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Battle for SEO Features: WordPress vs. SquareSpace

Nov 2, 2021 | SEO, WordPress

WordPress vs. SquareSpace SEO

WordPress is arguably the most popular CMS on the planet. Hundreds of millions of organizations and businesses use WordPress to host their websites including TIME magazine and Snapchat. In fact, 62% of the top 100 fastest growing companies in the US (Inc. 5000) use WordPress for their company website. SquareSpace is an alternative platform that you can use to build your website, which offers a drop and drag type interface for a lay-person building a website, that makes it easier for small business to get up and running on their own.

Both are powerful tools that users can employ to create great websites. However, when it comes to SEO and generating traffic, a WordPress website is much better. Or is it?

In this artilce, it’s a battle of WordPress vs. SquareSpace when it comes to search engine optimization. We will explore which of the two popular options can help you achieve a website that is optimized well for SEO.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that can be used to create a website, serve up content, and manage all of your website assets. The entire WordPress universe includes a huge network of WordPress developers and website designers who provide themes and plug-ins for WordPress websites to build in functionality quicker than having things custom developed.

If you want to build a custom website and give it personality, WordPress is your platform. It also gives you protection from hackers and malware through SSL certificates and other plugins that offer security features — although some security features are automatic and enabled in WordPress by default.

Basically, WordPress is a fully featured CMS which you can employ to create any site for any subject or topic.

What is SquareSpace?

SquareSpace is a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) website builder. You pay a monthly fee to get access to the SquareSpace proprietary builder, however that fee does include your hosting, and it can make building a site much easier for someone who wants to try it on their own.

You can create the site yourself, of course, but moving beyond the ready-made templates may also involve having to hire a developer or designer who understands CSS to customize things more for you.

It has full customer support, various E-commerce features, and several design templates. All in all, it’s a great tool for novices and beginners who just want a functional website.

There are even marketing and SEO features available on the platform which you can use to generate leads. With every update, SquareSpace gets better and more and more people begin using it. Today, the platform has 3.79 million subscribers, and over $750 million in annual revenue.

However, keep in mind that a proprietary page-builder like SquareSpace is not going to be portable, which means if you ever decide to leave SquareSpace you have lost your website and have to start over again from scratch. This is why we generally suggest our clients build their site on the WordPress platform. You can easily move your entire site to a different host in a matter of less than an hour, if needed.

While obviously WordPress has more users than SquareSpace, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s better when it comes to certain things. So, here’s a comparison between the two for SEO capabilities and effectiveness.

Is SquareSpace or WordPress better for SEO?

Research Study: SEO on a WordPress Website vs. a SquareSpace Website

Ahrefs did a study on SquareSpace vs. WordPress with regards to SEO. They studied over 3.6 million websites, (1.8 million for SquareSpace and WordPress each) and published their results. The study measured 4 basic metrics:

  • Referring Domains: The number of unique websites linking to the website in question
  • Dofollow Referring Domains: Unique linking websites which had potentially value-passing links
  • Organic Traffic: The estimated number of visits from Google
  • Domain Rating: The strength of a website’s backlink profile from 0-100

All of these items are important factors when it comes to how well optimized a website or webpage is online. Let’s see what the study found.

Organic Traffic vs. Non-Organic Traffic

According to the study, 45.5% of all WordPress websites surveyed got organic monthly traffic. However, only 15.1% of SquareSpace websites got organic monthly traffic in comparison. Slicing that further, 8.1% of WordPress websites got 100+ monthly organic visits. However, the number there was lower for SquareSpace websites as well, at just 1.6%.

What is “organic traffic?” It is free traffic that comes to your site from general searches online that you are not paying for, like you would be with paid ads from Google or Facebook.

These results clearly showed that when it comes to SEO and generating organic traffic, WordPress took a strong lead. When organic traffic is concerned, obviously Google takes into account a lot of factors.

Average Domain Ratings

The average domain ratings and dofollowing referring domains for WordPress were also all higher across the board. The average domain rating for WordPress was a 5.23 while it was a 3.62 for SquareSpace.

The number of dofollow referring domains were 18.52 for WordPress and 6.45 for SquareSpace.

Having dofollow links from other websites is important to your own site’s SEO.

Mean vs. Median

However, when comparing the median values for both SquareSpace and WordPress, the results were inconclusive. This shows that there were several higher authority WordPress websites in the sample than for SquareSpace. This in itself showed that WordPress had a higher tendency to give you high authority sites in a random sample.

All in all, it only strengthened the case that WordPress will give you a higher authority and higher SEO optimized website.

Top 10 Keyword Rankings

Finally, the Ahref study also featured a survey of the top 10 keyword rankings on either platform. For this the WordPress platform yielded a total of 8.65 keyword rankings in the top 10 for domains with greater than 100 monthly organic visits. For SquareSpace, the same metric drew an average of 7.72.

All in all, the study showed that while SquareSpace is no slouch when it comes to SEO, WordPress is the clear winner. This can be chalked up to the fact that WordPress is more of a developer or tech-savvy platform and it is likely that more professional SEO and digital marketing agencies are working on optimizing WordPress sites.

Keep in mind, when it comes time to hire an SEO agency, they will be more attuned to working with WordPress and its tools. Some will even tell you that it will take longer to rank with SquareSpace and their services will cost more due to the increased time that will be need to get you there.

So while SquareSpace will get you a lot of user-friendly features and options, be prepared for higher costs and time to see results when it comes to your SEO.

What features do WordPress and SquareSpace have?

Let’s take a look at what WordPress and SquareSpace have to offer in terms of features.

WordPress vs. SquareSpace: SEO Features

In the beginning we need to make it clear that SquareSpace was built keeping the everyman or the layman in mind. Hence, it decidedly simplifies the process of creating a website for people that have never done so before.

However, WordPress is a much bigger playground where people can customize every little thing on their website. That’s why you’ll be much more inclined to find greater SEO optimization options on WordPress. Let’s see just how wide the gap is when it comes to some key features that play into a site that is optimized well for important SEO signals.

Headings or “H” Tags

Headings are some of the most important SEO features. They basically tell Google or any other search engines where the information is. A good heading can lead a user to their answers right away. However, the type of headings matter.

Usually, people just end up using the H1, H2, and H3 headings. And that’s what SquareSpace provides. They cater to the lowest common denominator. However, with WordPress, you can go all the way up to H6 giving you more options to signal what your page is really about.

Hence, you get greater customizability. You can write more detailed blogs and create a greater number of sections. That can be useful to those searching for very specific answers.

The winner is WordPress.

Custom URLs

Custom URLs help Google or any other search engine find your website or web page more easily. Instead of a complicated URL, the search engine simply sees the answer or a relevant headline. That way, your website can pop up more easily on page 1.

Custom URLs are provided by both WordPress and SquareSpace. Whether you need a custom URL for a really specific product or a specific blog post, you can find it on either. Here, there’s no difference.

The winner is a draw.

Image Alt Tags

Image Alt Tags basically provide SEO to any and all images that you upload to your website. These can be for blogs or for product descriptions, or for banners. SEO for images can help search engines find your website more quickly as well. It makes your website more image-searchable.

This feature is available on both platforms, but WordPress gives you greater flexibility. Image Alt Tags are only available as image captions on SquareSpace. On WordPress, they’re available site wide so you can SEO optimize all images.

The winner is WordPress.

Title Tags

Title tags are markers which tell search engines where categorical or subject-specific information is. That’s why they’re so important for web pages with very little text. WordPress provides these site wide while SquareSpace only makes them available for main pages. That means you can’t use them in blogs or inner pages.

The winner is WordPress.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions flesh out the information you’re looking for. This helps search engines rank web pages according to their specific relevance. Again, SquareSpace provides these only for main pages. With WordPress, you can implement them site wide.

The winner is WordPress.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps are a crucial feature which help search engines navigate their way around a site. They’re available on both platforms. While SquareSpace has sitemaps built into their software, WordPress sitemaps are easily created with various free plugins that are available for it.

The winner is a draw.

Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness is a major SEO feature. If your web pages aren’t responsive or tuned to the mobile experience, you will lose viewership and your bounce rate will grow. This is a fact. Since most people are moving to mobile platforms for the majority of their browsing anyway, this is beyond debate.

Here, both platforms offer responsiveness. SquareSpace takes care of it for you. With WordPress this functionality will depend on the theme you use, however there are various plugins that will also help make your site more responsive, if the theme doesn’t natively offer this.

The winner is a draw.

SSL Security  

Again, SSL security is a major SEO feature. Search engines filter out results which can pose a threat to their users. Web browsers also issue warnings to users if they’re navigating to an unsafe site. Usually these are sites without an HTTPS or an SSL security certificate.

The SSL security certificate is now pretty standard across all site building platforms. However, SquareSpace just hooks you up with one automatically, since their hosting is all inclusive. With WordPress, you’ll have to make sure the SSL in enabled on your hosting account.

The winner is a draw.

Google Analytics for SEO

WordPress vs. SquareSpace: Performance

Now you’ve heard the numbers, but nothing matters unless your website generates numbers. SEO takes into account how well your site is optimized for relevant searches. Without an analytics tool monitoring everything, your website can see the purgatory of page 2. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, you need to monitor your site’s analytics.

SquareSpace has a built in analytics suite. Its own analytics can help track the amount of traffic that comes to your site. It will also show you which web pages need work and which ones aren’t working. It will also let you search relevant keywords which can help your site generate more traffic.

While WordPress has all this capability too, it doesn’t have a built-in performance monitoring suite. That being said, you can connect to the powerful Google Analytics pretty easily — and this is going to be the monitoring tool most people prefer to employ anyway. This option is also available on SquareSpace and WordPress does have several very capable plugins for SEO use which helps with SEO performance. Most outside agencies who specialize in SEO prefer to work with these tools on a WordPress site.

WordPress vs. SquareSpace user interface

User-Friendly Builder Interface on a WordPress Website vs. a SquareSpace Website

Here, the clear winner is SquareSpace. It’s not even a contest since that’s the main selling point of SquareSpace is ease of use. Yes, WordPress has greater SEO capability, however SquareSpace gives you the basic options you need in a neat package.

Hence, SquareSpace is a much better tool for you if you want to try to SEO optimize your on your own, however you still need to have the basic knowledge of what makes a page well optimized to begin to do so.

But, keep in mind that WordPress now offers many “page builder” plugins and ready-made templates that make getting your own website up and running fairly simply too.

And, with that said, the SEO benefits that you get are possibly greater on WordPress since it has a greater wealth of options, and if you intend to hire professionals to work on your SEO they are going to be more familiar with and able to rank you with a WordPress site.

Final Verdict

In the WordPress vs. SquareSpace race, the winner for SEO optimization is more complex to decide than you think. Yes, WordPress is a more capable CMS and tool. However, SquareSpace is built for beginners who don’t know what to do.

If you’re willing to spend more time learning the ropes or plan on hiring WordPress designers, developers, or SEO experts to manage things for you, then WordPress is the perfect platform for you. You/they can fully optimize every single element of your website so that it attracts more traffic and generates more leads. There are also options through which you can make your website more functional and speedier.

However, with SquareSpace, you can create a basic website with a few clicks. That is very valuable for a small business that is trying to establish an online presence quickly with minimal budgets.

All in all, WordPress has the upper hand, but for novices, it’s clear that SquareSpace is a viable alternative.

Nora Kramer Designs, Team 2

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