Searches are the foundation of 93% internet activity. If users cannot find your website via Google, it will be difficult to run an online shop.
Many ecommerce platforms offer many features to help you optimize your store for Google. SEO is complex and involves many factors, such as UX, speed, meta tag, etc. You’ll need to find an ecommerce platform that can handle all of these.
It will need to be an ace in all the categories.
We are here to help you choose the best ecommerce platform in order to achieve your SEO goals for 2021.
We all know that not all ecommerce softwares offer the best SEO features. Let’s take a look at a real-life case.
Let’s say you’re a retailer selling vintage-style men’s clothing. You have a blue velvet jacket in 70’s style that you call “Bradley”. The product is listed in your ecommerce site as a Bradley Jacket.
This name could be automatically transformed into the title of your product page, page URL, and product name in your site’s navigation, depending on the limitations of your store-builder program.
However, your potential customers aren’t looking for a “Bradley Jacket”. You are more likely to see them searching for “70’s Style Velvet Jackets”. VeryVintage.com”.
You cannot override the default settings on some ecommerce platforms and you are not allowed to charge extra for this feature.
Many business owners are unaware of this limitation after spending significant time uploading product images and product descriptions.
We wanted to find the best ecommerce platform for SEO. To do this, we wanted to rank ecommerce platforms based on their SEO performance so we could create a rank chart to help us choose eCommerce platforms for our clients.
Here’s what we did:
Our Research Methodology: The Best Ecommerce Platform to SEO
We identified the most popular ecommerce platforms in Europe and the US (Data Source: BuiltWith).
Then, we compared them all for 14 factors that were important for ecommerce search engine optimization.
The Best Ecommerce Platform to SEO: A List of Factors
These factors have been proven to be crucial in determining how your ecommerce store ranks within the SERPs over the past decade.
- Independent Navigation Links
- Independent Page Titles
- Independent Page URLs
- Independent Meta Descriptions
- Independent Image ALT Tags
- Independent H1 Headings
- Canonical URLs
- Integrated Blogging Platform
- Social sharing buttons
- Auto XML Sitemap
- Use your own domain name
- Your own IP address
- 301 redirects
- Robots have no index capabilities
The Moz Search Engine ranking factors study assigned each factor a weighting. This was based on their correlation to an increase in Google rankings.
These are the top ecommerce factors.
Independent Navigation Links
The navigation link is text that appears in your navigation menu for products and product categories.
Ecommerce platforms can automatically generate navigation links in your menus that use the same names and categories as your products or product categories. It would be better to have complete control over the navigation links for SEO purposes.
Although you might like to call a product “Sony Bravia KDL50W8 HD 1080p Smart TV, 50’’ with Free view/Free sat HD and 2x 3D glasses, Silver”, it is unlikely that you want the product to be displayed in such a clunky way in your navigation menu.
Nearly all major ecommerce platforms offer independent navigation links. Although some menu items aren’t as user-friendly as you would like, you can usually rename them to suit your needs.
Independent Page Titles
The page title is the text displayed in the tab section at top of the browser. It can also be displayed when the user bookmarks the page, or saves it as an icon on their desktop. Page Titles that contain a key search term have a strong SEO advantage, especially if the keyword or search term is at the start of the Page Title.
Some ecommerce platforms automatically generate page titles that match the product names and product categories of your online store. This is not ideal.
A dress may be listed under the product title “Ruby”. The page title should include a description of your product that is as accurate as possible to the way potential customers search for it online.
Two platforms in the study don’t offer independent page titles functionality. Although the 3dCart platform has the ability to adjust the homepage title, it becomes more difficult when you need to modify each page title. Only four other platforms, including Big Cartel have this functionality, but they lack the ‘ease of use’. You will need to be able to code or find someone to do this task for you.
Four other platforms, including Big Cartel have the functionality, but not the ease-of-use. You will need to learn coding, or find a developer to do this simple task.
Independent Page URLs
The Page URL refers to the exact location of the page, as displayed in the browser’s address bar. Pages URLs that include key search terms have an SEO advantage. They appear better in search engine results and also have a higher CTR.
Ecommerce platforms can automatically generate URLs that use the same name as your products or product categories. It would be better to have full control over the URLs for SEO purposes. Your page rankings will be affected if the URLs you provide are too long or not relevant. You might also have a title that is not required to be displayed in the URL.
You might also have a title that is completely different from what is required to be displayed in the URL.
A jacket may be listed under the product title “Dakota”. The page URL should include a description of your jacket, similar to what potential customers might search for online. “http://www.YourShop.com/double-breasted-wool-coat-Dakota”.
All reputable ecommerce platforms allow you to change the URL of a page in some way. Some platforms, such as Magento, make it difficult to perform this simple task.
Independent Meta Descriptions
The Meta Description is what appears below your listing title in Google results. Although the description doesn’t directly affect your ranking in search results, it can make a significant difference to whether search visitors click on your listing over one of your competitors.
In reality, your meta description can affect your search ranking. More people will click through to your site, which shows Google that it is relevant and popular.
Some ecommerce platforms automatically use the description of the page to create a default Meta Description without you having the option to control the text that appears in your Google listing.
Visitors will find different information when comparing your website to Google. This is because the type of information they are looking for may be very different from what you intend to display once they arrive on your website.
A strong Meta Description should convince the user that you are relevant for their search. It should also show them why your offer is different from other offers.
ZenCart can include meta descriptions, but it doesn’t allow for the full customization that is required by most stores. BigCartel bases meta descriptions on product pages and removes the customization element.
This feature is not offered by two of the platforms in the study, ZenCart and BigCartel. OsCommerce does not offer this feature, but you can add it to your order or manually edit the meta description.
Independent Image ALT Tags
An ALT tag, which is text that is added to product images to describe the image to search engine and bots who are unable to see them, can be found on any image. Although the ALT tag has no direct correlation to your rank in Google search results (or in Google’s Image search results), it can have a significant impact on how the image appears in Google’s Image Search results. This can help you bring in additional traffic.
Some shopping cart software will assign the product name automatically to the ALT tag. Your product names should not be descriptive of the product type, e.g. This could make it difficult for potential customers to search Google Image Search for suitable products. An ALT tag like “Sleeveless bodycon dress – Danielle” may be better in this instance.
GoDaddy does not allow you to add an alt image tag to your website builder. PrestaShop supports alt tags, but an app provides the best functionality. This feature is only available in ZenCart or OsCommerce.
Independent H1 Headings
You can stock a product that matches the search term of your potential customers, e.g. It would be beneficial if the H1 tag/heading on the page contained the same keyword as “Lace Cocktail Dress”.
Nearly every ecommerce platform and website builder online includes the H1 tag. This H1 tag will be generated almost immediately after you enter the product name. It is possible to customize your H1 tag and make it look different from the product name.
A Canonical URL refers to the original address of a webpage that can be found in more locations than one.
Multiple URLs can be used to list the same product on an ecommerce site. A Children’s Garden Swing might be listed under both “Toys” or “Home & Garden” categories. The same product page could appear under two different URLs, e.g.
Google and other search engines will treat these URLs like two pages with identical content. Google doesn’t like duplicate content and could result in a page not ranking highly in search results. Google could penalize a site with a lot of duplicate content.
Google offers the “REL CANOICAL” tag that allows you to specify which URL is preferred. This will prevent duplicate content issues.
Most ecommerce platforms offer some form of canonical URL adjustment. Problem is, most sites require you to modify the site files. Shopify provides instructions on how to access the layout theme file, add code to the canonical URL and so forth.
Blog Platforms Integrated
Other than having pages that are relevant to the search terms used in your potential customers’ searches, the most important factor that determines how prominently your website appears in Google’s search result results is the quality and quantity of links linking to your site.
Since websites were in trouble for linking swapping, things have changed. Google insists on the notion that internet users will share and link to websites they like. You’re more likely find trustworthy search results if there are many inbound links.
Although it’s not perfect, it’s a good way to start publishing quality content that is relevant and useful. This will increase your chances of getting people interested in your products. Search rankings will follow.
Rare sites offer products so innovative and newsworthy that other sites want to link to them. A good blog with relevant, shareable and engaging editorial-style content will increase your chances of getting external links.
Some ecommerce platforms don’t offer a blog as an option. Either you pay an extra premium or you use an external blog platform that may not match the branding and navigation of your online shop.
Extensions are the best way to blog with Magento. Both OSCommerce as well as Big Cartel are in this boat. Big Cartel even suggests linking to your blog on a different domain. This is terrible SEO advice.
External links to your blog that point to other websites than your online store will not help your product rankings in Google’s search results.
Some WordPress blogs have a different domain. This is absurd. First, WordPress is a blogging platform. Your blog must be on the same domain that your store.
It is essential that your ecommerce store has a blog on the same domain as your main website. This is extremely important.
Social sharing buttons
These buttons allow visitors to share their site, products or blog posts via social media.
It is essential to provide your visitors with an easy way to share your online content. This will help you market your products online and make it more accessible to potential customers.
This feature is not available on all ecommerce platforms. Most reputable ecommerce platforms provide social sharing in some form. Squarespace, for example, is a simple website builder that allows you to add social sharing to any product page. WooCommerce doesn’t offer social sharing. To make this happen, you’ll need to install a plugin.
Auto XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap file is a file that’s located on your web server and helps search engines index and find your content. You can see the XML sitemap here.
The XML sitemap is different from the sitemap, which is intended to assist human users find the content of your website.
It is difficult to maintain an XML site on an ecommerce website that could have thousands of product pages. An ecommerce platform that is reliable will automatically create an XML sitemap for every page added or removed to your website.
Although most platforms offer automated XML sitemaps at no additional cost, some only offer it as a premium option. Good news is that any person can submit an XML sitemap through the Google Webmaster Tools Module. Although it takes a little more work, the automated sitemap isn’t really necessary any longer. This is a great tool for beginners.
Use your own domain name
Your domain name is the unique name that your website will be found online. Your business name, e.g. asos.com
When setting up an online shop, the most important thing to do is have your own domain.
Although most ecommerce platforms allow you to have your own domain name at no additional cost, others offer it as a premium option and some only at an extra cost. Some business owners make the mistake of accepting a free branded subdomain to launch their online store. e.g. www.yourbusinessname.moonfruit.com where Moonfruit is the name of the ecommerce platform provider.
This could make your business look less professional. It also means that any links to your website from other platforms will benefit the platform provider and not you.
If you decide to leave your current provider, which you almost certainly will, you won’t be able transfer the domain name. You will also lose any link authority you have. Visitors will not be able to navigate from the old domain to your new website. This is a major disadvantage.
You should never use a domain name not related to your business or registered under your name. I recommend that you register your domain name at a third-party domain registrar, not the company hosting your shopping cart. It’s not a good idea for all your eggs to be in the same basket.
Your own IP address
An IP address is an unique number that identifies the exact location of your website online. For example, we could access Amazon.com’s website by visiting its domain name Amazon.com, or via its IP address at 126.96.36.199. When visiting a website, we prefer to use domain names that are easier to remember than IP addresses.
Some hosted ecommerce platforms may allow multiple websites to use the same IP address.
There are potential drawbacks to sharing an IP address.
Your website’s performance and reliability could be affected by another website that shares the same IP address. This could cause your website to be unavailable or suffer ranking drops in Google for performance-related problems.
If another website that shares your IP address behaves unethically (i.e. sending spam emails, buying paid backlinks etc. This could lead to your website being blocked by spam filters, or even being penalized for manipulative practices by Google.
Hosted ecommerce platforms providers don’t provide an IP address. While they may take steps to stop other clients from negatively impacting your website’s performance, it is best to consider a self-hosted solution. This allows you to use your unique IP address. WooCommerce and Magento are two examples of self-hosted solutions.
A 301 redirection command is used to redirect a search engine or browser from one URL to the next.
It’s very common to remove a product, or an entire product category, from online shops when it’s not available. Although the business owner can remove the product/product category from an online store, there is a risk that another website or page could be linking to the URL.
This will not only cause a “404 page missing” error when someone attempts to access the URL. It also means that any external links that point to the page that are not pointing to it will be unable to pass any authority. Your website could lose its Google ranking for key terms. It’s always a good idea to redirect these pages/URLs, and it’s always a good idea to have an ecommerce platform with redirection.
Most ecommerce platforms offer the ability to redirect URLs from old URLs to new URLs. However, some platforms charge extra for this feature. It’s easy to create a redirect on some platforms. Shopify, for example, has an easy-to-use tool right from the dashboard. A plugin would be required for a platform such as WooCommerce.
Robots have no index capabilities
A robotx.txt is a file on your web server which informs a search engine what pages or sections it should index.
A search engine’s ability to index your website at a depth is heavily influenced by the authority that your site has as a result the quality and quantity of links linking to it. The search engine will crawl more pages if your Domain Authority is higher than the rest.
An ecommerce store could list several thousand products. It is better that the search engine crawls product and category pages, rather than folders containing scripts or images. This will increase the chances of your products being indexed on Google. It also decreases the bandwidth required by your server.
Many ecommerce platforms generate a robots.txt automatically based on some assumptions about the folders that you prefer not to be crawled. What if you need to hide a page not blocked by the noindex function? It’s possible with any of these ecommerce platforms. You will need to either tap into the site files, or download a plugin or an app.
Scores for the Best Ecommerce Platform For SEO
Shopify and WooCommerce offer the best ecommerce platforms to do SEO.
Additional Features to Help You Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform For SEO
Although I didn’t include these features in my study, it is something you might consider when choosing an ecommerce platform for your business.
The homepage features products
Not only does it reduce the likelihood of people leaving your website, but it can also boost your search engine ranking.
Because the website’s home page is usually the most authoritative link page, all pages linking directly to it will receive a greater proportion of any link authority they have received from the homepage.
Review of Product
To avoid being penalized for duplicate content on pages that display similar products, you can include unique product reviews and other forms of User Generated Content (UGC). Consumers may view product reviews favorably when deciding which product to purchase.
Search for internal sites
Consumers often view having an internal search tool that allows them to search your site for products matching their keywords as a positive thing.
You can then use a tool like Google Analytics to analyze which search terms are most frequently searched on your site. This will help you to choose the best product names and product categories, and also to decide what products you want to stock in the future.
Features that are not SEO-related
When choosing an ecommerce platform to support your business, SEO features are just one factor. These are other factors to consider:
- Cost (monthly platform costs, premium add ons, and transaction fees)
- Easy to use (Complex platforms may require additional staff training costs).
- Customer Support (If you have a site that goes down on Sunday morning before Christmas, will someone be there to assist?
- There are many payment gateways to choose from (e.g. PayPal, WorldPay etc.)
- Integration with existing EPOS or accounting software
- Scalability (Can the platform grow with your business?
- Mobile Friendly: An increasing number of consumers shop on mobile devices.
- Security: Will your customers be able to pay and receive their contact information securely?
- Risiko of Service Termination (Magento recently ended their ‘MagentoGo‘ service, forcing all users to either migrate to another service or leave.
Conclusion: The Best Ecommerce Platform to Support SEO
It is not an easy decision to choose an ecommerce platform for your business. Although it might seem tempting to choose the most popular provider that is the easiest to use, you may regret this decision later when your business has grown.
If you find out that you are unable to convert visitors due to your products’ appeal, but because of the limitations of your ecommerce platform you may wish you had spent more time looking for the best solution before investing your time and money on a sub-standard platform.
The top ecommerce platforms ( Shopify 3dCart Magento and WooCommerce), should all be considered safe options for small- to medium-sized ecommerce companies. To see more Shopify alternatives, click here. Shopify allows you to easily switch from one platform to another by guiding you through the process.
Personal preference is to use a self-hosted, customizable, open-source, well-supported solution like WooCommerce, which provides a variety of low-cost or free add-ons.
BigCartel didn’t get the lowest score, but it was the platform that had the most SEO features not available at no additional cost.
This independent study is not influenced by any cart vendors mentioned in the post.
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