Welcome to the Envisionworks comparison between WordPress and Squarespace. Before we begin lets start with a quick overview of the 2 platforms. Both systems are designed to manage content but each platform has a very different core philosophy at their center.
WordPress is a open source content management system which currently powers more than 25% of the websites on the internet. Due to its open nature, it can be customised extensively and is also supported by a massive community of developers and enthusiasts. While it is designed to be easy to use, it does require a more hands on approach in comparison to other off the shelf solutions. What sets WordPress apart however is its infinite flexibility and ability to support the latest website trends.
Squarespace is a software as a service (SAAS) pay as you go website builder which is designed to be easy to use offering a range of content management features, eCommerce and is supported with an integrated templating system. The concept that anyone can use the platform to make their own website is extremely appealing but it does come at the cost of flexibility.
When it comes to any type of software, service or content management system this has always been the first question I ask. Do I own my own content? Cloud based subscription, social media and some Software as a Service platforms can and do challenge this notion and can make it difficult should you chose to move your content away or even make a local copy for yourself.
WordPress follows the GNU General Public License (GPL2) licence and you are free to copy, modify and run the software as you see fit. Your website and all its content can be downloaded, copied or even and moved to another platform without issue.
Your User Content stays yours, except... Squarespace reserve the right to use any part of your site as they see fit, even copyrighted content and images for uses such as advertising and cross site promotion:
When you provide User Content via the Services, you grant Squarespace (including our third party hosting providers acting on our behalf) a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative worksSee the Squarespace Terms of Service for more information.
Squarespace gives you the ability to export some content but not everything, here is a current list of content which doesn't get exported:
You can find out more on the Squarespace export page
There are so many facets when it comes to SEO, for the sake of this comparison, it will be easier to break them down into their specific categories. Without further ado:
What is Schema anyway?
Launched as an initiative in 2011 by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, schema markup allows search engines to better represent the content of a website by providing more relevant information. Schema.org was set up as a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond. Types of structured data include businesses, people, products, pricing, reviews and places.
Schema Support in Squarespace
To be fair, Schema support in Squarespace is vastly improved compared to a few years ago with a default SEO feature set that is easy to work with. Unfortunately it still lacks any sort of customisation beyond the default settings, if you want to gain an advantage with structured data, Squarespace may not be good enough. There are also a few strange design choices when is comes to their CMS platform such as having an Author profile template built yet not supporting any sort of Author schema markup.
Schema Support in WordPress
Out of the Box, WordPress supports a basic seo feature set and essentially provides a blank slate for a user to add their own structured data. This facet may seem daunting for new users but schema support is always just a plugin installation away with the likes of Yoast SEO, Schema for WordPress and SEOPress. For developers you are free to implement structured data directly into the code and support the latest implementations in the schema protocol.
When it comes to evaluating content management systems, SAAS platforms, web developers or even a full blown web agency, there is fantastic way to see how how much performance and speed really matters to them by testing their own websites. This simple test can be done by anybody using online tools such as GTmetrix, Pingdom or even using developer tools right inside your Chrome browser.
Is page speed a ranking factor for engine rankings?
Google has stated page speed is definitely a ranking factor in its mobile-first indexing but have also noted it is a human behavior indicator where the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds.
If your page takes 5s this increases the chance of a bounce to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. See Results.
Performance options for Squarespace appear to be extremely limited with no support for lazy loading or even simple browser caching and image optimisation. Pagespeed results for the Squarespace homepage leave a lot to be desired:
WordPress performance can be a mixed bag and it usually depends on theme framework and developer capability. There is a massive 3rd party market which sells off the shelf themes and plugins based on any niche imaginable and because they have to appeal the widest audience possible, these solutions can become quite bloated with performance suffering as a result.
Web developers and agencies that actually take the time to provide custom solutions will always win out when it comes to speed and I think our performance is also pretty decent as a result:
The open nature of WordPress means it can be as bloated or as optimised you want to make it. Need to serve content via an Amazon or Cloudflare CDN, no problem. What if you wanted to support the latest lazy loading techniques implemented in Chrome? this also not issue, Google created a WordPress plugin to do exactly this last week and documented exactly how to do this in code.
Squarespace has an attractive set and forget shopping option which includes a set fee based on every product you sell. Its attractive at first but what if you want to extend your shop and its capabilities and be seen by the a bigger audience? What if you want to try affiliate marketing or just supply your product feed to google shopping results?
Extending your shop to support extra features may not be feasible with Squarespace without relying on yet another 3rd party resource. For example, the cheapest Affiliate marketing solution for Squarespace starts at US$69.95 a month.
While not as initially user friendly as Squarespace eCommerce, WordPress offers a vastly more in-depth solution when it comes to setting up an online shopping portal with the only limit being your imagination. There are many shopping and eCommerce solutions for WordPress but the "Go To" solution currently is Woocommerce which is maintained by Automattic, the very creators of WordPress itself.
Woocommerce is also opensource and free to implement and use exactly like WordPress but it is also supported by paid modules from Automattic and the community at large which won't break the bank. You can also custom code your own shopping experience as your are not limited to what you can or cannot do on the platform.
While your content is always at the mercy of the search engines, how you can can be easily found always starts with the simplest mechanics. Out of the box WordPress can ping Search engines like google, blogging networks, product feeds and even syndicated news networks that you have fresh content to crawl. This can be extended with custom RSS feeds and an unlimited amount of content syndication from multiple networks - heck, this is what WordPress was designed for.
And finally our feature comparison between WordPress and Squarespace. Stay tuned, its going to be huge!