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Is WordPress Good For SEO in 2023? Absolutely

TL;DR | Our Academy teaches WordPress (.org) web design for a VERY GOOD REASON and SEO plays a significant role in that decision.

When you look out into the world that is web design, it is impossible not to notice the very many ways to peel the proverbial potato, i.e. building a website.

You can build a website using:

… to name just a few.

While I do not intend for this article to be a one-stop shop for all things SEO as it relates to the aforementioned web-builder solutions, I will try my hand at giving you a few TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) items for each.

Let’s start with WordPress.org | (Our Choice/Winner for SEO!)

If this is the first article you’ve read on the topic of SEO and WordPress, then my work here is done!

However, as will very likely be the case, my guess is that this is more likely the 15th article you’ve read on the topic and, even more likely, not in the same sitting. Am I right?

Regardless of where this article landed in your personal journey, as a web developer with almost three decades in the industry (I built my first client website in 1996), my own experience should count for something, I hope anyway.

Onsite SEO | The Plugin to Rule All (SEO) Plugins | RankMath (Pro)

(Full Transparency, the link above is an affiliate link. If you choose to click it and end up purchasing the pro version, I might get a coffee! But seriously, I only do affiliate marketing for the tools I use and believe in. I only use tools I believe in, and RankMath is most definitely one of those tools! Keep reading to find out why!!!)

RankMath makes doing all of the basics of search engine optimization stuff ‘easy’. I could list the 90+ SEO items they celebrate being able to do for you, or you could literally just follow the link to see (here’s a non-affiliate link so you can go check it out without feeling dirty if you’d prefer!) RankMath.

The free version of the plugin takes care of practically every aspect of onsite Search Engine Optimization that you could imagine:

  • canonicalization,
  • headers,
  • meta-tags (title, description, snippet),
  • robots.txt files,
  • sitemaps,
  • content scoring,
  • robots meta options (index, noindex, follow, nofollow…),
  • schema (the free version only allows for one schema type, but the pro is outstanding if you need to go deep),
  • social media previews,
  • automatic redirects (for when you learn better SEO and figure out that you need to include a strategic keyword phrase in your page title but didn’t realize doing so would likely change the ‘slug’ and therefore the permalink. This would then make the old URL disappear and become a 401 which could penalize your domain’s SEO in the eyes of Google because they didn’t know about the change… yeah, RankMath just does that for you)…

Hopefully, you get the idea.

While RankMath offers more tools in its toolbox, I do not use all of the offered features because either I believe they are unnecessary or I use a different tool to accomplish the same job. You should only use one tool/plugin for any particular task (never have two plugins doing the same thing. That is a recipe for disaster).

The few features I do not use (I’ll write another blog about this one day soon so if this is not an active link, I haven’t written it yet):

  • Content AI – Google recently rolled out an algorithm update penalizing AI content
  • Analytics – I use the SiteKit plugin for this
  • Google Stories – I don’t use Google Stories anymore and expect them to be deprecated sooner rather than later

Onsite Search Engine Optimization | Best Practice

You can do a search to discover all of what you SHOULD do on your site. This article is not that article. Until/Unless I write my own article, I’d recommend you read this one by Search Engine Journal. It is complete and leaves no stone left unturned.

However, this section gets its own sub-header because… every. last. item. in their list is achievable in a WordPress (.org) website that is harnessing the full power of the RankMath plugin mentioned above in conjunction with one or more of these other seo tools: SiteGround Optimizer, PerfMatters, and/or WP Rocket.

Frontend, Image, and Caching Optimizations | SiteGround Optimizer

The SiteGround Optimizer plugin is a proprietary plugin created by SiteGround (affiliate link again) which is only available for those sites which are hosted by SiteGround (non-affiliate link so you don’t feel dirty). If you do not use SG for hosting, you’ll have to find alternative plugins that can do all that this ONE plugin does.

But the great news is because you’re website is built with WordPress, there are thousands of such plugins available, you just have to choose wisely (another topic for another article coming one day soon).

We use the SiteGround Optimizer for all SEO configurations that can’t be handled by RankMath. Those include:

Media Optimizations

  • Image Compression
  • Image Conversion to WebP file type
  • Lazy Loading Images

Frontend

  • CSS Minification
  • CSS file Combination – Actually our preferred theme (Generate Press) does an EXCELLENT job of this out of the box, so this is one feature we often do not use the SG Optimizer plugin for
  • Preloading Combined CSS
  • JavaScript Minification
  • JavaScript file Combination
  • Deferring Render-blocking JS
  • HTML Minification
  • Web Font Optimizations
  • Font Preloading

Environment

  • HTTPS Enforcing
  • Insecure Content Rewrite/Fix
  • Database Maintenance

Caching

  • Dynamic Caching
  • File-Based Caching
  • Memcached


TL;DR | WordPress.org is THE BEST PLATFORM for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

WordPress.org is fully customizable and with the right plugins, you have total control! (FWIW, you don’t have to use plugins to accomplish all of these Onsite SEO best practices. They can almost all be accomplished using code because WordPress.org is open-source and provides developers/coders with the freedom to modify virtually everything conceivable within the confines of the platform. But, if you knew THAT, YOU probably aren’t reading this article!)

WordPress.com | Is it Really So Different? | (Do NOT Use WP.com!)

So, if this is the first you’ve heard, I sure am glad you found this article. I sincerely hope you found it before investing any of your time, effort, energy, or MONEY in the wp.com environment.

While they both share the same name, the .com is, by its very name, a commercial enterprise. While the .org is, well, an organization (think not-for-profit)… which is kind of a misnomer, but we’re going to let that slide for now.

Anyway, the wp .com version is all about the Benjamins which means, you have to pay, and pay they will make you do! You have to pay for:

  • Plugins – most in the .org environment are free or at the very minimum freemium so you only pay once the plugin has earned your respect and you want more from it
  • Themes – you have a VERY limited amount of themes to choose from and by limited I mean, none are any good (that’s my professional opinion. Don’t believe me, go try for yourself.)
  • Upsell – they wp.com try to upsell you on EVERYTHING
  • Not What Professionals Use – Ok, I’m sure there is an exception to this rule, I just haven’t met a professional using the .com version…. YET!

TL;DR – Stay Away From This One (WP.com)

WordPress.com is NOT the same as WordPress.org. Use with Caution!

The ‘Other Guys’ | Wix, SquareSpace, Webflow, and Shopify

Wix | Yuck | I Think I Just Threw Up In My Mouth

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I HATE Wix websites.

Have I never seen a beautiful website built with Wix? Well, that’s a tough question because I’d need to unpack ‘beautiful’.

Beautiful | as in pretty

Yes, I’ve seen some pretty Wix websites.

Beautiful | as in fast/performant

No, I’ve never seen a fast hyper-performant website.

Beautiful | as in Seach Engine Optimized to the 9s

No. I’ve never seen a Wix-built website that ranks. (Read this article by ahrefs. Granted, it’s a bit outdated, but it gives you a very good idea why we are not seeing Wix websites and it has everything to do with their lack of SEO.)

TL;DR | Wix? No. Just. No.

Stay away from Wix with a barge pole.

Squarespace | I mean… really?

Yes, you can build a good-looking site on Squarespace quickly. But that’s where the speed ends. Squarespace websites are notoriously slow/underperforming.

But you’re not here to learn about how poor Squarespace websites rank in regard to performance.

You want to know about Squarespace and SEO, I get it.

It sucks.

Squarespace has a few SEO items available that come out of the box when you build your site.

That’s it. That’s all you get. No further customizations.

You read about a really great SEO technique that would be PERFECT for your business’ website, but your site is built on Squarespace. Tough. You’re out of luck. Sorry, not sorry. That’s the literal price you pay for a quickly built pretty website. No SEO beyond the bare minimum that everyone else (think your competitors) has available to them.

TL;DR | Way Too Few SEO Customizations Available

Webflow | Everyone is Talking About Webflow, It Must Be Great, Right?

No. I mean. Sorta?

With Webflow, you have way more control over the SEO from a non-coder perspective than a ‘vanilla’ WordPress website. But the minute you add RankMath and SiteGround Optimizer (or alternatives like them), you FAR SURPASS anything that can be done in the very limited SEO environment that Webflow allows.

So, when you read those articles before this one, you might have been reasonably confused. So here’s the

TL;DR | Webflow is Way Not Better Than WordPress for SEO

Webflow’s SEO is only better IF you are not using ANY SEO plugins on your WordPress site which no one would do.

*Shopify | I Need An eCommerce Solution

This is the one and only web-builder that I even slightly recommend if and only if your business needs match the exact scenario I’m about to lay out:

  • You need an eCommerce solution STAT
  • Your online store is very small
  • From a design perspective, you don’t care if your site looks like every other eCommerce store out there
  • You have NO MONEY to hire a professional web design agency to build it for you

If that’s you. Go with Shopify all day long.

Is their SEO game as strong as WordPress? No. But like WordPress, they have ‘apps’ (we call them plugins) that can help with your SEO needs. Some of them are freemium but the better ones can cost a pretty penny and you’ll likely need SEVERAL to do what the two plugins I mentioned earlier can accomplish.

TL;DR | Use Shopify with Caution for Limited Solutions

If you have limited time, funds, and products, Shopify may be a good fit… for now.

In Sum | WordPress.org For The (SEO) Win

WordPress Wins the SEO Race

WordPress.org is our clear winner. We can do EVERYTHING SEO related on our sites built with WordPress (.org). Almost everything can be accomplished using plugins, therefore, no code. However, the occasional wrinkle is thrown at us and we have to hand-code a solution… but because it’s built on WordPress when that rare occasion rears its ugly little head, we have all of the controls we need to get the job done. We cannot say the same for ANY OTHER builder.

If you want to kick-ass at SEO, your site MUST be built using WordPress.org (or hand-coded from scratch… if that’s your thing, you can do that too)!

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