BigCommerce Platform and SEO Review

under BigCommerce SEO.

As an SEO and digital marketing agency, we interact with ecommerce platforms daily. How do we feel about BigCommerce as a solution for our ecommerce clients? For the most part, it is actually the platform we would recommend most, since it strikes a good balance between being a closed-source easy to use cloud solution on the back end with decent customization, while allowing you to interface with any presentation layer you want on the front end for added flexibility and minimal impact on your current marketing approach.

Read on to see what BigCommerce has to offer, why it's our favorite, some of its pitfalls, and its SEO capabilities.

What The BigCommerce Platform Is

BigCommerce is an ecommerce platform designed to simplify the process of running an ecommerce store. It takes on the task of handling the technical details behind running a store and shopping cart, while still providing developers with a level of customization that won't box you into a corner in terms of design or adaptability.

The platform is cloud-based, user-friendly, and comes with high quality customer support. It balances ease of use with a rich feature set and is a good fit for all but the largest conglomerates.

Crucially, BigCommerce is also a "headless" commerce as a service platform, meaning that it allows you to run the shopping cart on the back end through BigCommerce while still being able to use any CMS or major platform you want on the front end. In this way, BigCommerce offers the stability and ease of use of a vetted and robust platform, while still offering heavy flexibility where it's needed.

Pricing

bigcommerce pricing

Users can try BigCommerce with a fifteen day free trial without needing to register with a credit card, allowing businesses to test out the platform and see its feature set firsthand without needing to make any commitments. Costs are billed monthly and there is no contract, although buying a year in advance gets you a 10 percent discount.

BigCommerce's approach to pricing is a good option for scaling businesses because billing is based on your store's revenue levels. The pricing is split into different revenue tiers which are adjusted automatically through the platform's cart system.

The Pro plan previously had a volume cap at $1 million, but that has been increased to $3 million. In other words, you don't need to pay the Enterprise rate if your revenue is less than $3 million, assuming you aren't interested in the Enterprise feature set.

BigCommerce's pricing is split into four tiers with different feature sets and different revenue caps.

Features Included In All Plans

All of the BigCommerce plans include these features:

  • No transaction fees
  • No staff account limit
  • Point-of-sale integration with Square
  • One-page checkout
  • Users can leave ratings and reviews
  • HTTPS sitewide with dedicated SSL
  • Responsive design
  • Discounts on shipping labels
  • Real time shipping quotes
  • A blog
  • The ability to offer coupons, discounts, and gift certificates
  • Integration with eBay and Amazon
  • Phone, email, and chat support

Standard

The Standard plan has a revenue cap of $50k per year and is billed at $29.95 per month. It comes with unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth.

Plus

The revenue cap for the Plus plan is $150k per year and the plan costs $79.95 per month. Added features include the ability to store credit card information, to group and segment your customers for personalized targeting, and a way to save abandoned cart information.

Pro

The Pro plan's pricing works a bit differently. It starts at $249.95 a month and increases by $150 per month for each additional $200k in revenue, with a final revenue cap of $3 million. Additional features include the ability for customers to conduct faceted product searches, Google customer review collection, and custom SSL.

Enterprise

This is a fully custom solution built for very large businesses and scalable with no practical limits. Big merchants like Gibson and Toyota use the platform, which comes with a 99.99% uptime guarantee. Pricing is different for every client but is based primarily on average order value and order volume. In addition to managed hosting, Enterprise users get unlimited API calls, and one-on-one consulting with a dedicated account manager.

Themes

bigcommerce themes

BigCommerce has a moderately limited number of themes available compared to some other platforms, but the available options are good. Well over 100 themes are available, seven of them free. The paid themes are high quality and range in price from $145 to $235. You can search for themes by industry or design type. The ability to demo themes without buying them lets you give them a test drive to determine if they are a good fit for your brand.

Crucially, every theme available for BigCommerce is responsive. Given that more than half of online traffic is now mobile, and Google is indexing and ranking with mobile as the first priority, this is an important feature.

The best thing about BigCommerce's themes, however, is the visual merchandising tool Store Design. This allows you to customize your themes through a WYSIWYG visual editor that lets you easily adjust colors, reposition logos, change the number of featured products, customize the navigation, and more.

Hosting

BigCommerce sites come with a robust 99.99 percent uptime guarantee, a step above the industry standard of 99.5% guarantee offered by most hosting platforms. Load time is solid, with an average connection time under 10 milliseconds, improving your conversion rates and helping you avoid slow site demotions in the search results.

Ecommerce hosting with the platform also includes strong security, with DDOS protection including the ability to withstand a bandwidth of 1,300 terabytes per second, as well as firewalls at the data center and server levels, intrusion detection software, and file integrity scanners.

Sitewide HTTPS and dedicated SSL improve trust with your shoppers and keep your site in compliance with Google's own SEO recommendations, and prevents alarming warnings from appearing in users' Chrome browsers.

The platform is also Level 1 PCI DSS 3.2 compliant, guarding against credit card data breaches and preventing you from needing to reach compliance on your own. This is especially important since it allows you to accept all major payment methods without issue.

Ease Of Use

BigCommerce is definitely one of the top platforms when it comes to providing a user-friendly interface without sacrificing too much in scope.

The BigCommerce admin looks like this:

bigcommerce admin

After joining, an email will direct you to this admin page where a short tutorial explains how to use the basics of the interface. While the tutorial isn't comprehensive, it's useful as a basic intro, and the interface itself is mostly self-explanatory. The BigCommerce University page also includes videos explaining more details of the interface.

Adding products to the store is intuitive. Simply select "Add" from the "Product" section of the left navigation, fill out all of the fields and make all of the drop-down menu selections, then click "Save."

bigcommerce add product

The product fields and settings are spread across seven tabs. It only takes a couple minutes to fill out all of the info for a product including product information, SEO metadata, images, etc.

You can also import your product info via a spreadsheet via the "Import Product SKUs" option:

bigcommerce product import

If a customer orders a product over the phone, in person, or through some other method than via the website, it is also possible to add an order through the interface manually:

bigcommerce add order manually

Under the marketing section, you can also easily create coupon codes and gift certificates, create discounts at the cart level, view any abandoned carts, integrate with Google AdWords, Google reviews, and Yahoo Search, set up banners, run an email marketing campaign, or integrate with eBay and Google Shopping:

bigcommerce marketing section

As you can see, the way you do anything in BigCommerce is accomplished in essentially the same way, by making a selection from the left navigation, filling out the required fields and making the necessary selections, and clicking the "Save" button at the end. This consistency of use makes the platform very straightforward and allows more of your staff to be directly involved with it.

Adaptability

While BigCommerce isn't a wide open, free-for-all platform, it strikes a good balance between user-friendliness and adaptability that makes it a good selection for most businesses. From our perspective as a digital marketing and SEO agency, it doesn't keep you in an SEO straight jacket the way some platforms do either, allowing you to make virtually any changes you would need to for SEO purposes.

The BigCommerce Stencil themes allow you to easily adapt the web design without hard coding, but at the same time you can download the theme code and edit it directly to accomplish anything that wouldn't be possible through the WYSIWYG interface, giving you the kind of free reign you need to accomplish your design and on-page SEO goals.

The theme editor itself doesn't have any drag and drop features, but integrations are available that add this feature to the platform so that certain page elements can be moved.

While the apps marketplace is somewhat limited compared to some other platforms, the plugins available are vetted and high quality, as well as categorized with subcategories in a very easy to browse fashion. Each plugin also has a "Certified," "Premier," or "Elite" tier to indicate how thoroughly the app has been vetted and approved by the BigCommerce team.

A total of more than 600 plugins are available, which while not as wide open as some platforms, is quite good for a vetted marketplace. Bear in mind that the pricing structure of plugins isn't always clear, since some free apps include purchases later on, so it's a good idea to talk to a rep to make sure you are clear on the app's pricing structure.

Unlike some platforms, in addition to letting you edit theme code directly, you can also view and edit your robots.txt file from Store Setup > Store Settings in the Website tab under the Search Engine Robots section.

Since BigCommerce uses nginx, there is no .htaccess file. However, you can set up redirects from Server Settings > 301 Redirects after clicking Add Redirect. You can also bulk upload redirects using a CSV spreadsheet with an "Old URL" and New URL" column. Also in the Server Settings > 301 Redirects section, this is accomplished by clicking the Bulk Import option.

Headless BigCommerce

bigcommerce wordpress

The most important adaptability feature BigCommerce has to offer is the ability to go "headless," meaning that BigCommerce can power transactions on the back end while you can use any CMS you want for the presentation layer.

In other words, you can run BigCommerce through WordPress, Drupal, React, or a custom solution, freeing you up to use any plugins and customizations available for those platforms. It also integrates with Google Shopping, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Instagram, and Pinterest, as well as offering 65 global payment gateway options.

This is the feature that really puts BigCommerce ahead of the pack in terms of adaptability while still serving as a user-friendly platform.

Problems

No platform is perfect, and BigCommerce is no exception. While we believe it strikes the best balance between ease of use and adaptability of the platforms we have used, at least when it comes to the vast majority of ecommerce brands, it is not without issues.

The biggest issues we have with BigCommerce are the relatively limited number of plugins and themes, and the lack of a .htaccess file or a way to set up redirect rules. Thankfully, the headless capabilities make these drawbacks largely irrelevant.

The other main issue with the platform is pricing, which can get difficult to predict and lead to unexpected fees when you tend to hover around one of the revenue caps. BigCommerce is transparent enough about its pricing, at least below the Enterprise tier, but the pricing structure isn't as straightforward as some other platforms. It is, however, reasonably priced based on brand revenue.

Ruling

BigCommerce is our recommended platform of choice for ecommerce clients. As a way of managing commerce it is straightforward, as as SEO firm it doesn't keep you in a straight jacket, as marketers it offers good customer targeting and email capabilities, and the headless capabilities that allow it to integrate with WordPress and other major platforms overcome nearly all limitations inherent to the platform itself. Despite a more sporadic pricing structure and somewhat limited marketplace and theme options, solid customer support and marketplace vetting make up for these issues. We are willing to work with clients on any ecommerce platform, but BigCommerce is our recommendation for handling the shopping cart in most cases.