So, you’re looking to build an e-commerce store for your company. Maybe you are a brand new start-up? Or you’re an established company looking to build and develop your business? Either way, the first step you must take is to find out which e-commerce platform is best for SEO and your business.
But after a few minutes of searching the internet, you feel even more confused. Sound familiar?
There is no denying that search engine optimisation (SEO) is a crucial aspect of finding new customers, increasing your conversion rate, and building a successful e-commerce brand. In fact, search engines are responsible for 37% of traffic to e-commerce websites. So it is a must that you optimise your online store.
However, the extent to which you can optimise your e-commerce website depends entirely on what sort of platform you use. So making the right choice for your company can make all the difference.
Read on for an overview of the best e-commerce for SEO, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and our recommendations. In this guide we are going to cover the following website builders & CMS’;
WordPress & WooCommerce
High up there on the list of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO is WooCommerce. It is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms as it is a WordPress plugin that turns your site into an online store.
It offers an array of benefits for your brand and website and has a range of customisation options that other e-commerce platforms do not allow for. With so many plugins at your disposal (there are hundreds!), you can build a site that fully works for your brand and business to sell products as effectively as possible.
Another benefit is that when using WooCommerce you don’t have to worry about not getting the support you need. This is because the tech support it offers is pretty strong. And don’t forget that WordPress is an open-source platform, which means that it is continually being worked on for improvements with plugins being tweaked all the time.
Therefore, if you do decide to go for the WooCommerce plugin, you will be able to ask all the questions you need and have any issues resolved quickly and easily with their support.
One of the main reasons why WooCommerce is one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO is because it comes SEO-ready. WordPress and WooCommerce know how important it is for your website to rank in search engines, so it is built to support that. It also has inbuilt SEO-friendly features such as:
- Speed optimisation
- Automatic redirect rules (which can be changed)
- URL customisation
- The WordPress blog platform
WooCommerce is a self-hosted e-commerce platform. This means that you, as the website owner, are free to select and manage your own hosting provider and the performance of the site is down to you. Even though it may seem like extra work, it gives you more flexibility and control when creating the perfect user experience. But keep in mind that unlike when you are in a managed e-commerce platform, you will be responsible for your own web development, security updates and any subscription/rental costs that come with your e-commerce site.
While WooCommerce is one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO out there and our personal favourite, there are some drawbacks you should be aware of.
For example, if you don’t have much experience with WordPress and haven’t used it before then you may find that there is a bit of a learning curve to get through before you will know how to maximise its full potential.
It can take you a bit of time to get used to the nuances and plugins that come with WordPress and if you are in a rush to get your e-commerce site set up then you may find this a bit frustrating. All the more reason to get our experts here at Blank Slate Digital to do it for you instead!
Another technical SEO drawback is that Woocommece comes with /product-category/ and /product/ permalink structures as default, although this does not have a huge negative impact on SEO, it can be improved, to add better hierarchy to your site and improve technical SEO.
These settings can be changed within WooCommerce but only allows you to change the names that display within the URL, not the way these permalink categories work. Using the free RankMath plugin allows you to completely remove these pesky subfolders from the URL paths of your product and category pages, taking one less ‘step’ out of the URL and improving the crawlability of your store.
The default WooCommerce URL structure is;
Product categories: www.yourdomain.com/product-category/category-name/
Product pages: www.yourdomain.com/product/product-name/
Our recommended structure for a *new online store is;
Product categories: www.yourdomain.com/category-name/
Product pages: www.yourdomain.com/category-name/product-name
*Depending on the size, structure and how established your website is, changing URL structures after you have launched your website could do more harm than good. It can take Google a while to understand the changes and re-index your new URLs. If you are unsure if you should change your URL structures, get in touch with our specialists for a chat about technical SEO.
Shopify is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to build and manage your online store. The Shopify platform not only has a range of customisable settings but also allows you to sell in a range of places, from mobile to social media and online marketplaces.
Shopify is great for beginners who are looking to set up their first e-commerce website easily and affordably. It has a large library of plugins on offer, so finding the right features that will boost your Shopify store is straightforward.
Plus as one of the most user-friendly websites out there, all you have to do is pick a template, start adding your features, and you’re ready for launch. This makes it a match made in heaven if you are a business owner out there who is looking to launch an e-commerce brand with no idea how to code.
As far as SEO capabilities go, Shopify has been designed with blogging in mind, which we all know is a vital part of a successful SEO strategy. Therefore, when using this platform you will find it easy to create, edit and publish content. This is one of the best features of this e-commerce platform as blogging will help you attract more visitors and increase the shoppers on your site.
Another example of why Shopify is one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO is because it is set up ready for Google Analytics. If you have ever worked on a website’s SEO before then you will be all too familiar with the importance of using Google Analytics. Therefore by having a platform that has tracking metrics in place already optimising your e-commerce website is considerably easier. By having access to more accurate tracking, you can monitor traffic, increase leads and boost conversions for your business all at the click of a button.
Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify is a managed e-commerce platform which means that you do not own the server that the website is placed on, and you don’t have access to it, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
One of the biggest drawbacks that prevent Shopify from being one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO is also one of its great strengths. As we discussed before, Shopify has great SEO features with additional benefits.
Shopify is a managed platform that allows you to edit robots.txt files which is what signals to search engines which of your web pages it should crawl. It is crucial that Google crawls the right pages so that it can index your website on the SERPs. However, editing the robots.txt files is far from easy and unless you have SEO and code expertise yourself then you will likely need to work with a Shopify Expert.
If you do attempt to give it a go yourself, then you can use the Shopify code editor to remove or add directives from the robots.txt.liquid template. We would recommend this method as it allows Shopify to keep the file updated in the future.
Additionally, this lack of control allows your site to be vulnerable to too many requests and search engines overloading and slowing down your site – which is not good for SEO or user experience.
The Shopify URL quirk…
Shopify’s rigid URL structure makes changing your URL a challenging and time-consuming task – that often requires expertise. Your URL is an essential nugget of information that search engines use to understand the topic or context of your website. This is why it is important that you can easily edit your URL structures and help search engines better understand your page.
Keep in mind that search engines are always looking to give users the best possible experience, so if they don’t fully understand what you are offering then this makes their job even more difficult for them.
As Shopify follows a user-centric design, it groups products together into categories by implementing different collections, making it easier for customers to locate them. Sounds good, right? Sadly, a drawback to this design is that it creates duplicate URLs.
For example, when a product is associated with a collection page, Shopify will automatically generate that product page with a second URL. Of course, not only does having two URLs for the same product cause confusion, but it also makes it difficult for search engines to know which URL they should index and rank. This isn’t inherently a problem as Shopify automatically adds canonical tags to the duplicated URLs, but from a technical SEO standpoint, this isn’t really something you’d want for your e-commerce website as Google can always choose to ignore the selected canonical and index another URL if it fits user intent better.
Another on our list is BigCommerce. It is one of the leaders in the world of e-commerce platforms and attracts a lot of attention from companies and business owners who want to build an online store. Similarly to Shopify, it is great if you don’t know how to code and want an easy-to-use platform.
By far one of the biggest advantages of BigCommerce is its flexibility. This is a hugely valuable feature for businesses as you don’t need to employ or outsource the project to an expert if you don’t have any website building experience. Instead, BigCommerce does it all for you.
It also has strong SEO features which are a must-have when looking for the best e-commerce site builders out there. These include a mobile-friendly web design, SEO-friendly URLs, built-in 301 redirects, and unlike Shopify, it lets you easily edit your txt files, meaning that you have more control over what pages Google crawls.
But one of the biggest SEO advantages of BigCommerce is how customer-friendly it is. Remember that even with the best e-commerce platform for SEO with the strongest SEO techniques in place, if your site is not a customer and user-friendly experience then it isn’t going to impress Google and feature on the SERPs.
No e-commerce platform is completely perfect, and a common complaint about BigCommer is its page speed. Slow-loading pages are kryptonite to UX and technical SEO as users simply won’t wait for pages to load.
Therefore, if your BigCommerce site is loading slowly then not only will this lead to lower rankings, but you may lose a considerable amount of shoppers to other, quicker, competitors. This will soon have an effect on your conversion rates as research has found that page speed could cost you.
Another aspect you should consider before using BigCommerce is the expense. It isn’t the cheapest out there and in fact, their pro package only allows you $400,000 in sales before you have to start paying monthly extras. While those sorts of figures may seem impossible if you are at the start of your brand’s journey, with a few years of growth you may be creating more expense for yourself further down the line.
Squarespace has become an increasingly popular e-commerce platform in recent years. This is largely down to it offering over 100 templates that can be used by complete beginners to build their online shop.
Not only is Squarespace great because it is super flexible, but it also comes ready for blogging. We have already discussed how important blogging is for a strong SEO presence for your site, so Squarespace blogging capabilities are a huge box ticked for us. It means that you can get your blog up and running as soon as possible and start driving those sales.
Another advantage is that Squarespace is optimised for mobile and is mobile-responsive. This is massively important in a world where 90% of consumers purchase using a smartphone. Therefore it is a must-have that your website not only works on mobile but that it looks great too!
Squarespace is similar to WooCommerce as you get a huge amount of support from its great community. The Squarespace community is well-known for being helpful if you have any concerns or problems or would like to raise any issues when creating your site. Got any troubleshooting issues? Squarespace has got you covered!
However, one of the biggest criticisms that Squarespace gets is its usability. From a lack of autosave capabilities and the ability to undo changes that have been made, some of the most essential features that most of the other e-commerce platforms we’ve listed have, Squarespace falls short which can be very frustrating when working on your website.
Similarly, if you are looking to build a big website then Squarespace is probably not the platform for you as it does not have a deep navigation hierarchy. As a result, if you sell many products, you may find it difficult to arrange them the way you want.
Are you looking to take your business international? Well, this is another downfall for Squarespace as it does not support your site being created in different languages; which is a big problem in a global world.
Similarly to Shopify, Squarespace does not have self-hosting capabilities and therefore you are required to use their servers for your website.
Wix is a ‘free’ entry-level hosted website builder which is known for being highly customisable and user-friendly, even for those people who do not have any web design or coding experience.
One of the reasons why Wix is up here on our list of the best e-commerce platforms is because the set-up period is easy and straightforward, with hundreds of professional-looking templates for you to choose from. (Although you should be warned that once you have picked a template you risk losing all the content on your site if you want to change it.)
There is no need for you to be able to write code when using Wix thanks to its intuitive editor and ‘drag and drop’ feature that makes creating parts of the website super easy. Wix also includes hosting, so you don’t have to worry about hosting your new website and you will automatically gain storage space upon registering. Sounds good, right?
However, the biggest reason why we wouldn’t label Wix as one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO is that it isn’t entirely Google-friendly. Of course, we know that there are other search engines out there, but if you don’t appeal to Google, then what’s the point?
Wix websites do not position as well on Google as those created by WooCommerce or Shopify. While the developers at Wix have tried to fix this, it still remains a huge negative for the platform. Trying to position your website with Wix is complicated and reaching the top of the SERPS is even harder!
Similarly, load times aren’t great on Wix either and there are often incompatibilities with mobile devices. We know that many pages generated on the platform suffer from delays, and that will not be effective if you are hoping to boost traffic, boost user experience, and climb Google’s ranks.
Last but not least, Magento is also considered one of the best e-commerce platforms for SEO due to it being fully customisable. Its flexibility means that you can effectively and efficiently sell your products whilst taking advantage of organic traffic.
Magento is open source which means that you can make any changes to it that you would like in order to build the site that you and your business require. So if you are looking for a platform that allows you to create a specialised checkout process, then you are in luck!
The high levels of customisation are what make Magento one of the most popular platforms amongst companies as it provides the basic foundations from which you can develop. But without you having to build a site from nothing. Similarly, this fully flexible and customisable platform means that you can make any changes you want for SEO purposes. For example, if you are looking to rank in the SERPs and earn more sales, then you can add the page alterations and necessary code yourself.
However, Magento’s advantages are also a part of its downfall. While it might sound great that you can enjoy all this control when developing your e-commerce website, it means that you will need coding knowledge. So if you don’t know how to code, then this is probably not the best e-commerce platform for you.
Another drawback for Magento, especially for start-ups, is the cost. Even the basic package alone costs thousands a year and the more features you need, the more it will cost.
So you guessed it, determining which e-commerce platform is best for SEO is not straightforward. This is because it depends on what you are looking for and what your brand, business and customers need.
Do you have a lot of items to sell?
Well, Squarespace probably isn’t the one for you.
Do you want to have more control over how URL structures work?
We wouldn’t recommend Shopify.
With all this in mind, we think that the all-rounder WooCommerce is the best e-commerce platform for SEO as it has all the tools ready at your disposal for optimisation at an affordable price. From its customisable features, such as URL customisation and txt editing, you can retain full control over your website’s SEO and help skyrocket your e-commerce website.
Want to know more about how we can help get your online store up and running? Book a free consultation today!