While ecommerce has enjoyed steady growth for years, 2020 is poised to see the numbers explode. Fueled in part by a digital gold rush due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 25% of the world’s population — about 2.14 billion people — are expected to make online purchases within the next year.
For most businesses transitioning into ecommerce, the choice of platforms boils down to Shopify vs WooCommerce. Both have clear advantages and disadvantages, but which one is better for SEO?
It’s not an easy question. The short answer is: it depends. Each one is a robust and reliable ecommerce platform, used by millions to handle online sales of products and services. All things being equal, they’re pretty evenly matched, which can make it difficult to crown one vs the other as being the superior option.
Having said that, there are some significant SEO differences between them. That’s why it’s critical that you examine both Shopfiy and WooCommerce’s SEO capabilities before choosing the platform that suits your needs.
Shopify vs WooCommerce – which one is better for SEO?
With over a million users worldwide, Shopify has positioned itself as an ecommerce platform powerhouse. Shopify is aimed primarily at a less-technically inclined clientele, offering an easy to use and configure online portal designed to work out of the box, with minimal configuration.
- Fast load time
- Includes SSL certificates
- Built-in mobile optimization
- SEO-ready outside the box
- SEO apps available
- Optimized CSS & HTML5 coding
- Fewer technical customizations
- Limited blogging capability
- Limited URL structure customization
- No rich snippet support
- More expensive
Shopify pros for SEO
Fast load time
A site’s load time is a significant ranking factor for Google, not to mention the fact that 53% of users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. This is an area where Shopify shines, since online stores on this platform have a faster average page load time vs WordPress/WooCommerce or other self-hosted options.
There are two main reasons for this. First, Shopify’s architecture relies on streamlined and less resource-intensive applications. Second, because all Shopify stores are hosted on their platform, their back-end server capability scales its computing to be able to deliver premium speed.
Includes SSL certificates
Regardless of whether or not you register your domain through them, Shopify automatically provides SSL certificates as part of the monthly fee. This ensures that all of their stores use top-level SSL encryption, the absence of which will result in heavy SEO penalties.
Bottom line: not only will you save the hefty SSL certificate fee, but your site will also benefit from secure SSL encryption that will help your site’s SEO performance.
Built-in mobile optimization
As the majority of web users today access the internet on mobile devices, having a mobile-optimized ecommerce store is no longer an option. Google uses mobile optimization as another key ranking metric, and if your site isn’t performing well on small screens, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage.
Shopify simplifies the process of making your site perform well on mobile devices by using a mobile-friendly theme architecture. Basically, they ensure that your store is guaranteed to be optimized for mobile and, therefore, score highly for mobile SEO.
SEO-ready out of the box
In keeping with its ease-of-use philosophy, Shopify aims to take away some of the more technical aspects of SEO from the average user. While it doesn’t offer a ton of SEO customization, the basics are there. The platform automatically generates XML sitemaps, and offers the ability to customize important SEO data like META and title descriptions.
SEO apps available
Shopify’s app store offers a variety of SEO apps to help boost your online store’s SEO performance. These apps include the popular Plug in SEO which offers a general slate of features, and Ultra SEO, which adds expanded META tagging options.
Unfortunately, neither one comes close to the powerful Yoast SEO, which is only available for WordPress/WooCommerce sites. More on Yoast below.
Optimized CSS & HTML5 coding
Finally, one of the great features of Shopify is the highly-optimized CSS and HTML5 coding. Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify offers its own proprietary CSS editor called Liquid, which offers a respectable degree of customization.
Regardless, a Shopify-powered online store can experience faster loading times and easier user experiences thanks to this high degree of SEO-optimized coding.
Shopify cons for SEO
Unfortunately, Shopify makes it difficult to get under the hood of your ecommerce site. Since it’s designed to be as user-friendly as possible — taking many of the routine SEO optimization tasks away from the user — it also means that more experienced web designers will be frustrated if they want to further optimize their site with technical SEO improvements.
Limited blogging capability
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of content for SEO. Offering rich and engaging content has a direct affect on your SEO scores, and Google places a heavy weight on a site’s content quality.
Unfortunately, Shopify lags way behind WooCommerce when it comes to blogs. While your Shopify site can offer a blog, it’s treated more as an afterthought, and lacks the robust blogging features that WordPress-powered sites can deliver. At the end of the day, your content SEO will likely be at a significant disadvantage vs WooCommerce.
Limited URL structure customization
Having an optimized URL linking structure on your site is critical. Messy or illogical URL structures are confusing and unwieldy, and Google will penalize your ecommerce store accordingly. Unlike WooCommerce, Shopify doesn’t offer much leeway when it comes to customizing your store’s URLs.
Limited structured data support
The ability to optimize your site for Google structured data (a key driver for rich snippets in search results) is another overlooked yet critical component of SEO. While Shopify offers an acceptable degree of control over META tags, it lacks comprehensive structured data support.
A Shopify vs WooCommerce comparison isn’t complete unless you look at the costs of each platform. At $29/month for the basic package, Shopify definitely isn’t cheap. You’re paying a premium for ease of use, but given the fact that you can’t get into the nuts and bolts of your site’s SEO, it doesn’t necessarily stack up well against WooCommerce’s one time fee.
WooCommerce is a free plugin for the WordPress CMS platform that allows users to create a highly-configurable ecommerce store. While the plugin itself is free, many of the features require a licence fee. And although it’s not nearly as easy to use or configure as Spotify, the tradeoff is that it allows website owners an unmatched level of customization for their stores, especially when it comes to SEO optimization.
- Uses customizable SEO-optimized code
- Search engine-friendly URLs
- Wide range of SEO plugins
- Rich snippet support
- Robust blogging support
- More manual SEO configurations required
- Not automatically optimized for CSS and theme coding
- Slower average site speed
WooCommerce pros for SEO
Customizable, SEO-optimized code
WooCommerce is designed from the ground up with SEO in mind. Unlike Shopify, the various plugins let you quickly and easily access your site’s architecture, allowing a greater amount of SEO optimization than Shopify’s limited access.
Search engine-friendly URLs
With WordPress, you can easily change your URL permalink structure to conform to Google’s requirements. For example, where Shopify requires all second-level pages to fall under a sitename/pages linking structure, WooCommerce stores can take advantage of clean, top-level domain structures.
Wide range of SEO plugins
Running an ecommerce store on the WordPress platform brings you the powerful Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast is by far the most popular SEO optimization tool on the planet, and for good reason. With the ability to customize everything from META information, titles, and images to image compression, server optimization, and database control, Yoast is simply unrivaled when compared to other SEO tools.
Rich snippet support
WordPress is well-known for its ability to offer structured data support, essential for being able to optimize your online store’s content to appear as rich snippets in Google search results.
Robust blogging support
WordPress got its start as a blogging platform, and the platform has only gotten better with age. Running a WooCommerce-based online store gives you the ability to own the content SEO game, with blogging capabilities that Shopify users can only dream of.
WooCommerce cons for SEO
More manual SEO configurations required
If you’re not technically inclined, you’ll find the learning curve much higher with WooCommerce vs Shopify. Since the latter’s model is to make starting an online store as easy as possible, you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of working with self-hosted WordPress sites.
Not automatically optimized for CSS and theme coding
While the underlying architecture is extremely SEO friendly, the vast array of WooCommerce-compatible themes aren’t necessarily optimized themselves. You’ll either have to find a highly-optimized theme (usually for a higher licence fee), or roll up your sleeves and optimize the theme yourself — which may not be possible if the theme doesn’t allow it.
Slower site speed
Shopify’s key advantage is the faster site speed, which owes to both streamlined code and a highly-optimized server architecture. Conversely, a self-hosted WooCommerce store is at the mercy of hosting server issues, site plugins, database optimization, image compression, and a host of other factors which may adversely affect loading speed. So in a Shopify vs WooCommerce site speed matchup, the advantage goes to the former.
WooCommerce SEO vs Shopify SEO: which one should you choose?
There’s no easy answer. The WooCommerce vs Shopify for ecommerce debate has been raging for years, and it all boils down to what your needs are. Both platforms offer key advantages and disadvantages when it comes to SEO, and the one you choose will be determined by your level of technical skill.
Go with Shopify if you want an easy-to-use platform with baked-in SEO factors. Your store will perform well with a minimal amount of customization. However, you won’t be able to dig under the hood with more granular SEO optimizations. If this article has convinced you to move your online store to Shopify, you can follow any Woocommerce to Shopify migration guide you can find online.
Go with WooCommerce if you want a high degree of flexibility and customization, backed by the powerful WordPress CMS. It’ll take more work, with a higher learning curve, but at the end of the day you’ll have much more SEO power at your fingertips.
If you’re looking to gain traffic and boost your conversions, Miromind’s team of ecommerce SEO experts can help you take your online business to the next level. Contact us to learn how we can help you reach your business goals.