Archive: October, 2017

Can the major website builders (ie Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress) do the 3 critical things your website needs to rank well?

What's more critical for your site: design, or traffic?

Website builders are getting really, really good at helping you design your website. But that's the critical word in that sentence: 'designing'. Your website is, primarily, a marketing tool. Marketing, not design, is the ultimate aim of the game. Pretty websites are great - but pretty doesn't equate to good search engine ranking, or to high traffic. So the 3 critical things that most website builders do not, or cannot, do for your site - are the marketing aspects that will either make, or break, your success in most cases.

The efficacy with which these big website builders - like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress etc - can help with the marketing aspects that can help make your 'pretty' site into a powerful site - is subjective. Some blogs say they do a pretty good job. Some say they don't do so well. And unless you are an SEO and digital marketing expert - how can you tell whose right? So rather than only give an opinion, we'll start with some black and white facts. What facts are the most telling? What question can we ask that peels back opinion, and reveals some stone cold reality?

Which website builders do the largest, most successful brands on the planet use?

WordPress Squarespace Weebly Wix
Top 1M 305,661 2,299 1,234 1,206
Top 10,000 2,497 3 1 3
Top 100 33 Zilch Zilch Zilch

Per the above table, just the facts ma'am, just the facts. Where do said facts come from? Datanyze's independent market report (competitor report) from October 17th, 2017. What do the above numbers signify? That of the top Alexa ranking websites on the planet, the top 1 million have 305,661 powered by WordPress. And 1,204 powered by Wix, by way of comparison. Of the top Alexa ranking 100 sites on the planet - 33 are powered by WordPress and, well, 0 are powered by Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. So - comparing the opinion of blog articles (even this one) with the ol' proof is in the pudding approach, or taking the 'these companies no doubt all invest a sizeable amount of time and or money each year in ensuring their websites rank well and give them equally sizeable ROI, so rather than try to become an expert over the next 10 years myself, I'll follow their examples and insights' - well, taking these approaches is up to you. But all subjectivity aside, at least there are some objective realities, aka 'numbers', to start us off as a guide.

If you choose a website builder that doesn't do these 3 critical things, should your face look as sad as the image below? Absolutely.

Sad With Snot
  1. Onpage SEO

Most website builders are starting to slowly wake up and move from just being design tools, where they make pretty, colourful online brochures – towards being proper, intelligent marketing tools.

Pretty does not equate to Google, Bing and Yahoo actually indexing your site and ranking you well compared to your competitors.

Good onpage SEO does.

How do the major, most popular website builders rate as far as doing your onpage SEO for you?

WIX – commonly criticised as being built in AJAX, which is great to make it easy for you to design your site with, but not very SEO friendly. It is worth noting though that over the last couple of years WIX has fixed some real SEO issues - the fact that their website builder was once based on Flash (not good for SEO) but they've changed that, and the fact that they've improved their blog optimisation (so you can improve the header tag for example to get you good results) and the URL structure when you build sites / pages - these are good starts. But they don't compare to the purpose-built, marketing supercharged tools available via some WordPress plugins. These aren't part of the core WordPress code, but they are 'plug and play' (thus the term plugin) so you can find something that will give you a fighting chance in the hyper-competitive SEO space for your website, and get to rocking and rolling.

Weebly and Squarespace – not bad for SEO either but they, like WIX were first and foremost design tools, not SEO tools. They're getting better, and are evolving in the right direction - and if SEO wasn't so damned competitive, I'd recommend them. But if your online marketing (SEO being one of the main pillars thereof) is your business's lifeblood which, if you're serious about competing online it really is - then try to find what you can confidently say is best of breed. Because if you don't and your competitors do, you're kind of cooked.

WordPress – by itself, mediocre. But – with one of the top, purpose built SEO plugins that are by themselves absolute monsters – like Yoast SEO – they can be incredible to take you by the hand and literally, as you type content on each page, tell you what you’re missing, what you should consider, what’s hot and what’s really not as far as SEO goes.

SEO is a rapidly evolving, mysterious science – that people spend years trying to understand. So why not leave it up to a tool that is so powerful, and translates that mysterious language that sounds like ancient dialect to me, to English? Below is a screenshot from Yoast SEO's analysis of a page which changes as you add or edit typed content and images on the page - it holds your hand, so you don't have to fret about whether what you're creating as content is dud, or dynamite!

yoast-seo-analysis-screenshot
  1. Off-page SEO

Gone are the days of blasting out emails or phone calls, or knocking on doors and hoping that you’ll be a raging success. Don’t get me wrong – doing those things is a LOT better than not. But ‘outbound’ marketing techniques, if you want to play in the digital space, whilst much easier to understand and start (not a huge amount of knowledge required) are very limited, and don’t garner the warmest of responses. Media like Google, Facebook etc – are so sophisticated these days in terms of audience segmentation and knowing what demographic is clicking on what content. And likewise, content marketers (those people that write those vaguely informative, slightly time-robbing blogs like… well, like this one actually) are similarly getting clever with peppering their articles with well researched, well cadenced and cited keywords.

If you can identify your niche, and put out some relatively relevant, periodic, informative content from time to time, that can do absolute wonders to your website’s ranking – within the scope of that keyword or phrase, within your industry.

Website builders don’t do this for you – you either find something relevant to write about that will get itself found in SERPs (Search Engine Page Results) or… find an outsourcing agency like Scripted or someone else to do it for you. And a marketing or backlinking agency / expert to then get your content out there in the ether on relative, high DA (Domain Authority) sites so that more and more sites link from their sites, back to yours – thus lifting your overall website’s ranking and value.

But – if you post that content into your site – you can come full circle back to point 1. Above wherein a tool like Yoast SEO, can instantly tell you what keywords, meta tags, meta description, etc etc – are making your site start to cook with proverbial gas.

  1. Conversion tools

Wix, Weebly, Sqaurespace etc – they can definitely help with the element of conversion that is tied to 2 critical factors: your site’s speed, and your site’s aesthetic appeal. Most of those builders make sites that are light on code, so pretty quick. And as the average site users will drop out at a rate of over 40% if your site takes longer than 2 seconds to load, speed it essential. So is aesthetic appeal. So they tick those boxes.

But there are other conversion tools that are also mission critical – a few examples of which being anti-abandonment tools (like SumoMe) that pop up when users start to try to click out of your site, or after they scroll down a certain per centage of the page. Also tools like live chat widgets – that are proven strong performers as site visitors will generally feel like they’re getting real time human interaction with the minority of sites that have a live chat widget, vs the majority that are void of any visible, real time human presence. There are also the tools like heat mapping, so you can get real metrics and even site visit recordings to see what on your site works, and converts, and what doesn’t.

For these kinds of tools – WordPress has a large range of plugins. Some are mediocre, some are in and of themselves powerful beasts with years of full time, specialist coding by multiple developers. They’re like mini marketing tools sitting under the umbrella of the overarching marketing tool – which is your website. For marketing and conversion tools – WordPress, with it’s over 50,000 plugins (add on functionality) is still by far and by multiples, #1 in the world. And in an online marketing environment where if you aren’t right at the cutting edge, you may be left behind – backing the #1 horse if that #1 is based on merit and, pardon the pun, horsepower, can be critical to your entire business.

Oh and are we biased towards WordPress? Absolutely. Clicktacular is based on the WordPress technology. But WordPress is open source and built by literally thousands of programmers and coding wizards all over the world – and added to daily via their ever increasing toolbox of killer plugins. Would we recommend WordPress for the above 3 items whether we used WordPress or not? And would we class the above items, things you need for your site to succeed, as absolutely life or death for your business or brand? Absolutely.

Oh and are the assertions in the above article subjective? Sure. Different folks, different strokes and all that. But we rely on both the extremely knowledgeable marketing agencies we consult with for feedback on the marketing juice behind our website builders / CMS (both before and now, during our WordPress days) and years of hands on practical experience with said website builders.


Whoa, wait. Before you try to pick a website builder, ask yourself this…

What's the top objective of your website

There’s no point trying to choose a website builder until you decide: what do you actually want from your website builder? Obvious question - sure, I think so. But do most website builder reviews ask it of you? Nope, not often. And no, the answer is not: ‘a website’. That’s what you want your website builder to ostensibly help you fabricate, sure, but your real goal isn’t a website – that’s the proverbial sizzle. A business whose turnover and inherent value is powered by, or at least boosted by, an effective online presence is what you’re probably more interested in - ie, the steak.

website-builder-image-clicktacular

There are a multitude of blog articles floating around the ether, advising aspiring users of website builders (also commonly referred to as Content Management Systems) of what is good, and what is not so good, about the website builders that are out there now.

They all speak with some level of confidence about what it is that certain website builders are particularly good for and there are innumerable articles out there that recommend which website builder is ‘right for you’. But there’s also a crucial, missing element to most of these blog articles – they tell you what you need, they don’t first ask you what it is that you want to achieve.

And a common idiom I’ve learnt to live by over the years, which was first espoused to me in the context of recommending solutions to clients, is this:

“Prescription without diagnosis, is malpractice.”

So before we saddle our (predictably) WordPress-powered soapbox and try to convince you precisely how and why WordPress, above Wix or Weebly or Squarespace or one of the other major website builders, is the duck’s proverbial nuts (no ducks were harmed in the making of this slightly crass expression), let us first ask you that question:

What is it that you want to achieve with your website? Obvious question, right? Sure, but the answer isn't usually so crystal clear when you have to articulate it after some pesky blog article (ie this) poses it to you.

Now, seeing as this is a blog article, and not a 2 way live chat, my question will have to remain largely rhetorical. But, if I ask it of myself before I proceed to spout my insights, that can at least speak to what points I address. More traffic? Better online conversions? Modernise your brand? Just have a site so you don't look unprofessional by not having one? Some particular online functionality to entice potential customers - a calculator, a questionnaire, a quote tool? Combat a particular competitor, or all competitors? Create a forum to boost your blog content? The objectives of a new or rebuilt website, are varied and many.

What you want to achieve, by building your website via one of these ever-easier-to-use website builders – is the prism through which you can view the strengths, weaknesses, relevance and or irrelevance, of each website builder

you’re checking out prior to choosing your proverbial horse to back.

Now another key point – aside from actually asking what you want out of your website rather than assuming everyone’s goals are homogenous and thus giving a homogenous one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all answer – is this: consider the source. When you read a blog article about ‘which website builder is a top 10 website builder’ etc, bear in mind that most of those articles have a financial motive in saying exactly what they’re saying to you. Affiliate fees, referral commissions, that kind of thing. And are they writing as website designers? Or – like you – as business owners or as startups? If they are writing as business owners or startups, cool, they probably relate to you and what you’re trying to pull off. If they are writing about ‘this is pretty and this drag and drop is easy’ – that’s a design point, not a ‘will it attract more, and convert more, customers in the context of how Google and other major search engines rank, or don’t rank, the website you’ll end up with’.

So consider me as a certain type of source – I’m not an IT guy, although I’ve run public software companies I also had CTO’s and the like to do the tech stuff while I focused on the commercial stuff (divine what you will from my counter-technical jargon) – I’m just a business owner. I’m not a designer – although I’ve designed and built some fairly involved websites and actually love the design aspects of websites from a personal gratification perspective when I build them – I’m just a business owner. And one who knew that his online presence was the make or break for his businesses. And still knows it. My websites are marketing tools – among a whole arsenal of marketing tools I rely on, they are the final destination that I point all of the traffic that my other tools generate, towards. They’re there to win me more clients, and more turnover, because in and of themselves that is the entirety of the value they represent to me. I say that to relate to you as a business owner or startup or person interested in marketing your business – if you are, then this article and the perspective that fuels it, is perhaps a source you should consider. If you aren’t – then perhaps it isn’t as relevant for you. Either way – consider the sources of any articles out there (including this one) and you’ll have a frame of reference for how to infer from said articles.

Big hairy disclaimer: in parts of this article I’ll sing the praises for WordPress. Am I in some way compensated by WordPress for doing this? No. Is my site, Clicktacular, based in part on WordPress technology and does it stand to gain if even more users (on top of the 75 million sites out there said to be based on WordPress now) turn to it as their best of breed solution? Hell yes, in theory I do. So I am biased, I am not impartial. But… I was brand and platform agnostic before I went with WordPress. I looked at, tested, fiddled with, broke, and plain old banged my head against a bunch of website builders before I chose WordPress. And I do NOT recommend WordPress for everyone as the one, single, blanket solution. It suits my purposes, and my purposes and objectives may not align with yours. So read on… and we’ll see if they do or not.

So, let’s get back to positing a few possible, albeit highly generalised, reasons you want to build your website and the things that you want that website to do for you:

  1. Do you want to just get found online by more customers?

Ok, cool. Even a well established, highly profitable business, can always do with more customers, right? If not this very instant, then at least in the near future so that their money well doesn’t dry up. So you can use the easiest to use website builder on the planet (this is always going to be a matter of opinion, but amongst millions of users if there is a consensus forming that some of the marketplace leaders like Wix or Weebly are easy to use then there must be at least some substance to that consensus). Sure. That has a whoooooolllllleeeee lot of allure – because in this day and age of time poor, attention-span-shortening users (ie you and I), easy is a big bonus.

And the website builder you check out can not only be easy, it can make super pretty websites. Again, Wix and Weebly and Squarespace – have some absolutely stunning designs and templates. And as one of my first every DIY website projects was in Squarespace, and then thereafter I did a whole bunch in Wix – I can attest to them being both relatively easy to use (Squarespace wasn’t so hot on the easy about 4 years ago when I used it, but has improved since) and as having some pretty designs.

But here’s the clanger of a reality check – easy, and pretty for you - don’t equate to better at being indexed, and ranked, by search engines.

So you can theoretically create the most beautiful website on the planet, and do it waaaayyyyyy easier than 15 years ago when you would have had to be an actual, trained or experienced web designer (or web developer and designer) to achieve this. Your website can have a beautiful face. But if it doesn’t have all of the many, and fairly complex, vital SEO organs within it – then it just isn’t going to be found anywhere near as often, or as readily, as the world’s ugliest website that may just have those vital organs.

And if an ugly website is in the first few pages of SERP (search engine results pages) and yours is languishing sadly, but beautifully, on page 146,721 based on the same search keyword or phrase being entered by your potential clients – then the bad news is, you’re sh*t out of luck.

Now – what those ‘SEO vital organs’ are and how they work, is not just a science unto itself – it’s a whole bunch of sciences. Keyword research, keyword optimisation, backlinking, domain authority backlinking, meta tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords… the list goes on and it isn’t the point of this article, so I won’t digress into those gigantic topics. But I will say this: WordPress (yes I am totally biased, but no WordPress doesn’t pay me a red cent to sing it’s praises) has,

by far, the most ‘plugins’ that have been designed, by thousands of developers from all over the world – to implant those SEO vital organs into your site.

As of now – October 2017 – Wix, Weebly, Squarespace – cannot even come close to competing on this front. WordPress has just over 50,000 plugins developed by its gigantic and diverse developer community. Each plugin has 1 purpose – make it so that non-coding, layperson plebs like myself (and, presumably you too) can get the super powerful functionality (in this instance SEO magic) added to their website – WITHOUT having to know any code, and without having to be an expert on the functionality (read, SEO) itself.

Wix has around 300 ‘apps’ by comparison. So WordPress has it beat by a factor over over 150 times, with spare change to boot. Not all of the WordPress plugins or Wix plugins are aimed at SEO – but a large number of WordPress’s are designed exactly for that. I’ve used, extensively, both website builders, and I invested months in my Wix websites (plural). All of which I then reluctantly and mournfully had to abandon, when I realised that I could have sites quickly and easily, and beautifully – but I couldn’t have the horsepower under the hood that I needed to turn my website from something pretty, into something extremely powerful and profitable. At least not by my metrics for what is powerful and profitable.

  1. Do you want to convert more of your website visitors into actual, paying customers?

I’m going to generalise and presume your answer to the above question is a deafeningly resounding ‘f*ck yes!’. And for the very small per centage of you to whom this generalisation does not correctly apply – you’re outliers, and I’m willing to bet a small % of the overall population of readers of this blog. So you can either skip this part, or… yeah, just skip it. The rest of you read on, please.

So – getting visitors to your website is a real accomplishment and worth of some acknowledgement. But –

the more noteworthy and or expensive and or time consuming that accomplishment is (and it’s most likely all of the above) – the more devastating it is when you attract traffic, but don’t convert a respectable % of said traffic, right?

So, that begs the completely subjective question of ‘what’s a respectable conversion rate?’.

Well, the answer – being subjective – is up to you. And I wouldn’t presume (on this point at least) to know what your standards or requirements are there. But I can tell you what is average – which I personally don’t count as respectable, but then again if it was impressive, it wouldn’t be average. Those two are so often mutually exclusive.

So that average website conversion rate, of traffic to ‘actions’ (ie enquiries, or customers if you’re really firing on all marketing pistons) is: 3.6%. Yikes.

I sh*t you not. 100 people come and visit your beautiful, sweat and blood soaked (figuratively only, hopefully) website. And 3.6 of them, well, let’s call it 4 – actually do anything about all of that incredibly cool and valuable intel you’ve invested into your website? That… kind of blows. But that’s where another of those deep and fickle sciences comes into play – conversion.

So with question 1 – we had SEO being the science that you want built into your website design.

The key word there is ‘design’. These easy to use and great designers – are just that. They are there for the most part, for now at least, to make pretty. Not to make SEO, or to make powerful.

Not for the search engine ranking and indexing purposes, at least.

With question 2 – we have conversion. Landing page design, split-testing, UX, click-through rate, Calls To Action, anti-abandonment tools, audience segmentation, etc etc etc … you get the picture.

And my (totally subjective) view, but one borne of years of hands on experience as a business owner – NOT as a designer, is that again, with over 50,000 plugins, and a solid chunk of those being developed expressly to improve website traffic conversion – the other major website builders (yes, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Joomla etc) cannot even begin to compete with the range, choice and overally depth of functionality (cumulatively at least) of what WordPress offers.

  1. Do you just want a website so that you have one, that people can check out to make sure you are a real business, and not much else?

If your answer to this question is ‘yes’, and if your ‘yes’ is extremely likely to stay a yes for many years to come – then I’m going to go ahead and recommend you do NOT use WordPress.

Because if your answer to this question is a sincere ‘yes’, then I will assume (if I’m wrong go ahead and consider yourself an outlier, statistically) that ‘easy’ and ‘pretty’ are all you want from your website.

And if that is the case – use the easiest, cheapest option you can find. Wix, Weebly, Squarespace – or something along those lines.

But just to be sure – I am going to elabourate on my assumption and say that if you really just want something easy and pretty, then you are a well established business, with a full clientele, and not much if any extra capacity to take on new customers, ever. So you’re really just looking for a new website, so that you aren’t embarrassed by how dated your old one looks, so you don’t LOSE customers? Your site is not about trying to GAIN or acquire more customers via (a) being found by potential customers ahead of your competitors and or (b) converting more traffic on your site into real paying customers.

Ok – if your answer to question 3 is still that resounding, final, definitive ‘yes’, best of luck to you in your uptake of the website builder that most effectively tickles your aesthetic fancy.

But if like the vast majority of business’s or bloggers out there who want to compete against the millions of other sites out there, and know that to be competitive they need to invest some time, energy and brainpower – because easy is rarely good, and good is rarely easy – then we’re back to WordPress.

Is WordPress perfect? F*ck no.

It has many, many plugins that don’t have the neatest or lightest code – or at least so I’m told by many expert bloggers and by some of the PHP / WordPress developers I sometimes utilise to make my websites do online gymnastics that haven’t already been primed by existing plugins. But – with 60.7% of the website builder marketshare (#1 by a proverbial country mile, with Joomla sitting at a distant #2 with 6.3% and Wix at #1 with 5.97%) and with an incomparably huge developer community – what you can get from WordPress, aggregates out to being completely, dazzlingly unbeatable. If you want to wave a non-coder wand and demonstrate the inexplicable magical powers of an online mage.

Now – I am just a business owner. I don’t want to be a website designer, I just want to build my site and my online presence (a) exactly how I see it in my head and (b) without having to pay $10,000 to $100,000, when I want it to have bigger and better bells and whistles to beat my competitors to the punch by outclassing their websites. So that’s why I’ve learnt to use WordPress. No other real reasons than those 2. So if you’re also not a designer, but are a blogger or business owner who wants a powerful website because you get that online is the new battlefield for customers and marketshare, then you’re in the same boat as I was when I made my choice to move to WordPress. And perhaps you’re in the same boat as me – in terms of what I actually wanted to achieve, and have achieved, by using WordPress to build my website. I didn’t want an easy, pretty website that was a glorified shiny online brochure, that my more tech savvy, SEO savvy, and online conversion savvy competitors would then proceed to blow out of the water. I was willing to find a more powerful website builder – spend a little longer on the initial learning curve – in order to then reap a lot more marketing and business growth benefits for the rest of my days. I’d rather spend more days upfront, for more days of success and business growth on the way out. Saving a few days upfront, and spending years regretting it by constantly being reminded of the immeasurably heavy opportunity cost of cutting corners – wasn’t a gamble I was willing to take, and lose on.

How do you tell, and how do you really believe, when someone like me insists that WordPress is the be all and end all, IF your objectives with your website are in line with what I've outlined in this article? Don't trust opinion, trust fact. And one of the best ways to bypass opinion and tap a vein of cold hard fact, is to watch what other people have already achieved, or not, using WordPress. So check out how many of the world's top ranking and highest profile websites have achieved, according to their Alexa ranking, using different website builders.

 

WordPress Squarespace Weebly Wix
Top 1M 305,661 2,299 1,234 1,206
Top 10,000 2,497 3 1 3
Top 100 33 Zilch Zilch Zilch

Who are some of these mysterious but apparently successful brands / sites that Alexa ranking has at the top of the food chain, via their WordPress sites? Samsung, Toyota, Mercedes, Ebay, Ford, VW, MTV, Renault, Time, Vogue, Hootsuite - to name but a few.

famous-brands-using-WordPress small

Are the above statistics pretty telling? Yaaaaaaaaaaaa-bet-your-backside they are. But you might say 'sure, but these are big companies and they spend time and money galore on their sites' etc. Then I'd ask -

are you aiming to be a small site, and a small business, and never get bigger? I'm not. So if you are aiming for your version of world domination, take some queues from those sites that are already in the 'domination' zone.

Why not aim really, really high? Especially if the tool they've used, WordPress, is by and of itself free. They didn't pay a fortune for WordPress, they may have paid a bit to develop it or customise it, or host it etc - but then you have (warning: slightly shameless plug ahead) tools like Clicktacular, that do all of the set up and hosting etc for you, and are just as easy to use as Wix or Weebly or Squarespace (try a free version, judge that one for yourself). So what roadblocks do you actually face to try to actively emulate the world dominating sites? Zero.

So the last question for you is a repeat, and reiteration: what do you want from your website? If you know the answer to that, and you really should before you start assessing website builders, then you should already know which one is for you if you give any credence to the above, or the dozens of other articles (eg here, here, here, here, or here) out there that make similar assertions to this article.

Does WordPress have a longer, larger learning curve because it can do more, but it has more moving parts to it? Absolutely. Which is why I started Clicktacular - which was designed to be a bridge between the powerful, but sometimes overly complicated world of WordPress as a website builder, and the people out there like myself who wanted things like instant, one click theme set up and hosting, simple and pleasing-to-the-eye point'n'shoot frontend editor, simplified backend etc. Clicktacular was built to make WordPress simpler, easier, and better as a user experience - without sacrificing any of the horsepower under the bonnet that WordPress has. But did I write this article just to plug Clicktacular? (please, hold your laughter until the intermission). No - I truly believe WordPress is the number #1 way to take my ideas, and hopefully your ideas, from the back of my / our brains, and put them out into the W3 landscape, without needing a veritable pilot's license and physics degree to steer it.

So if you don't want to click and start your site instantly via Clicktacular - no sweat, and no hard feelings. But however you do it, if you want the maximum firepower for your online presence, WordPress (powering 28% of the entire internet's website properties as of 2017, and having 60.7% of the entire CMS / website builder marketshare) is the way to do it. If you want easier, it's out there. If you want better, I don't believe it is, not at the time of writing this. So however you get into WordPress, I hope you give it a try, and then continue on to persevere until your site is a smashing success.


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