Best Blog Platform for SEO: A Look at WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com vs. Tumblr vs. Squarespace

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Recently, one of our clients was re-considering their blogging platform. They needed a user-friendly solution that would integrate with their e-commerce website and provide them with valuable search engine optimization (SEO).

Keeping their needs and goals in mind, we narrowed our evaluation down to four options: WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Tumblr and Squarespace. Here’s what we learned about each one:

WordPress.org (Self-Hosted)

WordPress.org is where the ‘WordPress’ software is available, for free, to the public. It also includes thousands of free plugins, in addition to numerous ‘premium’ plugins that can be purchased separately.

Hosting, however, is not free. With WordPress.org, you have the responsibility of finding your own hosting company to house your WordPress.org site. In addition, there is likely to be a cost for connecting WordPress to a custom domain.

For example, your WordPress.org blog will come with a free address, such as “example.wordpress.org.” You can eliminate the “.wordpress.org” part and use a custom domain name instead (example.com), but adding that domain name is a paid upgrade.  That said, neither of these costs are likely to be significant.

Pros:

  • You have full control over the WordPress software and your site.
  • Tons of free SEO plugin options, such as Yoast SEO (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins ).
  • A plethora of support forums and ‘how to’ information that make it possible for site owners to modify their designs and functionality to the limits of their creativity.
  • Supporting documentation (at no cost) on the basics of WordPress.org: installing WordPress, walk-throughs of your first posts and categories, etc.
  • No payment required to remove third-party ads.
  • No restrictions on modifications to the core PHP source code, how you add jQuery elements, themes, and/or plugin installations. You have total control.
  • Quick and easy set-up.
  • Hundreds (maybe thousands!) of customizable design themes to choose from, or create your own.

Cons:

  • You will need to pay a web host.
  • You need to keep up with WordPress system upgrades, install them and ensure there are no negative impacts to your site’s layout/functionality (likelihood is low). 

WordPress.com (WordPress-Hosted)

With WordPress.com, hosting is provided by WordPress for free at the base level, but with some important limitations – especially for SEO. Similar to a WordPress.org site, you’ll also need to purchase a domain name so that it looks professional. Otherwise, your site will show up as ‘your-site.wordpress.com’.

Pros:

  • No set-up costs for the base package.
  • All you need to do is sign-up, choose your blog name, and design your site. You don’t have to worry about installing the software since it’s all managed for you by WordPress.com.
  • Hundreds of themes to choose from.
  • Site maintenance and development is taken care of for you.

Cons:

  • com users cannot install plugins and there is no plugins menu in the admin area of WordPress.com. This means that you are unable to install critical SEO plugins.
  • To upgrade your site to achieve specific needs (e.g. connect Google Analytics), you will have to pay extra.
  • If you change your WordPress theme, you’ll lose your SEO settings.
  • You can’t upload your own theme.
  • To remove the third-party ads that pop-up on your free site, you have to pay $30 a year.
  • You can also pay another $30 a year for a ‘custom design’ package that will give you limited control over your chosen theme’s design, such as changing the font and making basic CSS changes, but you still will have no control over PHP source code or FTP access to your files.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a free microblogging platform and social networking website owned by Yahoo! Inc. Tumblr can be great for bloggers who like the idea of ‘reblogging’ posts, but it’s not the best platform if you want the ability to develop long-form content.

Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • Fairly easy to use.
  • Unlimited storage.
  • Approximately 1,000 themes to choose from.
  • HTML and CSS access for customization.

Cons:

  • Backing up your blog and importing your content from other platforms is difficult.
  • There are very limited plugin options.
  • It is tough to monetize.
  • From an SEO perspective, a big issue is that all SEO value generated by your blog would be attributed to Tumblr – not your site. If the blog content is hosted on your company’s server, you can retain some SEO value, but the value will be minimal due to Tumblr’s site structure.

In addition, while Tumblr works well for highly image-focused content, the platform’s social setup makes it difficult for search engines to scrape, and thus rank, specific posts. Because of this, Tumblr offers almost no organic SEO ranking value. There are hacks to get around this, but they tend to be highly technical and labor-intensive.

Squarespace

Squarespace is a website publishing platform that allows users to build and edit a professional-looking site and blog without having to deal with coding. In some ways Squarespace is similar to working with WordPress, but there’s less configuration involved and less flexibility.

Pros:

  • The templates have an attractive, slick, contemporary look and feel.
  • All templates are responsive, meaning that a mobile / tablet-optimized version of your site is automatically generated for users viewing your site on those devices.
  • Squarespace integrates well with a lot of web applications, including Mailchimp, Dropbox, Google Drive, Pinterest and Github (and many others).
  • Squarespace’s platform is simple to use and lets you drag and drop ‘blocks’ anywhere on your site (images, text, forms, videos, code snippets etc).
  • Easy to integrate Google Analytics. No copying and pasting of code required.

Cons:

  • Although you can change page titles and meta descriptions, there are no Yoast-style SEO tools to help you evaluate how well-configured a page is for search engines. Additionally, some templates force you to use the meta description as part of the template design (it inserts your meta description into the copy).
  • While Squarespace has an SEO editor with an easy-to-use User Interface, it offers less flexibility and no image optimization, which is a key piece of many retailer’s blog strategy.
  • PayPal isn’t integrated with Squarespace e-commerce, meaning that Squarespace site owners are missing out on one of the world’s most popular payment methods.
  • No phone support.
  • In order to use breadcrumb trails on your site for SEO and site usability, you have to create them manually.
  • Templates are rather restrictive.

When evaluating a blogging platform, a few things that are important to assess are: your internal resources to manage it; the platform’s compatibility with your e-commerce website; how user-friendly it is; what your SEO needs and goals are; and how much control you want to have over the style and structure of your blog; its SEO features; and monetization capabilities.

For more digital strategy expertise, including blogging for SEO, contact our Organic Search/SEO team today!

 

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