Here’s one thing about the eCommerce industry: it has experienced astounding growth over the years, and it’s just getting started.
As of 2020, there were over two billion digital buyers worldwide. This significantly increased from the 1.66 billion global online buyers in 2016. Meanwhile, retail e-commerce sales are projected to increase by 50% to reach almost 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025.
What does this mean for you as an eCommerce store owner? Well, it tells you clearly that there’s no better time to take advantage of the eCommerce industry’s opportunities than now.
One of the first ways to do this is by choosing the best-suited eCommerce platform for your eCommerce SEO strategy. Choosing the wrong eCommerce platform is like attempting to build a mansion without the foundations.
An eCommerce platform sets the stage for online brands and buyers to communicate and transact business. They provide the medium through which you can build your website and manage your sales, operations, marketing, and all your business functions. Note that eCommerce platforms are different from online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay that are instead better suited for eCommerce beginners. Thanks to an eCommerce platform, in fact, you’ll create an independent shop and enjoy customised solutions.
Let’s find out which are the best SEO eCommerce platforms for SEO and how to choose the best one for your business.
Which eCommerce Platforms Are Best For SEO?
Let’s start with the most popular question you might be asking yourself. Which eCommerce platform is suited for my business? The good news is, there’s a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, the problem with too many options is that it can be challenging to choose the best ones.
So, I’ve decided to help you narrow your options to the top 6 in terms of popularity and amazing features. Below is a quick appraisal of these eCommerce platforms:
- Magento (now Adobe Commerce)
Tobias Lutke and Scott Lack founded Shopify in 2006 to provide eCommerce store owners with an alternative to platforms that required them to build their websites from scratch. Now, when many people talk about eCommerce platforms, what they have in mind is Shopify. Businesses under the platform witness outstanding increases in online sales as Shopify boasts of more than half of its stores getting repeat purchases. So no wonder why it’s that popular.
First, Shopify is a wise choice for you if you don’t have adequate technical experience. That’s because it provides you with everything you need to build an online store like a professional in no time.
Shopify also gives you access to various premium themes courtesy of third-party developers. Unfortunately, however, the platform doesn’t provide adequate free themes to choose from, and the few available look the same.
In addition, Shopify offers numerous SEO features to help facilitate business growth, although some features in their premium plans are base plan features in other platforms. The abandoned cart recovery is a perfect example of discrepancy.
In a nutshell, Shopify offers numerous advantages like many out-of-the-box SEO features, a free 14-day trial, various payment options, and dropshipping-friendly features. However, the platform still has lots of work to do when it comes to SEO, especially when it comes to its stiff URL structure.
In summary, these are the pros and cons of using Shopify as it relates to eCommerce SEO:
- Impressive Analytics
- Lots of plugin options
- Large theme and app selections
- Customised design
- Lightning fast speed
- Various payment gateways
- Best for startups and dropshipping
- Not the best for SEO due to many limitations (canonicals and URL structure among others)
- Your site may slow down if you run too many Shopify apps
2. Magento (Now Adobe Commerce)
In May 2018, Adobe Inc acquired Magento, an open-source e-commerce platform, for $1.68 billion. Adobe Commerce is self-hosted; as such, it offers users premium customization advantages that ensure you can build your website to your taste with special features. This means that you can decide to hone your website to rank higher for SEO, enjoy custom checkout processes, etc.
Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be able to tweak Adobe Commerce to your best advantage if you’re not tech-savvy. In other words, this platform is not as user-friendly as you may like. As such, it’s only an excellent choice for businesses with a team of experienced developers. Again, Adobe Commerce will only provide the SEO features you need for your brand if you install an extension.
- Excellent customer support
- SEO-friendly features
- Expensive hosting
- Strong learning curve
- Not suited for beginners
WooCommerce is pretty different from other platforms because it operates as an eCommerce plugin for WordPress instead of a standalone platform. This means that you can’t run an eCommerce store on WordPress without downloading and installing WooCommerce.
WooCommerce offers various SEO advantages, including robot.txt file accessibility, custom URLs, and built-in blogging. In fact, I believe WordPress is the best eCommerce platform when it comes to blogging.
This platform is cost-effective and beneficial for users on a strict budget because it offers free software. If you choose WooCommerce, you’ll enjoy control over various SEO features like access to robots.txt, meta descriptions edits, etc. Unfortunately, you’re likely to experience difficulty trying plugin functionality when using plugins that WooCommerce didn’t develop.
According to Statista, WooCommerce is the leading e-commerce software platform in the world by market share.
- Seamless blogging
- Free software
- SEO friendly
- Regular updates
- Digital products sales
- Community support
- Expensive due to too many plugins
- Not the best for beginners
Brent Bellm and Eddie Machaalani founded BigCommerce six years after they met in a chatroom. The aim of setting up the platform was simple: to allow small businesses to set up professional online stores with ease. Founded in 2009, BigCommerce has fast grown to become one of the technological giants in the eCommerce industry and one of Shopify’s biggest competitors. You’ll find that BigCommerce is the favourite choice of eCommerce platform for many small and large businesses because of its flexibility and scalability.
Unlike many other eCommerce platforms, you can edit your robots.txt file and URL structure to tweak it for user-friendliness with BigCommerce. BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial, no transaction fees, and a wide range of options for even users on their base plan. If generosity were an eCommerce platform, it would be BigCommerce.
However, like every other platform, BigCommerce has its fair share of shortcomings. For example, there’s a lot of improvement in its page load time, and you’ll find it challenging to edit the free templates. Also, you wouldn’t find an RSS feed in the built-in blog.
- Lots of features even on the base plan
- Built-in SEO features
- Free themes
- Impressive customer support
- Extra costs for add-ons
- Slow page loading
- No RSS feed for built-in blog
- Difficult to edit themes
Squarespace is the second leading eCommerce software platform in the world by market share. Founded in 2003 by Anthony Casalena in his dorm room at the University of Maryland, Squarespace started as a blog hosting service without eCommerce features. Now, it’s one tech company to reckon with when mentioning eCommerce SEO.
While Squarespace’s Personal plan still doesn’t include eCommerce functionality, its other plans have amazing eCommerce SEO features to explore. You can save 30% on Squarespace’s business plan and 25% on higher-tier plans if you pay yearly. So, for the business, basic commerce, and advanced commerce plans, you get to pay £15, £20, and £30 instead of £21, £24, and £37.
One of the advantages you’ll enjoy with Squarespace is its user-friendliness, especially with its drag-and-drop design. So, if you’re a beginner running a simple store, this platform should be one of your top choices. You’ll have access to canonical tags, custom URLs, structured data, sitemaps, and other SEO advantages with Squarespace.
Unfortunately, Squarespace hasn’t done so well in providing adequate payment options and is not suitable for you if you have a big website.
- Free trial
- Social media integration
- Challenging for beginners in SEO
- Not suitable for store owners with big websites
- Not suitable for localisation as you cannot translate a website into various international languages
Wix was founded on October 5, 2006, by Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami, and Giora Kaplan. Although it’s an Israeli cloud-based web development company, it’s publicly listed in the US. Wix holds the top spot for being the favourite website builder for business owners with little or no coding or technical skills. So, as a beginner, you can thrive with this platform.
While Wix didn’t have eCommerce features when it launched, it has tweaked its platform to include them. However, it still doesn’t have adequate advanced features for large businesses, especially compared to other more developed platforms. This, coupled with its affordability, makes it the best suited for small businesses on a budget.
One fantastic thing about Wix is that all its plans include abandoned cart emails, support for digital products, real-time shipping, and tracking. These are features that you can only find in Shopify’s more advanced plans. Wix’s SEO features include robots.txt editor, image optimisation, canonical tags, structured data, smart caching, etc. The downside to this platform is that users have a high chance of experiencing page duplication.
- Smart caching
- Robots.txt editor
- Canonical tags
- Structured data
- Image optimisation
- Easy connection to Google analytics and search console
- Difficult to switch to another website
- Slow page load time
- Page duplication
Features To Consider in SEO eCommerce Platforms
From keywords to content user experience, meta descriptions, etc., there are many eCommerce SEO aspects to focus on when boosting your content rankings. However, your eCommerce platforms can either make or break your SEO efforts. While some platforms provide basic SEO features to ease your strategies in some areas, they may lag in others. So, it’s essential to choose the platform that appeals to you best, based on your needs.
There are many features to consider when deciding which eCommerce platforms above are best suited for your business. These are the most important ones:
- Site Speed
- Canonical Tags
- Sitemap Generation Capabilities
- Noindex and nofollow tags
- International Targeting & Localisations
- Hreflang Tags
- Mobile Optimisation
- Custom Domain Name
1. Site Speed
One of the essential factors you must consider when choosing an eCommerce platform is site speed. It’s one of the primary considerations prospects base the quality of your brand upon. If your website takes too long to load, your target audience will get irritated and leave your website in frustration.
According to Google, websites that take between 1 to 3 seconds to load a page have a probability of increasing by 32%. Meanwhile, a page load time of 5 seconds will increase bounce rates by 90%. It progressively gets worse; as a page load time goes from 1 second to 10 seconds, the bound rate increases by 123%. So, your aim should be a load time of less than 1 second to get the best results.
As such, an eCommerce platform that gives you more control over site speed variables will naturally be your best bet. This means that hosted platforms like BigCommerce or Shopify put you at a higher disadvantage than self-hosted solutions. However, there’s a catch. While self-hosted platforms will offer you control over site speed variables like image size optimization and browser caching, you’ll also have to control bandwidth.
If you post high-performing content, you may experience a sudden traffic surge that can make your site go down. Meanwhile, you wouldn’t experience this problem with a hosted solution that can handle the bandwidth without downtime. So, when it comes to site speed, the wiser option will be to stick with the hosted solution that prioritises fast page load times.
Of six eCommerce platforms, Shopify is the winner in this category, with an average load time of 1.3 seconds.
The loser is Squarespace, with an average load time of 3.5 seconds.
2. Canonical Tags
Canonical tags (aka rel canonical) provide information to search engines to help them differentiate between duplicates and master copies of a page. In other words, you can use canonical tags to help Google determine where your site’s primary content source is. Canonical tags also ensure that you don’t have to struggle with issues arising from duplicate content and keyword cannibalisation. So, ensure that your eCommerce platform allows you to adjust your canonical tags to avoid these problems.
Winners: WooCommerce and Magento
The easiest platform to use to control your canonical tags is WooCommerce on WordPress. However, if you have a large store, a more customised solution like Magento might be better suited.
Unfortunately, if you’re using a hosted eCommerce platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, and Squarespace, you wouldn’t be able to control your canonical tags as you wish. So, sometimes, business owners may have to hire a web developer’s services to handle this concern.
3. Sitemap Generation
Sitemaps are files that have a list of all your website pages including videos and other files. So, when you submit your sitemap to Google, it ensures that the only pages that appear in the results are the ones you want to be indexed. Regardless of your reason for needing sitemaps, the best eCommerce platforms should have sitemap generation features.
Winners: Shopify and BigCommerce
ECommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce offer sitemap generation advantages to shop owners. So, they are the winners in this category.
Losers: Squarespace, Wix, and Magento
Unfortunately, if you decide to stick with Squarespace, Wix, and Magento, you’ll have to submit your website’s sitemap to search engines manually. This can be a waste of valuable time you could spend doing other useful activities.
4. Access to Robots.txt
A robots.txt file’s job is to give the search engine crawlers information on which page crawlers can and cannot access. This ensures that your site is not overloaded with requests. Having access to your robots.txt file gives you control over what the bots can crawl.
In this category, WooCommerce on WordPress is the clear winner as it provides you full control over robots.txt. This is even when some hosted platforms, like BigCommerce, may permit you to alter it in specific ways.
Losers: Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify
Business owners with shops on Squarespace don’t have access to their robots.txt files and can’t edit them. Like Squarespace, Wix doesn’t permit users to make robots.txt file edits. Meanwhile, even as Shopify users can now edit the robots.txt file, the platform still limits their access. Therefore, they are all the losers in this category.
6. Noindex and Nofollow Tags
Indexing control is another factor to consider when determining which eCommerce platform is perfect for SEO.
Noindex tags tell search engines not to index a page or make it appear in search results. This prevents your customers from viewing pages that have no value to them. Meanwhile, Nofollow links can drive traffic to your website, ensuring that you have a healthy backlink profile while still helping you rank high on Google. Since noindex and nofollow tags are important for SEO, it’s nice to have in-depth control over them. With adequate indexing control, you’ll be able to instruct search engines on the pages to be visible without affecting SEO.
The absolute winner in this category is WooCommerce on WordPress as it gives a lot of freedom to easily apply noindex and nofollow tags on a page level.
Unfortunately, Shopify is quite notorious for the disadvantages associated with its indexing control. First, the platform uses a navigational URL instead of the final product URL to link to products. As such, it’s impossible to boost your SEO rankings with Shopify by transferring SEO value to the category or product pages. Also, with Shopify, removing or making edits to pages is also an impossible task. The platform doesn’t allow users to directly apply noindex tags to pages they don’t want to appear in search results.
Metadata refers to the information in a webpage’s HTML code that gives you information about other data. That is, metadata ensures that search engines can interpret pages and determine their relevance.
Generally, there are three metadata types: descriptive, administrative, and structural. The most famous examples of metadata in SEO include meta titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags.
While many eCommerce platforms give you some degree of control over metadata, they don’t offer the same benefits in terms of flexibility. The best eCommerce platforms for SEO should grant you access to top-notch metadata customisation that allows you to tweak your meta titles for SEO and align them with your brand’s voice.
Winners: WooCommerce and Shopify
In terms of control over meta and ease of optimisation, the winners in this category are WooCommerce on WordPress and Shopify.
BigCommerce is the loser here as it’s not the most intuitive platform when it comes to metadata for SEO.
8. International Targeting & Localisation
eCommerce localisation refers to all the processes involved in catering to your clients in specific locations by ensuring that your online store speaks the language they understand. If you wish to sell your products to a global audience, localisation is therefore one of the most important SEO features to look out for. Customers will only patronise your store if it offers them value, and they wouldn’t know how much value you offer if they can’t understand your content.
For example, if you have a site written in English, customers who speak Spanish and live in Spain will not understand your website. So, you will have to localise your site for your Spanish audience by researching the names of your products and services in Spanish. The advantages of localisation include a competitive edge, fewer cart abandonment, international search presence, improved growth rate, etc.
The platform that will allow you full SEO flexibility when it comes to international targeting and localisation is certainly Magento. However, you will likely need to have the technical expertise or a development team to help you set up your international store.
Unfortunately, Shopify has many limitations when it comes to website localisation as you won’t have full control over your URL structure. You will have to make compromises and work with what you have available on the platform.
9. Hreflang Tag
Like localisation, hreflang tags are another crucial SEO element to focus on if you wish to have a global audience. Hreflang tags give search engines information on the language and country you want a specific page to be targeted for. It ensures that search engines serve page results to clients in the language and country they’re searching for.
For example, when a customer searches for your website in Italian, the hreflang tag ensures that the search engines deliver the search results in Italian, instead of, say, English. This guarantees an improved user experience for your clients, which benefits search engine optimisation. Hreflang tags are most beneficial for websites that have different languages for the same content or content in the same language for different countries but unique offers for each.
Besides aiding content localisation, Hreflang tags help to avoid duplication of content and give an SEO boost to your global brand by ensuring that you have lower bounce rates. As such, it’s important to have an eCommerce platform that gives you a great deal of control over the implementation of hreflang tags.
WooCommerce thanks to the WordPress infrastructure has arguably the most comprehensive range of solutions when it comes to Hreflang. You can either use a plugin (the easiest option) but you can also add tags manually to your sitemap or create some custom code to add hreflang tags to every page.
BigCommerce doesn’t allow you to edit your sitemap and there’s very little in the way of documentation that’s going to help you add hreflang tags to your pages. So if you are hosting your online store on BigCommerce you don’t have many options, unfortunately.
One of the most effective ways to gain your customer’s trust is by creating editorial content in your blog section. However, more than just building brand trust, blogging is highly valuable for SEO. When you put up quality, educating, and entertaining blog posts, more readers will be attracted to your site. The more traffic your blog posts generate, the more your likelihood of enjoying an increased client base and revenue.
When it comes to the best eCommerce platform for blogging, no platform comes close to wearing the crown than Woocommerce on WordPress. This is because WordPress was built for blogging and Woocommerce is a WordPress plugin. As such the platform has a built-in blogging section with 24/7 support and many other blogging benefits. Some people even consider it to be the best overall eCommerce platform for SEO.
Magento doesn’t have the blog feature by default. So, if you don’t want to rely on some third-party platforms, you need to install it on your instance to be able to manage a blog. This put it among the worse platforms when it comes to blogging.
11. Mobile Optimisation
When discussing eCommerce SEO, it’s quite tempting to focus on optimising for desktop and neglecting mobile devices. That’s a huge mistake. You’ll be surprised at the number of clients that will access your site via mobile phones. In fact, Statista says that mobile makes up more than 50% of the world’s web traffic. So, there’s no better time to prioritise mobile optimisation for your eCommerce website than right now.
Mobile optimisation refers to all the activities involved in tweaking your website to function optimally on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This is important for SEO as search engines, especially Google, will rank mobile-optimised sites higher than others. When you optimise your website for mobile, you’re ensuring that your target audience can access your site with their preferred channel. This creates an amazing user experience that boosts SEO and helps you generate more revenue. So, in choosing an eCommerce platform, it’s only wise that you choose one that allows you to optimise for mobile seamlessly.
Winners: Shopify and BigCommerce
Even though the other platforms have mobile optimisation features, Shopify and BigCommerce are best suited for mobile responsiveness and optimisation.
The fact that Magento offers the widest range of customisation, makes it also vulnerable to mobile responsiveness and optimisation issues. On top of a highly-skilled team of developers, you will also need a highly-skilled team of UX and UI designers.
12. Custom Domain Name
A customised domain name is one of the most important SEO features to watch out for. Instead of a free sub-domain that spells doom for your SEO capabilities, a domain name customised to your brand will collect your content, SEO signals, and links and focus them on your site. This directly ensures SEO growth.
However, with a free sub-domain from an eCommerce platform, the platform will enjoy the SEO advantages from your inbound links, not you. Also, when you port to another platform, you’ll find it challenging to redirect old clients to your new website, and you wouldn’t be able to take the original subdomain name along. So, if a high SEO ranking is your goal, you must stick with a platform that offers seamless means of customising your domain.
The truth is that many eCommerce platforms offer custom domain names, but not for free. However, Shopify is the winner here, as it’s pretty easy to obtain a custom domain name on this platform.
With platforms like BigCommerce, you can get a custom domain name, but you can’t register it through the platform. That’s a turn-off.
So, overall, which eCommerce platform is best for SEO? Unfortunately, no one can give you a definite answer. That’s because there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to eCommerce SEO, and the eCommerce platforms outperform others in different ways. So, while I can provide the details you need to make a well-informed decision, the choice remains yours.
Many people view WooCommerce on WordPress as the best eCommerce platform for SEO. The reason isn’t far-fetched: the custom URLs, robots.txt files accessibility, built-in blogging, etc., give it an edge over its competitors. As I mentioned earlier, Shopify is another popularly recommended platform for eCommerce SEO but it also comes with many limitations. If you are instead someone with technical expertise or you have a highly-skilled team of developers and designers in-house, Magento might be just the perfect solution for you.
My best advice though is to painstakingly research and assess the six platforms above based on their pros and cons. Next, select your top two or three choices and register for a free trial with them. This will enable you to use a test domain to test-run the installed software. Take as much time as you need on each platform and note how you feel about using them. You can choose based on the software that gives you the best user experience. If you have any questions about any of these processes, you may consult with an experienced eCommerce SEO consultant for personalised advice.
Ready To Grow Your Online Store With eCommerce SEO?
The bottom line is that eCommerce platforms are vital to the growth of your online store. However, this doesn’t mean you should stick with the first eCommerce platform that catches your fancy. To get the best results from any platform, it’s essential to determine which of them suits your brand best in search engine optimisation. You’ll have to consider your SEO strategy, business needs, website infrastructure, etc. when making a pick.
If you’re still confused about the best-suited option for your brand, I can be the eCommerce SEO consultant that will help you make the best decision. I’ll guide you to choose which eCommerce platform is best for your business while offering you the best eCommerce SEO services you can find around. Contact me today to book a free consultation.