A website platform or content management system (CMS), has a major role to play in the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. It will determine the ease with which certain SEO recommendations can be applied, and scalability of your SEO strategy as you grow. The best CMS for your website will depend on a few factors – budget, developer resource, and of course, the purpose of your website and its requirements.
Not all website platforms are created equal, especially when it comes to implementing SEO. Some platforms are designed to be basic DIY website builders, and so certain advanced functions are inaccessible. Others are so developer-oriented that you’ll need to hire a coder to make even the most basic optimisations. In this article we’ll look at the most popular content management systems on the market today, and how well they can support a solid eCommerce SEO strategy.
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, and for good reason. It’s easy to get a basic website started, but advanced enough to support an enterprise-sized business as well. It has a huge variety of plugins available that allow you to do almost anything you can think of.
WordPress is great for SEO. WordPress grants access to all the SEO options you could ever want, and the huge amount of plugins available make optimisation a breeze. WordPress websites are generally easy to get live, and the platform is open-source. Open-source means that the underlying code that WordPress is built with is available to anyone. This is why there are so many plugins available. Any competent developer can look at the WordPress code, and create a plugin that integrates nicely.
While plugins are one of the biggest strengths of WordPress, they also contribute to its greatest weakness. Many businesses start a WordPress website with a nice theme and then start filling it with plugins. If left unmanaged the amount of plugins builds up quickly over time, and can slow down your website. A slow website is fatal for SEO.
The plugin market is also unregulated which means absolutely anyone can create a plugin, change a plugin that they own at anytime, or stop maintaining a plugin. If your website relies on the functionality of plugins, you are at the mercy of the plugin developer.
Many plugins are old and left un-updated for years. This can make your site vulnerable to security, compatibility, and performance risks. If an old plugin that you’re still using gets hacked, then the hackers now have access to your website through that plugin. There have even been cases of scammers purchasing popular plugins, and then exploiting the websites that use them.
Woocommerce is the ecommerce extension of WordPress that allows users to sell products online. It has many of the same strengths and weaknesses of WordPress. In building and running an ecommerce site, you start dealing with sensitive information like payment details and shipping addresses. The security and compatibility of your website becomes infinitely more important, and giving random developers access to this information through their plugins is a risky move.
Without a dedicated team of developers vetting and maintaining your plugins, WordPress/WooCommerce can end up being more trouble than it’s worth.
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce website platforms in the world. It’s a super easy to use CMS that allows you to set up an online store very quickly. Like WordPress, Shopify offers plugins through its app store. Unlike WordPress however, Shopify is not open-source and they verify all their plugins, only integrating with reputable companies and software providers. Using Shopify plugins will allow your website to communicate with your accounting software, inventory software, customer service software, and more.
Shopify is very good for SEO, specifically ecommerce SEO. Getting your products to rank in search results is a bit different to getting a page to rank, and Shopify is geared towards the former. Migrating to Shopify from a different platform can cause major SEO issues however. Shopify uses very specific site structures and forcing an existing site into this structure can have a negative effect on your rankings.
Shopify is part of the new breed of DIY websites. DIY website platforms are built on the idea that the business owner is also going to be setting up or managing the website (at least at first). This is great for the average user, as it makes a small business super easy to get off the ground. The CMS is also simple to use and largely restricted so that users don’t have to worry about breaking anything important.
Although a more restricted CMS like Shopify may be easier to use and less likely to break, it does have its downsides. One of the problems with Shopify’s SEO is that you have less control over the more technical aspects of SEO. Editing things like sitemaps and schema markup, and connecting to tools like Google Search Console, will require access and ability to edit your website code. Many other advanced SEO requirements will need to rely on plugins which may be difficult to use, or just as restrictive.
While WordPress and Shopify currently dominate the DIY website space, there is still competition to be had from the likes of Squarespace, Wix & Weebly.
These three website platforms are perfect if you don’t need to rank in Google. They’re great for a creating proof-of-concept sites that you can then point paid advertising to. If it works, quickly move to another platform as soon as you can. These DIY website builders simply don’t have access to everything you need to do effective SEO.
BigCommerce is a feature-packed ecommerce website platform that is quickly growing in popularity. It’s user-friendly like Shopify, but also provides more control and accessibility. BigCommerce has become a serious contender for CMS market share.
BigCommerce is great for SEO. It’s a step up from your basic ecommerce platform and despite being closed-source, gives you greater control over the advanced aspects of a website necessary for SEO. Automatic redirects, optimised URLs, responsive design, and built-in microdata means that your BigCommerce SEO comes packed with a good foundation for ongoing optimisation.
Umbraco is another open-source CMS like WordPress, and it’s free! It runs on Microsoft systems, and has a huge amount of flexibility in what you can achieve on it. Umbraco is a pure CMS that allows you to create and edit the content. It’s a great balance between ease of use, and accessibility.
Umbraco has the potential to be great for SEO, but it’s entirely dependant on your developer/s. It’s a popular open-source platform which users can download for free. A web developer can then learn how to use it, and start building websites on it.
The danger of an open-source CMS like Umbraco is that you (as the business owner) may not have as much control over it as you thought. Whoever built the site from scratch determines how much access users will have. It’s depressingly common for web development companies to include a clause in their business agreements that says they retain full control of the website. This means they can effectively hold your website to ransom, forcing any advanced alterations to come through them.
While Umbraco has great SEO potential, if the more advanced optimisations require you to go through your developer, it could become a very expensive process.
Silverstripe is similar to Umbraco in the fact that it is another free, open-source CMS. It’s a New Zealand made platform with an intuitive user-interface and all the potential that an open-source CMS provides.
Silverstripe is great for SEO. It provides you access to everything you need for basic and advanced optimisations but isn’t so reliant on a developer. It’s limited popularity so far means that the developers working on it are dedicated, and of a very high calibre.
Silverstripe can be seen as the best of both worlds. It’s not quite as user-friendly as Shopify, but you get access to every part of your website. It’s still intuitive to use, but offers advanced customisation. Everything you need to do yourself, you can, but remember it’s not a full DIY solution. There will be some developer time required for advanced customisations.
Magento was one of the first big ecommerce platforms. It’s super flexible, and can do almost anything. Some of the biggest brands in the world rely on Magento to run their websites. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat of a relic.
Magento has huge potential for SEO, but it’s dependant on your developer. As stated earlier, Magento is an older website platform. It was built in the time where website management was only done by developers. Websites were big, complex, and expensive – the complete opposite of a new standard set by WordPress, Shopify, and others.
Magento is now much more difficult and costly to maintain compared to other options on the market. Optimising for SEO can be tricky because of this. Basic optimisations may be available for you to do yourself, depending on your setup. More advanced optimisations may end up costing thousands of dollars in dev time.
Magento is capable of doing everything you want, but it’s harder than most other platforms. That being said, it just got bought out by Adobe, so watch this space…
Drupal is another free, open-source CMS that has existed for a while. It’s popular with large enterprise businesses and provides all the functionality that you would hope to expect.
Drupal can be great for SEO. Drupal is similar to Magento and other open-source platforms in that it is as competent as your developer. Drupal can scale for any business size, and supports some of the biggest brands in the world. That being said, it’s been around for a long time and isn’t as user-friendly as some of the more modern platforms. It’s capable of doing everything you need it to do for SEO, but may be more difficult and expensive to achieve.
The trend of website platforms today has shifted towards ease of use. The more people that are capable of using a CMS, the better that CMS will perform for the business. Many larger enterprise businesses are stuck with old and complicated website platforms, as the cost and complexity of switching platforms simply isn’t worth it. For any new businesses however, the options are both powerful and plentiful.
When choosing the right website platform for your business be sure to consider the impact of the platform on your SEO. A cheap and easy to use platform may be tempting, but much of the website may be locked down, unable to be edited. That makes the website less likely to scale with your business, and migrating to another platform can be expensive, time-consuming, and a total headache. Weigh up your options and do it right the first time. Your website is an investment in the future of your business.
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