Creating a website for your business has never been easier, especially with the availability of all-inclusive website builders that let you effortlessly build your own site with a few drop-and-drag actions. It can be tempting to go with the easiest and fastest way to build your website and get it out there for the world to see. But is the immediate result really worth it?
To answer this question we look into two of the most popular drag-and-drop website builders, Wix and Squarespace, and compare them to WordPress which is among the top recommended web content management platforms by online marketing experts. Many reviews and comparisons have been written regarding these three platforms on aspects such as pricing, ease of use and design. Our focus here is on their respective SEO features and functionality.
Getting your website up and running the fastest way
If we are talking about getting a website up and running as soon as possible without getting any help from a designer and developer, then all-inclusive website builders have the clear advantage. Just go to Wix or Squarespace, choose your plan and do your thing. Both are known for their many elegant designs and drag-and-drop functionality, so you’ll definitely be able to take control over how your pages look without having to invest too much time learning the tool.
In contrast, running a self-hosted WordPress site means taking the extra steps of purchasing your own domain name and finding a website hosting service. For the design, you can either choose from the wide variety of free Themes available for WordPress or purchase a Premium or custom Theme from one many WordPress Theme developers. Some Themes will have options that let you change the layout easily while others will require a bit more technical know-how.
The all-inclusive website builder is great if you are just planning a casual, informational website. Many of their designs are very professional and easy to use so you can add your branding even without the help of a developer. Just make sure that you have great content and high quality images to put on your website.
Creating a website with SEO in mind
Remember that it’s never enough to focus just on the look and feel of the website — you need to keep in mind that once it’s out there, people need to be able to find it. Because SEO is such an important consideration when building your web pages, many website builders have included some SEO functionality in their tools. Let’s take a look at how Wix, Squarespace and WordPress fare in terms of SEO.
Wix’s SEO feature is very basic. You can add title and description meta data for each page and alt text to your website images. If you’re paying for a premium plan then a site map is also automatically generated — but that’s about it. Limitations around optimizing page content should cause many business owners to consider other options. For example, if you publish your blog on Wix you can’t set your own titles and descriptions for each post. Rather, they are auto-generated based on the post title and content.
Other concerns include the use of “#!” in the URL and not being able to change the page permalink. The hashbang implementation is necessary because Wix is reliant on AJAX technology. (This post from Webenso explains how Wix’s hashbang implementation works and how it affects a website’s indexability.) This doesn’t mean that your website won’t be indexed if you use Wix; it’s just that the limitation around how you can optimize your pages can result in a hit or miss with the search engines. Page URLs can’t be changed or shortened, so if you want to share them as links in social or your email campaigns, you should probably set up 301 redirects.
For those running blogs on Wix, individual posts can’t be set to have their own custom title or description; they are auto-generated based on the post title and your content, so the snippets that appear in search results will look something like:
Website Name | Post Tile
This will have the first XXX characters of your content.
This means that you need to be really careful with your title and to make sure that your first words will reflect what the page’s content is all about.
When Squarespace first debuted their website builder the resulting sites were not as SEO-friendly as you might have liked, but over time they’ve managed to make some improvements and are now considered to have decent SEO features and functionality. Squarespace boasts that their websites use clean HTML mark-up so pages are easily indexed by search engines. Other SEO features include auto-generated site maps and full control over page titles and descriptions. Even Rand Fishkin commended Squarespace for their efforts to improve SEO features. While there are still some kinks to be worked out, choosing Squarespace is not so bad.
Many SEO consultants will recommend that you build your site using WordPress because of its flexibility in terms of implementing good SEO practices. While the platform itself already has many SEO features built-in, you will still need to add Plugins to add the functions most SEOs will look for: customizable titles and descriptions, more control over how Google indexes the site, auto-generated site-maps, etc.
The problem here is that, compared to the other two builders, you need to devote more time to learning WordPress if you want to optimize your site for SEO, especially if you plan to it on your own. For those new or with little knowledge of WordPress this could be a difficult and intimidating task, however, if you do your homework you’ll be able to find some plugins that are reliable and easy to learn and use.
Overall, WordPress is way ahead in terms of being SEO flexibility though you will need to devote some time to learn the ropes. Squarespace come in second while Wix, which has very limited features, came in last.
Mobile Friendly Websites
Mobile-friendly websites are getting a boost in search rankings ever since Google launched Mobilegeddon. This is the primary reason why business owners that are building or redesigning their websites should keep mobile in mind. All three builders have different ways of making their websites mobile-friendly.
With Wix, a mobile-friendly view of your site is automatically created using the same content as your desktop view — it’s just a different view of the same site. The mobile view can be edited to hide pages you don’t want to show in the mobile version or rearrange the layout to make them look better in mobile.
With Squarespace, the websites are responsive so they automatically adjust depending on the type os device you use to view them: desktop, tablet, smartphone (it’s the same for WordPress). Both free and premium “responsive” themes are available online. If you have a certain theme in mind that is not responsive, you can seek help from a developer to help you adapt it or find a substitute with the same look and feel.
So which is a better choice?
Again, the choice will all depend on how much control you want to have over your website and how much time you are willing to spend on it.
For small businesses who just wants a simple site that will act as their storefront or product brochure, all-inclusive may be a good choice provided you are willing to accept the limitations that come with the builder. Remember that both Wix and Squarespace are fairly new compared to WordPress, so there are still room for improvement. It might take time before you see all of the SEO features and functionalities that are generally available in WordPress.
A self-hosted site using WordPress have all the flexibility you need to create an SEO-friendly site, but you definitely need to devote some time to learn it. The upside, though, is that once you learn the ropes there is no limit to what you can do to stay abreast of the ever-changing SEO best practices.