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 who's 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!

  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.