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E-Commerce Platform Comparison: The SEO Perspective

    WisdmLabs
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This is a guest post by Aljaz Fajmut. If you’d like to contribute to our blog, feel free to get in touch with us.

With there being such a broad selection of e-commerce platforms available, you might rather have your teeth pulled than try to choose one. While there are many things to consider – not only the features you need the most, but also how the platform will affect your search engine rankings and how difficult it will be to migrate to a new platform, – our guide will help sort everything out for you.

Although Shopify does seem like an obvious option to consider, making a rash decision would be a mistake. You wouldn’t walk off a cliff just because everyone else does, so why choose an e-commerce platform just because everyone else uses it?

Worry not: there are indeed a bunch of e-commerce platforms from which to choose, and today we are going to explain two types of e-commerce platforms, find out the most important pros and cons of Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and Prestashop, compare their SEO and functionality aspects, and choose our winner.

Self-Hosting or Managed Hosting?

Before we get into the important features of Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and Prestashop, it is important to explain self-hosting and managed hosting services.  

Managed Hosting Services

Managed hosting services are e-commerce platforms that include web hosting, shopping carts, and technical support. They cater to users who don’t have a ton of tech skills and don’t want to jump through various technical barriers. As you already guessed, Shopify is the most known managed hosting platform out there.

Pros

  • Easy to Use – If you have basic computer skills, getting set up on a managed hosting platform won’t be incredibly hard.
  • Technical Support – If you select a platform such as BigCommerce, that excels in customer support, you won’t have to worry about the technical aspects of your store.
  • Lower Backend Costs – With managed hosting platforms, you won’t need to have a state of the art IT team. Instead, just tech savvy employees will do.
  • No Manual Upgrades – You don’t have to worry about upgrading any software manually since the platform is – you guessed it – managing everything.

Cons

  • Limited Customization Options – Since you aren’t in control of the e-commerce platform, there are limitations when it comes to customization options, for example, category permalinks and specific theme functions.
  • Transaction Fees – Many managed hosting services will charge you a transaction fee per sale, which can be quite costly if your products are priced low.
  • Not Ideal for Global Companies – If you plan to serve consumers across the globe, your managed hosting platform may not be able to accommodate you.
  • Domain Issues – Some managed hosting services make you use their domain for checkout instead of your company’s domain to avoid dealing with SSL issues. This can potentially make your domain seem less professional with yourstore.shopify.com instead of yourstore.com.

Self-Hosting Services

Self-hosting services are platforms that require web hosting to function. Stores on Magento and Prestashop platforms can be set up on pretty much any provider.

Pros

  • You Choose Your Preferred Hosting Provider – If your e-commerce store is ever to outgrow your hosting provider, you can easily move it to a new host without worrying about the “lock in” that comes with the majority of the managed hosted services.
  • You Have More Flexibility with Customizations – Since you have full control over your platform, you can do as many extensive customizations and adjustments as you like.

Cons

  • Higher Initial Costs – Self-hosting platforms are generally more expensive. This can be an issue since you may have to hire someone tech-savvy enough – up to a complete IT team – to help you set everything up.
  • Long Term Increased Costs – As your store grows, your host will require you to pay more money for hosting due to the increased traffic.
  • Security – Since you’re on your own, you will have to make sure that your security is top notch to avoid any breaches.

With that knowledge in mind, let’s take a thorough look at Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, and Prestashop and compare their functionality so you can select which is best for your online business.

Shopify

shopify-store-example

Shopify is recommended by entrepreneurs because of its simple interface and affordability: there are plenty of user-friendly themes, and a basic package costs only $29 per month. However, don’t let the low prices fool you – big stores are looking to spend closer to $300 per month. Additionally, just like with any other e-commerce platform, Shopify has its own pros and cons. We will share the top ones below.

Pros

  • Allows Customizable Permalinks with Limitations – Being able to customize permalinks benefits Shopify e-commerce stores SEO-wise. This is because a permalink serves as a hint to what is being offered, which helps search engines index it better for relevant keywords.
  • Allows Easy Content Modifications – Shop owners can easily make content modifications, which makes marketing websites a breeze. Shopify offers custom title tags, meta descriptions on category pages, and customizable landing pages.
  • SEO Friendly – Shopify has an SEO friendliness score of 10. Search Engine Journal has even published a blog post that shows exactly how to optimize Shopify e-commerce stores for success.
  • Full Integration with Payment Providers – Shopify is integrated fully with payment providers, and since it features speed checkout, customers can pay without a long load time.

shopify-admin

Cons

  • Doesn’t Allow Root Customizable Permalinks for Products or Categories– Even though customizable permalinks are available, this doesn’t include customizable permalinks for products or categories.
  • Monthly Cost Increases if You Use Apps – While Shopify boasts integrations with more than 1,000 apps, store owners can’t use these additions without upping their bill. For example, adding FreshBooks to your store will cost you an additional $31.99 per month.
  • You Must Know Liquid to Customize the Theme – Even those who know code can’t go in and customize a Shopify theme extensively unless they are familiar with Liquid, which is what Shopify uses. Therefore, you’re probably looking to spend more money hiring a Liquid expert to make the customizations for you.

BigCommerce

bigcommerce-shop-example

BigCommerce is one of Shopify’s biggest competitors. They match Shopify’s basic package of just $29 per month and their advanced package is only $249 per month. Furthermore, they have some incredible features that Shopify just can’t match. Read on:

Pros

  • Allows Customizable Permalinks – BigCommerce allows customizable permalinks for both products and categories.
  • Integrated Education – BigCommerce has created their own educational training material, known as BigCommerce University. With this educational material, it’s clear that they want their users to succeed while using their platform.
  • Remarkable Built-in Features – Virtually anything that you could need for your e-commerce store to succeed is already built into the BigCommerce software. For example, they have bulk 301 redirects built right in, instead of store owners having to use a plugin, like they would have to with other platforms. They even have a variety of built-in marketing tools.
  • Outstanding Customer Service – Customer service is available 24/7 via email, chat, or phone. Plus, you have your own “e-commerce consultant” that is always available to answer any questions that may arise.

bigcommerce-backend

Cons

  • Small App Marketplace – When compared to Shopify, BigCommerce’s app offering is small.
  • Lock In – If you want to move your store to another platform, it is going to be incredibly hard, again, due to the features being built into BigCommerce’s software.
  • Limited Free Templates – When compared to Shopify, which has 10 free templates and 49 paid templates, Big Commerce only provides 7 free templates.

Magento

magento-shop-example

Magento is both an e-commerce builder and a website builder. Price-wise, it varies depending entirely on what you want. For example, if you want a custom website, it can cost you around $20,000, while themes can be a flat rate of $30 and the necessary extensions start at $200.

Pros

  • Ultimate Flexibility – With Magento being a self-hosted ecommerce platform, you have complete flexibility when it comes to customizations.
  • Allows Customizable Permalinks – You can customize permalinks to help boost your e-commerce store’s SEO.
  • SEO Friendly – Magento has an SEO friendliness score of 8. This means that they provide very powerful URL customizations, but this requires some additional effort with configuration or additional modules.
  • Large Selection of Features – Magento allows e-commerce stores to experience features that can’t be found on other platforms, such as multiple currency options, multiple languages, and VIP pricing.
  • Able to Handle Business Growth – As e-commerce sites grow, it’s important that the platform grows with it. Magento can handle hosting up to 500,000 products and thousands of transactions per hour.

magento-dashboard

Cons

  • Expensive – While the community version is free, the enterprise version runs more than $15,000 per year.
  • Expensive Developers – If you have an issue while using Magento, getting a developer to help you isn’t going to be cheap.
  • Unimpressive Customer Support – Users of Magento report delayed customer support times, which could potentially be an issue if you have something that needs to be taken care of right away.

Prestashop

 

prestashop-example

Prestashop’s nonexistent price tag may make you think it is the platform for you, but don’t choose it just because it’s free. You could be potentially sacrificing features, functionality, and support to pay nothing.

Pros

  • Allows Customizable Permalinks with Limitations – This is great for SEO purposes.
  • SEO Friendly – Prestashop has an SEO friendliness score of 8. Therefore, you can have access to powerful URL customizations with some additional effort on your part.
  • Fairly Easy to Build Ecommerce Stores – Between the community of experts, customizable store elements, and comprehensive training materials, getting started on this ecommerce platform doesn’t have to be hard.

prestashop-dashboard

Cons

  • Doesn’t Allow Root Customizable Permalinks for Products
  • Limited Customization for Free – To customize your e-commerce store to your liking, you are going to have to spend money on themes, plugins, and extensions, with themes on average starting at $74.99.

The Winners

We’ve compared these four e-commerce platforms by listing their pros and cons as well as their SEO friendliness features. It’s time to narrow it down to two winners.

Self-hosting solution – Magento

Magento easily wins for the self hosting solution. You can create a truly unique e-commerce store, and the functions and customizations are the cherry on top.

Managed hosting solution – BigCommerce

We choose BigCommerce as the managed hosting solution due to its high level of flexibility regarding customizations, remarkable built-in features, and great educational resources to ensure e-commerce stores on their platform are a success.

Which platform do you prefer? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Share your thoughts on these e-commerce platforms in the comments section below.  You can time to time compare on hosting deals here.  

About the author:
Aljaz Fajmut is an internet entrepreneur and founder of Nightwatch – a search visibility tool of the next generation. Follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut

WisdmLabs

WisdmLabs

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