Our nuts and bolts series on Shopify turns to new Shopify users this week. As a new user, you might be migrating to Shopify from another e-commerce platform or a static website you built yourself. In either case, migrating does involve a number of special concerns relating to URLs.
‘URL‘ is an acronym that stands for ‘uniform resource locator’. Essentially, the URL is a digital version of a mailing address. It tells a web browser where to look for a specific page or post. The primary challenge with URLs when migrating to Shopify is making sure all the URLs on a given site are either changed or redirected to account for the migration.
Here are three things to know about URLs if you are migrating to Shopify from another e-commerce platform or your own website:
1. Internal URLs Will Not Change Automatically
Within your e-commerce site, you should have URLs that direct your customers to various portions of your site as they navigate from page to page. For example, you may have your products divided into different categories with each category having its own landing page. That landing page has an internal URL accessed from anywhere on your site where the appropriate link is found. The first thing you need to know is that these internal URLs do not automatically change to reflect your new Shopify installation. Any URLs that stop working after your migration need to be updated or redirected manually.
2. You Can Redirect from Within Shopify
Shopify makes migrating a bit easier with a built-in URL redirection. To do so, go to your Shopify admin and navigate to Online Store > Navigation > URL Redirects. This will open a new dialogue box into which you can enter the appropriate data. Please note that URL redirection only accounts for pages that cannot be found due to invalid addresses or paths. In other words, a URL that generates a Not Found 404 error can be redirected. Any others cannot.
3. You Can Remove Protocols and Hierarchies from Your URLs
Pages that cannot be fixed through URL redirection might be manually correctable by eliminating protocols and hierarchies. Protocols are prefixes like http:// and https:// that instruct a web browser about how data will move back and forth between server and client. You do not need these protocols for internal links because the protocol to be used is established when your visitors log on to your main page. The default protocol is used if a visitor goes directly to a specific page on your site without first visiting the main page.
As for hierarchies, they are essentially the long-form paths to specific files. For example, you may have an internal link that looks something like this:
Web browsers do not necessarily need this hierarchical structure. Depending on how your system is set up, you might be able to use non-hierarchical URLs. Contact Shopify Support if you are not sure how it works.