Posted: Aug. 17, 2021
Updated: May 4, 2022
Introduction: CMS and Website Builders
These days, there is a wise range of content management systems (CMS) and website builders available for maintaining your digital presence. CMS is a software used to create and manage websites. It’s similar to website builders such as Wix or Squarespace, but the difference is that CMS generally has more in-depth functionality, meaning you can customize the backend code. Some of the most popular CMS are open source, so the community can continue developing and adding to it.
If you have worked on web development before, you are probably already familiar with traditional CMS, where the front and backend are tightly integrated through the technical architecture. WordPress is the most popular CMS, powering a third of websites on the Internet. Other traditional CMS include Joomla and Drupal. You will need a bit more technical expertise to use Drupal, but it offers more security, and is commonly used for government or enterprise websites.
Headless CMS such as ButterCMS and Contentful, is a backend exclusive CMS without the frontend (thus “headless”) that is based on RESTful API or GraphQL API. Headless CMS are gaining momentum in recent years because it allows developers to choose their desired programming language (PHP, Java, Ruby, etc.) and create their own frontend without relying on proprietary software. Headless CMS also reduces operational time and expenses, and are more efficient in the long-run when you run into issues like redesigning or rebranding.
The rest of this post will just focus on Wix vs WordPress for SEO. As an SEO specialist, the question of recommended website hosting platforms often comes up between my colleagues. As for my experience ,this personal website is on Wix Premium because I wanted to learn a new platform. Before launching this site, I only had worked on WordPress for several years, and had to decline clients who needed help on Wix sites because I wasn’t familiar with it. At the time of writing, I have now worked extensively on both Wix and WordPress hosted websites, and learned more about both platforms. This article focuses on the open-source WordPress.org, not WordPress.com.
The first difference is that WordPress is a CMS and Wix is a website building platform. Wix has been growing a lot recently so this seems unlikely, but one thing to keep in mind is that if Wix goes bankrupt or decides to cancel their platform, you’ll have no recourse. However, since that’s pretty unlikely, this mostly just comes down to a matter of preference - some marketing professionals who are unfamiliar with html/css might prefer Wix, but I actually found it quite frustrating that I can’t freely code my own website.
The Wix editor has a feature for adding custom html code, but it’s pretty clunky and doesn’t let you adjust the format and placement of your custom component. Although I have not tried it yet, there is also Wix Velo, which adds an open-development platform where you can add scripts to the front and back end of your website through the Wix editor.
One advantage of Wix for technical SEO is during the initial setup, you can submit your XML sitemap and link to Google Search Console automatically. You can also create redirects and mark certain pages as noindex with just the click of a button.
Plugins and Apps
In the WordPress community, there is a saying: "there's a plugin for that", and it's true - WordPress has thousands of free and paid plugins in the official WordPress plugin directory. WordPress plugins, written in php, can integrate seamlessly with WordPress to extend functionality and add new features to your site. As a site administrator, you can install plugins from the admin area or manually download and install them through an FTP client. Here are some of the top WordPress plugins for SEO:
Speed Booster Pack
Autoptimize is strictly an optimization plugin, and does not do any html caching. This makes Speed Booster Pack a good complement to Autoptimize. In addition to optimizing your website's code, Speed Booster Pack also includes features for caching, preload assets, and core web vitals.
Insert Headers and Footers
A simple but excellent plugin, Insert Headers and Footers does exactly what the name suggests. Add tracking code like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Facebook Pixel, etc.
W3 Total Cache
On the topic of page speed, W3 Total Cache (W3TC) is another recommended plugin that increases site performance and reduces load times, through features such as CDN integration and accelerated mobile support. Regardless of which plugin you choose, increased site speed can lead to higher rankings in SERPs, and even a boost in conversion rates.
By default, WordPress doesn't easily allow you to make your site multilingual, which can be a problem for global businesses. That's where WPML comes in. It's an easy-to-use, SEO friendly plugin for creating multilingual sites within WordPress. As a bilingual digital marketer, I've worked on several WordPress sites using WPML.
Jetpack is the most popular WordPress plugin, with extensive features to supercharge your site in all aspects, from security to user experience. It's developed by Automattic, the team behind WordPress, so you can trust the plugin and know that it's backed by exceptional developers. Some popular features include CDN services, up/down time monitoring, and automatic XML sitemap.
SEMRush SEO Writing Assistant
The SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant provides automated recommendations for content optimization based on the qualities of Google’s top 10-ranking pages. Content writers can check if their texts meet various content-quality requirements. If you prefer drafting in Google docs, there is also an add-on.
If you regularly work on WordPress sites, you've probably already heard of Yoast SEO. I'd especially recommend this plugin for SEO beginners or copywriters who need to make sure they've checked all of the requirements for on-page keyword optimization. However, Yoast SEO is not limited to on-page SEO. It also provides recommendations for internal linking, technical configuration, and more.
Rank Math is another SEO plugin for WordPress, similar to Yoast SEO. This plugin also allows you to generate an XML sitemap, connect to Google Search Console, and control access to plugin features based on user roles. However, you only need one WordPress SEO plugin on your website. Using multiple can cause plugin conflict.
Most WordPress themes will show your latest posts in chronological order. However, sometimes you might want to hide certain posts from the top page. The Hide Post plugin lets you do just that, in only a few clicks. However, at the time of writing this post, the plugin has not been updated in 4 years. If the plugin is no longer working well, you can also hide a WordPress post from your top page manually by adding custom code to your theme functions.php file.
Wix also offers a wide range of handy SEO features, which you can find in the app marketplace from your Wix account. Some of the most popular Wix apps are Wix Stores for building an online store, Wix Chat for instant messaging with site visitors, and Wix Bookings for scheduling appointments. For my simple personal website, I am currently using Wix Blog for my blog, and Wix Forms & Payments for my contact form. I am also using the paid automation feature to send confirmation emails to people who fill out the contact form.
For on-page SEO, Wix unfortunately has a bad reputation among SEOs, but it has improved features recently. Ahrefs did an extensive study of 6.4 million domains, and concluded that there is no causal relationship between the platform used (Wix vs WordPress) and a site’s ability to rank in the SERPs. WordPress sites got more search traffic overall, but Wix had more search traffic on domains with 100+ monthly organic traffic.
At the time of writing, Wix has a Multilingual App for creating translated versions of your site, but does not support the hreflang tag, and you cannot access the code to add it. For this reason, I would not recommend Wix just yet for multilingual sites. On WordPress, the WPML plugin is great for multilingual sites.
If you use WordPress, your theme is most likely already responsive and can adapt to all screen sizes. You can check this in Google Chrome's Developer Tools. Wix also creates a mobile version of your site that complies with Google's requirements. You have the option to disable the mobile version, although it is generally recommended to keep it on. You can edit the design of the mobile version on mobile editor, without affecting the desktop version.
Migrating from WordPress to Wix, or vice versa
Migrations from WordPress to Wix or vice versa are both common, as businesses have different needs and preferences that would be better suited for either platform. Unfortunately for us, Wix and WordPress are competitors and not compatible with each other, so there’s no quick and easy way to migrate. Wix is getting better at helping their new customers migrate from WordPress to Wix, and they have an option that lets you import WordPress blog posts. For exact instructions see: Importing Blog Posts from WordPress to the Wix Blog. If on the other hand, you have outgrown Wix and want to migrate to self-hosted WordPress, then the easiest way is probably to import your blog posts via RSS.
Whether you choose Wix or WordPress, you can join a helpful community of marketers and web developers. I’ve had a good experience with Wix customer support on several occasions. I just answered a couple of questions in their online customer support chatbot, and got a phone call back within minutes to solve my issue. Wix users can also submit requests for new features and vote on them. WordPress has no customer support, but since it hosts one third of all sites, the forums and social media are always active with WordPress developers asking and answering each other's questions.