Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is easily the most important factor you should consider when choosing a CMS platform. Two of the most popular choices include Squarespace and WordPress, but which one is better when it comes to SEO?
Both platforms are extremely popular, and as you may expect, come with a variety of SEO features and tools you can take advantage of. And if you use those tools effectively, your website will rank well on search engines.
But are they equal?
Let’s discuss how Squarespace and WordPress stack up to one another when it comes to SEO.
Squarespace vs WordPress SEO: Overview
Before we take a deep dive into their SEO capabilities, let’s take a moment to see what each platform is at its core. This will give us a much better understanding of what each one was made to do and how they perform.
What Is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a website builder that targets beginners as its key audience. The platform specializes in simplicity, and they succeed in this regard. Building a website with one of their excellent templates is extremely easy.
And yes, that means you won’t need any coding knowledge to use the platform.
So, what would this set you back? Well, it all depends on the plan you choose. Each plan has a clear list of features with higher-priced plans offering more functionality.
In comparison to other CMS platforms, the prices are a tad high, but the simplicity might be worth it.
When it comes to SEO, the platform has a variety of SEO tools that are placed in their very own tab. They’re easy to access, but past this, the SEO potential of the platform is quite limited at least when compared to some of the other platforms available.
What Is WordPress?
WordPress is an open-source CMS platform that dominates the industry. It has a market share that now exceeds 40%. Or, in other words, 40% of websites on the Internet are built with WordPress.
So, how did it get so popular? By being the swiss-army knife of web design that anyone can use.
With it, you can create any kind of website, and you have a nearly endless supply of tools you can pick from in the form of plugins. It excels at customization, and I would go as far as to say it is unmatched in this regard.
Taking a look at its SEO tools, WordPress is just as versatile. Out of the box, WordPress has a plethora of SEO-related tools, but that’s just scratching the surface. More importantly, there are hundreds of plugins dedicated to optimization.
You have an incredible number of options in WordPress.
Note: There are actually two kinds of WordPress: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This comparison is looking at the self-hosted WordPress.org version.
So, What’s the Difference?
At their core, these platforms are very different. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), whereas Squarespace is just a website builder. As such, the amount of features and customizations WordPress can offer is far greater than Squarespace.
It’s also worth mentioning that WordPress is free, but you will need a web host. Nonetheless, you can choose what web hosting company use. In the case of Squarespace, you must pay for a plan that is several times more expensive than traditional web hosting services.
Let’s take a deeper look into their SEO capabilities.
Squarespace vs WordPress SEO: Out of The Box
When it comes to direct comparisons, it can be hard to draw a line and say what you should and shouldn’t compare. Thus, let’s first take a look at what each platform offers out of the box. This means without any tools being added to either platform.
Squarespace Out of the Box: Winner
Squarespace has a lot of SEO features that can help creators right from the get-go. Some of the core features include custom URLs, automatically making all content responsive, generating an XML sitemap, URL redirections, and more.
While these may sound great, I think it’s more important to discuss what you cannot do.
For instance, I mentioned that the platform automatically generates an XML sitemap. This is great, but what I left out is that you can not directly edit it.
For smaller websites, this won’t have much of an impact. But for larger websites, this is far from ideal.
One of the major problems with Squarespace is your lack of control over page speed. Squarespace performance isn’t terrible, but it’s far from great. As a web developer, you really can’t do anything to change that.
Speed is a huge factor for SEO, so this is a tremendous shortcoming.
WordPress Out of the Box
WordPress is no slouch when it comes to built-in SEO features, but its bread and butter is by accessing its plugins. The default tools allow users access to headers 1-6, custom URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, and much more.
All of these features are available site-wide along with many more, however, these are just the built-in tools.
The cool thing about WordPress is that you can actually code a lot of features into the platform, assuming you have the knowledge. This means you don’t always need a plugin or third-party tool to add features to the platform.
Thus, you have way more options than you know.
You might have noticed I didn’t say responsive, but by default, your site should be responsive due to the default theme that comes with your install. However, not all themes are equal, thus some themes do require additional steps to make them responsive.
This was a pretty tough one to decide a winner for. On one hand, WordPress can do more out of the box, but this requires you to start hardcoding features into the platform, which isn’t beginner-friendly. Yet, Squarespace is very limited in what is available.
While it’s close, I would say the average user will get more out of Squarespace due to the simplicity of the tools.
Squarespace vs WordPress SEO: SEO Tools
Now that we got the default features out of the way, it’s time to really get into what each platform can do by conducting a comparison of the SEO tools at their disposal.
Truthfully, this is pretty lopsided as comparisons go, but once you go past the basics, one platform really stands out from the other.
Squarespace SEO Tools
Squarespace actually has a lot of integrations for popular platforms like Mailchimp, PayPal, Stripe, and other big names. What it doesn’t really have are SEO tool integrations.
The sole exception is connecting it to an analytical tool like Google Analytics.
And while Google Analytics is probably among the most important SEO tools available, there is only so much that the information it provides can do.
The logic behind this is that the platform was built with SEO best practices in mind. Therefore, you won’t need a dedicated SEO plugin for Squarespace.
Despite this, Squarespace has actually had a bad reputation when it comes to SEO. For example, it infamously made it very difficult to add image alt text for years.
While they did fix this issue, you are essentially stuck with the default tools when using Squarespace. Again, these are pretty solid, but it really limits what control you have over your website’s SEO.
WordPress SEO Tools: Winner
WordPress has hundreds of SEO tools available. And generally speaking, this is how the platform was designed. If you need a specific feature, you simply need to install a plugin that adds it to your website.
This tool basically takes care of everything on the SEO side of things. It will generate an XML site map, track keyword usage in posts, help improve the readability of your content, permalink clean up, and so much more.
In fact, the newer versions of Yoast SEO come packed with the keyword tracking took, Wincher.
And that’s just one tool. You can install others that specialize in a certain area to cover up the shortcoming of another. Or, if you just don’t like the way it works, you can find another.
That’s the power of WordPress…you have complete freedom and control.
There’s not really a contest here. Once you add SEO tools into the comparison, WordPress is unmatched. There is an SEO tool that can do anything, but on the flipside, Squarespace really doesn’t have anything beyond its built-in offerings.
While they can get you pretty far, you will never have true optimization like you would have in WordPress.
Squarespace vs WordPress SEO: Performance
I’ve mentioned performance, but it really does deserve its own section. How fast your pages load will have a massive impact on your website’s SEO and the overall user experience.
Let’s see how they stack up against one another.
Squarespace templates provide a clean HTML that typically loads fast, at least for most sites. But when you look a bit deeper, you will find that like most of Squarespace, your options are very limited when it comes to speeding up your site.
For smaller websites, Squarespace really does perform well. However, when it comes to bulkier websites, that is where the problems arise.
One of the biggest issues with Squarespace is that it is a hosted website builder. This means you cannot pick a web hosting company yourself. If you are unhappy with the service, there’s nothing you can do.
Now, that’s just one downside. There are many small optimizations you can make to improve speeds, but it’s pretty massive. Ultimately, there is a hard limit on how far you can go in Squarespace when it comes to optimizing speeds for larger websites.
WordPress Performance: Winner
WordPress has actually gotten somewhat of a negative reputation when it comes to its performance. However, if it’s really that bad, why do so many people use it? The truth is that you can get an amazing performance out of WordPress, but you need to know what to do.
The good news is that with a few plugins, you can achieve amazing results, and it’s not very difficult.
First, you need to pick a great web hosting company. A web host provides you with a web server to store your website on. When visitors access your website, they’re actually connecting to that web server.
Thus, a bad web host can have a serious impact on site speed.
WordPress does not limit your choices as you can pick any web hosting company. This is just one factor, though. You can also install plugins to focus on other features like caching, lazy loading, image compression, and much more.
You’re not faced with the same limits when it comes to optimization WordPress.
While Squarespace will run better out of the box, it doesn’t take long to notice the limitations that are imposed on web developers. But that’s not the case in WordPress.
It has a huge selection of tools that can help speed up your website almost instantly.
More importantly, you can choose any web hosting company you want by using WordPress. This is a huge advantage over Squarespace.
Squarespace vs WordPress SEO: Final Results
Due to the sheer number of options available and lack of limitations, WordPress is the clear winner. You can optimize every single aspect of your website in a search-engine-friendly way, and the same can’t be said of Squarespace.
That said, you really do need to have a basic understanding of SEO to get the most out of WordPress. But considering that it is the most important aspect of every website, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Which platform do you think offers better SEO tools?