What is the best ecommerce CMS for SEO?

by Jim August 3, 2016

Welcome back Rankers! I’m going to talk today about a question that I get asked a lot. “What’s the best eCommerce platform for SEO?” It is a difficult question to answer depending on what is important to you from an SEO perspective. What I’ll do is take you through some of the things we look at, or like to see, in an eCommerce system for SEO purposes.

Our Ecommerce Platform Criteria

Essentially the criteria that we would look at are the following:

Ability to easily edit, Headings, Page Titles, URLs, filenames

Some eCommerce systems won’t let you easily change a URL. It can be quite difficult and you might have to do it programmatically. Whereas CMS’s such as Magento, or WordPress with WooCommerce allow you to do it very easily. The same applies with file names. Some CMS’s will generate product image thumbnails and they’ll simply issue them an unhelpful file name, which doesn’t describe what the image is. You want a CMS, or a plugin for that CMS, which allows you to do those sorts of things. So when I talk about customising Page Titles, Headings, URLs, and filenames, that’s what I mean.
We have worked with CMS’s in the past that haven’t even allowed us to change heading tag structures. With many of these CMS’s it also depends on what theme you apply as well, but many of them are so locked down that you can’t make changes.

Ability to easily create redirects

For example, we worked on one in the past, Business Catalyst I think it was, where we couldn’t easily upload bulk redirects when it was necessary. Essentially, with all of these things, for a good eCommerce platform that’s good for SEO, you want something flexible. If it’s not flexible, you’re going to be able to do less with it. That’s why many of your Open Source type platforms would be better for that as they are flexible by nature. The ones at the other end of that extreme, which are terrible, is anything drag and drop. Don’t do anything drag and drop! Even if it’s not an eCommerce site, just a normal website, don’t ever build a website with a drag and drop tool. Unless you don’t want it to rank, in which case my videos are probably going to be a waste of your time!

Ability to easily add nofollow, canonicals and noindex tag

You’d be surprised how many platforms make this difficult.

Speed

This is a biggy. Not only a great movie that introduced Sandra Bullock into my life, but highly important to your platform. When selecting an eCommerce platform, try to find some that are already on that platform and ask for references. Then go and run some speed checks either using Google Page Speed tool, or the webpagetest.org. Some of the hosted systems, by that I mean you don’t have to worry about finding a host, and you don’t have the software, someone else is running that for you. Ones that would fall into that category are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Neto. They’re all hosted systems. Non-eCommerce sites with hosted systems would be Squarespace, WordPress.org sites. They are all hosted on their own system. You obviously then don’t have a lot of control on those systems, which if the site is running quickly it’s probably okay.
For instance, in the ones below,

ecommerce platform bigcommerce speed
ecommerce platform Bigcommerce speed
ecommerce platform Shopify speed
ecommerce platform Shopify speed

we have crawl stats for a site that is running on BigCommerce. You can see the average page load time is 300 milliseconds. That’s good. Shopify is also pretty good.
Then we have this one,

ecommerce platform Neto speed
ecommerce platform Neto speed

which is running on Neto. Now you can see it has had highs of 5.8 and we’ve been at them to say we need it faster. Now we’ve managed to get them to speed it up but it’s still 2.5 seconds. Which is really slow unfortunately. And that’s after they’ve worked on it. You can see from the stats that when a site becomes faster, the Googlebot comes in and can look at more things, which is great for your site. So we face that major issue with Neto.

Which ecommerce platform is right for you?

BigCommerce and Shopify are great for speed. Magento is the one we are usually happy with. There are problems or compromises with all eCommerce systems, a problem with Magento though will usually be because of the way it has been built not the platform itself. We’ve had some Magento sites that have had 4 million 404s that Google have found in the index. No platform is immune to problems, depending on how it’s been programmed and set-up, but Magento is certainly the most flexible platform we can do for SEO.
It is cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer sometimes, as you may not need that. If you only have a small catalogue, you may want to consider WordPress with WooCommerce. That combination we’ve ranked quite successfully on numerous occasions. When the catalogue becomes cumbersome, that system doesn’t work as well.
Magento is the most robust, then with hosted systems we’d lean towards Shopify and BigCommerce if you wanted to go down that path with a softer entry into the eCommerce space. If you were looking for something more robust, more enterprise level, then I would certainly recommend going with Magento.
Hopefully that’s helpful. I plan to do a bigger blog post down the track going into greater deal on the subject. With many businesses, SEO is only one consideration when selecting a CMS and there are trade-offs. For instance, you might want your eCommerce CMS to interface with your eBay store. Well which one of those does that? That’s not an SEO concern. So there are many factors to take into account when you are choosing an eCommerce CMS. For us, I hope this helps you make a decision from an SEO perspective.
See you next week. Bye.

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