the first stage. Next step is to assess specific page templates and the content in more detail. Why? Depending on how the content is being generated it may cause readability issues for Google (see 2 examples below) as a result we recommend you take individual page templates e.g. blog, category, listing, product pages and assess the fetch as Google results with considerable detail so you don’t miss anything e.g.
Running a fetch as Google (shown below), it shows us that Google could read the homepage fine, however, when you scrolled below the fold the page is blank – missing some key internal SEO linking.
This one was easy to miss but comparing ‘what Google sees’ vs ‘what humans see’ the ‘Related products’ was not being read by Google – again missing some key cross-sell internal linking.
We love headless CMS set up, they offer incredible flexibility and some unique SEO challenges. The popularity with headless CMS setups for eCommerce websites is growing however do not neglect the SEO considerations.
Ideally, you should involve an experienced SEO in the build of the CMS, that said improvements can still be made at a later date.
If you have any questions around set up or if you just want a second opinion, feel free to email me on email@example.com
If you’re happy with your CMS and need more help with content and capturing the ultimate “Google Knowledge Box”, then read our article about it here.