Squarespace vs WordPress vs Showit: Which Is better for SEO?
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 most significant 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. Google’s algorithm will not change based on what site you are using. You will not 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 some aspects 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 is an open source platform. Being open source means you have access to the source code and install it on your web host. This flexibility allows for a ton of tools and features that can be created by developers to enhance the platform. This access also means it can easily break.
- We can control & manipulate everything & present whatever we need to “appease” Google as far as giving them what they want. This includes, the best user experience & the best structure that they’re looking for on a site (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, allow you to manage your SEO efficiently.
- There’s maintenance/upkeep you have to be involved with
- There are security issues that exist that don’t 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 create it than another site may be.
- No real customer support
- You will need a web host. I recommend Siteground. They offer one of the fastest, most secure and helpful support hosting around. I use them myself! TWS RECOMMENDATION: The GrowBig plan is an excellent value for money offer, including the option for multiple websites and the SuperCacher that significantly improves a WordPress and Joomla website speed.
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 robust SEO platform.
- They control everything inside the platform, such as security, upkeep & maintenance. WordPress does not take care of for us. So, this is an advantage to SquareSpace.
- Great themes that are built to be mobile friendly and have drag and drop capabilities.
- Great customer support. Although, we have seen them give out some suggestions that directly conflict Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
- Fast web hosting included.
- 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 or coded to 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 merely cannot do with Squarespace.
- Some designs have limited flexibility. Some designs use the meta description field from the back end to populate special areas in the design. We have also experienced limitations on the ability to use H1 – H6 tags due to limited font use options
- 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 a plus.
Other options include sites like Showit. It is another platform you can drag-and-drop & control the main pages on your website. The blog is a WordPress blog. You can have that on the same domain & host everything in one package.
- 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.
- 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 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.
Goodgallery has some great built-in SEO functions. Out of the box, Goodgallery does very well for SEO. Like Showit, Good Gallery is a front end site that allows a WordPress blog. There are two aspects of Good Gallery that I do not like: 1) limited design capabilities, 2) forced media pages. There is only a hand full of design themes available to Goodgallery users. Granted these are great looking and show off photographers work very well, the options are sparse. Every image you upload creates media page for that image. So if you upload 100 images into a gallery now, you have 100 additional pages to your website. Every page/image needs a unique, optimized and congruent URL, page title, meta description, H1, 250+ words on the page, and some internal links to similar content. You can do this with all the other platforms, but with Goodgallery you cannot turn this off. If you go through the process to fill this out, your SEO will be excellent; however, if you skip this step, it could have a negative impact. As of now, Goodgallery does not allow for secure socket layer browsing (HTTPS), which can be problematic in many situations.
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.)
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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