Squarespace vs WordPress vs Showit: Which Is better for SEO?
There are several web design platforms and content management systems used by many photographers. Choosing the right web design platform and content management system for your website is important for your search engine optimization (SEO). Photographers tend to use Squarespace, WordPress, Showit, PhotoBiz, SmugMug, Zenfolio, or Good Gallery as their web design platform. Which web design platform is best for SEO? 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? Like most questions about SEO, it depends. There is not a definite answer to this question. However, there are different things you should consider when trying to decide which web design platform to use.
First of all, it’s good to know that Google is “platform agnostic.” Google does not care what content management system you’re using. Google’s algorithm will not change solely 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 hierarchical 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 provided by Showit is powered by WordPress. You can have that on the same domain. Showit hosts 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, Good Gallery, Photobiz & a lot of Weebly sites just don’t have that functionality these other three do. They seem to be missing pieces here and there that are necessary for optimizing your site. They are more like SquareSpace but they don’t have all of the functionality.
Good Gallery has some great built-in SEO functions. Out of the box, Good Gallery (when properly optimized) does very well for SEO. Like Showit, Good Gallery is a front end builder that allows for a back-end WordPress blog.
Here are a few considerations when contemplating using Good Galley:
1) Design templates
There is only a hand full of design themes available to Good Gallery users. These designs are great looking and show off photographers work very well. According to Good Gallery’s website, “With Good Gallery, we don’t limit you with a set number of templates or themes. Instead, we offer you thousands of different settings that allow you to control all website behaviors—both large and small.” For those of you like me to or not skilled at design. You may struggle without having some general design direction and templates to get your web design project started.
Rob Greer, founder, and CEO of Good Gallery says, “Good Gallery users manage settings instead of themes to define website appearance. There are thousands of settings that independently control every aspect of a website’s behavior and design. Theme characteristics offered by other website builders are also available on Good Gallery. Users simply change settings instead of picking themes.”
To date, we have worked with dozens of clients who use good gallery and have observed many competitors and other photographers websites. We have not seen much diversity or uniqueness in the design and layouts of the Good Gallery sites we have seen.
2) Media pages
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, and now with Good Gallery, 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.
Rob Greer says, “With a single setting, Good Gallery is configurable to automatically notify search engines that photo pages without content shouldn’t be indexed. Additionally, those excluded photos aren’t included in the sitemap file. However, we have clients with image pages ranking on the first page of Google for competitive keywords with a page title only and no additional content. Therefore, some users may not activate this feature.”
In reaction to Mr. Greer’s comments, what is the benefit of ranking for a “competitive keyword” if the result the user see’s is a low-quality content page? Yes, you may get a few people to click through to your site, but they will land on a page with just an image. In my (and Google’s) opinion, these pages deliver a poor user experience and tend to have high bounce rates. In this case, high bounce rates can be an indirect negative ranking factor.
Google Video about thin content pages:
3) Security (SSL | https)
Currently, SSL certificates are provided automatically to all customers at no charge.
4) Mobile adaptive vs responsive
According to Good Gallery’s website, it is not responsive, it is adaptive. Good Gallery says, “Good Gallery sites use adaptive technology, a superior solution for performance-oriented websites. In both responsive and adaptive design, mobile users are presented with the same content across all devices. However, the technical approach for determining the type of device is managed differently under a responsive architecture versus an adaptive architecture. However, Google says, “We recommend using responsive web design…” This is not a huge issue, but something to consider when choosing a platform for SEO.
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?