In this episode of the Web3 Marketing Debate Show, we debate one of the biggest issues in web design: WordPress verses Squarespace.

We’ll assess both platforms from the perspective of small to medium businesses who are considering redesigning their existing website, or creating a new one.

Additionally, we’ll assess both platforms for SEO performance and eCommerce compatibility.

Episode show notes

James: Hey Everyone, welcome to the Marketing Debate Show with James and Joseph from Web3.

Today, we will be debating one of our all-time favourite topics, WordPress versus Squarespace. I, yours truly, will be on the Squarespace corner of the ring, and Joseph will be on the WordPress corner. Without further ado, let’s kick off the debate. What is the best platform? What is the best solution for small to medium businesses?

All right, Joseph, tell us why WordPress is the better option than Squarespace for small to medium businesses.

Joseph: Okay. WordPress is used by one-third of the internet. You can’t get better than that. I think, versus Squarespace, it crashes in that department. WordPress is so widely used that all marketers should have at least some experience with WordPress, if they’re doing web-related marketing. There’s a very low barrier to entry with WordPress. It’s free. It doesn’t cost anything aside from hosting.

Shall we just call it a day then?

WordPress and Squarespace have been around for a long time. Obviously WordPress is the most popular, but James, what do you think is the reason why business owners choose Squarespace over WordPress?

James: Yeah. Well, There’s a couple of reasons, Joseph, and I think, to get to the point, you mentioned that WordPress is free, and also, simple and easy to get started. The fact of the matter is, it’s not. Anyone that’s worked with WordPress knows that you need a general level of technical competency and knowledge to be able to set up a effective WordPress site. It’s an open source. We’re talking about WordPress.org here, not the .com self-hosted platform.

WordPress.org, you need to bring your own server. You need to be able to know how to actually install WordPress into the server. Yes, there’s a couple of turnkey servers out there, but you still need to set up a server, unlike Squarespace, where it’s set and forget. You just sign in. You don’t even have to put in your credit card. You just sign up, create an account, and boom, you’re up and running.

You can publish a site without even having to pay for it. Yes, it’s under a branded URL, but you can still go through the entire process without having to set up servers or anything by itself. It’s drag and drop. There’s heaps of professionally designed templates, whereas WordPress, yes, you can have WordPress themes, but there’s still a level of technical know-how and knowledge, and a learning curve associated with correctly configuring the theme to fit your exact needs.

Where, Squarespace dramatically simplifies that process. In my opinion, it creates a much more easier to use and user-friendly experience for SMEs to get started with a simple to moderately complex website. That’s why my personal belief is it’s the better platform.

What’s your response to that?

Joseph: The fact that it is so simple and stupid means that you can’t really do a hell of a lot of things that are outside the box of just setting it up and putting a few words and images on a screen. Whereas WordPress, because it is open source and highly extensible… is that the right word? Allows you to do practically anything with the site, and depending on your skill level, obviously, it can be extended to be very, very powerful and fit exactly the needs that you require for your business.

To touch on your point with Squarespace, how it requires code… doesn’t require code, sorry, WordPress, you can literally press one button and it installs WordPress for you. You do not need to know code and how we build our websites is so that when a marketing manager or someone like that comes along, they don’t need to know code. They just need to know how to click buttons, which is just as good or better than Squarespace.

Okay. It’s all well and good to just have your website set up, but you actually need to be found, so which one is better in the SEO space?

James: All right. I’ll answer from Squarespace’s point of view, and the reason being is that it’s simple, it’s turnkey. SEO can be, for someone that’s never done it before, it can be a bit of a minefield. There can be a lot of things, and items, and code, and meta descriptions, and tagging, and schema, and all this type of stuff that you sort of need to be able to be aware and understand, to then correctly configure it and set it up out of the box with WordPress. Out of the box, WordPress doesn’t typically have the core essential components. For example, editing a page’s meta title and meta description setting out of the box, you’ve got to bring in additional software, additional plugins to give you that functionality to do that.

You don’t have to do that with Squarespace. It’s all done there for you. You simply have to go in and make your basic configurations. Site maps are clean, everything’s locked down. The code is semantic. The code is clean. Titles are typically tagged correctly. A lot of these things you see with WordPress sites, people that don’t know what they’re doing just completely get them wrong because there’s too much free rein with the platform. They don’t know what they’re doing. They create a semantically incorrect site, which then hurts their onsite SEO and overall SEO performance. You don’t get that problem with Squarespace. It’s all done for you. You just put in your content, make a couple of tweaks and edits to the meta titles, and you know everything else, the code base is all fine. It’s all done for you. It’s foolproof.

With that said, Joseph, why is WordPress best for SEO?

Joseph: The fact that WordPress is open source and community-driven means that there is a massive community for people wanting to do SEO on your website. WordPress has a number of SEO plugins that are used by millions and millions of sites. Probably more than the Squarespace user base. Maybe. SEO is extremely powerful, the plugins that are used on WordPress. For example, Yoast SEO is probably the most common one. I think it has 6 million plus installs and it’s updated very regularly. Whereas, I don’t know if Squarespace would have that many people working on the SEO side of their platform. That’s an assumption, but…

James: Well, if you’re saying that there’s not many people at Squarespace working on SEO, why is it native in the platform? Why don’t you have to then install something into Squarespace to enable SEO functionality? Whereas you have to do that with WordPress. Why isn’t it native in the platform? Maybe it’s because Squarespace understands the importance of SEO, and it’s better optimized its platform and experience to allow businesses to be able to have more of a set and forget solution versus a WordPress example.

Anyway, with that said-

Joseph: Now, hold on, hold on, hold on.

James: Oh, okay. All right.

Joseph: Very recently WordPress built in the functionality of sitemaps. WordPress out of the box is very SEO friendly. It’s built in the way that is very good for SEO out of the box. Yeah, sure, there’s meta descriptions and title tags, and things like that, that can be added on, and obviously is a very good thing to have for SEO, but out of the box, WordPress is very good and it’s getting better, like with the site map integration that it just did. It automatically builds site maps for you, whereas before it didn’t. I would say it’s just as strong, if not better, because it’s got a community back behind it as well.

James: All right. Well, that’s the end of the second topic, moving on to the third. It’s all about e-commerce. Joseph, why is WordPress better than Squarespace for e-commerce?

Joseph: WordPress has a hell of a lot of flexibility in e-commerce. If you have just a general store, you can set up a website in a matter of seconds, maybe minutes, with all your products and start selling right away. WooCommerce is probably one of the most popular integrations of WordPress, and it’s actually owned by the company that make WordPress, so you know that it’s very well supported and integrated with WordPress.

Going on the topic of WordPress flexibility and the community behind it, building e-commerce functionality into your website is highly customizable to whatever you need. If there’s a store, you can build a store. If you’ve got virtual products, you can build virtual products, and it’s all very integrated and tight to your website. You don’t need a third party website to go to, to access selling on your website, and it looks like it’s all part of your own website.

James: You said that it takes seconds to set up a WooCommerce store. We know for the fact that it takes a lot longer than that, and you typically need to have made the right prerequisite technical decisions to know that your WordPress theme can actually support WooCommerce. Not all of them do, and if you have an unsupported theme, you then have to develop a WooCommerce site page templates, which then you need to bring in developers and designers, and that adds a whole slew of complexity and cost to it.

Squarespace on the other hand, yes, that’s the truth. You can set it up in seconds. It’s built into the platform. It is a relatively new feature per se, but it is as simple as basically changing your account to allow for commerce, setting up a page as you would, putting a price tag on it, and off you go. You’ve got yourself a page up and running within seconds that you give the ability to sell for. A big thing, as well, that Squarespace does that I think WooCommerce can do, but it’s not as native as what Squarespace has done with how they built the platform, is in-person sales or POS based sales. They have a really tight, nifty integration with Square, that allows in-store retailers to have their inventory and their e-commerce handled through their, say, tablet-based checkout, and have cards processed through it all through the one inventory management system.

WordPress gets a heck of a lot more complicated. You’ve got to bring in additional software, plugins. Maybe you have to bring in inventory management. There’s definitely a high level of technical entry to do it, and it’s simply a much… In more cases, often than not, offers a much more steeper learning curve and a more of a difficult onboarding experience to actually get an effective e-commerce store up and running as opposed to Squarespace.

Joseph: Okay. If you’re wanting to just have whatever is available out of the box, you’d maybe choose Squarespace, but if you want something that’s actually going to work for your business, then you would choose WordPress.

James: Well, I think, to summarise these three points, is if you’re getting started and it’s a brand new business, or you’re just getting started, you’re a solo operator, sole trader, and you just need a simple online web presence. You don’t have the budget nor timeframe to go through a professional service agency, such as Web3, to make sure that you have a tailored bespoke experience that hits your exact business goals, objectives, and needs and wants. Yes, the solution, the end net solution that we can produce with WordPress, is and will be superior to Squarespace in almost every instance, because it’s passing through a full agency, or full design, UI, UX development professionals, marketing professionals, that know how to produce the very best possible website, regardless of platform, for businesses.

The reason why Web3 uses WordPress, is that it’s extremely flexible and open-ended. Think of it as like a Swiss army knife. It has everything that you could possibly need, which gives you a lot of feature and functionality out of the box. Essentially build the best experience.

Squarespace is a more of a closed environment, but it’s closed for a reason because it allows people that don’t have the timeframe, or money, or budget to hire a developer, to get something up and running themselves that actually does work. That does function as a website. Usually, in our case what we see is businesses, sort of, they start off, they grow, and then they start to outgrow Squarespace. They need a bespoke website solution to fit the needs of their established and growing business. That’s when they come to us and we typically flip them to WordPress at that point in time.

Hopefully, that summarizes, sort of, our position of this great WordPress versus Squarespace debate.
Let us know what you think. What’s your opinion? Who do you think won the debate? Which side are you on? Or are you a bit of column A, a bit of column B? Let us know your thoughts, and we will see you next time for the Web3’s Marketing Debate Show.