With approximately 380 new websites created every minute, the rush to find the best content management system is palpable. Every year there seem to be more and more platforms, each one more user-friendly than the next. With so many options, how does one choose?
As technical marketers, we always want our clients to have the best CMS that works for their specific needs, but we also hope they have great SEO capabilities. So, how do the top content management systems rank in terms of SEO friendliness? While not at all exhaustive, we’ve categorized some of the most popular content management systems.
What to Look for in a Content Management System
At UpBuild, we’ve seen many different types of content management systems over the years. More recently, there’s been an increased interest in the drag-and-drop functionality of Squarespace and Wix, while others remain truly dedicated to more customizable platforms such as WordPress or Joomla. So, what exactly should we be looking for in a CMS from an SEO standpoint?
Adaptability wins, at least when it comes to SEO. Keeping up with Google’s algorithm changes means making sure your site is always optimized by continually updating and modifying – everything from page titles and metadata to implementing redirects and optimizing for performance. Having a content management system that makes it hard to adapt means you’ll be lagging when it comes to competing in the search engine results pages.
Open source means that a website’s code is freely accessible and viewable to anyone. Users are able to make changes and improvements with the ability to adapt the CMS to individual requirements. Why is this important? We’ve found that working with a CMS that is open source usually means more flexibility and a better ability to adapt to best SEO practices.
Newer proprietary platforms may seem like the best bet with their pre-fabbed easy-to-use templates and dazzling designs. However, if you are unable to implement changes quickly and access the underlying code, it could reduce your ability to make the changes necessary for SEO. It’s important to note, however, that not all proprietary platforms are bad for SEO (and not all open source platforms are good for SEO).
An Overview of (Some) Content Management Systems
Now that we know some of what to look out for in a CMS, here is a list of our favorite (and not so favorite) SEO-friendly platforms.
Great for SEO
WordPress is the most popular open source CMS in the world, powering over a quarter of the world’s websites. The large WordPress community provides an array of themes, plugins, widgets, and support enabling the user to customize their website for their individual needs. Additionally, WordPress has SEO friendly plugins such as Yoast, an excellent tool for SEO optimization.
While we love WordPress at UpBuild, some critics believe the CMS can feel awkward or confusing to use, especially in comparison to today’s drag-and-drop platforms like Squarespace or Wix, which prioritize ease of use. That being said, WordPress’ most recent update, Gutenberg, aims to create a similar user-friendly experience. Learning to use WordPress is not as difficult as some may think, and it’s used by a wide range of people with varying technical abilities.
Pros: Open source, completely customizable and comes with a great suite of SEO plugins. Huge community and great support resources.
Cons: May be difficult to learn compared to the drag-and-drop platforms of today.
Like WordPress, Drupal is a flexible, open-source platform backed by a large community. Designed as a platform for websites, blogs, forums, and many other applications, Drupal is known to be extremely customizable with a large selection of extensions and themes and notable users such as Tesla, NBC, and Pfizer.
Drupal allows its users to control every element of a webpage with the help of its SEO automation tools. The immense flexibility of Drupal makes it one of the best platforms for search engine optimization.
While Drupal is popular with many people, it can be challenging to manage for non-developer or non-technical users. Depending on your objectives, the learning curve can be considerable.
Pros: Open source, large selection of extensions and themes. Very flexible.
Cons: May be difficult to use for non-developer or non-technical users.
Magento is a CMS geared towards e-commerce websites with extensive features for those in the e-commerce industry. Additionally, Magento’s open source platform allows for the code to be customizable (mostly at install), while at the same time offering out-of-the-box templates and themes. Magneto offers SEO management tools and is considered one of the most search engine friendly ecommerce platforms.
While it is considered SEO friendly, there are still many things which could be improved within the CMS, including issues regarding duplicate content, non-optimized HTML sitemaps, and the ability to modify the Robots.txt file. With that in mind, Magento is still one of the most SEO friendly e-commerce platforms out there.
Pros: The most customizable eCommerce platform. Offers easy to use templates. Considered one of the most search engine friendly e-commerce platforms.
Cons: Inability to modify the Robots.txt file, issues regarding non-optimized HTML sitemaps and duplicate content.
Workable for SEO
One of the most well known and popular e-commerce content management systems, Shopify has visually pleasing templates and a straightforward dashboard. Shopify also has a general foundation of SEO structured into its websites, including automatic sitemap generation, canonical tag instructions, mobile-friendly templates, personalized URLs, customizable title tags, etc.
While not the most customizable for advanced SEO features, such as not allowing access to the Robots.txt file and not having the ability to edit sitemaps, Shopify has listened to its user base and recently added new features such as the ability to implement 301-redirects.
Overall, Shopify is a good choice for ecommerce sites looking for a streamlined, out-of-the-box approach.
Pros: Extremely easy to use template based CMS. Has general SEO capabilities already included on the platform.
Cons: Not open source and not as customizable as Magento. Does not have advanced SEO features such as access to Robots.txt file, or the ability to edit sitemaps.
Joomla is more popular with people who have more website experience; it is geared towards developers who aren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty” working with servers. Whereas WordPress is more beginner friendly and relatively easy to get started with, Joomla is more often used by those with advanced capabilities.
Joomla has basic SEO optimization functionality built in, and is customizable for additional SEO features. However, to utilize any advanced SEO features, you will most likely need the help of a developer, since it can be extremely challenging for users with little technical experience. This can be a time-consuming and expensive issue, especially if a developer is needed for any customization on the site.
Pros: Can be customized for advanced SEO features.
Cons: Could be a very difficult platform to use if you don’t have a lot of website experience or technical background.
Difficult for SEO
Drag and drop templates are becoming extremely popular and well-known, and if you’ve listened to any podcast, you’ve probably been inundated with Squarespace ads.
While very easy to use, these drag-and-drop templates provide very little, if any, customization or flexibility. Squarespace websites are user-friendly; however, if you have any desire to ever access your website’s code or customize any advanced SEO features, you’re out of luck.
One criticism of Squarespace’s SEO features is their lack of consistency, especially when it comes to standard SEO industry terminology. Their nonadherence to industry terms makes their SEO customization confusing and frustrating.
Additionally, you’re unable to use any third party tools or plugins such as Yoast, for example. This can be a further hindrance to capitalizing on your site’s SEO performance, leaving you to rely on Squarespace’s understanding of necessary SEO elements.
While it’s possible to rank for your Squarespace site, it’s definitely not the easiest.
Pros: User-friendly, out-of-the-box SEO configurations.
Cons: SEO terminology is not standard and may be confusing to users, not very flexible, no access to third-party SEO plugins.
If you’ve watched any of the 2019 Supberbowl ads, Wix would be the first to tell you they are the best SEO optimized platform out there. Our response?
In the past, Wix had a reputation for awful SEO. They were known for terrible URL structure, their websites were based on Flash technology, you weren’t able to add alt text to images, and their blog functionality was a total disaster. But, does this still ring true today?
More recently, Wix has done a lot to improve its SEO performance, such as adding a free SEO tool and generally updating their SEO capabilities. However, let’s be real: Wix is just another templated website builder without any ability to customize the code or advanced SEO features.
Wix covers the basics, which is a lot better than before, but if you’re looking for complete optimization freedom, we suggest staying away from these templated, proprietary platforms.
Pros: User-friendly, Wix is doing more to improve their SEO.
Cons: Not customizable or flexible, no real ability to customize advanced SEO features.
There are tons of platforms to consider when creating a website, but not all are created equal. In general, we at UpBuild prefer open source, flexible content management systems that give you the ability and the freedom to change as your company grows and transforms. Websites are not static things, and we must be able to constantly maintain and optimize in order to remain relevant and competitive. If it were up to me, I’d always go the WordPress route, but everyone has their favorite. What are your favorite content management systems? Let us know below in the comments.