What’s The Best CMS for SEO?

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SEO

26 Oct, 2020

What is a CMS?

CMS is short for content management system. It’s a piece of software that enables you to build and manage a website without the need to learn code such as HTML, CSS or Javascript. The CMS provides a user-friendly interface that allows you to create web pages, upload images and publish blog posts to your website without having to worry about how the whole thing is put together. 

You can think of creating a website with a CMS as being like moving into an unfurnished house that needs decorating. Whereas, building a website without a CMS is comparable to buying a plot of land. The only limit on the second option is your budget and the size of the plot of land. Most people opt for the first option, you still get to make the place your own without having to start from scratch.

How Does a CMS work?

A CMS uses HTML to create all of the building blocks of a website such as places to add text and images, forms for visitors to fill out and the navigation to help guide users around. It is important that all of these features have the same look and feel across the whole website, this is done using Custom Style Sheets (CSS). Javascript is used to bring webpages to life by including elements such as animated graphics and interactive maps. 

At the heart of every top ranking website is useful, up to date content. Imagine that every time that you wanted to update your website you had to create all of the elements of every webpage scratch. It’s no wonder that before CMSs became commonplace most businesses had static websites that were effectively just online brochures. 

What are the benefits of a CMS?

Building a website for an SME business from the ground up is practically unheard of nowadays. For small to medium-sized businesses using a CMS really is a no brainer. Here are three of the most important reasons why:

User friendly

With a CMS it’s possible to create your own website without any knowledge of coding. Using modern WYSIWYG editors, you can build a professional-looking web presence for your business within hours. Most CMS platforms also provide a library of plugins that allow you to add even more functionality. Plugins will help you with things like email marketing, live chat and creating an online store. 

Professionally designed themes & templates

Whether you want a straightforward blog template or an eCommerce theme that handles everything from listing your products through to payments and secure checkout, predefined themes and templates give you the base on which to build a beautifully branded website. Automatic updates help to keep your website secure and bring added functionality.

Added SEO features, extensions and plugins

The ability to update blogs, images, videos with a user-friendly CMS is a given. In addition to managing content, you should also be able to:

  • Add SEO-friendly page titles & meta descriptions
  • Create an XML sitemap to help Google index your webpages
  • Deal with other technical stuff like robots.txt & .htaccess files
  • Customise URL slugs 
  • Add descriptive alt text to images
  • Easily create 301 redirects 
  • Eliminate 404 errors
  • Improve navigation with breadcrumbs
  • Speed up response times by optimising images and Javascript

All Content Management Systems have some of these SEO features built-in or provide the option of installing plugins or extensions to do the rest. Some do it better than others, Yoast SEO for WordPress websites is probably the best-known SEO plugin, it sets the standard for other third party SEO tools.

What are the best CMS platforms for SEO?

Ask any SEO expert which is the best CMS platform for SEO, the likely answer will be the one they are most familiar with. To get around that bias Gotch SEO analysed 10,000 keywords to see which CMS’s performed the best. 

They took a list of high volume seed keywords such as “cars” and “books” and expanded the list using “phrase match”. This gave them keywords such as “cars for sale”, “car insurance” and “car rental”. They then analysed the top 10 results for each. 

These are the top 10 results:

  1. WordPress – 45%
  2. MediaWiki – 9%
  3. Drupal – 8%
  4. Adobe Experience Manager – 4%
  5. Ruby on Rails – 4%
  6. Oracle ATG Web Commerce – 1%
  7. SiteCore – 1%
  8. HubSpot – 1%
  9. Magento – 1%
  10. Squarespace – 1%

Other popular CMSs include Shopify at #11, Joomla at #14 and Wix at #19. 

Why is WordPress the best CMS platform for SEO?

WordPress started out as a free open-source blogging platform and website builder. Free is good in most people’s books. You can build a perfectly good website with the free version that you can download from wordpress.org. However, not many web designers and developers work for nothing so finished websites are not actually free, it’s a good start though.

The real key to the success of WordPress lies in the fact that it is open-source software. This means that it’s free to use, modify, develop and redistribute which has led to a huge community of developers, users and supporters who are dedicated to constantly improving it. This has resulted in a whole ecosystem of themes, plugins and support services that make it such a world-beating platform.

The purpose of a WordPress site like any other is to get visitors, and of course, websites get more visitors when they can be found on search engines. The SEO side of WordPress sites has benefited as much as any from continual improvements by the open-source community. 

Here’s how:

  1. WordPress websites look stylish and professional. This means visitors spend more time on WordPress sites which is good news for SEO because search engines reward sites that people engage with.
  2. It’s easy to optimise URLs, page titles and meta descriptions. This means you can insert keywords into all 3 which is a big tick in the box for your technical SEO checklist.
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words. An image that has been resized for the web and had alt text added is worth a few more. The WordPress plugin, Smush, will do this and more.
  4. Fast website response times are becoming increasingly important in a mobile dominated world wide web. In 2021 Google will introduce a ranking factor called Core Web Vitals which will make fast-loading mobile-friendly sites even more important.
  5. The code used to create WordPress websites is nice and clean which makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site. The simpler it is to index your site the better your chances of ranking higher.

Despite all of the statistics that show the dominance of WordPress websites for SEO other CMS platforms are doing everything in their power to combat the perception that WordPress should be the go-to platform. 

Wix vs WordPress

Wix is an all-in-one website builder that comes with everything you need to create a website pre-loaded. It’s perfect for non-tech savvy users because it’s so easy to use. However, it has built up a reputation among the SEO profession as being terrible for SEO. 

In 2017, the powers that be at Wix HQ decided they needed to do something about this. They launched a competition challenging anyone to outrank them for the search term “SEO hero” with a $50,000 prize going to the winner. At the very least this got people talking about Wix & SEO in the same sentence. 

Off the back of the competition, SEO software provider, Ahrefs, decided to find out whether Wix websites were as bad for SEO as everyone claimed. To their surprise, the results of the Ahrefs study didn’t prove that Wix was any worse than WordPress. 

It is possible to edit on-page elements such as page titles, meta descriptions and URLs. On the other hand, it’s not possible to edit the robots.txt and .htaccess files. To Wix’s credit, giving non-techies the ability to change these files could do more harm than good. 

SEO specialists also complain that Wix websites suffer from code bloat due overuse of JavaScript which slows them down. Since this is only likely to become an issue on larger sites it might seem harsh as most Wix sites are typically aimed at smaller businesses that don’t need big websites.

Shopify vs WordPress

Shopify websites are designed to make it easy to sell products or services online. More than a million businesses worldwide use Shopify to manage their online stores. It operates as a software as a service solution which means that you pay a monthly fee to use the service rather than owning the software yourself.

Like Wix websites Shopify is a hosted solution, your website is hosted on Shopify’s servers, the software is maintained and upgraded as part of the package. Everything you need to build your online store is available out of the box and can be built by users without coding or design knowledge. But users with HTML and CSS coding knowledge are able to customise their online stores more extensively.

Shopify’s SEO features make it easy to edit title tags, meta descriptions and image alt text, 301 redirects and XML sitemaps are created automatically. An SSL certificate is provided as part of the Shopify subscription, this keeps your user’s data secure which is good for rankings. 

On the negative side, Shopify sites are tied to the platform’s shared hosting which limits the ability to speed up websites by changing hosting companies. Another gripe regarding Shopify SEO relates to URLs, Shopify adds a fixed URL prefix before blog posts, products and pages. Finally, in WordPress there is the option to add blogs to categories in order to create content hubs, this isn’t available in Shopify.

Conclusion

WordPress is undoubtedly the more established CMS platform compared to its competitors. Since its launch in 2003 WordPress has built up a significantly larger user base alongside a large community of developers and supporters who have continually improved the platform and created a range of themes and plugins that allow users to build pretty much any kind of website imaginable. 

WordPress began life as a blogging platform and that remains at the heart of today’s WordPress. The ability to easily publish and manage content is key to SEO. The flexibility that it provides with regards to being able to choose your own hosting, as well as the functionality provided by the Yoast plugin, means that WordPress is hard to beat when it comes to SEO.