Reasons You Should Move From Shopify To Magento Platform

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.

How To Implement WordPress Performance Optimization Effectively

Everybody talks about optimizing your website, but what does that actually mean?

Optimization – it’s not just about SEO

When you read the word “optimization,” you probably think of Search Engine Optimization. The term has been almost branded by SEOs over the years, but optimization isn’t just about getting better rankings – it’s about giving visitors an optimal experience.

Regardless of the type of website you manage, optimization is as vital as air, water, and food. Your website can’t survive without it. Studies show that if a website takes more than a couple seconds to load, they’ll bounce.

There are two main categories of optimization – performance, and security.

Performance optimization

The following optimizations are necessary for top performance:

1. Cache your dynamic content

WordPress serves content dynamically. To construct each page, there must be an interaction with the database to piece it all together. This slows down a website’s performance. However, you can use a plugin to cache dynamic content so that it’s delivered to visitors as static content. To learn more about caching and how to implement it, read The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Caching from At Skylands Networks, we employ the LiteSpeed cache which is specially optimized to work with the LiteSpeed webserver. This gives our users the fastest caching option available.

2. Use load balancing

When your site gets popular or receives an unexpected surge in traffic, load balancing ensures your site doesn’t crash. A load balancer uses an algorithm to distribute incoming traffic as evenly as possible to a pool of servers, ensuring that one resource isn’t overworked.

3. Keep all plugins updated

Plugins should be updated frequently. You’ll receive a notification in your admin panel when updates are available. However, you’ll want to be aware of plugins that have been abandoned. Abandoned plugins are a security vulnerability. If you don’t remember updating a plugin recently, check to see when the last update was issued. If it’s been more than a year, you may want to find another plugin.

In addition to keeping your plugins updated, it’s equally important to avoid using plugins unless absolutely necessary. Too many plugins will slow down your site.

4. Don’t host videos on your own server

While you can upload video files through the media interface, any video you host on your own server will slow down your website. Hosted solutions like YouTube and Vimeo automatically compress videos as they’re uploaded, and provide a stable user experience.

If you don’t like the way hosted video players look, paid solutions like Wistia allow you to customize your player for a nominal fee.

5. Optimize your database and delete older post versions

Each time you update and save a page or post, WordPress stores a new copy of your page or post in the database. If you constantly save your content after minor updates, you’re accumulating extra content in the database, which will slow down your site over time.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions is a plugin that automatically deletes old revisions either on a set schedule or with a single click. You can also define how many post revisions you’d like to keep, and it will delete the rest. This plugin has been around for many years and is regularly updated.

Optimizing security measures

WordPress has an unjust reputation as being insecure. WordPress as a platform is secure, provided website owners manage it properly. The problem is, many website owners aren’t professional developers and therefore don’t fully understand security. They make innocent mistakes out of ignorance, and end up paying the price.

One-click installation tools don’t create a secure installation

If you build your WordPress website with a one-click installation tool, your site is at serious risk of being hacked and infected with malware that runs SQL injection scripts that are used in phishing scams. This is a serious problem because even the best password can’t protect you – hackers don’t always need your password.

Hackers can exploit weaknesses in the installation itself, or through plugins that are either insecure or haven’t been updated in a long time. Additionally, WordPress passwords are simply salted MD5 hashes, which is incredibly easy to hack with certain programs. Someone doesn’t even need to be a hacker to use these programs.

Change your authentication keys and salts

If you used a one-click installation tool inside of cPanel to install WordPress, chances are, your installation doesn’t have any authentication keys or salts. Years ago, the one-click installation program called Fantastico defined these cryptographic elements in every new WordPress installation. They weren’t unique, but at least they existed.

Today, the standard one-click installation tool in cPanel leaves your installation without any authentication keys, and you don’t get a notice about it, either. These installation tools provide the instant gratification of having a functioning website in minutes at the expense of your site’s security.

While it’s best to have your WordPress website professionally installed, if you’re willing to do a little bit of work, you don’t need to. However, you do need to have a basic understanding of how to use FTP or access your files within your file manager. If you’re not used to editing code, it’s best to use the file manager so you don’t accidentally open it in a word processor.

To set your authentication keys, navigate to the directory where you installed WordPress. Find the file named “wp-config.php” and open it in your file manager, preferably using the “code” view. Scroll down a little and see if the file contains the 8 lines of code shown in the first screenshot of this CodeSeekah article. The first line defines “AUTH_KEY” and the last defines “NONCE_SALT.”

If these 8 lines of code are absent, you’ll need to generate this code from WordPress directly. Each time you refresh the page, new keys will be generated. Copy and paste the generated code into the wp-config.php file exactly in the place it appears in the screenshot on CodeSeekah and save your file. If your config file already has these lines of code, replace them with the new code.

Optimizing your WordPress website requires patience

Website optimization isn’t just about speed, it’s about user experience. Setting a foundation of security and speed is only the first step. Building a solid foundation makes it easier to deliver the intended experience to your visitors. Everyone experiences breakdowns, but with an optimized foundation, you won’t be constantly running around putting out fires that could have been prevented.

Optimize Page Speed For Happier Visitors And Better SEO

When you think of SEO, you probably think of alt tags, compressed images, keywords, and W3C compliant HTML markup. That’s part of SEO, however, perfect HTML isn’t enough to place your website at the top of the search results. You also need speed.

In fact, speed is so important, if you don’t have it, search engine crawlers can’t crawl deeply enough into your website to index your pages in the first place.

Speed determines how much of your website gets indexed

Web crawlers are only allotted a certain amount of time to crawl the depth of your website. When your pages load slowly, a crawler can only go so far. Pages that don’t get crawled don’t get indexed. If a page doesn’t get indexed, it won’t show up in results.

Speed directly affects search ranking

In addition to affecting how your pages get indexed, speed has a direct effect on your search rankings, as Google announced on April 9, 2010. Google said their obsession with speed caused them to add “site speed” as a signal in their search ranking algorithms.

What is “site speed” according to Google, and how can it be improved? The answer isn’t as obvious as it seems.

Google is known for keeping their exact algorithm a secret, and they’ve never revealed how they measure speed, nor exactly how speed factors into the ranking. Naturally, marketers and webmasters got curious and decided to run some tests to figure it out. The results showed Google’s definition of “site speed” to be more complex than how the average person would define it.

To understand the results of these experiments, it’s important to differentiate the three most common phrases used to reference website speed:

  • “Site speed” As defined by Google, site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests. They don’t, however, define what factors are considered in the response time.
  • “Page load time” Although used by Google, this term has not been specifically defined but it usually means one of two things:(1) Page load time can refer to the amount of time it takes for a page to be operable (enough of the page loads so that you can click, scroll, and enter data).(2) Page load time can also refer to the amount of time it takes for the entire webpage to render. This means all images have been downloaded and displayed, and so have all ads, analytic trackers, and other background elements.
  • “Time to first byte” This measures the time it takes your browser to receive the first byte of a response from a server. For instance, when you type a URL into your browser and hit enter, “time to first byte” measures how long it takes for the web server to receive the request, process and generate a response, and send back the first byte to your browser.

The most relevant metric is “time to first byte”

So, which metric does Google use to rank websites? Experiments performed by Moz show no correlation between ranking and what people consider “page load time.” Their experiments also showed that the time it took for images to load didn’t even factor into how a page ranked.

However, the experiments did show a correlation between ranking and “time to first byte” (TTFB) – a metric that has little to do with your content, and more to do with network and server-side factors like server configuration (.htaccess, httpd.config) and traffic. Some of these factors are within your control and you can optimize them to your advantage.

To speed up TTFB, and therefore increase your potential to rank higher in the search engines, you can do the following:

  • Optimize your web server configuration. Optimizing your web server’s software plays a vital role in increasing the overall speed of your website. When you’re running Apache or LiteSpeed, your .htaccess file is more important than you may know. You may be familiar with using this file for redirects and mod rewrites, but using this file unnecessarily will create performance issues.

Apache’s official documentation says:

“However, in general, use of .htaccess files should be avoided when possible. Any configuration that you would consider putting in a .htaccess file, can just as effectively be made in a <Directory> section in your main server configuration file.”


“httpd will look in every directory for .htaccess files. Thus, permitting .htaccess files causes a performance hit, whether or not you actually even use them! Also, the .htaccess file is loaded every time a document is requested.”

These actions are guaranteed to slow down TTFB.

  • Update your PHP software version. Scripts will run more slowly on older versions of PHP. Keep this updated. A managed hosting solution will do this for you. PHP7 provides a huge performance boost over the previous 5.x versions.
  • Use load balancing to handle traffic spikes. Large increases in traffic around the holidays and during promotional periods can slow down your website. Load balancing distributes all incoming requests evenly across multiple servers to prevent any one resource from being overloaded. The result is faster page loads for your visitors as well as crawlers.

Cache dynamic content

Dynamic content is served differently than static content. Due to the way dynamic content needs to be retrieved, it takes more time to serve than static content.

For example, plain HTML pages are considered static content. When a request is made to retrieve static content, it’s delivered instantly.

Websites built in WordPress (and other CMS platforms) are dynamically generated. There are multiple things that need to happen between the receipt of a request and the response. The server actually needs to build the page before it can be sent back to the browser.

WordPress pages, for example, are built by getting PHP files and interacting with a database. This is why business owners who run websites with dynamic content management systems use plugins and server-side solutions that serve cached versions of their pages.

Hosted solutions from Skylands Networks include specialized caching for dynamic content management systems like WordPress and Magento.

Additionally, in their experiments, Moz discovered a counter-intuitive correlation between decreasing page size to decreasing page rank. You’d think that less content to load on a page would speed it up and therefore raise its rank. It’s not this simple. Google actually favors websites with more content and favors sites with fresh content even more.

Faster pages = Happier customers

Although Moz discovered slower loading images didn’t impact the way a site ranked in the search engines, they will cause visitors (especially on mobile devices) to bounce. It’s important to optimize your content for both search engines and visitors. Both visitors and search engines love fast loading pages.