How to Improve SEO on Shopify in 5 Steps

The success or failure of an online store will often hinge on whether or not it can pull in enough organic traffic. If you are a Shopify store owner and are concerned about your ability to rank higher in Google and bring in some of this traffic for yourself, this guide will be a great resource for you.

Making the right SEO enhancements for your website can be a comprehensive undertaking depending on what your site needs and how well it is already performing. However, if you are simply looking for a few reliable ways to improve your Shopify SEO that don’t require a load of technical knowledge and will help you get great results, the following techniques are just what you’re looking for.

It’s important to keep in mind as you work on any aspect of eCommerce SEO that you keep user experience and conversions in mind. You’re not simply improving a page for the sake of the search engines, you have to make sure that your website actually caters to your users and helps them find exactly what they are looking for as efficiently as possible. Part of what makes your website worth ranking is how well it meets certain expectations from real users, which requires a bit more forethought, planning, and creativity to address than simply plugging in a few keywords on certain pages.

With that being said, the steps below are simple to implement but can make a strong impact on site performance from both a technical standpoint as well as from a user expectation point of view.

1. Optimize Your Product Pages

If you want to improve your Shopify SEO, your first and primary area of concern should be your product pages. Surprisingly, this is actually one of the areas of online stores that gets neglected the most. It’s not uncommon for eCommerce websites to feature gorgeous homepages and awesome mega-menus yet have weak product pages featuring thin content and low-res photographs.

This is a recipe for a low conversion rate and doesn’t do you any favors in Google’s eyes either. Your product pages are technically the heart of your website and should be worked on extensively if you want to see better results. The health of any good Shopify store depends on whether or not the products appeal to your users or not. Even if a user happened upon one of your products because they were searching for that item specifically, a short description, lack of valuable information, or bad photos could very well be enough to turn them away.

Shopify Product Optimization
Each product page on your Shopify store should be attractive and engaging, with high-quality photos where possible as well as informative descriptions that act as a resource for your users.

It’s competitive out there and if you want your website to stand out, you have to make sure your product pages shine. You also have to keep in mind that your homepage isn’t always going to be the first page your users are going to see when they land on your website, because it will be the product pages themselves that appear in Google for certain search terms.

This means that you could pour a ton of money into a page on your website that won’t even factor into the decision-making process that your customers will undergo when they decide if they want your product or not. Any well-built and optimized eCommerce website needs to treat each product page as its own self-contained sales page that features high-quality photographs, in-depth information, and supplemental information regarding the quality, the construction process, or various applications for the product in question.

2. Pay Attention to Your Meta Titles and Descriptions

Likewise, you also want to make sure that each page of your website has its own thoughtfully written meta title and page description. These are important elements to consider if you want to quickly improve your Shopify SEO in a meaningful way.

If you need a quick refresher, your meta title and description are what typically displays when your website appears on Google and other search engines. They play a direct role in the viability of your ability to rank, because they provide context to Google and authority to the user. If your meta title is misleading or spammy for example, this would indicate untrustworthiness and would hinder your website.

While it may seem arduous creating custom titles and descriptions for each page of your website, it’s well worth your time to do so, otherwise your Shopify store won’t perform as well as it could be. These elements are there not only for Google’s benefit, but to provide helpful information to users searching for certain types of content. Your meta title will often be the very first piece of content that a user sees regarding your online store, so it’s important that it is optimized accordingly.

An informative and well-implemented meta title is concise and should feature a primary keyword. The user should be able to infer the general gist of the content they will see if they click the link based solely off the meta title. The description is there to supplement the meta title, providing a bit of secondary context if the user should need it. Applied correctly, each of your meta title and description combinations can be utilized like a micro-sales pitch, both informative and intriguing. Just be sure not to use any spam tactics such as an abundance of capital letters or exclamation marks, because Google will pick up on such things and possibly weigh them against you.

3. Work on Your Shopify Blog

This is one area you certainly don’t want to ignore. Years ago it was somewhat unorthodox to have a blog on an eCommerce website, but today it’s an expected fixture of most brands, regardless of the nature of your business.

It’s important to treat your Shopify blog as a place of value for your customers. This is your opportunity to provide your unique insight as it applies to your niche or industry. Your users are almost surely looking for reliable information about the products that you sell, including reviews, opinions, comparisons, and how-tos.

A first-hand account that details the use of a certain product or service is worth its weight in gold on the Web. Shoppers are always looking for personal accounts and how-tos regarding the products they are thinking of purchasing. In terms of user experience, a well-implemented blog is absolutely indispensable.

Shopify Blog
Investing time into your Shopify blog is worth it. Not only are blogs crucial for eCommerce SEO, they also provide valuable information for your customers.

As important as blog content is for the benefit of the user, it may be just as important in terms of pure SEO value as well. Google has made it clear that high-quality, informative, engaging content is what ranks. The reality is that you’re not always going to be able to get certain products or secondary pages to rank on your website because either the keywords are too competitive or the content on the page is just too thin.

These days, the primary way in which many websites stake their claim on the first page of Google is through their blog articles. The reason behind this is that you can select a topic, research keywords for that topic, and meticulously craft a piece of content that is designed with purpose behind it. If you write content that answers very specific questions that you know shoppers in your industry will have, and if you utilize keywords properly, you are bound to rank and pull in traffic using this method.

Your Shopify blog also will act as a sales funnel if implemented correctly. It’s easy to create a how-to article or informative piece on a certain product or service that you offer and then link to said product throughout the article. This is not only a common practice, it is almost an expected part of the eCommerce landscape now. When a user is searching for information about a product, you are making their lives easier by providing a handy link right to the product in question. This way, if they are sold on the product after reading your article, they don’t have to search for the product elsewhere on your website, they can simply click the link and make their purchase right there.

This also provides SEO value as well, because this is considered a contextual link. Your well-researched and informative blog piece is essentially telling Google to pass authority and “link juice” to the product that the piece relates to. This boosts the authority of the product in the search results. If your blog article ranks well, it will pass some of that authority onto the product page, upping the stature of your entire website.

4. Remove Duplicate Content Wherever Possible

If you have hundreds of pages or products on your Shopify store, it’s all too easy to get lazy with content. This is a problem for multiple reasons, not least of which because users pick up on thin content like this.

The main reason why you want to avoid duplicate content on your website is that it can harm your SEO. Google has never specifically revealed exactly what constitutes “duplicate content” and just how much of a problem it actually is, but the general consensus is that you should try to minimize your use of it whenever possible.

While it may seem tedious, you don’t want to repeat descriptions on your product pages. This provides no value to the user and Google can sniff it out quite easily, and while it may not crush your rankings, it certainly won’t help them. To improve Shopify SEO you have to start with the basics, and this means cleaning up your content and taking it seriously.

What would you think if you walked into a supermarket and read the description on a box of cereal, only to read the same exact thing on the next box of cereal despite it being a different flavor or a different product altogether? What would be your impression of that brand or business?

The same thing applies to your online store. Duplicate meta titles and descriptions is not only unprofessional and potentially damaging to your SEO, it simply sends shoddy brand signals. If you are trying to build a brand that your customers trust, you want to avoid lazy practices like this at all costs.

5. Implement an Internal Linking Strategy

Finally, you want to develop a comprehensive internal linking strategy that helps to spread authority throughout your website while also optimizing your user experience. As far as SEO issues are concerned, this one is fairly common as well but relatively simple to correct if you take a step back and look at what your users need.

Internal linking is exactly what it sounds like: the links between pages on your website. While many SEO services harp on backlinks (and for good reason, they are one of the most important ranking factors), not nearly enough attention is paid toward internal links. You want to make sure that your entire website is easy to navigate and that there is a clearly defined flow to the information that you provide.

This includes a proper use of breadcrumbs as well as having an informative footer full of important links, as well as an HTML sitemap that covers all of the key pages on your website for easy access. You also want to consider the categories you have set up for your store as well as your navigational hierarchy. When users want to find a specific product on your website, it should be easy and intuitive for them to do so.

All of these points only cover one part of internal linking, however. You also want to make sure that your product pages and blogs are making great use of links as well. Your blogs should all have plenty of links that point to the appropriate pages on your website so that your users don’t have to search for them manually. In fact, you want to make it a point to set up informative pages on your website that address certain questions about your products or aspects regarding the use of your products, so that you can link to these pages later with your blogs.

This way, you create a web of internal links that pass authority to each other while also providing your users with a coherent and straightforward path to the information they are looking for or the products that they are interested in purchasing. This is essentially how you want your website to function, as a “web” of useful information that is all connected and interrelated.

While these steps include basic SEO tactics that can be used by anyone, it can still be a lot to digest. Between making high-quality blog posts with proper internal linking to figuring out how to target the right keywords and create impactful product pages that generate conversions, you’re looking at a full-time job beyond managing your business.

This is why if you seriously want to improve your Shopify SEO, you need an agency in your corner with extensive experience when it comes to ranking online stores. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if you want to get on page one and start pulling in a decent amount of traffic, you have to take the necessary steps. The time and effort you put into these SEO techniques will pay off down the road when your Shopify website begins to grow.

What you need to consider is that while these steps will make an impact if implemented properly, this is only scratching the surface when it comes to eCommerce SEO. What about generating high-quality backlinks from authority sources or addressing design flaws with your website that could be hindering your performance? High-level SEO is a complex matter and if you want to get the right results, you need the assistance of a respected Shopify partner.

Here at Genius eCommerce®, we know the Shopify platform, inside and out and understand exactly what it takes to get the most out of all of Shopify’s features. Our search engine optimization campaigns get results, which is why we are one of the most trusted agencies when it comes to ranking Shopify stores.

Let us demystify SEO for you by giving us a call today at 888-982-8269 and we will work with you to help get your website ranking where it belongs.

The Importance of Picking the Perfect Theme in Shopify

You know how people are told not to judge people by their appearance? That’s not the way it works when it comes to the digital space. Whether it is ads, videos, or a website, appearance and theme is everything and can make a big difference in converting a customer and having people constantly bounce from your website.

For your Shopify store, you need to have the perfect theme that reflects your business and allows people to see it the way you do. You will see a finished product and think your store looks great and should produce results. But what do your visitors see? That’s what matters.

At Genius eCommerce, we know what it takes to produce an eye-catching design that draws customers. We have learned the many tricks and tips of how to use Shopify and are passing them along to you. That’s what Genius eCommerce is, providing you with eCommerce updates, tips and trends to keep you in the know.

Today, I’ll tell you why it is important to pick the perfect theme for your online store in Shopify and how you can do it.

The main reason you need the perfect theme has nothing to do with the platform you choose. It’s all about sending the right message when it comes to your brand. This is the visual representation of your business. The message of the website, from the design to the content, is what you, your business, and your products stand for.

How well you showcase your brand and communicate your message in your design can make a big difference in conversions and the level of trust you establish with your potential customers.

There is a lot of information that shows what users can find more attractive and pleasing to the eye in terms of website style and features. For example, most internet users look at websites in an F shaped pattern, meaning websites that have a strong header and a sidebar on the left side. For a lot of internet users, a website design is also a source of trust. People tend to trust websites with a better design. In fact, 94 percent of internet users say that web design is a reason they don’t trust a website. If it doesn’t look convincing or gives the impression that the product is the same quality as the website, those negatives will send customers looking elsewhere.

But why tell you what works, when we can show you!

Check out a couple of examples here of websites that use a good design and branding to establish a strong online presence that people can trust and gives the right message.

Casa M Spice Co

Casa M Spice Co has used Shopify and their theme and branding to send a message that they are a lifestyle, not just promoting a product. Their design, including a new logo, has been a welcome addition for their business.

Vapaura

Vapaura used Shopify and put together a clean and professional theme for promoting and selling their products. The product page is capable of showing off product options in a way that is easy for the customer to see and navigate.

You can see how these examples get their message across effectively and use great branding and design to express that message. It proves to be welcoming to customers and invites them to explore and find products.

When you are starting your Shopify store and want to pick the right theme for your design, you need to ask yourself about the experience you want to create, the features you want the store to have and how you want products to be displayed. You also want to consider how your competitors approach the design of their websites. Are there features that you want to include that they have? Are there design elements that are similar among several competitors? These are things you should be looking at when evaluating your competition.

When the time comes, enter the Shopify theme store and start going through the many themes and know that there are customization options that can make it your own.

Remember, the design of your website is everything. It is the thing people will see immediately and can be the difference between turning a visitor into a customer.

Did you find this set of tips on Shopify design helpful? Continue to check back on the Genius eCommerce blog for more updates, news, tips and trends. Or send us a message about what you’d like to see in one of our next articles. This is who we are and what we do!

BigCommerce vs. Shopify: Choosing the Right eCommerce Store for You

Which eCommerce platform is right for you? There is no correct answer, it all depends on your unique, individual needs. But before you commit to an eCommerce platform, you want to make sure you are choosing the best option.

BigCommerce and Shopify are the two leading eCommerce platforms in the industry. Both platforms offer complete eCommerce solutions, customization of your store and management services. However, both platforms do have their differences, which is why you should take into consideration the features of each platform before choosing one to start your eCommerce store.

We’ve put together a comparison of the two platforms, their features and more:

Shopify puts the focus on the design of your eCommerce store, offering a great user experience and a diverse amount of themes to choose from within their library. Shopify’s user experience is very similar to WordPress, good for users who have used web-based tools in the past.

Users can also build stores around custom themes by piecing together Shopify’s themes or using a free theme within the platform. There are also premium themes available for purchase. Many of Shopify’s themes are created by third-party designers, giving the platform a strong ecosystem of designers and developers.

Shopify comes with the essential tools for managing an eCommerce store, including the ability to manage inventory, set pricing and taxes, customize shipping settings and showcase specific products. There are also additional features that will deepen marketing functions, SEO, and analytics tools. All of these features are available through the Shopify App Store, home to more than 500 apps to help add additional functions to any store.

BigCommerce, however, also puts an emphasis on store design with their platform. BigCommerce is a slightly newer platform – launched in 2009 as compared to Shopify which launched in 2006 – and has taken a more unique approach to the user experience within their platform. While Shopify is based on many of the web tools that users are typically familiar with, BigCommerce expands on this by adding more customization to basic tasks. For example, a user may have to go through a more detailed process to add a product to their store, but this process will include additional advanced options for users who want more detail and customization. One example of this more detailed customization is adding multiple, different images that change when customers select specific options.

Like Shopify, BigCommerce has an extensive theme library with free and premium options. While BigCommerce does not have as many themes as Shopify, the quality of the themes stands out and include the capabilities of responsive design and mobile browsing.

BigCommerce’s customization features stand out over Shopify’s more standard theme setup. Additional features with BigCommerce themes include built-in shipping quotes, gift certificates, product reviews and basic email marketing tools. Like Shopify, BigCommerce also has additional capabilities that can be added through an App Store; however, Shopify’s App Store is larger and provides more options.

So which platform is the better choice? Again, there is no correct answer. Both platforms have similar features and customization options to fit merchants’ needs.

If you are looking for a platform that has a great support system built around designers and developers, Shopify is probably the choice for you. With a greater range of themes, apps and a team of designers and developers, Shopify also has a simpler user interface that makes it easy for merchants to add products and set up options.

If you are looking for more detailed customization and to be heavily involved in the fine details of your store, BigCommerce is probably the better option. BigCommerce is a newer platform with more advanced features and functionality that users can get without having to utilize an App Store. BigCommerce also has a support system of designers and developers, like Shopify, but the platform is not as mature as Shopify and puts a greater focus on coding rather than a basic user interface.

Whether you are looking for a simple user experience or more customization, both Shopify and BigCommerce are leading eCommerce platforms because of their many features, themes and support.

Looking for more information about BigCommerce, Shopify and other eCommerce platforms? Continue reading the Genius eCommerce blog for updates, trends and news.

Platform Review: Is Shopify Plus Right for Enterprise Businesses?

One particularly pernicious rumor has attached itself to Shopify’s name for a long time. The myth that it’s a platform only for small and medium sized businesses. One-person operations, and Etsy stores with big ideas. I believed it myself once, but it’s not true. Shopify Plus is a hosted enterprise eCommerce platform aimed at businesses doing 1 million dollars or more per year. It hosts some of the world’s largest and most recognizable brands, like Tesla, Budweiser, and GE.

If you represent a midmarket to large eCommerce business, and are looking for a new home, you probably have a few options on your plate. Maybe you’ve heard the aforementioned myth, and you may be under the impression that Shopify isn’t in the running. I’d like to explain why that shouldn’t be the case, and what kind of online store might be a great fit for Shopify Plus.

 

Your Specialization Does not Lie In IT:

Every business has a comparative advantage. Something your team does best, whether that be marketing, product development, customer relations, etc. Every minute your team members are working on tasks which are not their specialty, you’re paying that opportunity cost, in addition to whatever other resources you’re using.

A SaaS, or hosted, platform like Shopify can help you save on that opportunity cost by making sure your team doesn’t spend too much time focusing on things that are not their strength. SaaS platforms take care of your hosting, security, PCI compliance and other elements of the day to day messiness of running a website. Shopify has a 99.99% uptime rate, and you’ll have a dedicated Shopify Plus account manager, should the system give you any trouble. This is the main advantage of a hosted system. They don’t give you as much freedom to customize as self-hosted solutions, but they allow your team to focus on their strengths rather than load-testing servers and fixing checkout bugs.

Shopify Plus Review

You Need a Robust API Integration

Regular Shopify accounts do have the ability for API integration, but on Shopify Plus you’ll have the power to make more API calls faster. Shopify Plus clients are given access to 5x greater throughput of APIs, as compared to customers on regular Shopify plans. Shopify Plus stores also get access to exclusive API calls including the Gift Card API, and Single Sign On & Multipass API for login and migration.

Shopify also has built in plugins for plenty of third party providers that would otherwise require a custom integration, like Netsuite and SAP. In fact, of all the hosted providers, Shopify may have the most thriving ecosystem of more than 1,300 third party plugins and apps to choose from.

 

You are Growing an International Brand

This is where Shopify Plus truly shines, in comparison to it’s hosted brethren. In addition to your original, Shopify Plus will give you 9 clone stores for alternate languages and currencies. This allows you to deploy sites for international markets quickly and easily. Shopify Plus is the only hosted platform to offer this.

If price is no object, Magento is still a more powerful option for an international brand. It allows you to customize one site to switch back and forth between language options dynamically. However, this customization is not cheap to develop. Shopify includes your clone stores with its monthly rate. Keep in mind though, this means you have to manage multiple stores. So if you update the main domain, don’t forget to change the clones too.

 

You Like Predictable Pricing:

Pricing for Shopify Plus starts at $2,000 per month. That’s not peanuts, but it is pretty much the going rate when compared with other enterprise level options. Take Magento for example, where you have to buy a yearly license. For Magento 2, that license starts at $22K, which works out to $1,833.33 per month. BigCommerce keeps their enterprise pricing a little more close to the vest, but they’re usually in the same neighborhood.

The Shopify Plus rate can go up depending on your volume, but once you sign on, pricing stays constant month in and month out. When you compare that to hosting fees, and keeping a web developer on the payroll, $2,000 per month starts to look pretty sweet.

 

You Want a Little More Freedom on the Checkout Page:

Anybody who’s worked with a SaaS eCommerce platform in the past will tell you that, when it comes to customization, the cart page and checkout pages are kept under the tightest lock and key. Hosted platforms, because they have more skin in the game than open source systems, have a vested interest in making sure you don’t do anything too crazy, or shady, to your checkout page.

Simply look at Shopify store on a standard account to get an idea. Merchants are limited to adding a logo, custom colors, some conversion tracking script, and that’s about it. But Shopify Plus merchants have a lot more freedom. Shopify Plus stores have a checkout which is fully customizable when it comes to aesthetics, and even elements of the checkout process itself. However, Shopify will always recommend that you use the checkout process that they’ve tested and optimized for conversion.

Shopify Plus Review

You Are Established Brand Looking to Test Something New:

Shopify Plus is a great fit for a ton of enterprise businesses, but not all. Stores with massive numbers of SKUs, or complex product bundles with a lot of product options, are probably better off somewhere else. However, that doesn’t mean that big brands with their main store on Demandware or Mangeto, don’t still have use for a hosted solution like Shopify Plus.

Often when a larger company wants to launch a proof of concept for a new brand or product, they need a site for it that can go up more quickly easily and cheaply. After all, this is just a test, no need to sink a bunch of resources into this project before you know it will work. That’s where SaaS comes in.

A hosted platform like Shopify Plus already has most for the development work taken care of for you. That means you don’t have to commit as many development resources to the new site. The site can also get up a lot quicker. A Shopify Plus site can be up in as little as a few weeks, where it make take a few months or more to develop out an on-premise site. Brands like Budweiser have used Shopify Plus in this way to test out the market for their branded Red Lights.

 

If you’ve recognized your own business in any of the sections above, Shopify may be a better fit for you than you might think. Hosted platforms are quicker, more agile and cheaper than open source solutions, while still packing a powerful functionality punch. Of course, I recommend you contact an eCommerce professional before you make any big decisions regarding the eCommerce arm of your business. If you were to call me with any of the above requirements, you can bet Shopify Plus would be part of our conversation.

A Beginner’s Venture into the World of eCommerce

So you want to build an online store? With the overflowing number of options nowadays, I know it can seem like a daunting task to figure out where to begin. Lucky for you, I decided to get my feet wet with BigCommerce, Shopify, and Volusion – the three biggest eCommerce platforms. By building my own online store on each of their platforms, I’ve experienced what you’re about to go through – and here’s what I’ve learned.  

 

BigCommerce:

The second you create your store (filling in basic information like your name, the store name, what you’re selling, etc.), BigCommerce is there for you with a tutorial going over different functionalities of the site. They also list out a set of steps to help you get started, so that’s nice. First item on the list – adding products!

 

The ‘Add a Product’ page is pretty self-explanatory, you just enter in the product name, price, and description. Beyond that, there are many other optional fields to specify your product. BigCommerce has a feature called Categories, which helps users find products they’re looking for and group similar products together. There are preset categories when you start, but you can always delete those if they don’t align with what you’re selling and create your own. They also offer an option for pre-orders, if you want certain products to have orders placed on them before they’re available. You can easily add photos and videos of the product, as well as whether you want it to be visible on Google Shopping. The bar towards the top of the page lists out many other ways to customize your product. Once you click on a specific item (let’s say Bulk Pricing, for example), BigCommerce walks you through the process of setting it up!

Different options under Add A Product

 

Next up, ‘Customizing your Online Store’ allows you to select from a variety of themes, which essentially determines how your store will look to the people that visit your site. As an avid iPhone user, I appreciate the fact that all their themes are mobile responsive, meaning they’ll fit to the screen of any device you’re using (phones, tablets, etc.). I’ll be honest, however, BigCommerce’s selection of free themes is quite limited. The few options there were not bad, just your average website templates. There are more themes that you could pay for and they range from $100 – $250. Overall, the themes are relatively modern and easily customizable for any store, so I had no trouble finding one that fit the sleek, simple look I was going for.

This was the theme I ended up choosing for my store

The themes in BigCommerce give you the option of customizing certain aspects such as the background color, border colors, text colors, hover colors, and much more. These adjustments require no coding knowledge, they’re simply adjusted in the Theme Editor.

 

After creating products, choosing a theme, and customizing it, BigCommerce then gets you ready to ship your products. In the Shipping Manager, you can add a shipping address and manage shipping zones. Shipping zones allow you to edit the rates depending on how far your customer is. You’re also exposed to the different add-ons that BigCommerce is compatible with, such as ShipperHQ and ShipStation. These add-ons offer additional functionality beyond the scope of the BigCommerce platform. BigCommerce offers many more as well, but we can get into that later.

This is what the Shipping page looks like – notice the Advanced Shipping Rules that you can install

 

Now, onto setting up payments. BigCommerce makes this super easy for you because they automatically accept any major credit card or debit card and PayPal – all you have to do is complete the setup. Clicking the button takes you to the PayPal powered by Braintree site, which allows you to create your account and start accepting payments.

Now that you’ve gotten the logistics of your store set up, it’s time to review and launch! BigCommerce always gives you the option to update and add new products as well as change the theme of your store, so you have the flexibility to go back and change things at any time. The final step before officially launching your store is to change the domain name. By default, BigCommerce will assign your store a something.mybigcommerce.com domain, however, you should change this by going to Account Settings → Account Summary → [Your Store Name] → Change Domain Name. Having a simple, unique domain name will help draw visitors to your site.

 

And there you have it! After launch, your store is up and running. Now, your dashboard probably looks a bit different than it did before – rather than the Getting Started list, you should see your store performance, statistics, and orders. BigCommerce keeps track of these for you. You can also explore the sidebar on the left and see what other functionalities BigCommerce offers.

BigCommerce automates a lot of the logistical processes for you – such as keeping track of your orders, registered customers, and inventory. This allows you to focus on making your store what you want it to be, without worrying about the cumbersome technical side. It gives you the tools that you need for different marketing campaigns, from banners for promoting discounts, to abandoned cart notifications. It also provides analyses of how your store is doing by recording orders, revenue, customers, visits, and top products. Not only is BigCommerce a way to build your store, but it also helps you grow your business. Its insights will allow you to optimize your products to generate the most revenue.

 

As your store grows, your business’s needs may change. This is why BigCommerce offers many different add-ons to support tasks that would facilitate changes in your business. ShipperHQ and ShipStation, the two that I mentioned before, were both add-ons that provided more flexibility to control shipping rates. There are add-ons for inventory management (particularly when your sales are coming from multiple channels), customer relationship management, marketing, and more. These features allow for endless growth and feasible management of your store, so your needs are always accounted for.

 

Overall, BigCommerce made setting up an online store easy and painless. The steps were straightforward and they made it clear what to do. The categories option for products is really useful, because it helps you sort through the products you’re selling and makes it clearer for customers when they’re browsing your site. I personally liked the themes BigCommerce offered, although the selection was very small. They allowed you to preview the theme right away, because by default it includes many sample products and text. This is great for seeing what the store would look like, but annoying when it comes to customizing your site because you have to delete all of the excess information. The shipping and payment steps were simple – it’s convenient because BigCommerce calculates and handles everything for you. The biggest issue with BigCommerce, in my opinion, is the default text, images, and categories. Not only is it a pain to go through and delete these, but it also makes it difficult to find the pages and add content for your own store. Despite this, I would say BigCommerce is an easy-to-use store-builder that comes with a plethora of features and resources to help your store succeed, all it takes is a little bit of patience.

 

Platform 1 down, 2 more to go.

 

Shopify:

Another easy initial setup – your name, store name, and address, and voilà you’re in! Shopify, much like BigCommerce, welcomes you with a list of things to do. First things first, add a product!

 

The page to add a product is straightforward; add a title, description, image, price, dimensions, and you’re good to go. There are other options to add details to your item such as inventory SKU, barcodes, and variants (if the product comes in different sizes or colors). You can also preview the search engine listing which is extremely helpful in boosting your website’s SEO and attracting more customers. Shopify’s version of categories is called Collections, and you can sort your products into different ones in order to find them with more ease.  

The next step is the same as building with BigCommerce; it’s time to choose the design of your website. Shopify has its own Theme Shop, where you can browse through many themes, preview them, read reviews about them, and click on real shops that implement them. This comprehensive system ensures that you’ll find the right theme for your store. One downside is that Shopify has just about the same amount of free themes as BigCommerce does – not very many. That being said, all of Shopify’s free themes could be implemented and function as well as the paid themes; they’re all quite modern and visually pleasing. Shopify also gives you the option to edit the themes using code, with one catch: they use their own programming language called Liquid. This makes it annoying if you just want to change one small thing in a theme, because you would have to seek out someone who knows Liquid, which is definitely fewer than those versed in HTML & CSS.

 

After choosing a theme, the next item on Shopify’s Getting Started list is to add a domain name to strengthen your brand. By default, Shopify gives you a storename.myshopify.com domain, however, you should buy a different domain name for a more professional feel (nobody wants .myshopify in their domain!). Purchasing a domain name through Shopify starts at about $13 USD per year. It’s nice that Shopify makes changing the domain name a priority because it’s one of the most important parts of the business – it’s how customers will remember and reach the store.

 

Shopify’s next point is to “Find more ways to sell with Shopify sales channels”. These options include selling in person with Shopify’s POS, selling on Facebook, and adding products on an existing website. This is helpful for those who have a store already up and running – not so much for people who just started out. However, it’s good to know about the options for later on when the business grows. Shopify also links blog posts from their website in order to help you get started and expand your business. While BigCommerce was more concerned with the logistical setup, Shopify invests its time in giving you the support for your long term store needs. Nonetheless, it still offers you a straightforward initial setup.

 

Shipping options are very similar to those in BigCommerce’s platform. You enter in your address and the rates are calculated at checkout. You have the option to add shipping zones as well, and Shopify gives you discounted prices for paying for shipping labels from USPS.

 

Payment with Shopify is also relatively simple; they have their own payment system that accepts credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal. Again, all you have to do is complete the account setup and you’re ready to receive payments!

After the initial store setup, Shopify allows you to track your orders, products and customers (similar to BigCommerce). They also offer integration with third-party apps to support more in depth and comprehensive functions. These features include drop shipping with apps such as Oberlo and Printful, marketing insights from Privy and Smile.io, and boosting social media presence with InstaGalleries and SocialShopWave. There’s also an option for a Buy Button, which essentially turns any existing website  into a store by allowing users to purchase items from it. Within Shopify, however, you can view your reports of sales, customer behavior, finances and acquisition. This will offer insight on your customers and ultimately help your business grow.

 

All in all, Shopify is a comprehensive eCommerce platform that is perfect for those just starting out. Setting up the online shop was not difficult, and Shopify provides you with the resources to help you expand – from easily integrating with social media platforms, to sending you helpful blog posts about where to start. Shopify’s theme store is also quite impressive because it shows each and every one of the themes they offer in depth, and provide reviews and examples of it fully implemented. In addition, Shopify’s search bar is especially handy when you’re stuck or can’t find what you’re trying to do. It searches through all the settings and options so you can easily accomplish whatever your goal is. (BigCommerce’s one on the other hand only searches through your orders, customers and products). Shopify and BigCommerce are very similar, but I think with all the extra support and resources, I would have to pick Shopify over BigCommerce.

 

Now, adding a third platform to the mix.

 

Volusion:

After the first two, I thought I had this whole ‘building an online store’ thing down. Leave it to Volusion to catch me off guard. Immediately after signing up, I expected to see some sort of task list that would have me add a product first; instead, I’m greeted with “Welcome! Pick a theme to get started!”. Volusion offers you a selection of ten free themes or the option to ‘Get a Custom Design’, which starts a window to have a conversation with a Volusion representative. The themes are comparable to those of Shopify and BigCommerce, and seem to work well with almost any store. Next, Volusion asks you to upload a logo or enter in a text logo (which is nice for those just beginning on their eCommerce journey). The text logo then pops up at the top of the screen – where a logo would be.

 

After those two steps is when Volusion finally asks you to add some products. They only allow you to add 3 products at first, so you can focus on customizing the storefront and seeing what the display of products would look like. Later on, you’ll have the option to add more products or import them in bulk. Regarding site customization, Volusion definitely gives you the most flexibility about what you want to change in the theme, but it’s a little frustrating and unintuitive. The way the platform is set up allows you to enter what you want certain fields to be on the left side, and preview what it would look like on the site on the right side. Some of the fields I entered in, such as Banner Text, Sub Text and Button Text, don’t appear directly in the preview, which is annoying because then I can’t see what I’m changing. Regardless, I appreciate having that option, as well as the ability to change the navigation of the site. Volusion’s navigation largely depends on the different categories the products are in, so you then have the option to specify the categories you want (i.e. shoes, clothes, bags, etc.).

 

When these basic steps are over, you’re asked to choose a plan in order to get ready to sell. They assure you that your 14 day trial is still free (in case you still haven’t decided whether or not to commit to the platform). The plans start from $15.00 a month, which includes everything you would need to begin your eCommerce business. The most expensive and comprehensive one is $135.00 a month, and is tailored toward larger businesses with priority support and a dedicated account manager. Volusion lays out all of the options for you, so you know what you’re getting into before you make a commitment.


Choosing one of the plans will take you to a page that ties up a few loose ends – asking you about things like whether or not you have a domain name and whether you want to purchase an SSL certificate. Shopify and BigCommerce both include an SSL certificate in the subscription, however, Volusion does not. An SSL certificate is important because it makes sure that information submitted to the website is kept secure by encrypting it when it’s transferred. Volusion requires that you purchase one before you can start accepting credit card orders.

 

Setting up purchases is one of the more complex aspects of Volusion compared to Shopify and BigCommerce. Not only do you need an SSL certificate, but you also need to set up a Payment Gateway. This gateway ensures the secure transfer of payment between the merchant and the acquiring bank. Volusion helps you through the process of configuring one, so don’t worry.

 

Volusion offers a lot of behind the scenes support – from marketing to sales reports. It’s a robust platform that is suited for any of your business needs. There are options for you depending on what products your business sells. For example, if you’re selling downloadable products, Volusion gives you the option to create and manage products keys in order to keep them secure. In addition, Volusion helps you with return on investment tracking, social media marketing, SEO, and more. The options to utilize those programs are there, however, it’s up to you to figure them out and make them work. Volusion has a support staff that is there to help, but the website won’t explain everything or walk you through.

 

Overall, I would say Volusion is the least-beginner friendly of all 3 platforms. It offers the same basic setup as the other two – choosing a theme, customizing it, adding products. It gives you a wide range of options in order to help the success of your business, however, it requires a bit of digging and playing around with it on your part. Setting up the payment system also requires some patience, as not everything is included with the monthly subscription (like it is with Shopify and BigCommerce). This platform is definitely more suited for medium to larger sized companies, and it’s probably better to have prior experience with eCommerce before tackling it.

 

That’s it for the 3 platforms! Here’s a head to head (to head) comparison if I lost you in some of that

While you can’t go wrong with any of these options, I would recommend Shopify for those of you just starting out. It was easy to use, and includes all the features that you need to launch your store. In addition, the sheer number of businesses using Shopify means that you’ll have an extremely large community of users behind you to help. That being said, each of these platforms has its own strengths and weaknesses, so the best fit for you will depend on your store. Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion all have free trials, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try them all out and see which one you like best. Coming from someone who had no prior experience with eCommerce, it wasn’t all that bad! In fact, it was actually quite fun. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and start your own online business!

 

Getting Started with Your Shopify Website: Your “Going Live” Checklist

Guide to Launching a Shopify Website

After you’ve completed your design, put in your content, and installed all the apps and features that you want, what’s left to do before launching your Shopify website? This checklist takes you step-by-step through all the details you should handle and double check before officially launching your store.

Products

When you are going through your “Going Live” checklist for products on your Shopify website, your primary point of focus will be your inventory and product descriptions. First, check that your inventory levels are where you want them to be. Then, take a look at your product descriptions. Do products have the correct tax status applied to them? Do your products (if applicable) have correct weights? Do you need to add any images to specify variety within products? Do your products have optimized and non-duplicate meta information? Have you determined your gift card and discount policies? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then your products are all set.

Customers

This section is geared towards eCommerce business owners who have migrated their data to a Shopify website from a previous eCommerce platform. This can include customer data, so if you’ve changed eCommerce platforms, make sure you’ve imported previous customer groups. If you choose to do so, you can create customer groups for further organization.

Blog

If you are planning on having blog content on your site, double check that all the content to be listed is available. Then, there are a couple decisions you have to make in regards to your blog. Do you want customers to be able to comment? Have you added any featured images for your blogs? Do your blogs have unique meta information?

Content Pages

Content pages are an important resource for customers to find information on your business background as well as your business policies. Do you have an about us page? Do you have a contact us page (with an embedded contact form)? Do you have an FAQ and Terms and Conditions Page? Do you have a Shipping and Returns page? These are the most important content pages to include, but you should also double check that any sample or test pages that were used as filler in website development are deleted.

Themes

Before launching your Shopify website, you need to prepare your theme and content associated with it. First, make a backup and then also create a duplicate “test theme.” Another important tip is to add in language translations as a feature to your theme.

Website Navigation

Navigation is a critical feature on any website, not just an eCommerce website. It’s what allows the customer to easily move through the site from one page to another, and so before you take your Shopify eCommerce store live, double check that all of your navigation pages are working. So, make sure that your primary, secondary, and drop-down navigation menus are all available and working properly.

Payments, Checkout, Shipping, and Taxes

Before you launch your live website, Shopify fills in a testing payment option. So the first step to take is to determine your primary and secondary payment options, and also determine whether you want to add any manual payment options (paying offline).

Shopify’s checkout settings gives you a variety of options to choose how much information is given to and taken from the customer during checkout. In order to complete this part of the checklist, you need to determine which fields are required for customer checkout. You also will be prompted to determine what settings will be in place for abandoned cart emails, as well as making sure that refunding and privacy statements will be available.

Your comprehensive shipping plan needs to cover the following things: your shipping zones, what carrier you want to use, what shipping rates you prefer, and how to calculate shipping rates (based on weight or price). If you know there are times you will be offering free shipping, determine that now. Also, make sure your shipping label settings are complete and correct.

There are a handful of settings to determine for taxes. Do you want them added to the product price or added separately? Do you need to charge taxes on shipping? Are there tax overrides/exemptions for certain products or customers?

General Settings

This section is just small housekeeping details. First, make sure your images are optimized for your Shopify website. This will help your website performance and keep the images from slowing down the speed. Then, make sure your website’s homepage meta information is updated and grammatically correct. After that, make sure that you have inputted your Google Analytics account information into your Shopify information so that it can start collecting data as soon as your website goes live.

If you went through this comprehensive list and was able to check all the boxes complete, then you are all set to launch your business. After you go live with your Shopify website, it’s time to start watching your wallet grow. Did you find this article helpful or interesting? Share this to your social media and spread the word about Genius eCommerce!

Comparing the Customer Experience of the Top eCommerce Platforms: Magento vs BigCommerce vs Volusion vs Shopify vs Opencart

Which One is Right For Your Company: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, OpenCart?

As the number of eCommerce businesses continues to multiply, so does the number of platforms offering sales solutions. Even for businesses that have utilized one eCommerce platform or another in the past, sorting through the latest options and technological improvements can be overwhelming.

One of the most important considerations is the end user experience. It is crucial for an eCommerce platform to be a successful software solution for your business. To assist with your evaluation of the top eCommerce platforms available today, we provide an in-depth guide on how Magento, BigCommerce, Volusion, Shopify, and Opencart provide the customer experience, and how this could impact your success.

What Matters to Your Customers

bigcommerce magento

Turning browsing into sales is one of the backbones of any successful business, but compared to a brick and mortar store, the customer experienced with eCommerce is radically different. This changes customer expectations, needs, and wants in ways that must be carefully considered and addressed by a good eCommerce business.

When shopping online customers say they want organization, a design that reflects the products, and  an intuitive purchasing process. A platform that allows your business to interact with customers in a manner that fits these needs is essential. So, how do the top platforms stack up?

Diversity of Design Options

For any eCommerce business, the best marketing material is a great website. In many ways your website will formulate the cornerstone of branding and identity for the entire business. Your website is your store, and it should be given the same attention and thought as any physical space.

The content management systems of some top eCommerce platforms are thankfully straightforward. Opencart is focused on simplifying the design process. There is a small library of themes to choose from and certain customizations for branding and creating feel. When you look at Opencart vs Magento or BigCommerce, it is apparent that there is a big gap between capabilities for designing your unique site.

Shopify and BigCommerce are the two major players in terms of customization. Both platforms allow users to develop a unique design through built-in software. There are options to customize the layout, heading, color scheme, text, and typography. Shopify’s approach is similar to website development softwares, such as WordPress. There are a large range of themes, which means a new business could develop a layout and look that is different from competitors. However, Shopify focused on making the front-end development simple for users, which places some limits on customization.

In contrast, BigCommerce can be more cumbersome to learn and manage, but the range of options is greater. This eCommerce platform gives businesses a lot of control over the ultimate website. Volusion, on the other hand, relies heavily on its library of themes, rather than individual changes to coding, to please users and end users. The goal of this extensive library is to provide a theme for any type of online vendor.

Payment and Checkout Process

There is nothing worse for a seller than when a customer decides to make a purchase, but is overwhelmed or frustrated by the checkout process. Therefore, ensuring the eCommerce platform you choose has the right payment gateways is essential to converting sales. Perhaps the most important aspect is offering credit card capability and PayPal, which all of the top eCommerce platforms are now able to do.

BigCommerce is integrated with a number of the largest payment gateways. Through this platform you can offer your customers the option of Paypal, Orbital Payment Gateway by Chase Paymentech, Worldpay, Braintree, Stripe, Authorize.Net. This is one of the more extensive integration possibilities. Shopify vs Magento reveals that these platforms offer a similar number of payment gateways, which translates to a similar number of payment option.

Volusion and Opencart are not without options. Volusion provides the option of Authorize.Net, Paypal, and Amazon Payments, among others. The ability to integrate with Amazon Payments can be particularly valuable, because other big players, Shopify and BigCommerce, do not have this capability. Lastly, spent a lot of time evaluating hosted and non-hosted payment gateways, fee structures, and security of payment gateways in order to provide a robust offering to users (and ultimately end users).

Shopping from Anywhere

One of the biggest changes in eCommerce in recent years is the number of end users who are initiating and finalizing purchases through their smartphones or tablets. An  eCommerce platform needs to provide a fully responsive, such that customers are just as enticed by the layout, design, and branding on a phone, as on a laptop.

Shopify is among the most well known eCommerce platforms, but Magento has become the most widely used. This is due in part to its ability to translate your website from computer screen to phone screen. The company spent significant time on mobile-friendly SEO and creating designs that will translate on any device. When it comes to Magento vs Shopify, in terms of responsive design, Magento with its attention to detail is the clear winner.

However, another important comparison is between Magento, BigCommerce, and Volusion. Both Magento and BigCommerce are clearly designed for more complex vendors, as noted by the additional options and number of responsive designs. Volusion offers far fewer fully responsive themes, which can be a detriment for certain vendors, but for new businesses or those appealing to an older customer base it might not matter.

The Best Platform for End Users?

Ultimately, the best platform for end users is a business specific decision. There is not a single platform that does everything perfectly, and what works for one fashion boutique may be a hinderance for another. For instance, one business may be heavily invested in the customization of their website and branding, while another business finds that a more simplistic layout and design adequately reflects the vendor and leads to more sales. Yet, when you keep your target end user in mind, you are likely to land on an eCommerce platform that will help you meet new sales goals.

What eCommerce platform do you think best provides the best options for keeping your customers engaged and turning sales? Let us know in the comments!