BigCommerce SEO Review: the Good, the Bad, and What You Need to Do to Optimize Your Site

BigCommerce is one of the most popular ecommerce solutions on the web, and for good reason: it’s easy-to-use, lets you sell anywhere (i.e., go omnichannel), and has great integrations that can extend the capabilities of your store.

The platform also has a lot of things going for it, SEO-wise, as it comes with some solid features to help you rank better in search. That said, BigCommerce is not without its issues, and it has a number of shortcomings that you need to be aware of.  

In this BigCommerce SEO review, we’ll shed light on the key factors (both good and bad) that can affect your site’s Google rankings. If you’re a BigCommerce user or are looking into the solution, be sure to take note.

BigCommerce SEO: The good

Let’s start with the good news. Here are some of the great built-in SEO features of BigCommerce:

Customizable page titles and meta descriptions

BigCommerce makes it incredibly easy to set up and edit all your page titles and descriptions, so you can specify the exact text and blurbs that will show up on SERPs.

Each page type in BigCommerce (i.e. category pages, product pages, web content pages, and blog posts) has a built-in SEO section in which you can enter your desired titles and descriptions.

Automatic 301 redirects

Did you change the name of a product? BigCommerce not only adjusts the URL to reflect the new name automatically, but it also redirects the old URL to the new one to ensure that your customers (and search engines) always encounter the new page.

Editable robots.txt

Unlike other ecommerce platforms, BigCommerce allows you to edit your robots.txt file, should you ever decide to tell crawlers not to index particular parts of your site.

Having the freedom to edit your site’s robots.txt comes in handy in certain cases, particularly when you’re trying to maximize your crawl budget or if you have purposely duplicate content.  

Nested URLs

BigCommerce has nested URLs that clearly indicate the hierarchy of your site’s categories and products. For example, a shoe retailer’s URL structure could be “shoeshop.com/shoes/sneakers”.

This is good for SEO because it allows you to give search engines more context around what your pages are all about. Search engines don’t like lengthy, disorganized URLs, so having a nested structure sends positive signals to crawlers.

Cleaner URLs

On a related note, BigCommerce also lets you have cleaner URLs. Unlike other platforms, which add words like “collection” in the URL, BigCommerce’s URL structure is more succinct.

Again, this is great for SEO because Google doesn't like long URLs with superfluous terms in them.

Built-in microdata

BigCommerce includes microdata or rich snippets in your product pages, so details such as ratings, pricing, and stock levels show up in search results. These rich snippets enhance your listings, and studies have shown that they can also boost click-through rates and conversions. (Note: If you’re planning to take advantage of microdata, make sure your theme is compatible.)

Site-wide HTTPS

The platform offers site-wide HTTPS, which means every page on your site is encrypted. In addition to building trust, switching to https can give your site a minor ranking boost.

BigCommerce SEO: the bad

While BigCommerce has a lot of things going for it in the SEO department, the platform does have a few shortcomings.

Issue #1: Pagination

Pagination (i.e. when one content piece is spread across multiple pages), is a common practice in ecommerce, particularly among merchants with large product catalogs. Pagination can certainly help the user experience, but if implemented poorly, it can cause some SEO issues.

Here’s why:

Duplicate content – When a lengthy page (say a page that contains many products) spans across multiple pages, Google sees several different pages with very similar content. And since search engines don’t like duplicate content, your pagination could send the wrong signals.

Thin content – Chances are, if you paginate, the content on your succeeding pages won’t be as valuable or original as the first page. The problem is when Google crawls these pages, it may consider them as pages containing “thin content,” and penalize you for them.

Pagination can hog search crawlers – Each site has a crawl budget, which Google defines as “the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl.” Your crawl budget is limited, so the last thing you want is to waste it on the low-priority sections of your site.

Having too many paginations could result in Google spending your crawl budget on those pages instead of the more valuable parts of your site.

As Moz.com puts it, “Google will crawl all the pagination pages if you let it. However, the Google crawler bandwidth can have its site crawl limitations. You don't want the crawler to get tied up in paginated pages, especially if the pagination pages do not add any Google indexation value over page one. Increasing the number of categories or items per page can decrease the depth of pagination.”

Resolving your pagination issues

If you’re running into SEO trouble because of pagination, you have a number of options to remedy the situation:

Use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” - According to Google, the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” markup sends a strong signal that you’d like search engines to treat your paginated pages as “as a logical sequence, thus consolidating their linking properties and usually sending searchers to the first page.”

Use canonical tags - Add a canonical tag to your paginations that point to the main page you want to rank for. Canonical tags tell search engines that a specific URL is the "master copy" of a page, so when Google sees the tags, it will recognize that the paginated pages are just versions of your “master” page.

Exclude the pagination parameters in Google Search Console - You can tell Google not to index these pages by excluding the parameter (e.g. “p=1, p=2, etc.”) in Search Console.

Add parameters to robots.txt - Alternatively, you can also add your pagination parameters to robots.txt to tell Google not to crawl those pages.

Issue #2: Filters

If your site enables customers to filter products (i.e. by size, color, price, etc.) you might run into SEO mishaps if Google indexes those filtered URLs. Much like with pagination, the content on filtered pages isn’t exactly unique, so Google might see them as pages containing duplicate or thin content — when in reality, they’re just filtered versions of the same page.

Resolving the issue with auto-indexed filters

If your filters are causing issues with SEO, you can resolve them by using canonical tags, excluding parameters in Search Console, or adding the necessary parameters to robots.txt. (See the previous section for more details on how to implement these steps.)

Issue #3: On-site search results

Issues similar to what we just discussed could also arise if your site has a search feature. Whenever someone runs a search on your site (say “black shoes”), BigCommerce will create a dynamic URL specifically for that search query (i.e. “yoursite.com/search=”black-shoes”).

Problems arise when Google indexes these search pages. Just like with pagination and filters, search results pages could raise red flags because they seemingly contain duplicate or thin content. These pages can also eat up your crawl budget, thus preventing Google to index your higher quality pages.

Resolving this issue

Again, you can get around this issue by taking the steps we talked about earlier. Prevent Google from indexing your search pages either by excluding the necessary parameters in Search Console or including them in your robots.txt file.

Issue #4: 404s instead of 410s

The best way to deal with web pages that are gone for good (e.g. pages for discontinued products) is to use a 410 status code instead of a 404. According to Matt Cutts, Googlebot  treats these codes slightly different; whereas “404 means page not found, 410 typically means gone.”

BigCommerce doesn’t let you create 410 pages, so if you have pages on your site that aren’t coming back, you’ll have to make do with a 404 status code. This isn’t necessarily a major issue, but if you care about SEO nuances, then it is something you’ll want to be aware of.

Additional BigCommerce SEO tips

We’ve provided a lot of BigCommerce insights thus far, but if you need additional advice to keep your SEO ducks in a row, here are some recommendations:

Optimize your site’s speed and performance

Speed and performance matter a great deal in ecommerce. Having a slow and buggy website drives users away and negatively affects your bottom line in the process. According to Kissmetrics, "47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less" and "40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load."

Speed is also a ranking factor for Google (on desktop and most recently on mobile), so failing to optimize your site’s speed and performance can negatively affect your rankings.

How you can you ensure your site loads in a timely manner? Follow these PageSpeed Insights from Google:

  • Avoid landing page redirects
  • Enable compression
  • Improve server response time
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Minify resources
  • Optimize images
  • Optimize CSS Delivery
  • Prioritize visible content
  • Remove render-blocking JavaScript

Work with a developer with experience in Stencil themes

Stencil is BigCommerce's new theming engine. According to the site, it's "a new approach to theme and front-end development on the BigCommerce platform” and it "allows you to create beautiful, dynamic, and powerful storefronts." It has some cool capabilities, including offering merchants multiple variations of the same theme and enabling retailers to customize their site with no coding.

If you have a BigCommerce store or if you’re thinking of using the platform, be sure to choose a developer who’s well-versed in Stencil. Doing so can save you a lot of time and allow you to get up and running more efficiently.

Work with the right SEO experts

If you’re looking to hire SEO professionals to support the marketing strategy of your BigCommerce store, we highly recommend choosing experts who have worked with the solution in the past.

As we noted in this article, BigCommerce has some SEO pros and cons that are specific to the platform. You need someone who knows these advantages and disadvantages to ensure that you site ranks well in search.

The team at DataSauce can help you do just that. So far, we’ve completed over 20 BigCommerce projects, and have successfully carried out 4 site migrations to BigCommerce.

One recent example comes from BedsOnline, one of Australia’s largest retailers of beds, mattresses and furniture.

BedsOnline approached us when they saw a 34% decrease in traffic following a poorly-implemented site migration.

The team here at DataSauce sprung into action to rectify the situation. Here’s what we did:

Identified and fixed broken links - Our in-house SEO experts thoroughly checked the site for broken or misdirected links, and then promptly corrected them.

Corrected problems with missing content - We analyzed the content of the site and found problems such as missing content URL changes that were causing Google to crawl and re-index the content from scratch. To remedy this, we re-created content and reinstated the original URLs.

Built links - We obtained links from prestigious websites such Forbes, including direct links to the site’s “money pages.”

Added fresh content - We also added fresh content of 1,000 words to more than 50 pages of the site to include prominent keywords, to encourage Google to index the new content, improving the site’s ranking.

Looking for SEO help with your BigCommerce site?

If you’re running a BigCommerce website and would like to improve your rankins, get in touch with the DataSauce team to discuss your SEO needs. We’d love to hear from you!

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