One question we get a lot is:
What’s the best CMS for small to medium size businesses to use for SEO?
There are many variables to take into account when considering the best Content Management System (CMS) for your small business’ company website in addition to SEO.
Key considerations include:
- Maintenance and maintainability;
- Ease of use
However, SEO is absolutely a consideration that you should take into account for your website.
SEO needs to be a cornerstone of your strategy, whether you are building a website for a side hustle or a website for a business that is already your main income – or your employer’s.
The Best CMS for Small Business SEO
While building your own CMS and website is the most customizable option, it is often the most expensive one.
For this reason, a custom CMS is out of the realm of possibility (and beyond the needs) for 95% of small businesses.
But not to worry; with the exponential advancement of no-code CMS in recent years, you can do just about everything under the sun with the following four CMS:
As of 2022, WordPress powers 42.9% of the web.
That’s a mind-boggling total of 835 million websites built on WordPress.
Fascinatingly, these aren’t just small and medium-sized businesses.
Nearly 15% of the world’s top websites use WordPress as their preferred CMS; NFL, Sony, NBC, and Disney are just a few of the many Fortune 500 companies included.
WordPress is the CMS market leader for small businesses and large publishing platforms alike. Users are split between WordPress.com (the fully hosted version) and WordPress.org (the self-hosted version).
For very large businesses (like TechCrunch), there is also a more robust option: WordPress VIP.
So why WordPress for SEO? There are a few reasons.
WordPress is fantastic for SEO for the large majority of websites.
Website and business needs are generally not very complicated, though SEO gets more challenging by the year.
As a business owner, the ability to adjust title tags and make SEO-friendly URLs (with hyphens instead of dashes or URL parameters like site.com?p=1234) is vital.
The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO also makes setup a breeze.
Yoast SEO should come pre-installed with WordPress, and should be the first thing you do when installing a fresh WordPress website.
The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to easily configure:
- Integrations with Search Console;
- The social data (no-code control how your content displays on search and social);
- XML sitemaps (which are submitted to Search Console and Bing);
- Default title configurations;
- Noindex post tags.
Additionally, website owners can track the ‘readability’ of their pages and blog posts.
This feature is crucial in helping small businesses publish content that is not only informative but also easy to read.
As Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
These factors start businesses off on the right foot to succeed at SEO.
WordPress Offers An SEO-friendly Codebase
WordPress is open source, meaning the company consistently pushes updates to the codebase to keep it updated and bug-free. This is no different than a software update on your phone or browser.
WordPress.org is also written in WordPress’s version of PHP, which is an internet-standard accepted language.
By allowing different pages to pull information from the database, it’s the easiest dynamic code language to learn.
You can install endless plugins to extend the functionality of your site, however, using too many can introduce new problems to your site, namely:
- Longer load times, which affect SEO and conversions;
Depending on the plugin and the way the functionality is loaded, they could cause you some SEO headaches; however, they can be useful for SEO when used in moderation.
Here are some of the must-have WordPress plugins that I use here at Credo and for my other businesses.
Endless Customization Options
As mentioned, WordPress is highly customizable.
The options are nearly unlimited when starting with a new website.
Customization options include:
- Widgets (sidebar, footer, etc);
- Menus (depending on the theme you choose);
- Custom code to add additional functionality.
While custom code may be outside your skillset, the other customization options are all easily done via WordPress UI (backend).
Need to add your business’s name, address, and phone Number (NAP) to your site to improve local rankings? Use a widget or put it in the footer.
Have some high-volume keywords you want to rank for? Link here from your navigation.
Need to display real estate listings for your real estate business? There are many plugins available.
Beware: Non-Technical Usability
A prominent challenge with WordPress for many users is the backend view. However, in recent years WordPress updates have improved the UI dramatically, making it far more non-techie-friendly.
After acclimating to its features, WordPress is very easy to build on.
If you really hate the interface, you can always restyle the admin area!
WordPress SEO score for small businesses: WordPress can be fantastic for SEO. Though it requires a bit of configuration, there is a reason ~43% of the internet uses WordPress.
WordPress is still probably the best choice if you are even remotely technical (or have access to a specialized developer).
Since about 2015, Webflow has come on to the scene and gathered more market share (and mindshare) than pretty much any other CMS.
According to W3techs, “Webflow is used by 0.9% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 0.6% of all websites.”
Webflow is a no-code custom website builder, which means that unlike other CMSs you do not have to know how to code to customize it. You can also hire a company to build you a custom Webflow theme, but it’s not required to get started by any means.
Of course, no-code also comes with its own limitations. Advanced functionality will be difficult to implement, which is why an increasing number of companies are using Webflow for their marketing site but custom code for their app or any sort of workflow management. I expect this to change over time.
You can start for free with Webflow, then upgrade based off of storage and user needs.
Squarespace is a fantastic option for local businesses—and ecommerce stores especially—to start their websites and conduct basic SEO.
Small business owners, not marketers or developers, need a functional, good-looking website that includes a contact form and the ability to add products and payment services, write new pages, and customize colors and themes.
This CMS does all of that and more.
The admin area offers a clean UI and makes it easy to create new pages and add new elements. Adding images and other information is a breeze!
The platform is SEO-friendly right off of the blocks, potentially even more so than WordPress.
If you need to build a simple website for your business and never plan to change URLs, need to do redirects, or add a lot of custom functionality, then Squarespace is a good option for you.
If you want to make the most of your Squarespace website, these teams specialize in customization.
Basic SEO With Squarespace
On a fresh website, this CMS already does the following for you:
- Creates URLs that are formatted to SEO best practices (using hyphens instead of underscores and parameters);
- Allows you to specify meta descriptions, titles, and other necessary SEO elements;
- Creates XML sitemaps to submit to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools;
- Provides basic structured data markup to specify business name, address, and type of website.
This CMS also outputs relatively clean code (often cleaner than WordPress, which is open source).
Because they don’t require separate hosting to run, Squarespace sites tend to be much faster to load than most WordPress sites.
Remember, Google likes and gives preference to fast load times.
The full list of what Squarespace does for SEO can be found here. It’s a great start for small business owners!
Squarespace SEO Limitations
While Squarespace works well for the majority of small business owners and ecommerce brands, there are some very real SEO drawbacks.
A function of the platform is that it is fully hosted, instead of open source.
The platform’s main SEO limitations are:
- Lack of ability to customize it into whatever you want/need it to be. Credo would not work well on Squarespace, for example. For a business with simple needs (a 10-page site, basic information) it’s great.
- Inability to specify a different canonical for a page. If two pages are nearly identical but both are necessary to keep, you cannot tell the search engines that another page is a near-duplicate.
These are all very real SEO considerations; however, for many small businesses this user-friendly CMS is sufficient.
Squarespace SEO score for small businesses: Much less extendable and optimizable than WordPress, but easier to use and with less configuration than WordPress or Joomla.
Great to consider if your needs are simple.
Yes, the exclamation point is a part of the brand name. We’re excited, just not exclamation excited.
I actually began my website-building career in 2007 on Joomla.
I remember first hearing about “search engine friendly URLs”. At the time, these were simply called “SEF URLs”. Between installing packages and scripts and doing rewrites, setting them up was a total nightmare.
But I learned.
All in all, Joomla is cumbersome. If WordPress is a challenge for you to use, best to leave Joomla alone.
To be fair, I haven’t used Joomla in several years but have stayed current on updates in the industry to figure out how it currently works for SEO.
Suffice it to say, I’ve not been impressed with it out of the box.
There are Joomla SEO websites that can help you or your web developer/administrator if needed.
Joomla For SEO
One big upgrade Joomla has made is permalinks.
What used to be an absolute nightmare to set up are now pre-installed and work right out of the box.
Joomla also has numerous SEO extensions that provide various functionality, but much like WordPress, these extensions can slow down your site if used in excess.
Extensions can also potentially conflict with each other and cause larger problems.
Joomla is more extendable than other CMS options, making improvements to on page SEO easier.
No H1 on your page? No problem, you can add it with ease.
Joomla SEO score for small businesses: Can do more than Squarespace and about the same as WordPress. Cumbersome to use. You’ll need a professional.
Probably don’t use Joomla if you have no technical background.
The technical requirements for Drupal are a non-starter for most small business owners.
Drupal is mainly used for large businesses, publishing companies, and NGO-type organizations with thousand-plus page websites.
It offers multiple functionalities and content types compared to simpler CMS options above.
If you are willing to dedicate time and effort to learning the clunky-ish UI, it is a powerful CMS, just not one suited for small business websites with 10-20 pages and no need for any extreme level of scalability.
For reference, here is a list of websites built on Drupal:
- The British Government
- British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
- The Official White House Website
- MTV UK
- University of Oxford
- Amnesty International
- The Economist
Not too many small businesses on that list, right?
Drupal SEO score for small businesses: Drupal is too powerful and cumbersome with too steep a learning curve for small businesses. You’ll also require a professional developer here.
No CMS is perfect for SEO out of the box.
The level of complexity required depends largely on your business needs (local address-based business vs. internet-based, ecommerce business). Your site needs will change depending on these factors.
The best thing you can do for SEO?
Regardless of your platform, the best way to build a basic foundation of SEO is to:
- Learn the most important ranking factors;
- Familiarize yourself with basic keyword research;
- Learn why links to your site matter and which ones to avoid (and get!).
Ultimately, build the best site experience you can. Make it fast, give the information your customers need, and then tell them about it on other sites.
I recommend reading these resources for continued SEO information: