Craft CMS vs WordPress: SEO Matchup
Companies in search of a new website will often request that the site has good "search engine optimization" or that it can be found in search. SEO is a process, but it also has a lot to do with the platform a website is built on.
Just because WordPress runs about 35.6% of sites on the web does not mean it offers the best SEO capabilities. WordPress has an SEO plugin called Yoast, which has over 135 million downloads, making it the most downloaded SEO plugin for WordPress. The premium version of Yoast goes for $89 for one website, which includes one year with free updates and support.
Some of the great features included with the Yoast SEO plugin are:
Keyword optimization – With the keyword optimization feature, Yoast will optimize your content for keywords and phrases that you choose as your focus keywords. This feature is available on both free and premium subscriptions, but the free version only allows one keyword or keyphrase. The premium version also has a keyword export, which creates an Excel spreadsheet with all of your focus keywords and SEO scores, and content insights, which shows five words or phrases that are most used on the page.
Writing for SEO and keyword performance can be seen with many additional free or paid tools. SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant is a free Google Docs add-on and WordPress plug-in, and keyword performance should be reported to you by your SEO agency and their paid SEO programs.
Content readability – Yoast analyzes the readability of your website and calculates a Flesch Reading Ease score. The plug-in also looks for duplicate content and sets canonical URLs so you can decrease duplicate content across your site (a poor SEO practice). By setting canonicals, you mark duplicate content and redirect search engines to the main site page. Yoast Premium goes an extra step by watching your website’s important pages and issuing a warning when content hasn’t been updated in six months. Premium also provides internal linking suggestions, an SEO best practice that keeps users browsing through your site. Of course, doing this manually is simple if you are familiar with your site’s pre-existing content.
Structured data and schema markups – Properly setting up structured data (or schemas via schema.org) allows for faster indexing and rich results on the search engine results page. Structured data gives Google and other platforms know exactly what your page is about. These data markups label small pieces of information about your site, products, and business to inform search engines what your content is about. This directly affects your content appearing in relevant search results.
Other premium-only features include 1 year of access to 24/7 support and an ad-free experience. On the free version of Yoast, you can only access the FAQ section and knowledge base for app support.
Comparing the premium version and free version of Yoast, premium offers guidance along the way for those not experienced with SEO, but the free version is perfectly fine for those who are well-versed in keyword research and comfortable maintaining technical SEO.
Craft CMS Plugins
Craft CMS also offers SEO plug-ins for easy site optimization. If choosing an SEO plug-in, we go with Sprout SEO. The pro version of Sprout prices for $99, which includes one year of updates followed by a $29/year fee. This plug-in focuses mainly on the basics: metadata and global SEO elements for the website, without the very specific guidance that Yoast offers. Sprout gives enough guidance on how to use the tool, but is not a tool for those just learning SEO and are expecting recommendations on keywords, redirections, and content.
There is also a free version of this plugin, which sticks to the most basic SEO elements: global metadata, search metadata, and social sharing metadata.
Features of Sprout include:
Global metadata – Your website globals report what your website is all about back to the search engines. Globals include the company name, the type of organization it is, the physical location of the business, important contact information, and more. Filling these out as much as possible aids in the site’s visibility in search.
Search and social sharing metadata – These elements are very important factors in not only how web pages appear in the search results or in social media shares, but also play a part in your when and how often web pages appear in organic searches. Meta titles and descriptions are where you use valuable keywords and the meta and social share descriptions play an active role in click-through rates.
Custom metadata overrides – This feature is available on the paid version only. One of the many reasons why Craft CMS is often superior to comparable CMS’s such as WordPress, Shopify, Wix, etc., is its flexibility. Customizing metadata, alternative text, and image file names are also flexible in Craft. A quick line of code can dynamically pull keywords, product categories, and other elements right into these tags.
The ability to override and customize goes even deeper on the paid version of Sprout. You also have the freedom to customize metadata not just on a page-level, but a template-level. This will allow you to further develop your SEO strategy based on the type of content (blog and news, products and services, company information pages, etc).
Redirect management – This is an essential feature to have in an SEO plug-in, and Sprout is currently the only full-service SEO plugin that has redirection capabilities. Whether you’re doing a complete update of a site or are taking down old content, setting up URL redirects is very important for preserving a website’s referral traffic.
More than just Plug-ins
Plug-ins do not have a major effect on your site’s search performance and they are just a tool to support your SEO strategy. That being said, the way the site performs does affect SEO, as well as your SEO strategy, maintaining that strategy and your site performance, and the site’s content.
Some important website features that are essential to optimize search performance are a secure and accessible website, page speed, mobile-friendliness, domain age, optimized/updated content, and user experience.
Having a better performing site gives you the chance to rank close to the top. Using Craft gives users a more unique, custom website, whereas WordPress follows templates making websites created with the CMS very similar (and notoriously broken).
Having a site that has better structure factors in your search performance because a site needs to be easy for users and Google Spiders to navigate. WordPress is known for its jumbled site structure and poor usability due to buried pages, excess tags, and unstructured menus, which makes the website more difficult to crawl (search engines) and successfully navigate (users).
In the case of site structure, Craft CMS is the better option. Craft CMS is fully customizable and there are no templates to follow, so developers have full control in creating the cleanest, most functional site. Although it takes longer for the website to be developed, Craft offers more security for your website and is faster with uploading content.
Because Yoast and Sprout are pretty evenly matched, it comes down to how the site performs, resulting in Craft and Sprout being the better option for your website to not only rank higher, but perform better. If you’re in the situation where you aren’t ready to migrate your website to a new platform, staying on WordPress with Yoast it’s a very viable option. Just make sure that you do your research on how to set up a successful SEO strategy or hire an SEO expert that knows their way around WordPress SEO.