How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO (Aug 2022)

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It’s no secret that search engine optimization is essential to find new customers, increase conversions, and build your ecommerce brand. Over 37% of all traffic sent to ecommerce stores starts at a search engine, and more than two-thirds of all clicks go to the top five results on the page, so it’s rather important to optimize your online store. But what about the foundation of your store? Do ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Squarespace play a role in your search engine results? Absolutely! That’s why we want to show you how to choose the best ecommerce platform for SEO. 

How can your ecommerce platform impact SEO?

Most ecommerce and web design platforms offer a variety of features that help you optimize your ecommerce store for search engines like Google and Bing. But considering that SEO involves many factors— user experience, speed, meta tags, and more—you'll need to find a platform that excels with all of them.

Unfortunately, some ecommerce platforms only have the most basic, automated SEO tools, leaving you to compete with other brands that have access to more advanced tools. 

For example, you may find that your ecommerce platform autofills SEO metadata based on your product title. Unfortunately, most customers don’t search for the creative name you gave your product, but rather something specific like “yoga mats for tall people.” So, you need an ecommerce platform that overrides the automated metadata and lets you customize independent SEO elements to target what people are searching for!

With some free ecommerce platforms, you have no way to override this or you're forced to pay extra to get the best SEO features.

Instead of realizing feature limitations after you’ve already uploaded hundreds of products, it’s prudent to choose the best ecommerce platform for SEO right from the beginning. 

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Our Research Methodology to Find the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO

To locate the best ecommerce platform for SEO, we completed rigorous research, starting with the most popular platforms in the US and Europe. Based on BuiltWith’s data, we ended up with this list:

Wix
Magento
Shopify
WooCommerce
BigCommerce
osCommerce
Weebly
SquareSpace
Volusion
PrestaShop
3DCart
ZenCart
GoDaddy
MoonFruit
1&1
BigCartel

We then tested and compared all of them for 14 key factors we believe are most important for ecommerce SEO.

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14 Key Factors for Optimal Ecommerce SEO

Based on over a decade of ecommerce platform research and reviews, along with feedback from seasoned online store owners, we found that these factors play the most important roles in how well ecommerce stores rank in the SERPs (search engine results pages):

  1. Custom Navigation Links
  2. Custom Page Titles
  3. Custom Page URLs
  4. Custom Meta Descriptions
  5. Custom Image ALT Tags
  6. Custom H1 Headings
  7. Canonical URLs
  8. Integrated Blogging Features
  9. Social Sharing buttons
  10. Auto XML Sitemaps
  11. Custom domain names
  12. Custom IP addresses
  13. 301 redirects
  14. Robots Noindex Capabilities

We then weighted each factor based on its correlation to increased Google rankings from the Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors study.

While researching ecommerce platforms for your online business, you can use these ranking factors to see if each ecommerce platform offers features to optimize each factor. 

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How Did Each Ecommerce Platform Score for SEO? 

Based on our in-depth analysis, we ranked the ecommerce platforms, and here’s what we found:

Platform NameLogoSEO Score
Shopify98
WooCommerce97
3DCart95
Magento95
BigCommerce91
SquareSpace91
Volusion88
Weebly75
Wix75
GoDaddy60
MoonFruit51
PrestaShop40
BigCartel30
1&120
ZenCart15
osCommerce15
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Reviewing our Results

With scores of 98 and 97, respectively, Shopify and WooCommerce are the best ecommerce platforms for SEO. They offer optimization tools for almost all the 14 ranking factors, with Shopify showing advanced ecommerce features for independent navigation links, page titles, and URLs. You can also expect everything from 301 redirects to social sharing buttons, and blogging management to independent image alt tags. 

WooCommerce also looks like a strong contender, but that’s to be expected considering it runs on the open-source WordPress content management system, which provides full control over your SEO settings and WordPress site files. Shopify, on the other hand, is a subscription SaaS (software as a service) so it was surprising to see such a strong performance for SEO. 

Here are some other thoughts/results to consider when trying to find the best ecommerce platform for SEO:

  • Magento (also now known as Adobe Ecommerce) is yet another open-source platform, so it lets you maintain control over SEO factors like independent links, URLs, and headings. Just remember that Magento has a steeper learning curve than most platforms on this list. 
  • Shift4Shop (formerly 3dcart) came out of our test with a strong score as well, mainly due to its site map builder, custom URLs, and 301 redirection tools. 
  • We recommend BigCommerce and Squarespace for those interested in the simplicity of a subscription ecommerce platform while still maintaining control over most key SEO factors. 
  • Weebly, Wix, and GoDaddy have many SEO features, but most of the optimization is automated, or you have to pay for an extra plugin to create an advanced SEO environment. 
  • We recommend staying away from any platform that scored lower than 60 in our test, as this means you’re severely limited in how you manage search engine factors. 
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The Key SEO Factors (Explained) 

Below, we’ll give you a definition of each SEO ranking factor, a real-world example, and our findings on how the top platforms help with optimization for each SEO factor. 

1. Custom Navigation Links

SEO Weight: 10/10

custom navigation links in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

The navigation link is the text that appears for your products and product categories in the navigation menu of your site.

Some ecommerce platforms automatically generate the navigation links in your menus using the same names as the products and product categories in your online store. For SEO purposes, it’s preferable to have independent control of the navigation links.

Example:

While you may wish to give a product the name “Sony Bravia KDL50W8 LED HD 1080p 3D Smart TV, 50″ with Freeview/Freesat HD & 2x 3D Glasses, Silver” (for keyword optimization purposes), you don’t want the name to appear this clunky in your navigation menu!

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Just about all the major ecommerce platforms offer independent navigation links. 
  • Some aren't as friendly as you might want, but you can typically rename the menu items to whatever you need.

2. Custom Page Titles

SEO Weight: 10/10

custom page titles

The Page Title is the text that appears in the tab section at the top of the browser. It is also shown when a user bookmarks the page or saves it as a shortcut to their desktop. 

bookmark

There are strong SEO benefits for Page Titles that include a key search term, particularly when the search term or keyword gets placed at the beginning of the Page Title.

Some ecommerce platforms automatically generate page titles using the same names as the products and product categories in your online store, which is not ideal.

Example:

You may have a dress listed under the product name of “Ruby”. It would be preferable for the page title to include a description of the product as close as possible to how your prospective customers search for it online, like: “Sleeveless Maxi Dress – Ruby”. 

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Two of the platforms included in the study do not offer full functionality for independent page titles. 
  • The Shift4Shop (formerly 3dcart) system has tools for adjusting the title for your homepage, but it gets more complicated when working with the individual page title.
  • About four other platforms, including Big Cartel, have the functionality but not the ease-of-use. For instance, you definitely have to know something about coding or go out and find a developer to complete this simple task for you.

3. Independent Page URLs

SEO Weight: 9/10

independent page urls

The Page URL is the location of the page as shown in the address bar of the browser. Page URLs with key search terms have an SEO advantage and look better in the search engine results – also giving them a CTR (click-through rate) advantage.

Some ecommerce platforms automatically generate page URLs using the same names as the products and product categories in your online store. For SEO purposes, it’s preferable to have custom control of the page URLs. After all, you're going to hurt your page rankings if your URLs are too long or irrelevant. Furthermore, you might have an entirely different title than what needs to be shown in the URL.

Example:

Let’s say you sell a jacket listed under the product name of “Dakota”. It’s preferable for the page URL to include a description of the jacket similar to how potential customers might search for it online: “http://www.YourShop.com/double-breasted-wool-coat-Dakota”.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • It looks like all reputable ecommerce platforms let you change the page URL in some way. 
  • However, some of them, like Magento, are far too complicated for performing such a simple task.

4. Custom Meta Descriptions

SEO Weight: 9/10

custom meta descriptions

The Meta Description is the text that appears under your listing title in the Google results. While the description does not directly impact your position in the search results, it can have a considerable impact on whether search visitors click on your listing instead of one of your competitors.

So, in reality, the meta description does affect your search ranking, since more people are going to click through, showing Google that your site is popular and relevant.

Some ecommerce platforms automatically use the description or content shown on the page to create a default Meta description, without giving you the option to independently control the text that appears with your Google listing.

The most suitable information for a visitor comparing your site on Google will be quite different from the text you want to display on the page once they have arrived at your ecommerce website.

 Example:

An effective Meta Description should show the user that you are relevant to their search, convince them that your offer differs from others, and includes a strong call to action.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • ZenCart has the ability to include meta descriptions, but it lacks the full customization required for most stores.
  • BigCartel bases the meta descriptions on your product pages, once again removing the full customization aspect.
  • OsCommerce offers this feature, but only as an additional add-on, or you can change the meta description with some manual coding.

5. Custom Image ALT Tags

SEO Weight: 3/10

image alt tags

An ALT tag is text added to a product image to describe the image to search engines and bots that are unable to comprehend media in any other way. While the ALT tag does not have a particularly strong correlation to your ranking in the Google search results, it may have a strong impact on the image’s appearance in Google’s Image Search results, which can bring in additional traffic.

Example:

Some shopping cart/checkout software will automatically assign the product name to the ALT tag. If your product names are not descriptive of the product type (e.g. “Danielle Dress”) this could reduce your visibility for potential customers using Google Image Search to find suitable products. In this case, an ALT tag such as “Sleeveless Bodycon dress – Danielle” might be preferable.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • GoDaddy doesn't have a way to include an alt image tag in its website builder.
  • PrestaShop allows for alt tags, but the best functionality comes from the app editor. 
  • ZenCart and OsCommerce offer this feature only with limited customization or as an add-on.

6. Custom H1 Headings

SEO Weight: 3/10

custom h1 headings in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

The H1 tag typically gets designated as the main heading that appears on your product and category pages. There is a strong SEO advantage when your H1 tags are relevant to what people are searching for.

Example:

If you stock a product that matches a search term used, like “Lace Cocktail Dress,” it’s beneficial that the H1 heading/tag of your corresponding product page includes the same keyword.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • You can customize H1 tags in just about every ecommerce platform or website builder on the internet. 
  • Usually, this H1 tag gets generated the second you type in the name of your product. 

7. Canonical URLs

SEO Weight: 7/10

multiple urls

A Canonical URL is the original address of a page that may be found in more than one location.

Example:

It is not uncommon for the same product in an ecommerce store to be listed under multiple URLs. For example, a Children’s Garden Swing could be listed within a category of “Toys” and “Home & Garden”. This could result in the same product page appearing under two separate URLs, such as:

  • www.OnlineStore.com/shop/Toys/childrens-garden-swing
  • www.OnlineStore.com/shop/HomeandGarden/childrens-garden-swing

Search engines such as Google will view these URLs as two separate pages, both with identical content. Google does not look favorably on duplicated content, and this could prevent either page from ranking prominently in the search results. A site that contains a large amount of duplicated content also runs the risk of being penalized by Google.

To avoid this problem, Google provides the “REL CANONICAL” tag which allows you to specify which URL should be regarded as the preferred version of the page, thereby preventing any duplicate content issues.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • The majority of the ecommerce platforms have some sort of canonical URL adjustment procedure. 
  • The only issue is that typically you have to make changes in the site files. For example, Shopify has instructions for accessing the layout theme file and adding some code to the canonical URL area.

8. Integrated Blogging Platforms

blog post tools

SEO Weight: 10/10

Apart from having pages on your site that look relevant for the search terms, the single most important factor that affects how prominently your site appears in Google’s search results is the number – and quality of – links pointing to your site.

Things have definitely changed since websites got in trouble for link swapping. However, Google still puts lots of weight on the idea that if internet users like a website, they'll start sharing and linking to it. Therefore, you're more likely to find the most reputable search results when sites have numerous inbound links.

It's not a perfect system, but when you start publishing quality, relevant content, you're more likely to get people interested in your products. And ideally, improved search rankings will follow.

Few sites have products that are so unique and newsworthy that other sites will want to link directly to your commercial pages. You are far more likely to attract external links by having a high-quality blog that contains topical, engaging, and shareable content marketing.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Some of the ecommerce platforms do not include a blog as a standard feature. You are forced to either pay an additional premium or use an external blogging platform which may not replicate the exact branding or navigation of your online shop.
  • The best blogging tools for Magento (Adobe Commerce) come as extensions.
  • Both OSCommerce and Big Cartel are in the same boat. The Big Cartel documentation even says to link to your actual blog (on a separate domain), which is terrible advice from an SEO standpoint.

9. Social Sharing Buttons

SEO Weight: 8/10

social sharing buttons

Social sharing buttons offer easily recognizable icons that allow your visitors to share your site, products, and blog posts on the most popular social networks. Some even have buttons to subscribe for email marketing along with the social options.

Example:

Providing your visitors with a simple means of sharing your online content is an essential feature to help your digital marketing strategy and expose your products to prospective customers who are not already familiar with your brand.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Some ecommerce platforms only provide this feature at an additional premium.
  • The majority of reputable ecommerce platforms offer social sharing in some way. 
  • Squarespace is a pretty simple website builder, but it has a quick tool for adding social sharing to all product pages.
  • WooCommerce, on the other hand, doesn't have social sharing built right in. You'll have to use a plugin or template to make it happen.
  • Most Shopify and Bigcommerce themes offer social sharing buttons.

10. Auto XML Sitemaps

SEO Weight: 9/10

sitemaps in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

An XML sitemap is a file located on your web server to help search engines find and index your content. As an example, you can view the XML sitemap of this blog here.

Note that the XML sitemap differs from an HTML sitemap, which is designed to help human visitors find the content on your website.

Example:

Maintaining an XML site for an ecommerce site, which could contain thousands of unique product pages, is not a task that you would want to perform manually. A good ecommerce platform will automatically generate an XML sitemap whenever a new page is added to, or removed from, your website.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • While most platforms do offer automated XML sitemaps, others only provide this as a premium add-on with additional pricing. 
  • The good news is that anyone can submit their XML sitemap to Google through the Google Webmaster Tools module. It's a little extra work, but the whole automated sitemap thing isn't all that necessary anymore. It's nice for beginners, though.

11. Custom Domain Names

custom domains in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

SEO Weight: 10/10

A domain name is a unique name by which your website is found on the internet. Your domain name will typically be the same as your business name.

Having a custom domain name is – undoubtedly – the single most important factor to consider for your ecommerce SEO strategy. Anything with a subdomain from your ecommerce platform looks unappealing to search engines and users. 

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • While most ecommerce platforms will allow you to use a custom domain name, some only offer this as a premium feature and others at an additional cost. This can result in some business owners making the error of accepting a free branded subdomain when launching their online store. e.g. www.yourbusinessname.myshopify.com.
  • Not only could this make your business appear less professional, it also means that any inbound links pointing to your website will primarily benefit the platform provider, and not you!
  • In addition, should you ever decide to move from your current provider in the future, you will not be able to transfer the domain name and will, therefore, lose any link authority that you may have earned. 
  • You will also be unable to redirect visitors from the old domain to the new location of your website. This is a huge disadvantage.

I would strongly urge you to never consider using a domain name that is not exclusive to your business and registered in your own name. I would even go one step further and suggest that you register your domain name with a third-party domain registrar and not with the same company that hosts your shopping cart. It is never a good idea to place all of your eggs in one shopping basket 🙂

12. Custom IP Addresses

SEO Weight: 2/10

An IP address is a unique number that represents the location of your website on the Internet. You could, for example, access a website via the domain name or with its IP address. People generally prefer to use easier-to-remember domain names as opposed to IP addresses.

On some hosted ecommerce platforms the same IP address may be allocated to multiple websites.

The potential disadvantages of sharing an IP address with another business are as follows:

  • Another website sharing the same IP address could affect the performance and reliability of your website. This could potentially cause your site to become unavailable or to suffer ranking drops on Google for performance-related issues.
  • If another website sharing your IP address behaves unethically, this could result in your website being blocked by spam filters or being penalized by Google for manipulative practices.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Most of the hosted ecommerce platform providers do not provide you with your own IP address. Although they hopefully take steps to prevent another client’s activities negatively impacting your website. 
  • For all but the smallest businesses, we recommend a self-hosted ecommerce solution that allows you to use your own unique IP address. Self-hosted solutions include WooCommerce and Magento.

13. 301 redirects

SEO Weight: 8/10

redirect in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

A 301 redirection is a command used to redirect a browser or search engine from one URL to another.

Example:

It’s common for a product or even an entire product category to get removed from an online stores when it's no longer available. While the business owner could simply remove the product, or product category, from the online store, this runs the risk that another website (or even another page on your own site) could now be linking to a URL that no longer exists.

Apart from the fact that such a situation will cause an unwelcome “404 page not found” error, it also means that any external links pointing to the missing page are no longer able to pass any link authority. This could result in your website losing its ranking for certain key search terms on Google. So it's always wise to redirect such pages/URLs and to have an ecommerce platform that offers redirection as a feature.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • While most of the ecommerce platforms provide you with a feature to redirect any obsolete URLs to a new URL, others include this as a premium feature at an additional cost. 
  • For some platforms, it's really easy to complete a redirect. For instance, Shopify has a tool for it right in the dashboard. 
  • A platform like WooCommerce requires a plugin for this.

14. Robots Noindex Capabilities

robots in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

SEO Weight: 10/10

A robotx.txt file is a file located on your web server that informs a search engine which pages or sections of your website it should, or should not, index.

The depth to which a search engine will index your website is largely based on the authority your site has earned as a result of the number and quality of external links pointing to your site. As a general rule, the higher your Domain Authority, the more of your pages the search engine will crawl.

An Example:

For an ecommerce store that could potentially be listing several thousand products, it is preferable that the search engine crawls your product and category pages rather than folders containing scripts, images or data. This increases the chance of your products getting indexed by Google and also reduces the bandwidth used by your server.

Notable Findings From Our Ecommerce Platform SEO Testing

  • Most of the ecommerce platforms automatically generate a robots.txt file based on a set of standard assumptions about which folders you would prefer not be crawled. 
  • But what if you want to hide a page that isn't already blocked by the no index function? In that case, it's still possible with all of these ecommerce platforms. The only problem is that you either have to tap into the site files or get a plugin or app.
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Other Features to Help Find the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO

While we didn’t include the following features in this study, you may also wish to consider these factors when figuring out the best ecommerce platform for SEO.

Most of these features are incredibly important for boosting your search engine rankings, but they have more to do with proactive content creation, where the quality of your content will be the deciding factor in how well they help with SEO. 

With that said, make sure your ecommerce platforms offer these features:

Featured Products on the Homepage

featured items

Showing popular or “best-selling” products on the home page of your site not only reduces the possibility of visitors bouncing from your home page, it could also gives a search ranking boost to the products featured.

Since the home page of a website is often the page with the highest link authority, any pages linked directly from the home page will, in turn, receive a higher proportion of any link authority passed to them from the homepage.

Product Reviews

customer reviews for the best ecommerce platform for SEO

One way to avoid duplicate content penalties on pages displaying similar products is to include unique product reviews or some other form of User Generated Content (UGC) on the product page. Product reviews are also viewed favorably by consumers when considering which product to buy.

Internal Site Search

search results in the best ecommerce platform for SEO

Having an internal search tool is essential for customers to locate products, blog posts, and other content.

Using a tool such as Google Analytics, you could then analyze the most popular terms searched within your site. This can help you determine how to best name your products and product categories and even choose the type of products that you may wish to stock in the future.

Non-SEO related features

SEO features are not the only factors to think about when choosing an ecommerce platform for your business. You should also consider:

  • Cost (monthly ongoing platform costs, premium add-ons and transaction charges)
  • Ease of use (Complex platforms might require additional staff training costs)
  • Customer Support (If your site goes down at 3 AM on a Sunday before Christmas will someone be there to help you?)
  • Choice of Payment Gateways (Stripe, PayPal, Square, WorldPay, etc.)
  • Integration with your existing point of sale (and accounting software)
  • Scalability (will the platform grow with your business?)
  • Mobile Friendliness (shopping on mobile devices has become the norm)
  • Security (Will your customers’ payment and contact details remain secure?)
  • Risk of Service Termination (Adobe, for instance, eventually acquired Magento, forcing all users to either leave or migrate to its new service)
illustration of a cat climbing a ladder

Our Conclusion on the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO

Choosing the best ecommerce platform for SEO is not a decision to take lightly. While you might be tempted to use the cheapest, easiest solution, you could regret that in the future.

If you later find that your inability to attract and convert visitors is restricted – not by the appeal of your products – but by the limited features of your ecommerce platform, you might wish you had spent more time researching the best solution before you invested time and money in a second-rate platform.

Here are out final thoughts on the best ecommerce platforms for SEO:

  • All of the ecommerce platforms that scored in the top positions of this study (Shopify, Shift4Shop (formerly 3dcart), Magento, and WooCommerce) are safe bets for most small to medium-sized ecommerce businesses. 
  • If you're using one of the other platforms and you'd like to switch to a more modern and well-optimized solution, Shopify makes it easy by walking you through the process.
  • On the other hand, some store owners prefer to use a well-supported, self-hosted, customizable, open-source solution such as WooCommerce, which offers a wide range of free or low-cost add-ons.
  • While Big Cartel did not receive the lowest score in this study, it did stand out as the platform for which most of the SEO features included in the study were not available even at additional cost.

If you have any thoughts or questions about finding the best ecommerce platform for SEO, let us know in the comments!

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on eCommerce tools, WordPress, and social media. When not fishing or practicing yoga, he's collecting stamps at national parks (even though that's mainly for children). Check out Joe's portfolio to contact him and view past work.

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