Wether you are creating a website for the first time or your are looking to change from your current website management system, don’t underestimate the importance of the decision.
Your website can and should be a driving force behind your business by bringing in prospects and converting them to customers.
If you’re planning to maintain and update your website on your own, then being able to do so quickly and easily is of paramount importance. As William Beachy of GoMedia once said, “Being able to quickly and intuitively edit your website is critical to the long term value of your website.”
What good is a website that is visually appealing if you have no clue how to update and maintain it?
In our guide to Squarespace vs. WordPress we’re going to compare 2 of the more popular website management platforms for small business.
If you’ve already decided on which platform to use and you’ve gone with Squarespace, check out our guide to SEO for Squarespace.
Which is more user friendly? Which is better for SEO? and more…
Laying The Groundwork
If you are brand new to this, let me give you a quick rundown on what WordPress and Squarespace are all about.
WordPress is the king of content management systems as far as the adoption rate. About 25% of ALL websites use WordPress to manage their site. With the enormous amount of choices out there, owning 1/4 of the internet is quite remarkable.
To use WordPress, you need to buy both a domain name and buy hosting for your website first. Once you have those 2 things, using WordPress is free. If you’re a beginner, you may want to consider hosting your website with someone like Bluehost who has a “one-click” WordPress installation. This makes installing and starting with WordPress quick and easy.
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Once you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll then need to find a theme which will be the overall design of your website. After that, you’ll get into installing plug-ins, customizing settings, and adding content. (More on these later)
Squarespace is a little different.
Having started over 10 years ago, the founder originally created Squarespace because all of the DIY website builders on the market weren’t that great. He built the tool to use for himself, and eventually turned it into a business and started getting requests from others who wanted to use his tool.
Fast forward to today and Squarespace is a rapidly growing solution for small businesses who want an easy to use website builder that is very focused on beautiful design.
Unlike WordPress.org, Squarespace is more of an all-in-one solution that walks you through picking a theme, adding your content, and provides your hosting – so no need to buy Bluehost or something similar. Besides your domain name, you do everything else directly with Squarespace.
Which Is Easier To Use?
Like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is “ease of use” in the eye of the user.
I’ve been using WordPress for years, and have become very comfortable with it. On the other hand, I just recently started using Squarespace and had to spend some time learning how to work with their editor and find all the features I wanted.
So based on my personal journey, I would have said WordPress was easier for me to use.
That said, to the “average” person who has never built a website I would say Squarespace is simpler to use and setup.
Those of us who have been doing this awhile tend to forget what it feels like to be new. WordPress has many more things to customize, but for some people that might not be a good thing.
For instance, there are tons of themes (over 5,300 on Themeforest), some free and some paid, that you can choose from. Depending on who makes the theme, the functionality of that theme might be a little unique – like the settings that you can change and where you change them.
It’s a small thing, yes, but when you haven’t done it before I would argue that it isn’t all that obvious what you are supposed to do.
On the other hand, you have Squarespace.
When you sign up, they ask some questions about your business and have you pick a theme from their library. You just need to follow the process that they walk you through, and you’re done.
Some Squarespace themes:
Once you’re setup, it’s then time to add content.
In WordPress, the interface you would use looks like this:
You’ll spend most of your time adding “posts” and “pages” – working in an editor that uses buttons you might recognize if you’ve used Word or other common text editors.
It’s simple enough to use for formatting your text and using the “add media” button to add images.
In Squarespace, as you hover over content you’ll see little “tear drop” icons that you can click on to bring up a host of different things you can insert. Videos, image galleries, product listings, custom HTML, an much more. Here is a look at what I mean:
WordPress has a bunch of 3rd party plug-ins you can download that add functionality to your site. For instance, you can download image gallery plug-ins and get more options for how you can style your galleries on your website.
This is an extra step, and in some cases you may find that you download several different plug-ins to try them out and see which ones you like. Squarespace also has a bunch of add ons available, but in the case of an image gallery they give you a few different options that look really sharp out of the box (shown above.)
So with Squarespace you’ll find a strong number of built-in, simple to use elements for your website. Those things could also be done in WordPress one way or another, but it might involve a little more work or help from a 3rd party plug-in.
WordPress famously claims that it is both free and priceless at the same time.
It’s true that you don’t pay anything to use WordPress.org.
However, I mentioned earlier that you do need to buy a domain name and buy a hosting plan. Domains are about $15 per year, and hosting options can vary widely but I’ll estimate $10 per month for basic hosting plans like Bluehost.
Once you’ve paid for hosting, then you can install WordPress and get started.
Squarespace pricing is a little different, but is very simple to understand:
Unless you are a true e-commerce retailer, the $16 per month plan would have all that you need. If you are building a really small site with less than 20 pages total, perhaps for a local brick and mortar business, then you could get away with the $8 plan.
Also, Squarespace gives you a free custom domain for 1 year – which saves you $15 up front. After that, you pay $20 per year to renew your domain.
So for most people, you’ll be spending about $11 per month for domain and hosting with WordPress and then $16 per month for the same thing on Squarespace.
Honestly, if you find the design and usability of Squarespace to be better for you – then spending $5 more per month is a no-brainer.
WordPress vs. Squarespace – SEO
Many misconceptions exist about SEO and what it means. I find that people who are vaguely familiar with it say things like “I need to get somebody to SEO my website.” The implication is that there are a couple of magic buttons you can push and take your existing website that gets hardly any search engine traffic and suddenly have an influx of organic traffic.
It just doesn’t work that way.
From my perspective, you should simplify what SEO means for your website.
It’s about doing common sense things to make your website show up more often in Google, ideally for the keywords that matter to your business.
I’m not the foremost expert on all aspects of SEO, but I have built several high traffic websites that get the vast majority of their visits from the search engines. I’ve done this by using Long Tail Pro and our recommended strategy of targeting the right long tail keywords with your content.
In short, this strategy is to find keywords (AKA words or phrases that people search for in Google) that have a high enough search volume, but low enough competition so you can compete and hopefully rank in the top 10 for that search. Click here to see examples of this in action.
To execute this strategy, you need to create high quality content. For many this is writing blog posts that target certain keywords that their customers are searching for. By doing this consistently, you’ll start to rank for a bunch of different long tail search phrases in Google for these various blog posts.
Let’s compare 2 hypothetical competitors as an example.
Greg’s Natural Foods and Jackson’s Health Mart are 2 competing health food stores in Chattanooga, TN. They’ve both started their website recently, and they have a home page, about us page, contact page, and a page with directions to the store.
Greg decides that this is all he needs, and stops there.
Jackson isn’t satisfied and wants to become an expert in his niche, in addition to selling more groceries locally. So Jackson dives into Long Tail Pro and starts searching for relevant keywords that he might be able to rank for.
He finds things like “clean eating grocery list” and “low carb diet snacks” that people are searching several thousand times per month, and have relatively low competition in the top 10 results.
He creates a blog post for each of these, providing an outstanding resource for people searching these terms.
Jackson repeats this process and knocks out one keyword focused article per week to his website.
Let’s fast forward 6 months…
Greg still has a 4 page website, and Jackson has his 4 base pages and 25 thorough blog posts on various health related keywords.
Which store do you think gets more traffic from the search engines?
The other part of this is what seems to happen naturally, which is that other websites will start sharing and linking to the content on Jackson’s site. This is important, because getting relevant and quality links pointing to his site helps Google understand that real humans think Jackson’s site is worth visiting.
What tends to happen is that all of these quality links raise the “authority” of Jackson’s website overall. As a result, Jackson tends to rank well for other keywords that he didn’t necessarily target – like “health food Chattanooga.”
How does all this relate to WordPress vs. Squarespace?
It illustrates the point that if you do a poor job with content and SEO, it really doesn’t matter what content management system you are using. If Greg was using WordPress and Jackson was using Squarespace, Jackson would still be dominating Greg in search engine traffic.
The same would be true if Jackson did WordPress and Greg used Squarespace.
So I’d suggest not getting too hung up on SEO when it comes time to pick one or the other.
All of that said, here are my thoughts on the key differences in SEO.
First, if you’d like a full detailed review of SEO with Squarespace – click here. I do think it’s important that Rand Fishkin of Moz took the time to vouch for the job that Squarespace has done with SEO capabilities.
The biggest issue I see, based on our general strategy discussed earlier, is that Squarespace doesn’t give you access to write your own meta description on blog posts. Perhaps this will change, but for now it is a clear limitation.
The meta description is what you see, along with the page title, when you are viewing search results in Google. It’s a great opportunity to “sell” someone on why they should click your link instead of the other results for that search.
In WordPress, a fantastic plug-in exists called SEO by Yoast.
This is typically the first plug-in I install after setting up WordPress. What it does is allow you to type in your target keyword, like “clean eating grocery list,” and then it points out all the places you should be using that keyword – like your title, description, etc.
I find it really helpful to check your work and make sure you’ve done all the things you need to do to focus on that keyword.
Beyond that, setting up most of your basic settings can be done in either system – the user interface is just different.
If you don’t have a website and are trying to make a decision, I’d suggest doing the 2 week free trial of Squarespace.
This will give you plenty of time to test it out and see what you think.
If you aren’t a fan of it, then get a hosting plan and start working with WordPress. There isn’t a “wrong” choice here, it really comes down to which one you like better and find to be a better fit for your business.
After that, having the right content strategy is going to be what makes the real difference. Click here to start finding keywords with Long Tail Pro – free for 10 days.