As the owner of an SEO-focused agency building with large and small eCommerce sites, the first question I ask potential clients is if they’re playing the long-term game, and by that I mean: what’s the ultimate goal for their business? Market leadership? ROAS (return on advertising spend)? Steady growth with excellent brand recognition?
If they have set their sites on any of these, we know they need to optimize for the top of the funnel and build awareness of their site with strong SEO. And for that, we always recommend building with — or migrating to — WooCommerce and WordPress.
Explore your client’s existing tech stack for SEO opportunities
Our job as agencies and developers is to dig deep into the client’s needs, including their end goal and the longevity of their product, to make sure we build a site that grows with their business. When we start working with potential clients, I like to explore their current tech stack. It’s a fantastic way to gain insight into their business and see if their SEO is hitting obstacles. There are two issues we see again and again.
Abandoned WordPress blog, or no blog at all?
All too often we find a WordPress website abandoned when the site transitioned into eCommerce, or an active WordPress site used as a blog that they’re hesitant to combine with their eCommerce platform. Properly integrating content and commerce leads to better rankings with search engines, so spotting these things is often a sign that it’s time for a client to make some changes.
Diagnosing crawl rate issues
Google constantly crawls websites to get information. Your crawl rate is the number of requests per second Googlebot makes to your site when it is crawling it: for example, 5 requests per second. Excessive crawling can cause pages to load more slowly, so sites often set limitations on crawl frequency. If these are too strict, site crawls can take days or even stop working, which negatively impacts SEO.
A lot of drag-and-drop website builder platforms have heavy limits on crawl speed. Clients using SEO services like SEMrush or Screaming Frog will find that a simple crawl can take days due to rate limitations.
Once the rate is exhausted, the crawler is blocked. This might not seem significant, but if you are relying on professional crawling tools for efficient analysis, it can be a real obstacle. These platforms deny limiting the Google crawler, but these limitations could have an impact on Google’s own recommended crawl bandwidth.
Addressing issues around crawl speed is a surefire tactic for optimizing SEO, and the only way to do this is with a platform that you control from top to bottom — which is where WordPress and WooCommerce shine.
Migrating clients to WooCommerce for more flexibility and SEO optimization
While closed platforms deliver certain results and benefits, they can present obstacles when a client wants to scale up. For example, the inability to edit files that control crawl rates and caching or per-transaction fees and plan-tiers linked to order volumes.
A lot of inquiries I get are from businesses that began their journey on drag-and-drop platforms; then, as they gained traction and started to grow, become stuck and unable to scale due to these types of technical limitations and lack of ability to get under the hood of their own store. In these cases, it’s our job to support these clients with a platform migration.
For “technically stuck” eCommerce clients facing issues with SEO and crawl rates, a lack of content integration, or a general lack of flexibility: WooCommerce is a great option because it gives you full code ownership, is 100% customizable, and can be used almost like a troubleshooting tool. My agency, That Tech Guy, uses WooCommerce exclusively in our development stack and these cases are actually our ideal customers!
Migrating clients is typically a straightforward process, thanks to migration tools that do most of the heavy lifting.
For a small to medium shop with a few thousand customers and a hundred or so products, migration typically takes a few hours. With a bit of groundwork, it’s a lot easier than you might think.
An approach to migration: auditing and benchmarking
Migrations require some preparation and planning, especially around elements like hosting, design, and URL structure. We also do most of our moves “like for like” at the start. The last thing you want to do is migrate a site and make significant changes all at once: it creates the potential for things to go wrong, and it’s not a best practice to make so many sudden changes to an eCommerce site.
Before the migration, we analyze and benchmark as much as we can, including:
- A technical audit. The primary test here is a site speed report. We like to use the Pingdom site test tool, since it gives us the ability to set the location to test from (in our case, Australia).
- A layout and design audit. Here, we look for menu structure and depth of links. We also consider how the page is displayed on mobile and if there are important page elements like h1s missing.
- An on-page review of all the main category pages. When it comes to eCommerce, it’s often hard to fill a product page with text. To work around, we like to build out strong category pages that we can fill with SEO elements.
- All channels data and analytics benchmark. This one is essential for getting a view of all channels, not only organic. It’s not uncommon for a business owner to slow down or even stop marketing during migration — and forget to mention it. It’s not necessary, but it does happen and can adversely affect your traffic after a migration.
- A risk assessment and prior training. Understanding this helps us minimize any impact the migration might have on staff or admins that are now managing a different shop interface. We often provide training on a test site to get the users familiar with the interface and help ensure a frictionless migration.
After migration, we work through the same list again. We re-crawl, now that there are no restrictions on crawl speed, and start to work through our optimization process.
Choose a flexible platform for the long run
Online shops pop up everywhere nowadays, but many shop owners make the same common mistake: short-term thinking when it comes to platform requirements.
The SEO opportunities WooCommerce gives us – along with the flexibility to add memberships and subscriptions, and the many other WordPress plugins available – means our customer retention rate is excellent because we can always offer cost-effective solutions that grow with our customers.