Like many in the US we saw Wix of all companies promoting their SEO benefits during the Super Bowl. Like many professionals I could not help but scream 'False Advertising'!
Since the Super Bowl Wix has created a contest to pit Wix SEO haters vs lovers. The goal is to see who can rank the highest for 'Wix SEO'.
Somehow as time has passed Wix selected a pair of companies to compete, not sure why this is limited to just 2, but whatever.
In this article I will break down the Wix claims around SEO as well as the two competiting sites and why neigther will really rank for the target term. Plus what you can learn from what Wix gets wrong and exaggerates.
I know I am sort of late to the game, but I thought I would add to the archive of content of why Wix and just about any website builder platform is terrible not only for organic search engine results, but just plain bad for your business.
To do this I want to review the 'features' Wix is promoting as their SEO features as well as analyze the two sites they chose to compete in their contest.
Wix SEO 'Features'
If you visit the Wix SEO features sales page you see a list of items they feel set them apart:
- Customize Meta Tags
- Set Canonical URLs
- Create SEO Patterns
- Add 301 Redirects
- Appear as Rich Result
- Edit Page Info for Social
These are what I either consider just minimal must haves for any web platform or would classify as false advertising.
First, what do I consider false advertising? 'Appear as Rich Result'
What Wix is trying to imply is their platform will magically craft your page to appear as the featured snippet or rich result for your target keywords.
This is completely false, they have no control over this.
If you visit the page detailing how this works, and can get it to render, you see they are trying to equate schema markup or JSON+LD as the secret sauce to earning valuable featured snippets.
This is a common misconception floating around the online marketing world. Professionals know structure data is not how you earn a rich result.
It helps, don't get me wrong.
Early in 2019 Google's John Mueller was asked if structured data helps earn featured snippets. His answers tell us the answer is not really. Sure structured data helps search engines understand the page content clearer, which does help in general.
Instead the better guidance is to make sure you use proper content structuring, one H1, multiple H2, H3 etc. The use of lists and tables also helps. But in general you need to have good answers and structure to your content to earn featured snippet status.
Research has also shown you also need to be in the page 1 results, which means everything else has to be done properly. So worry first about being on page 1, then how to earn the rich result.
The other, more complex feature they promote is including social media meta data. This is important, but pretty common these days. What they are referring to is Facebook's Open Graph and Twitter's Cards META tags.
These tags are used by many social media posting tools as well as the web share API to tailor specific messages to be used when someone shares a link to your content on a social media channel.
This is something we have built into our platform and have for several years. We use other parts of what we define in our page data model to use as defaults and then let our customers customize the text, images, etc as they like. If you follow my Twitter feed or follow Love2Dev on Facebook you see the product of these meta tags.
The other features they promote are just web 101 sort of things. If you are not including a title tag, canonical, etc you have no prayer of ranking for anything with any competition these days.
Also all web content platform should have 301 redirect capabilities built in. If that is not possible, then move to a new platform.
They also mention 'SEO patterns'. They are a little vague about what this will be, but they are clear it is not yet available. My suspicion is you can allocate pages to a specific sub folder in your site based on the type of content. Again, something we do by default, but have also found that to be more problematic for SEO than its worth. I will expand on this thought in another article, but we have found it better to structure content by topic rather than page type.
So there are two 'modern' web platform features Wix is promoting, nothing wrong with that. But when you have to dip into META tag control you may have a problem.
Plus implying they provide the inside path to featured snippets is just flat out dishonest marketing and for me means anything else they say is tainted and should not be trusted. Sorry, that is how I am with any business or organization doing something like that.
Wix Built-in Marketing Tools
OK, this is where things get even better, or more exaggerated depending on your disposition.
"Use built-in marketing integrations, like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Data Studio, Facebook Pixel and Ascend by Wix, to run A/B tests and drive more conversions."
First, integrating Google Analytics, Tag Manager and social media pixels. Great, again common platform features by today's standards. What this means is when you setup your site you add all the codes or ids from the various services. Then as part of the page rendering process the platform injects the corresponding scripts in the HTML.
This is pretty basic stuff and something our platform does by default, we just need the ids I mentioned.
The Ascend by Wix is a collection of site add-ons to help you run your business. OK, there is value here. The problem you run into with add ons like these is being limited to 'common' features. We don't really try to cater to a market using a one size fits all sort of solution.
I have far too much experience to know how quickly that falls apart, which is basically the day you launch. This is why we focus more on customized solutions. Sure we have some foundational solutions for some industries, but we also know to be successful you really need to have the ability to customize, which means having a professional developer or team behind your site.
But if you need somewhere to start or you just want something online this is a good place to get started, just realize how quickly you are handcuffed. Oh and you can pretty much kiss the opportunity to customize your web experience when using any site builder.
Wix SEO Features? Seriously?
Finally, we get to the Wix SEO feature set, which is again polluted with false claims and just common web 101 stuff.
- Rapid Load Time
- Mobile Optimized
- Instant Google Indexing
- Secure Hosting
- Structured Data
- XML Sitemap
- Robots.txt File
The web 101 features: robots.txt, sitemap.xml and secure hosting. If you don't have these components you are dead for probably the past decade or more.
I already covered structured data, they really think this is worth mentioning two places!
OK, so they use responsive design, if your website does not use CSS with media queries to drive a viewport optimized experience then you need to upgrade immediately.
But are they really mobile optimized?
Why, their pages take forever to load!
Which means the #1 SEO feature they claim is completely false!!!!
And this is the big giant smell that should keep any and every one away from Wix and every other site builder I have ever evaluated. They are all super slow.
I can't tell you how many inquiries I get asking if I can figure out how to make Wix, SquareSpace, and other site builder sites to render fast.
Folks, you are out of luck, they are not designed to be fast.
In other words your page speed is toast with client-side rendering.
Think about it, what is more efficient, rendering 100,000 times or once?
Recall I said 'and can get it to render' earlier? That's because it took 5 tries to get that page to render.
I ran that article through WebPageTest (mobile and desktop) to get some stats. For desktop it took 7 seconds and for mobile it took 13 seconds.
You have 3 seconds before visitors start giving up. So Wix fails miserably.
Don't worry, those are good numbers for Wix. Customers routinely bring me sites in the 30-60 second range. So Wix has used their knowledge of their platform to speed it up just a hair.
Compare that to one of the pages on this site, which much more content.
See, very little golden rod in the CPU chart. Plus, the content of the page is less than 500kb, which includes images, several images compared to none on the Wix article.
Speed maters to customers. They don't wait and this is ultimately why Wix and other site website builder platforms do not help businesses succeed online.
Can Wix Automatically Index You In Google?
No...no one can.
What you can do is use pubsubhubbub to automatically ping Google via your RSS feed and Sitemap update. This is also something built into our site rendering engine. It is a protocol anyone can use. Bing has a more formal API to automatically notify them of URL creation and updates. We have seen our URL updates showing up in search results within 45 minutes, so I highly recommend this feature.
This is not unique to Wix, but a common feature any website rendering engine should include by default.
The Wix SEO Combatants - Who Has the Advantage?
The Wix marketing team has selected two teams to compete for the grand prize of $25,000, Mary Haynes and Liquid. The loser still get $10,000 so both have money to make this happen.
The term 'wix seo' is not terribly difficult to rank. according to AHrefs it has a keyword difficulty of 35 and at least 7000 monthly US searches.
Mary Haynes has the disadvantage as she has to use a Wix site, but does Liquid do any better?
Mary Haynes is using the site https://www.wixseolovers.com/. The site does not have much content and currently is not ranked anywhere in the top 20 for any keywords according to Ahrefs.
Sadly, this site has no chance of ever having any traffic much less traffic to drive any real sales from organic search. It takes 27 seconds to render!
The site's home page weighs in at over 3.4MB, which of course is about a megabyte more than the game DOOM I played back in college.
Sorry Mary, your site is terrible, no matter what content you create. No one wants to wait 30 seconds to read the content.
OK so this means Liquid should have no problem, right?
Liquid is using the www.wixseohaters.com/ to compete. They were free to create the content anyway they wanted. So we should expect something awesome.
Honestly, with $25,000 so easy to win I would expect them to put in some effort. They have not.
Like the Mary Haynes site the Liquid site does not rank for anything in the top 20.
The Liquid site crushes the Mary Haynes site for page speed. It loads in roughly 3 seconds, so win there. It also weighs 700kb, still on the high side, but acceptable with images.
The site even has a site scan tool, which should attract links. It just uses Lighthouse to produce a basic report, but most non-professionals think this is pretty amazing.
For the record hit F12 in Chrome or new Edge and you can do the same thing anytime you want.
Why don't these site rank better? These are both SEO firms competing head to head, why are they not ranking at the top by now?
Partially because Wix.com has the top 4 positions, which I would expect. I mean Wix should rank for branded keywords above anyone else, at least I would hope so.
The two sites are both indexed in the top 100, but so far down it simply does not matter.
They have some backlinks, but not many, even with the exposure form the contest.
Excluding the Wix.com sites if you look at the next 10 or so results you see articles that actually analyze Wix and how well they apply on page SEO. They also perform studies to prove the point, sort of like I have done in this article.
Plus, the pages are very detailed, not short on content.
They have links, but not too many. The 8th position only has 4.
None of the pages are aged that well, but they all render reasonably quickly and other good technical features.
So, I think it comes down to being deep on content and resources searchers want or matching search intent.
The Wix pages rank most likely due to brand authority for any keyword related to Wix, which I would expect. So position 5 down is where I expect external sites could rank.
The two sites selected for the contest are weak is many aspects. The content is rather lacking and you can tell neither firm is investing a lot of resources toward ranking. I guess an extra $15,000 does not mean much to them.
What Should You Do?
Honestly if you want to use a site builder platform go ahead. You won’t see much in the terms of results to grow your business. You will have something online and that is about it.
Even with Wix putting in great effort to promote their SEO capabilities they have nothing more than just basic web 101 or just flat out misleading claims. It is the false claims that trouble me the most.
Wix does not have any magic to help you earn a featured snippet in Google, Bing or any other search engine. No one does, if someone says they do, run, they are not honest.
Wix sites render slowly and this page speed deficiency is ultimately what brings the platform to its knees and why no business should consider it or other site builder platforms. It is a chronic trait of Wix and its direct competitors.
Basically, there is no real margin on a site by site basis for these site builder platforms. So, they are lazy when it comes to what their product produces. They put the effort in a slight of hand to help their sales process.
The two sites chosen for their SEO contest probably won’t earn a position that really matters. It is a shame both sites have had so little effort invested. For $25,000 I could do some pretty amazing things.
Finally, if your website needs a loading image to display before the text renders you should go somewhere else.