I know it’s been a loooong while since I published Q&A Friday, and I have to apologize for my overzealousness in announcing this series BEFORE I went to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, where the Internet is a crappy, crappy thing. When it’s exceedingly hot, humid, and mosquitoes descend upon you the moment you are still for 2 minutes – well this makes blogging really tough. And just when I was all energized and motivated to get back to Green Marketing TV upon my return, I had to deal with this.
But enough with the excuses. This question is from Green Marketing TV reader John Lightfoot, who is interested in setting up an SEO friendly e-commerce site to sell energy saving light bulbs on the cheap. I did some research and put out the question to my awesome community of Internet entrepreneurs, and here’s what I found.
Magento came up a lot in the community discussion thread. A lot of people seem to like it. Howevier, it is massive and not user friendly. It’s SEO friendly only if you restructure the code. Though well coded, and well supported by its large user community, Magento is a complex platform to configure, good Magento developers charge a lot, though cheaper developers are definitely out there. If you care a DIY kind of person, you can customize it yourself with some HTML/CSS/ minor PHP knowledge and Ebay recently purchased Magento, so you know it’s going to be around. Magento offers subscription based downloadable software solutions that start at $3000 / year, as well as a turnkey hosted solution called Magento Go, which starts at $15/ month.
Shopify came up as a great hosted solution, for those of you who needs something up fast, and don’t want to get into a software development project. It’s fully customizable, designed with SEO in mind, integrates with 50 payment gateways, has 128 bit SSL encryption, and what’s great – they install the online store for you. Shopify pricing is a subscription model based on the number of SKUs you have. A basic store is a mere $29 a month, with a 2% transaction fee, which is definitely compelling if you are a bootstrapping, time starved entrepreneur.
I have to give a big shout out to SEO Expert Jamie Marsden for this fantastic roundup:
WordPress – Its not what its build for, so your reliant on other peoples plugins. If those plugin developers decide that there is more money in iPhone apps they’ll drop support for there product and your hosed after 3 years of building a business around their software. Plus why build a business on a donkey when there is thoroughbreds out there that will do a better job.
Drupal – Its bad code, you need a developer as its written in a language that nobody out side the planet of zorb understands. Those people from zorb are expensive and hard to find which just leads to problems waiting to happen. Just ask people who had that platform in the past, they all have the same story, “Got such‘n’such problem, took me a week to find somebody to fix it”, in ecommerce terms thats death valley.
Magento – Its massive. It literally took me 15 minutes to load it up to a dedicated VPS server 30 miles down the road. Its not SEO friendly unless you do some serious restructuring of the code. You’ll only ever use 25% of the features, but you have to carry the weight of the system around, which doesn’t fit into what Google is saying about light system files. Its hard to use and the instructions look like a delhi phone directory.
On the up side the community around Magento is excellent and by far the biggest so getting answers quickly and easily is a big plus. The down side to that is Magento creators won’t deal with you if your not using an enterprise version which to my understanding is about $10,000 and thats a big investment for a platform that starting to look a little dated if you ask me.
Shopify – Its great, works right out of the box. Its build on Ruby so finding people to work on it is easy and there are some nice looking themes on Themeforest and other theme providers. The set up is very web 2.0 user friendly…. fill in this box…… fill in that box…. bang there’s your ecommerce store.
The big draw back is that its a hosted platform. Which means your stuck with them forever……?????. Even if you leave to move to a self hosted platform at a later date they won’t let you 301 redirect over to your new store. Which means that the only way that you can do it re-brand at a later date and redirect your old domain over to the new one…. major draw back.
Its sold as a SEO friendly platform, which it isn’t at all. There are many threads on there forum about how people don’t seem to see any benefit from the links they are building. This is because you can’t control your site, you don’t get access to the source code, so there is no on page SEO at all.
Opencart – I like OpenCart as it works well and gives you complete control, something that I always want in any kind of platform. Its a bit like Magento before Magento discovered Mcdonalds and Pizza Hut and got fat. There is a ever growing community of people who are making problem solving modules like cross selling and language translators which you can buy for $10 or so.
There is also a good amount of books that you can use for reference which is always a good sign when it comes to open source platforms.
LemonStand - LemonStand is the new kid on the block and in my opinion the future player.
Its a bit like wordpress in the way that it is coded. They have taken the PHP (the shop side) and separated it from the Html and CSS which means that you truly have complete control over how your source code is working.
They have integrated:
* Stock management
* Support Platform
* Custom Branding
* Supplier Management
* Customer Management
* List Management
* Logistical control
* Detailed Analytics
* Source code access
* One Click Upgrade
* Revenue Tracking
* + a’Whole bunch of other stuff
All directly in to the back-end. Its easy to use and by far the most complete platform on the market to day. Its cheap, self hosted, out of the box SEO friendly and a general joy to work with for yourself and your clients.
Out of all the systems I’ve used over the years this is the one I get least amount of support questions about, which to me speaks volumes. Its only down fall is that because its new the community around it is small. This week they launched out there new marketplace which is a good sign that they are moving forward with building that side of their product up.
If your looking for a platform that works well and is going to be as future proof as a software platform can be LemonStand is the way to go.
Thanks so much to Lewis Quartey of E-Commerce Nerds, Rasmus Lindgren, Patrick Hitches, Mike Stankovich, Milosh Leonardo Zorica, John Lander, Chris Gormly, Bobbie Floerchinger and Chris of My Egg Noodles for your contribution to the discussion on best SEO friendly eCommerce solutions.
Do you have an e-commerce platform you love that isn’t on this list? If you have any familiarity with these platforms or have additional suggestions, please let us know in the comments below!