Deep Dive into Shopify Collections and Tags

Today's podcast episode is all about tags and collections on Shopify. 

I get so many questions about these two things, especially tags. And I also see so many mistakes when it comes to tax and collections. So today, we are going to do a deep dive into tags and collections. 

For the record, tags and collections are universal things. They also happen on WordPress and Squarespace. They work slightly differently, and they're called different things. Just to let you know, this episode is really about tags and collections and how they work in Shopify, which of course, is my favorite eCommerce platform.

Tag and collections are used to organize your products in Shopify 

Tags can also be used for blog posts and invoices, and even customers, tags are super useful, but they're not for SEO, which is a common mistake. They have nothing to do with SEO inside of Shopify tags on your website and are not tags like Etsy. 

Collections are groups of products usually by category, and you also have something called the product type, which allows you to create a generalized category without creating a category page.

Collections are buckets and tags are more like a cross-reference system. 

The main distinction between tags and collections is that tags are for an internal organization on your website. On some themes, they do show publicly, but the purpose is really for internal organization. You can use them to create collections or set up product filtering, or you can use them to create email sequences based on purchases. Seriously, tags are one of the most useful things ever in Shopify. 

Let's do some deep dive into Shopify Collections. 

Collections are easier to understand for almost everyone I've talked to. If you think of your online store, like a department store, or like a Walmart, collections are the different departments in your store. 

Sometimes you have products that can fall into multiple categories. A good example of this is how if you go to Walmart, you can buy trash bags in the grocery aisle, like with the toilet paper and the paper towels, there are trash bags back there, but you also have trash bags in the garden center for lawn care. They're both trash bags. They might be different types, but they're still trash bags, right? If I looked up trash bags, it would show me both options. Think of each collection like a different department. 

You can also have collections lists in your navigation, and oftentimes I will create a menu that says shop and then have some dropdown menus for the collections, necklaces, earrings, or by stone type or anything like that. 

You can also use collections to highlight products in sections. Like I mentioned before, let's say you want to have a featured section on your homepage. You can create a collection that's just featured products. And then that gives you a little more control over what you see; each collection on your website has its own page. 

All of your collection pages are styled the same. In Shopify, you set up the style and design of a collection page, and every collection has one of those pages associated with it. Usually, it will have the collection title at the top with an image that you've selected. 

You can also decide whether you want your featured image of the collection to be the first product, or if you want it to be a featured image that you've selected. You have a lot of flexibility within your collections. If you think about it as a whole, each collection is basically a gallery of products in Shopify. 

You can create automatic collections or manual collections using some of the settings in Shopify. And we're going to talk about that a little more because tags are really helpful in that scenario. 

Products can be in multiple collections. You might have a fall collection and a turquoise collection with products that are in both, and that's perfectly fine. 

Product types are just like collections, but a product can only be in one product type. You might have all your necklaces as a product type, and all the rings are a product type. And then, you can use stone type to create collections. Product types are typically more generalized collections. 

General rules for product collections. 

If possible, you want to name your collection with keywords. This is something I cover in my simplified SEO for shop owners course, but a collection title like women's fall apparel is better than just fall. You'll have to see what works for your brand, of course. But if you can use keywords in your collections, it's way better for search engine optimization and also really helpful for customer experience because they know exactly what they're clicking on. 

Make sure your collections include a handful of products. You don't want a collection with only two choices, and collections should have at least eight to 10 products. Then on the flip side, you want to be careful not to include too many products because your customers aren't likely to click through all of those options. 

Just remember that the way you set up collections will be different than other shops. I have one client who does one big collection, and that's the one thing she's promoting or marketing at that time. So all the pieces fall into that collection. It's not based off like a season or a type of product. She's an artist, so her collections are set up a little bit differently. 

Ok, so let’s talk about how tags work in Shopify. 

Tags are way more complicated, but they're so powerful on Shopify. 

Like I said, they're one of the most useful things on the Shopify platform. Tags are used to cross-reference and organize your products. 

Let's say you want to show all the orange products in your store and not just the ones in a single collection. You can do this with a tag. You can use tags to sort by color or size or stone type. This is called filtering, and tags are what you use to create filters. Those are the things that are usually running down the side of your screen, where it says, sort by price, sort by stone type,  sort by color, sort by size... that's product filtering. 

You can also use tags to do really cool things like send out email segments. You can email people who purchase this one product and then email with one sequence and then email people who purchased another product with another sequence.

It's really powerful. If you have a diverse business or you have different streams of income or different product types, you can just do some really cool things.

I have a client who has pieces that are ready to go, ready to ship right now. Then she has a completely custom side of her business, and each type of product is tagged. Those tags are connected to Klaviyo for her email sequences, and each type gets its own. Thank you sequence for after purchasing. It's incredible. The things you can do, you can do segments to send them different emails based on location. Like if you have an event coming up in this certain area, it's really cool the things you can do with tags. 

Tags are also parts of blog posts, customers, invoicing, all of those things. Tags are everywhere in Shopify.

You can use tax to create automatic collections. You can tell Shopify to create a collection of products that are tagged with fall, and it will create an automatic collection, and it keeps it updated. Anytime you add a new product to your shop with the tag fall, it will automatically show up in the new fall collection. 

General rules for tagging products in Shopify

Tags need to be consistent. You should create a set of rules that you follow for tracking products. Every single time also, tags are case sensitive. So you want to be careful of that. Watch for that. Look for typos. I prefer to copy and paste tags.

When I am working with a client, what we do is we set up a system for product tagging. We either do this on a spreadsheet or in groups, depending on the types of products. I'll have a column that says these are all your color options, copy and paste that one into your tagging box. Or if the tags are pretty similar in one collection, we will have like a group of tags that you just copy and paste into that product. Both work really well. It just kind of depends on how your brand works. 

When you're using filtering, you need to be more specific with your tags that when in that scenario, that's when I set up a spreadsheet. Also, if you're setting up filtering, check with your theme development and include that information, like even if you just have a link to it, because you will have to refer to it a bunch of times because different themes require different tagging structure. You need to be able to refer to that, and you can create yourself like a little key to what you need to be doing to tag your products. So they show up in the filtering. 

This is also the same for color swatches. Some themes use tagging for color swatches, some don't, but you can get that set up in there, and you just want to keep a record of it. This is why I always set up either a Google doc or a spreadsheet for the tagging system for each individual client we work with. 

The one thing that I get the most questions about is what if I didn't do this right in the past, don't panic. It's not that big a deal. First of all, you can use the bulk product editor to update them. Or you can just delete all the tags. If you have a lot of products, this is going to take awhile. You can also download the CSV of your products, clear out that entire column of data, and re-upload your products back into the system. That will just remove all the tags. That's the fastest way to do it. I know that makes people nervous, but it's very simple. 

It's actually not that big a deal to have tags you aren’t using in Shopify. Having bad tags or wrong tags is not hurting you. It's just messier on the back end. You don't really need to spend time going back to fix these unless you're already working on updating your product listings. Then I would clean it up. If you're going through to add tags for some reason, then I'd take the time to clean it up. But if you are thinking, “Oh, I haven't been doing this correctly,” just forget about it until it comes up again.

The biggest tag mistake people make on Shopify

One of the common ways I see people using the wrong tags is they will list out every possible word associated with the product. And I really think this happens a lot because of Etsy. It is not effective. Tags do not work like that on Shopify. On Etsy, what's happening is the tags are being used to associate your product with other products in that same tag. But that is not how it works on your website. It's like taking your product out of the Etsy box and putting it in its own box. You want to avoid listing out all those words as tags. It's just making it a mess on your end. But again, if you've done in the past, just move on. It's not that big a deal. 

The biggest problem is that you're probably spending a lot of time coming up with those tags on your website to list them out, and they're not doing any good. That's why I want you to be aware of it. Not that I think you need to spend hours going through fixing them, but mostly I just don't want you to continue doing it when it's not helping. 

Products can have as many tags you need to help you organize your store. You do want to keep them short and concise. This is for organization purposes. What's happening when you're creating, filtering, and things, is it's using that tag handle to create those links. So short is better. Plus, they're easier for you to not make a mistake on if you're not using your spreadsheet, set up your spreadsheet.

Create a list or a set of rules for how your products and tags should be working. 

Sometimes tags are a part of your theme design. And in that case, you'll want to pay careful attention and maybe even update the theme settings. Usually, it's an option to hide the tag display or not so that they don't show because, especially if you're using some kind of filtering tagging protocol, it's going to look really weird, and people are going to see those and have no clue. It's just going to make your site look unprofessional and messy. So hide those tags. You do not need you to display them for public view whatsoever. 

Oh, but you also can use them for creating categories on a sidebar. One of my favorite themes is Impulse, and it allows you to display tags as a sorting option. So again, it's helping you organize and improve that user experience on your site, but then you have to be careful about making sure the way you've set up tags is going to work, and it's going to display properly.

Use the theme documentation from your developer before you start going wild, tagging all your products to get the best sense of how tags are going to display and what information you need to do to create your tags. So I will just keep that link straight to the tag page for my theme developer, right inside my spreadsheet or Google doc that talks about all the ways we're using the tags on a client's website. What we do is we create a website guide so that all the information is in one place. It has the links you're going to need. That's really going to help get a sense of how they work for your particular theme. Of course, every theme is different. Every theme developer sets things up differently. So make sure you're using the right protocol for your theme. 

Summary of Collections and Tags in Shopify 

I think you can think of these different things from largest to smallest. You have your product type. That's the biggest kind of bubble. Inside that bubble, you have a lot of different collections, and then you have tags, they can be inside that bubble, or they can be inside other bubbles. Like they just kind of do whatever they want. They're like rogue bubbles, but they're also helping you organize. And there's a lot of cross-promoting happening, especially between tags. 

One of the best examples I have for this as I was working with a client who I wanted to add this to the side; she has hundreds of products, I would say. And what we added was a way for her customers to search by ring size, which is a crucial thing when you're purchasing a ring. As soon as we added filtering using tags, she started seeing her conversion rates improve almost immediately. People were able to find their rings and their size without having to click through every option she had and hope that it was available in their size or hope that she could make it in their size. They could just say, “Oh, I'm a size nine” and then only look at size nine rings.

Another really great example I worked on last year was for a party decor store. She has all these different party themes, but when you're planning a party, you know, you might like the wild animal theme, but you don't particularly love the cups in that theme. So you could find cups that are in coordinating color. Being able to have her customers be able to shop by color, shop by theme, shop by event, shop by holiday, etc. improves the user experience tenfold. 

You're going to have to sit down and do some organization and some planning about how people will shop for your products. Look at examples of other stores or other shops that are similar to yours. Look at how people are searching for things or think about how people are searching for things. You might find that you sell your stuff by collection type, but most people are searching by color. You're going to want to add some tagging to be able to set that up. 

This is one of those reasons why I just absolutely love tags and how they work in Shopify. Plus, there's that email segmenting. That's really incredible. Although not every email service provider can use those types of tagging and segmenting.

It's one of my favorite things about being really specific with your products and your collections. It makes for a store that's easier to shop. They can really help improve your conversion rates. 

The main thing that I want you to remember is that tags are for internal organization. They don't enhance your SEO. And collections are like buckets of products. You can have products that fall into different buckets. If you remember those two things, you'll be golden. 

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