With the release late last week of Bigcommerce Next Bigcommerce has improved the internal blogging functionality of their eCommerce platform leaving customers and newcomers to the shopping cart wondering which Bigcommerce blogging choice to run with.
- The original News and Updates features – been there since Bigcommerce was Interspire
- The new Blogging engine functionality – released last week with Bigcommerce Next
- A separate WordPress (or similar) blog – the defacto solution for Bigcommerce customers until the latest upgrade
The original News function of Bigcommerce was always weak and never designed for companies wanting to add blogging to their content marketing. Like every other shopping cart I can think of this feature was tacked on late and with very little effort and probably should have been killed a long time ago. It’s not that it didn’t work, it did exactly what it claimed it would do – it’s just that people that used it thought they were blogging and could never understand why other people blogging on different platforms got much better results. It was a great way to drop simple updates and should have been left at that, but you just can’t convince some people. Anyway – there is no point flogging this dead horse, Bigcommerce know it needs changing that’s why they changed it. If you use it upgrade, if you don’t please don’t start.
Before the new Blogging engine was released by Bigcommerce the majority of clients that wanted to blog regularly opted to install WordPress on separate hosting (you can not install WordPress on Bigcommerce) and use a sub-domain like blog.myonlineshop.com. It added the cost of hosting and a second theme but it was really the only option reliable enough to drive traffic and capable of proper optimization. It was a straight forward exercise but to do it properly cost a few dollars and some businesses just don’t see the value in that. If content marketing is your path then this is still the only option you can consider.
With the new blogging engine introduced in Bigcommerce Next there is added support for tags, authors, comments (powered by Disqus). All marvelous stuff and it is brilliant to see a shopping cart making a proper move to fix what have always been atrocious blog features. I would call this about 1/4 done but it is an important quarter and it will energize a lot of businesses to see it – most small businesses know they should write more to attract more traffic but the bar and the effort required have been too high.
Issues with the new blogging engine
- No WordPress import just yet – although the Bigcommerce API supports blog posts so it shouldn’t be too long until someone with more time than me creates this.
- You can not add a date when you create a post (it is always assumed to be today) so moving posts from another system is troublesome. It also means you can not schedule posts by dating them into the future.
- You can not modify the date (wouldn’t be such an issue is you could set the date when you created the post) – I have been reliably told that Bigcommerce has fixed this issue and will roll the change out to store owners ASAP.
How good is the blogging engine?
Good. It will be better when the date issue is sorted this week and very good when the templates have caught up to he back end and you can control exactly how the blog information is displayed on the front end. Give the app store a few weeks to fill out with useful utilities and add-on’s to improve the blogging experience and you have a platform that doesn’t need a WordPress sub domain anymore. Other well thought out features include:
- URL’s not changing when you convert from news to blogs (you can do this manually if you like just make sure to create the redirects as well). Great forethought by the Bigcommerce engineers not to queer everyone’s SEO.
- Google+ profile linking because those avatars in search results are getting very important
- Flexible post URL’s
- The ability to control the full blog path so you don’t need to use /blog/ or /news/
- Feature thumbnails (this wasn’t in there on day one of the release it snuck out there shortly after)
- Tags instead of categories (because you only need one if you do it right)
- UI integration with products to simplify linking blog posts and items in your store.
Which blogging option for Bigcommerce should I use?
If you are a new small business that will be posting updates but not pursuing a full fledged content marketing campaign use the Blogging engine starting today and you will be well placed as they flesh out the full functionality. If you already use the News functions log in and upgrade to the Blogging engine. There is nothing that the News will offer you that the blogging engine won’t. If you are looking seriously at content marketing stick with WordPress on a sub domain – it is a more complete and optimzable platform for that and the separate hosting will be better for performance. I don’t expect Bigcommerce are looking to re-create the entire WordPress experience and neither should they but what they have is a good middle ground to make life a little easier for many small businesses.
As a quick guide for those that want an answer without my usual blah blah blah: if you plan on publishing more than once a week WordPress. Otherwise use the built in Bigcommerce blogging engine. There is no reason to use the old style news and updates functionality anymore.
Which blogging solution are you using? Leave a comment below with your choice and your experience? Are you using the new Bigcommerce Next Blogging Engine? How did you find it?