When we recently compared BigCommerce to Shopify, we focused on the SEO capabilities because they are a major obstacle for Shopify and SEO is neglected enough as it is. Magento, on the other hand, doesn't suffer from any of the strict SEO limitations that Shopify does.
Magento is a wide open, highly configurable platform. In some ways, it is more malleable than BigCommerce as a platform.
Unfortunately, Magento lacks in the ergonomics department. It is difficult to do almost anything of substance on the platform without having development experience and knowing how to edit code.
BigCommerce also benefits from more out-of-the-box features than Magento, making it much easier to do the baseline configurations necessary to run SEO and marketing experiments on the fly. And while the BigCommerce platform itself is a bit less wide open than Magento, the ability to run BigCommerce headless ultimately makes this a non-issue from an SEO perspective.
Since neither Magento nor BigCommerce is an SEO straitjacket, we won't focus as much on individual SEO issues. Instead, we will be looking at how the platforms compare overall, but from the perspective of a digital marketing and SEO agency.
An SEO Consideration: Magento's Configurable Products VS BigCommerce's Product Options
While we said this post wouldn't focus as much on individual SEO issues, this particular issue is an important point in BigCommerce's favor.
Both Magento and BigCommerce allow you to create different variations on the same product. Magento calls these configurable products, while BigCommerce calls them product options.
Magento's handling of configurable products is, unfortunately, a major SEO hassle. From a URL perspective, Magento does not treat each product variant as the same product.
Of course it can make sense from an accounting and inventorying perspective for them to have their own SKUs and inventory listings. The problem is that each product version also has its own unique URL, which means the search engine authority for the product gets diluted across multiple pages with nearly identical content.
By default, Magento doesn't reconcile these duplicate URLs with the rel=canonical tag. Even if it did, our experience has taught us that Google all too frequently ignores the tag and indexes multiple page versions even when the tag is used properly.
The ideal solution is for all product variants to share the same URL, or at least for variant URLs not to be accessible through html links. Unfortunately, Magento does not offer any straightforward way to do this. Since Magento is a wide open platform, it's certainly possible to resolve this issue, but it is a major development hassle.
BigCommerce is the clear winner on this particular issue. Their product options all share the same URL. The only way for product variants to have different URLs is for them to be listed as different products entirely. This is ideal default behavior from an SEO perspective.
BigCommerce offers easy, no-code customization of all of the important SEO settings right out of the box. Accomplishing this with Magento will require paying for apps. Both have some limitations compared to a platform like WordPress, but BigCommerce has a WordPress plugin that makes this a non-issue. The full code customizability of both platforms means virtually all SEO issues can be overcome on a long enough timeline.
Ease Of Use
Both Magento and BigCommerce are powerful platforms. They are very feature rich and, as a result, neither is really designed in such a way that a complete newcomer would be able to set up a store from scratch without doing any Googling and facing hiccups along the way.
That said, BigCommerce is a clear winner in usability. Considering its capabilities, BigCommerce is fairly intuitive. A single user with no coding experience can set up a store from scratch, even though it will take some research to get it done. While BigCommerce allows you to edit code, everything you need to set up a store and heavily customize it can be done through the point and click interface.
Magento, on the other hand, simply can't be used by somebody without teaching them some web development skills. It is impossible to set up a Magento store without knowledge of coding.
Overall build time with BigCommerce from a pure template store to a sufficiently customized and branded store is only a few hours, and it essentially works out of the box. Magento, on the other hand, requires you to code, create a store, and set up hosting. A professional Magento site takes months to develop.
From an SEO perspective, ease of use is important as long as it doesn't put your SEO in a straitjacket. It makes it easy to make important SEO edits without needing to know too much about what's under the hood of the platform.
Both platforms can be considered highly flexible in the sense that virtually any design goal is technically achievable with either platform. Both allow you to edit theme code and change the way your store is presented in whatever way you wish.
That said, BigCommerce offers more to work with in terms of altering design easily. BigCommerce has seven free themes and over 50 paid theme options. A visual store design feature allows you to easily edit your store's appearance with a point and click interface.
Magento only offers 12 themes in total, both free and paid. Only ten of those are mobile responsive, which is a must for modern ecommerce.
The only edge Magento can claim here is the ability to create your own theme entirely from scratch. BigCommerce doesn't technically allow you to do this unless you are a partner and you sell the theme in their store, but practically speaking you can do it by completely overwriting your theme files.
Since BigCommerce allows you to edit your themes just as much as Magento but offers more tools for making design changes easily, we consider it the winner in this category.
Ecommerce Tools and Features
Put simply, BigCommerce comes with more built-in features than any other ecommerce platform. It's the only builder that lets you sell physical, digital, and service-based products out of the box. It has abandoned cart recovery marketing tools. It has built in analytics and reporting. It has access to 600 apps.
Magento's built-in toolset is very small. It is highly extendable and over 3000 extensions are available, but they aren't supported, all are third-party.
BigCommerce automatically supports over 40 different ways for your customers to pay, including the big names like ApplePay, Stripe, and Square. Not only do they accept PayPal, they have pre-negotiated rates and no transaction fees through them.
Magento requires you to integrate apps in order to expand your payment options.
In most cases, BigCommerce is the clear winner here. However, it's definitely worth noting that Magento makes internationalization easier.
BigCommerce has invested heavily in multi-channel integration and this is one of their biggest strengths along side being a powerful payment accepting platform. It offers built in tools to sell on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, eBay, Amazon, and several other platforms with very little configuration needed. Furthermore, you manage reporting for all of those platforms through the same interface.
While all of this is technically achievable through Magento, again it can't be done in a reasonable time frame without adding a great deal of plugins and customization.
This is no contest. BigCommerce provides 24/7 chat and phone support. Magento users need to rely on the forum.
Ultimately, for most businesses, we recommend BigCommerce as the ideal ecommerce platform. There are no SEO limitations that are more of an issue with one platform or the other, but BigCommerce is by far easier to use. Build time is an important SEO factor. The ability to make adjustments on the fly and to run experiments and measure results is crucial.
The only reason to choose Magento over BigCommerce is if you actually require access to the fundamental ecommerce engine itself. Not the design code, the inner server-side workings of the platform. This is something you will never need for SEO purposes, and it is functionality that only enterprise level businesses would generally need.