Setting up an e-commerce website on any platform takes a significant amount of time and effort. No matter how easy a platform is to set up, they all have administrative control panels that have a unique structure for adding categories, products, and prices. For many people, Shopify is an e-commerce option that looks deceptively easy.
In recent years, Shopify has become a popular choice, powering more than 500,000 businesses in 175 countries around the world. Although, a platform’s popularity doesn’t equal a merchant’s success, as many Shopify users are beginning to find out. With extremely high fees, inflexible payment processing requirements, and designs that can’t be easily customized, business owners are looking for other solutions.
There’s one solution that’s always been an option, though it’s been pushed to the backburner in light of the demands for a hands-off approach to e-commerce. That solution is Magento. Not only has it been around longer than Shopify, but it’s also more powerful and doesn’t leave business owners frustrated.
You might be opposed to switching from one platform to another since you’ll most likely need to rebuild your product catalog from scratch. That’s understandable. Given the long-term benefits of moving to Magento, it’s worth the effort to migrate. The longer you wait, the harder it will be later on.
If you’ve jumped into using Shopify without understanding its limitations, here are several good reasons to move to Magento sooner than later:
Magento is an open-source platform; Shopify is closed
The biggest difference between Shopify and Magento lies in the ability to access the source code and customize it. Shopify is a closed platform with templates written in a proprietary language that can’t be customized at the root. Shopify used Ruby on Rails to build its template language called Liquid, but you or your website developer will need to learn a new, complex language to customize it.
Magento is built in PHP, one of the most common programming languages there is. Anyone who knows PHP can customize a Magento theme, or create one from scratch.
In Shopify, you can’t access any more than what the developers allow. You can access basic HTML and CSS for your pages, but you can’t get further than that. With Magento, you can access everything.
Inside the Shopify admin panel, you can only customize certain elements with preset options. For example, you can change the color of your theme using preset layouts, adjust minimal typography elements, add your header and footer images, and slightly adjust several other elements. You can’t create your own custom theme from scratch, or customize a basic Shopify theme to your exact specifications.
For an extra fee of $17.99/month, on top of your regular monthly fee of $29-$299/month, Shopify will allow you to customize products in ways that should be available for free. You have to pay to customize products with unlimited options like dropdown menus, text input fields, radio buttons, and checkboxes. You have to pay an extra fee to implement per-option pricing that determines the price of your product based on the options selected (ex: size, color). Without paying this fee, you can’t make bulk changes to products, create option templates for later use, or define fields as optional or required during checkout.
Magento, on the other hand, is fully customizable from top to bottom. Open source software has publicly available source code that can be modified by its users. Most open source software is continually being improved by multiple developers, and new updates are shared with the public.
Open source supporters claim the software is more useful and stable because the creators aren’t concerned with financial gain. The developer community collaborates to fix bugs and improve features from a broader perspective. As developers customize open source software, it helps the creators understand what people want, and they’ll often build those features into the software on the next release. This ensures the software continues to evolve according to what users want. That’s precisely the journey Magento has taken over the years since its first release in 2007, and why it’s packed with features you won’t find with Shopify.
Shopify is bad for SEO
Having limited access to files places severe limitations on your ability to implement basic SEO strategies. If you don’t do your own SEO, you’ll be in for a big surprise when your marketer tells you they can’t help you because you’re using a closed platform.
Here are some of the biggest ways Shopify impedes your ability to implement standard SEO strategies:
- Access to robots.txt is blocked. This file tells search engines which pages to crawl, and which to skip. Unfortunately, you can’t decide which pages should be skipped – Shopify decides that for everyone.With Magento, you can create a custom robots.txt file and instruct the search engine spiders as you please.
- Access to .htaccess files is blocked. Access to the most important configuration file for search engine optimization is blocked by Shopify.With Magento, you have access to and can create .htaccess files as you wish. If you’re not familiar with their use, your developer can create and edit them for you.Every serious e-commerce business owner needs access to their .htaccess files. This is a directory-level configuration file that allows you to override certain server configurations in ways that make your site more visible to search engine spiders. Editing your .htaccess files can give you cleaner, SEO-friendly URLs, turn 404 errors into 301 redirects, and increase the caching capacity of your website, which brings up the next point:
- Shopify doesn’t support browser caching. One of the most important strategies to implement when using a dynamic content management system like Shopify is caching.Since dynamic templates are pieced together on command, pages take more time to load than static HTML.Slow loading pages critically damage your site’s SEO value, so webmasters speed up page load times by caching dynamic web pages (as long as the content doesn’t change often). Visitors are served a static, cached version of those pages rather than dynamically generated pages. Unfortunately, Shopify doesn’t support browser caching.Magento is a dynamic content management system that fully supports browser caching.
- Product pages are difficult to get indexed. Due to the product URL structures for most Shopify themes, search engine spiders can’t find the canonical URL within the normal parameters of your site, outside of the sitemap. This results in product pages not being indexed. There’s a way to fix this, but it requires a lot of work that just isn’t necessary with Magento.
- You don’t get FTP access. If you’ve never had FTP access to your website, you don’t know what you’re missing. Using an FTP client to access, update, and upload your files is faster than messing around with your control panel’s file manager. File managers limit the number of files you can upload/download at once, while FTP allows you to highlight all of your directories to download it at once.A self-hosted, and even most managed installations of Magento will give you FTP access to your site.
Experience the flexibility of Magento in a hosted environment
If you’re looking for a powerful content management system that won’t wall you off from your most critical files, Skylands has several options for Magento hosting that won’t let you down. We can get your Magento site performing at top speed, so you don’t have to worry about losing SEO value. Contact us today to find out how we can help you make the switch.