I want to address a common question I get on almost a daily basis: What website is better for Search Engine Optimization? Squarespace, WordPress, Showit, PhotoBiz, SmugMug? Which of these is going to be the best platform to host my photography website that is going to yield the greatest SEO opportunities? There is not a definite answer to this question, but there are different things you might want to consider when trying to decide which platform to go with.

First of all, it’s good to know that Google is “platform agnostic”—they don’t care what content management platform you’re using. Basically, Google’s algorithm won’t change based on what site you’re using. You won’t receive better rankings due to being on WordPress over Squarespace or vice versa. What is important to Google is the structure of the site & the user experience. This means you’ll want to use a website that gives the best hierarchal structure in your creation, utilizes the best & the cleanest code, gives you the ability to adjust certain elements of the site (page titles, meta descriptions, alt text, canonical tags), as well as the ability to grow a site. These things are all that go into the SEO of a website & this is what’s most important.

WordPress

WordPress is an open source platform. This means you have access to the source code and install it on your web host. This allows for a ton of tools and features that can be created by developers to enhance the platform. This also means is can easily break.

Benefits:

  • We can control & manipulate everything & present whatever we need to in order to “appease” Google as far as giving them what they want: the best user experience & the best structure that they’re looking for on a site (that being said, you must have the appropriate theme. Not all themes are created equal!) But for the most part, going with WordPress will ultimately give you the options to present the right code & user experience you need.
  • Less expensive of a platform – It’s an opensource (free) software so all you’re paying for is the hosting.
  • Great plugins, like Yoast, that allow you to easily manage your SEO

Downfalls: 

  • There’s maintenance/upkeep you have to be involved with
  • There are security issues that exist that don’t exist in other platforms. But: (since it is open source,) a lot of those hosting accounts that manage WordPress can help with some of these types of issues & control this for you.
  • You have a cost barrier to getting it designed or developed; There’s more of a learning curve in the design process & it can be more costly to pay someone else to design it than another site may be.
  • No real customer support
  • You will need your own web host

Note: There are some themed platforms out there designed specifically for photographers (i.e. ProPhoto6, Divi, http://thedesignspace.co) have great themes & are inexpensive options to have good design on a solid SEO platform.

 

Squarespace

Benefits:

  • They control everything inside the platform, such as security, upkeep & maintenance… Exactly the things WordPress does not take care of for us. So this is an advantage to SquareSpace.
  • Great themes that are mobile friendly and have drag and drop capabilities.
  • Great customer support.
  • Fast web hosting included.

Downfalls:

  • Altering custom features is a lot more technically challenging. Things that may be a more simple on WordPress (such as adding alt text to images) are harder to pull off on this alternate site. Not all themes are designed/coded to even allow more in-depth designing. Crafting a proper page title or meta description is a lot more of a daunting task. There are some things such as custom category pages, creating silos & advanced architecture you simply cannot do with Squarespace.
  • It costs a little more per month

If you want to rank in a small/medium-sized town, have one or two types of photography & you have a simple website that keeps it minimal with blog posts targeting one specific area you can be successful with this particular platform.

Now, if you are in a large area in the US, UK, Australia, etc, it will take a more sophisticated structuring system. There will need to be siloing, targeting venues & other things & be able to create custom category pages. You need to be able to have advanced functionality in the structure that would give you an edge over your competition. Using a site like SquareSpace you won’t be able to be as competitive in the more saturated markets because you need those advanced abilities in design & architecture. So with all this in mind, we must remember it is still a viable option & the added comfort of security is definitely a plus.

Showit

Other options include sites like Showit. It is another platform you can drag-and-drop & control your main pages on your website. The blog is actually a WordPress blog. This means you can have that on the same domain & host everything in one package.

Benefits:

  • Ease of design & usability.
  • Like Squarespace, you can throw together a site quickly & easily.
  • Templates & themes are offered & are easy to manipulate.
  • You are using WordPress to manage the blog.
  • Great themes that are mobile friendly and have drag and drop capabilities.
  • Fantastic customer support with live chat.
  • Fast web hosting included.

Downfalls:

  • If you ignore the SEO it can be detrimental. One is able to see the things on your site you ignore because of the default settings work against SEO & go against Google trying to understand who you are. This can definitely hurt you in the long run if you don’t give it that special attention it needs.

Showit can be great—many people have accomplished this. But you have to intentionally work to make sure the SEO part is “right”. It can do more harm than good if you don’t pay specific attention to it, but that’s not to say there aren’t some sites on the first page of a Google search that use Showit that are dominating the rankings & competing head-to-head with people using WordPress alone. It is a good platform in its own way.

Other Platforms

Other platforms like SmugMug, Photobiz & a lot of Weebly sites just don’t have that functionality these other three do. They seem to be missing pieces here & there that are necessary for optimizing your site. They are more like SquareSpace but don’t even have some of the functionality that already-limited site has.

Wix is similar to Showit in the sense that you have quite a bit of control & you have some of the newer designs & newer templates—but again, you have limited capabilities & Showit will have more of an advantage in your abilities to design (so out of the two Showit is the better pick.)

Conclusion

Now that we have kind of reviewed the pros & cons of the bigger sites, we can revisit the question: Which is best for SEO? SquareSpace, Showit or some other platform? Ultimately it’s up to these general principles & how you feel toward them individually & professionally:

  • Your “tolerance of tech”
  • Security needs
  • How much time you want to devote to upkeep & maintenance
  • How much money you have to spend for the initial design of your site
  • What are your goals? World domination or ranking in a smaller, not-so-saturated area?

 

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