If you’ve followed along with our three-part blog series on the SEO limitations of Shopify, naturally you may be curious about what other content management system (CMS) options are available, and which one would fit your needs best.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore other CMS platforms and share a rundown on how they match up when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). In this blog, we are going to explore the highs and lows of one of the most highly rated CMS platforms: WordPress.
What is WordPress?
If you have ever wanted to create a blog, a website, or an app, chances are you have heard of WordPress. WordPress is marketed to be a free, open source platform written in Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), a general purpose scripting language. It is known to use a My Structured Query Language (MySQL) database, an open-source relational database management system. From creating portfolio websites and blogs to managing a B2B business and running an ecommerce website, WordPress is incredibly versatile depending on your needs. Before we dive into its SEO capabilities, we have to first establish that WordPress offers two different platforms: WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is for the tech savvy, especially when it comes to web development. This is the WordPress platform that is known to be a free, open source software, through which you can self-host to create your own website. The caveat is you have to purchase your own domain and web host. But from there, you truly own 100% of your website as you have free reign to code and develop everything on your site.
On the flip side, WordPress.com caters to users that do not know how to code, but the platform is powered by WordPress.org software. Just like Shopify, WordPress takes out the requirement of needing to know how to code by already providing the user the frontend and backend of the website. Even as a beginner, it is easy to publish and build your website with their customizable themes.
Throughout the rest of this blog, we will be focusing on WordPress.com as many vendors may want to opt for a CMS that is already set up for them. Even though it may not be as flexible as creating your own website, WordPress.com gives its users the ability to customize in other ways: plug-ins.
Now you may be wondering, how does SEO come into play with this? Well, because WordPress is an open source platform, users are able to extend its core functionality through plug-ins. There are over 50,000 different types of plug-ins that can add a variety of features and functionalities to your site. With so many different types of plug-ins, there are a lot of mixed reviews on how we should treat them. To further explore this, we are going to dive into the good and the bad of WordPress’ plug-ins.
Plug-ins on WordPress are great because they provide assistance for users that do not know how to code. Depending on the needs for your site, you can customize it to function however you see fit. For example, with ecommerce sites you might want to add a plug-in that allows users to see if your brand has any ongoing sales.
While there are many available plug-ins that you can use, we’ve highlighted two notable plug-ins that can offer you more flexibility and insights.
Woocommerce is very compatible with WordPress, making it easy to use as a customizable ecommerce plug-in. Like Shopify, it provides the necessities you need to sell online. However, the main difference between Shopify and Woocommerce is that the latter of the two is an open source platform that allows you to retain ownership of your content and data. It also helps that the code is built to improve SEO, which is a key feature that Shopify lacks.
YoastSEO is a highly recommended plug-in known for its high quality content and many great features. One of its most useful features is that it helps optimize a site’s content for search engines by suggesting keyphrases to target. We know this to be very important after learning about duplicate content. This feature in particular is relevant to the keywords we want to rank for in search engines. Some of its other useful features include the automatic tech SEO improvements for canonical uniform resource locators (URLs), along with an advanced extensible markup language (XML) sitemap for site structure. Since learning about locked sitemaps, we know this is important as it impacts Google’s ability to crawl and index your website.
YoastSEO also provides another essential feature called breadcrumbs. This small text path, often located at the top of the page on your site, helps indicate where the user is on the site. Having full control over your site’s breadcrumbs is helpful because your users (and search engines!) will always know where they are on your site. This helps to reduce bounce rate (people leaving your page) and pass link equity (passing authority from one page to another). Passing link equity is one of the many signals that search engines use to determine a page’s ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs). Thus, having this feature on your site helps improve your site’s ranking.
These are just two examples of the many plug-ins that are available on WordPress.com. Plug-ins can definitely be very beneficial and help enhance your site in ways that Shopify can’t. However, you should still be mindful of the fact that plug-ins like Woocommerce and YoastSEO should not be treated as a definitive solution to your SEO needs. There are limitations that we have to take into consideration as well.
Ever heard of the saying, ‘too much of a good thing may end up being a bad thing’? While it’s great that WordPress provides an open source platform with an abundance of applicable plug-ins at your disposal, you should tread with caution, as it may end up doing more harm than good.
One big complaint against plug-ins is the bloated code. Depending on the plug-ins you add onto your site, some of the features may be unnecessary to what you need, especially if you already have one plug-in that has similar features. On top of that, having too many plug-ins can make your page slow because of all the unnecessary code. You definitely want to avoid long load times because it will affect your site speed, which can negatively impact your page’s ranking. Always be mindful of what plug-ins you add and their features to avoid duplication.
Another big complaint about plug-ins is security. Because plug-ins are open source and free, they are susceptible to a lot of security issues. You run the risk of software bugs, hacking, and even viruses if you are not careful. Unfortunately, this is a common issue with WordPress, which they can only fix once the plug-in is patched. This leads to another common complaint – updates. Because of the software bugs, you have to constantly update WordPress and your plug-ins to keep up with newer versions. Thus, it would be in your best interest to back up your code and the underlying database to protect the previous working version from possible corruption from the update.
With all this said, these are just a few pros and cons to bear in mind when considering WordPress as your CMS platform. WordPress is a great competitor to Shopify for good reason. It provides a lot of flexibility and customization to both advanced and new users. Although there are many SEO features that can be enticing to have – especially if you are new to building your own website and don’t have much experience with SEO – you want to be careful not to depend heavily on too many plug-ins. Once you understand what you need for your site and research the plug-ins that best fit your needs, WordPress can be a manageable CMS that is SEO friendly.
If you want to learn more about other content management systems and how compatible they are with SEO, check back on our blog page over the next few weeks for more information, or get in touch with our SEO team!