CMS Showdown part 4: Shopify Review

This unique cloud-based CMS is designed specifically for eCommerce and slowly but surely it climbs the ladder of usage to challenge even WooCommerce (WordPress) for dominance in eCommerce-oriented platforms.

Shopify did for eCommerce what WP did for blogging and Wix for landing pages – it has made it very possible for people cut down on some costs, by simplifying the process of developing and managing your own online store.

Unlike WP however, it is more like Wix and SquareSpace, offering a cloud-based all-included type service, allowing people to start from scratch and not worry about hosting, installing or any server-side issues.

But with so many competing all-inclusive entry-level options out there, is Shopify the right choice for you? Let’s explore the topic!

Here are the previous 3 CMS articles, if you didn’t see them yet, covering WordPress, Wix & SquareSpace, and Drupal & Joomla.

 

Some Shopify stats

Shopify unlike the other CMS mentioned in our showdown didn’t even start as one. It began as a humble online store selling snowboarding equipment in 2006 and slowly developed to offer its platform to others. Eventually becoming what it is today – a full CMS for people who want to set up an online store with entry-level web development skills.

According to W3Techs, Shopify currently holds a market share of 3% of the CMS cake, and according to Shopify themselves, they currently power more than 800,000 stores across more than 175 countries.

As for eCommerce, BuildWith estimates Shopify is powering 20% of the top 1 million eCommerce websites, while WooCommerce (WordPress) is at 25%.

In recent years it has gained tremendous popularity with the rise of drop shipping and saw their net worth rise from 1.6B in 2016 to 40B+ in 2019!

One of Shopify’s strong suites in marketing is their use of affiliate programs, paying affiliates more than $100 million in 2018.

Interestingly enough, while mobile struggled to keep up with Desktop devices as far as purchasing potential goes, Shopify reported 61% of orders, from all their stores, were made via mobile devices in 2018.

All the CMS we mentioned can brag about some famous users, but Shopify certainly has some impressive ones to namedrop. Among the notable brands and names using Shopify are Tesla Motors, Nestle, MVMT, RedBull, Budweiser, The Economist, Encyclopedia Britannica, CrossFit, General Electrics, Foo Fighters, Penguin Books, and GitHub just to name a few.

In 2018, the platform generated more than $41.1 Billion in sales across all stores and has passed the 1 billion orders landmark.

 

General takes and SEO potential

 

Difficulty

Shopify is designed to be an entry-level system that can be used by people with no prior knowledge on web development or coding. We will place it on par with SquareSpace and Wix if you settle for the basic out-of-the-box appearance of the themes. But if you need to remodel themes HTML and CSS skills will be needed. The UI is user friendly but will still take some time to get used to and learn. WP and WooCommerce have a steeper learning curve and might require hiring a dev depending on your needs.

Here too you will find guides that will take you from zero knowledge to setting up your own simple online store in a relatively short time. And in case that isn’t your cup of tea, there are also Shopify developers that will set everything up for you, for a much cheaper fee than WP devs.

 

Security

Shopify is regarded to be secure and safe. It comes with a build-in SSL (which is also a plus for SEO).

Like all cloud-based complete package type products in its field, Shopify has a reputation to preserve, especially considering their recent growth and popularity. They will make it their best to keep their security reputation solid. Like with Wix and SquareSpace you are in good hands, with a dedicated team of security experts as part of your paid plan. You only need to watch out for Spam and phishing schemes (which is true of internet usage in general).

Shopify also take a proactive approach to security and has reportedly paid more than $850K to hackers over the span of three years. Some companies frown upon unsolicited hacking tests, but those that embrace it and even encourage it, deserve a good reputation for sure.

 

Flexibility, functionality and customization

Shopify is tailor-made for stores and sales, so its core functionality offers neat functions such as abandoned cart recovery out of the box, even at the basic plans. Anything that doesn’t come included in Shopify’s base functions can be handled by a dedicated app.

Apps are the equivalent of WP’s plug-ins and is regarded as one of Shopify’s strong suits over their competitors. They add functionality that the basic version lacks.

There are more than 2,400 apps to help you optimize your store for search engines, improve the sales and conversion rates, manage accounting, create reports and much more. More than 12 million have been installed and 33,000 get downloaded each month!

The downside here is these are paid apps and the prices can rack up making the whole thing more expensive than you had first intended. And as with WP’s plug-ins, apps can contradict each other and cause bugs and problems that will need to be troubleshooted.

In total Shopify’s app store alone has generated over 100 million dollars in sales. 87% of all Shopify merchants use apps and the average usage among them is 6 apps per store. And some of these apps are quite advanced and use augmented reality, such as Shopify AR.

As with all CMS we cover here, you will need to choose a template or theme to set the general structure and appearance of your website. There are 10 free themes provided by Shopify and 64 premium paid themes. Themes are customizable with some HTML and CSS skills and can be molded to suit your needs and style.

The themes are professional looking at their default states, so you will be customizing an already slick looking theme. But as with every ready to use theme, this can only be taken so far, and doesn’t come close to all the variety and options that exist for WP for example, which is open source.

One of the major downsides and why it’s not very favored by developers is that it isn’t open source. Developing your own store on WordPress will naturally have more flexibility if you got the skills and will be even cheaper if you know how to cut costs. But again, Shopify was made to be user-friendly for non-developers.

The same caveat applies here as it did for Wix and SquareSpace and other “ready-to-use” solutions. Visual language is important for brand building and impacts your potential to sell and how you are perceived by customers. Being tempted by a complete package that also includes a design might be a downside, if the looks don’t fit the theme of the brand.

So, while it might be tempting to settle for what comes in the box, maybe it would be wise to hire a designer to advice on how to tweak the themes to better suit your brand, store and product type. For example, a black styled design can either be worked to look rugged if you’re selling Motorcycle related products, or classic and elegant if you’re selling Tuxedos or providing a limousine service.

Now you can open an online store with ease and sell… potatoes. A dream come true!

Dependence

As with Wix and SquareSpace, this is one of the main disadvantages – you are solely dependent on Shopify to function properly, keep up a good customer support, and not raise prices. If they go and MySpace themselves suddenly for example, you will experience a whole slue of difficulty. Also migrating is never easy from cloud-based solutions, so in a sense, you are their willing “prisoner”.

But on the other hand, if you are not a developer and security expert yourself, you will depend on others anyway for any troubleshooting. This is like leasing a store versus owning one – you pay for the space and provide the goods, and the owners of the space take care of the infrastructure.

Luckily, you can export and import product data using CSV files. But as with Wix and SquareSpace exporting content is trickier and will require some technical skills or third-party app such as BlogFeeder of Exlm.

 

Price

Prices for establishing an online store on Shopify start at $29 a month. Shopify also offers some high-end prices for high-end enterprise clients. Shopify Plus costs USD 2000$+ a month, but the enterprise level clients on Shopify generate from $1M-$500M in sales. There are currently more than 5,300 businesses that use Shopify Plus.

The median App price is $4 but some of the premium apps can get very expensive and if we consider the average, the price spikes to $19.14. The paid themes range from $140-$180.

Ultimately it all depends on which theme you chose, which and how many apps you use, which monthly plan you are on, and the cumulative transaction fees, since Shopify charges additional fees if you use a 3rd party payment gateway.

Setting up an online store is never cheap and it’s only natural a cloud-based eCommerce CMS will also be slightly more expensive than a regular CMS such as Wix. But for the most part you can save money, time and effort by choosing Shopify versus developing your own store. Even if you choose WordPress, unless you got the know-how, you will either need to hire a WP dev or spend time sleuthing the internet for solutions.

So, price-wise it’s certainly not cheap, but it still comes up more affordable than paying a developer to make your store.

 

Support

As with Wix and Squarespace this is ultimately a product, with a dedicated team of security, tech, and customer support experts that understand their own product. Shopify’s support is generally regarded to be good with a few complaints to spice things up (as with any service), judging from various reviews across the web.

One of the catalysts of growth is keeping customers, and that is where solid customer support comes into play. Since you pay for usage you also get the professional support that comes with it and that saves you some of the troubles of scouting for answers in blogs and forums. Shopify offers 24/7 support via live chat, phone, twitter and email.

Their official site has a knowledge base, tutorials, guides, webinars, a blog, and their own forum that currently has more than half a million posts for you to search in.

Other than the official channels there is also a fairly large Reddit community with more than 36.8k users.

Important note however – support is only covered for the official Shopify apps and themes. If you need to troubleshoot 3rd party themes and apps, you will need to investigate their respective customer support beforehand.

 

SEO and marketing potential

Depending on what niche you sell in, SEO might not even be the right choice for you and a direct or social advertising campaigns may be more suitable. In fact, Shopify specializes in conversions and funnels, averaging in 3-5% conversion rates across merchants. But if we’re talking about slightly easier niches to tackle, where SEO is more plausible, does Shopify has what it takes to take you to the top of the SERP?

SEO manageability is standard and there are no major restrictions. Adding 301 redirects, titles, headings, meta descriptions, alt text, etc. are all straightforward and accessible. Shopify has dedicated SEO and marketing apps for you to install and use. There are even several apps for Schema and rich snippets.

SEO experts don’t shy away from it and for the most part the chatter in various FB groups and forums suggest the sentiment is mostly favorable. Maybe not everyone’s first choice, but most SEOs can make it work for you given the proper time and funding.

Speed – Shopify stores are known for relatively fast loading speeds, which is very good for SEO as loading speed is a mobile ranking factor on Google. AMP (which Google backs), doesn’t come included by default and you will have to set it up using a paid app.

Mobile – Shopify themes are mobile responsive out of the box which means they will adapt to any screen size (the ideal mobile approach in 2019). And 69% of orders are done via mobile on Shopify stores (Q1 2019). In case you don’t know, being mobile friendly is one of the standards to be well ranked on Google’s mobile SERP, and mobile conversion potential is generally good on Shopify, so that’s two solid pluses.

Blogging – one of the best ways to release fresh content that Google loves, engage with your customers, and promote on search engines are blogs. Shopify’s base functionality isn’t as great for blogging as WP, which was designed from the core up for blogging and developed eCommerce capabilities much later. Fortunately, there are dedicated blogging apps that take care of that end here as well.

 

How to track Shopify together with Amazon and GMB in one place

So, one of the best moves Shopify did back in 2017 was integrate their service with Amazon, a move which made their stock soar by 10% almost instantly upon the announcement. Many merchants sell both on their Shopify website and Amazon.

Next, many stores also have a physical location that features on GMB, and GMB ranks are their own separate animal.

And since we specialize in tracking your Google ranks, GMB ranks and Amazon ranks, you can combine the three and see how they behave in one data table and chart!

Before we break down how to use our system to track your search engine positions, the most accurate way you can imagine. We highly recommend you read our coverage of Google’s FULL ranking layers. This is very important if you are new to our blog or rank tracker.

So lets try tracking an official Tesla dealerships since they use Shopify!

First you will need to add your GMB name and Shopify store URL for any given keywords on our Advanced Add page:

 

And now most importantly, you will need to check all the relevant ranking type boxes that are needed:

Local Finder is your GMB position and Snack Pack is your Local Pack position

 

Next add search engines, and an EXACT relevant location (If you sell in Queens area, then add that as the location). You can add several locations to get a more accurate coverage on how you rank in each area.:

 

Now for Amazon, let’s use a random product, since Tesla doesn’t sell their cars on Amazon (yet). We will do the same process, but this time simply add your Amazon product ASIN, and choose Amazon as the rank type and search engine:

 

So if you have a physical location store on GMB, a Shopify website and an Amazon listing of your products, here’s what you can track in a single data table and graph:

Shopify URL (with all layers) on Google + GMB ranks

Amazon rank + Amazon product URL on Google

In both Google and Amazon tracking, define a tag and group names such as “Shopify”, so that you will be able to view the data in a single data table and graph:

 

The Verdict

Before researching Shopify for this article, we weren’t sure what to expect. But Shopify turned out to be very surprising in its potential and capabilities. The chatter and user sentiment towards Shopify seems to be more positive than for Wix and SquareSpace, although there are still complaints about functionality and customer service out there.

This is a solution for beginners and can save you the trouble of hiring a developer and having the ability to manage your store yourself might be worth paying for. Seasoned developers will probably opt in to use WP instead.

Overall Shopify shows an ambition and willingness to improve and even compete with Amazon in some fields, such as plans to launch their own Fulfillment Center for shop owners. Also, they reach beyond their own CMS market and even compete with the likes of PayPal by providing POS and “Buy” buttons to businesses.

Their recent business moves show that they plan to stick around and grow to more than just an eCommerce service, and in January 2019 they launched Shopify Studios, a film and TV content production studio which will focus on entrepreneurs and business. Placing all your eggs in their basket carries the same dependency risks as with Wix and SquareSpace but from our general impression Shopify shows more future-proofed promise. It has a very notable client base, and at this point is too dominant to suddenly MySpace themselves away.

So, if you want to cut costs on developing your online store and don’t plan on competing with Wal-Mart anytime soon. Shopify might be a good and humble solution to start with, especially considering the native Amazon integration option.

 

About Pro Rank Tracker – The ideal solution to tracking your store on multiple search engines (Amazon included)

We are the top SERP tracker on the market currently, able to provide you with unprecedented levels of accurate ranking data for Google:

  • Exact geo-targeted location rank tracking – from large areas such as cities to small areas such as neighborhoods and airports.
  • All types of mobile ranks – iOS, Android Phone, iPad, Android Tablet.
  • Full GMB ranks – top100 map positions and Local Pack.
  • Full video marketer coverage! Track your videos on YouTube itself along with their Google Video Carousel ranks (the carousel rank on the SERP and the inner rank within the carousel).
  • Local and global monthly search volumes for every keyword that you track.
  • Ranks by a user’s UI language (crucial for international brands and translated pages).
  • See the entire top 100 search results for every keyword in a single graph:

Plus 4 additional search engines:

Amazon, Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex (all local version ranks included).

Take Pro Rank Tracker for a spin in our glorious FREE 7-day trial

No credit card details required to activate and no auto-renewal traps!

 

How we model Shopify’s approach at Pro Rank Tracker

  • White label – we let you showcase your brand and company details to your clients on all our reports and features. They don’t even have to know you are using a SERP tracker, and you can present our system as your own with our sub-accounts by replacing PRT’s logo with yours!
  • Comprehensive reporting solutions for you and your clients – more than 12 types of customizable SEO ranking reports for you to use. Unlimited with no quota.
  • Importing and exporting ranking data is easy with our Bulk Upload that uses CSV files.
  • We also place tech and customer support as one of our top priorities – you can reach us via support tickets, live chat, skype, email, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And our advanced monthly plans also include a dedicated account manager.
  • We treat our Affiliates very well – Much like Shopify, we also have a very worthy Affiliate Program for you to sign up for. While Shopify only pays you a single referral fee, we pay you a RECURRING 20% commission for the ENTIRE lifetime of the referred account!

 

*Stats uncited directly are taken from: https://www.shopifyandyou.com/blogs/news/statistics-about-shopify