What’s the Best CMS for SEO?

December 12, 2017 – You have lots of options when selecting a content management system (CMS)¹ for your website. To select the right one, you can evaluate a CMS through the lens of search engine optimization (SEO), e-commerce, design, blogging, social media, paid search, your industry, and how a CMS integrates with other online services. Here, we’re going to focus our lens on SEO. Our goal is to use WP SEO Hub’s SEO Checklist to find the best CMS for SEO.


Step 1: Keyword Research



Step 2: Install WordPress Plugins



Step 3: Google Analytics



Step 4: Search Engine Verification



Step 5: XML Sitemap and Robots.txt



Step 6: Page Titles and Meta Descriptions



Step 7: Content Review



Step 8: 301 Redirects



Step 9: Local Search



Step 10: Schema Tagging


With the SEO Checklist as our guide, we want to know if a CMS helps us complete a step in the checklist. Let’s find out for WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, and Shopify.²

SPOILER ALERT…or maybe not. Since we are WP SEO Hub, and not Drupal SEO Hub, Squarespace SEO Hub or Shopify SEO Hub, you shouldn’t be surprised about which CMS we think is the best for SEO.

Step 1. Keyword Research

Content management systems don’t help you do keyword research. So, for the first step in the SEO Checklist, rather than keyword research, we’ll determine how a CMS can help us deploy our keyword strategy.

WordPress

The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress helps you with your keyword strategy through its focus keyword field. Add your focus keyword into this field, and the Yoast SEO plugin generates an “SEO score” for a page based on where and how many times you used your focus keyword. However, Yoast’s SEO score isn’t the only way to determine the quality of your page because, in some cases, all of the content on your page might be pulled in through shortcode. You’re not going to get a good SEO score if that score is based on shortcode. So, for some pages the SEO score comes in handy, but not for all.

Drupal

The Yoast SEO plugin is also available for Drupal. However, Yoast handed things over to GoalGorilla, and the module is now called Real-time SEO for Drupal. Despite the ownership change, this Drupal module is basically Yoast SEO for Drupal, which means you can set a focus keyword to help you keep track of where and how many times you use your focus keyword.

Squarespace

Squarespace add-ons aren’t as powerful as those you can download for other CMSs, and there’s nothing SEO specific at the time of writing. Squarespace add-ons are more design-focused, like plugins for animating buttons or images.

Shopify

The SEO Manager app for Shopify operates similarly to the Yoast SEO plugins for WordPress and Drupal. In this app, you can set a target keyword, and the app helps you keep track of where and how many times you’ve used that keyword.

Step 1 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify

Step 1 Losers: Squarespace

Step 2. Install WordPress Plugins

Step 2 in our SEO Checklist is to install WordPress plugins. In this section, we’ll evaluate each content management system based on whether you can extend the platform’s functionality by installing SEO-specific add-ons. For WordPress and Squarespace, these add-ons are called plugins; in Drupal, they’re modules; and in Shopify, they’re called apps.

WordPress

WordPress plugins make it a powerful platform. Through a combination of WordPress plugins, you can complete the entire WP SEO Hub SEO Checklist! We suggest using WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO or better yet, Yoast SEO Premium, and Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights.  

Drupal

Drupal offers modules. And like plugins in WordPress, Drupal modules extend the functionality of the base Drupal platform, and can help you complete this SEO Checklist. We suggest using Drupal modules like Real-time SEO for Drupal, Meta Tags, XML Sitemap, Redirect, and Google Analytics.

Squarespace

As mentioned, there are a handful of businesses offering Squarespace plugins, but they’re design focused. Nothing for SEO at the time of writing.

Shopify

Shopify offers apps, and there are Shopify SEO apps similar to what’s available in WordPress and Drupal. We recommend using the Shopify app SEO Manager.

Step 2 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify

Step 2 Losers: Squarespace

Step 3. Google Analytics

In this step, we’re concerned with correctly adding your Google Analytics tracking code.

WordPress

In WordPress, there are a few different ways to add your Google Analytics tracking code. All methods correctly add your tracking code to your website, so you can review accurate data in your Google Analytics Dashboard.

Drupal

You can correctly install your Google Analytics tracking code using a Drupal module, like the one aptly named Google Analytics.

Squarespace

Squarespace has code injection fields across their website builder, including a top-level code injection field that affects all pages on your website. This top-level code injection field is where you can correctly add your Google Analytics tracking code.

Shopify

Up to this point, all CMSs allow us to correctly add our Google Analytics tracking code. Shopify is where we veer off track. Yes, Shopify does make it easy to add your tracking code, but they heavily modify it to the point where Google identifies your tracking code as malformed. Since Google Analytics supplies such valuable visitor data, you don’t want to go wrong with installing your tracking code.

Step 3 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace

Step 3 Losers: Shopify

Step 4. Search Engine Verification

In Step 4, we want to verify our website in Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT). Can we easily accomplish this in the CMSs below?

WordPress

Verifying your WordPress website in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is easy. If your Google Analytics tracking code is on your website, you should be able to verify in GSC without making any additional updates. When it comes to BWT, you have some options of how to do verify. Whichever method your choose, though, they get the job done right.

Drupal

To verify your Drupal website in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you can use a Drupal module like Site Verification.

Squarespace

To verify your Squarespace site in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, the process is similar to adding your Google Analytics tracking code. You can add your verification meta tags in the top-level code injection field. This is easy to do, and Squarespace renders your meta tags correctly.

Shopify

You can easily access your theme files in Shopify, which means, pasting your search engine verification tags into your theme.liquid is simple. This all means, verifying in GSC and BWT is easy!

Step 4 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, and Shopify

Step 4 Losers: No one!

Step 5. XML Sitemap and Robots.txt

Now, let’s figure out if our CMS helps us create an xml sitemap and robots.txt file.

WordPress

You can easily generate an xml sitemap and robots.txt file in WordPress. Plus, you have the ability to fine-tune these 2 files, which you don’t get with every CMS.

Drupal

To create your xml sitemap in Drupal, you can use a Drupal module like XML Sitemap. To generate your robots.txt file, you can install a Drupal module like RobotsTxt.

Squarespace

Squarespace autogenerates your xml sitemap and robots.txt files. You have little control over which pages show up in your sitemap, meaning you’ll end up submitting some empty pages to Google and Bing. The workaround is to hide and unpublish pages. However, you’ll need to wait for Squarespace to refresh your sitemap before you see this reflected there.

Shopify

Similar to Squarespace, you have little control over your sitemap and robots.txt files in Shopify.

Step 5 Winners: WordPress and Drupal

Step 5 Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 6. Page Titles and Meta Descriptions 

In Step 6, let’s find out if we can add unique page titles and meta descriptions in our content management system.

WordPress

In WordPress, adding unique page titles and meta descriptions is easy, especially since there are fields specifically for these meta tags. You can also automate your page titles and meta descriptions.

Drupal

Page titles and meta descriptions are easy to add and edit in Drupal. There are specific fields for your page titles and meta descriptions. There are also ways to automate these meta tags in Drupal.

Squarespace

You can write page titles and meta descriptions in Squarespace, but they often surface on your page, too. Metadata as page copy doesn’t work on most websites, so search for a Squarespace theme that treats the page title and description only as metadata. Also, Squarespace doesn’t allow you to write page titles and meta descriptions for your blog posts at all, regardless of your theme.

Shopify

Writing page titles and meta descriptions in Shopify is easy. Pages have an SEO section, where you can write unique page titles and meta descriptions.

Step 6 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify

Step 6 Losers: Squarespace

Step 7. Content Review

In Step 7, let’s figure out if our content management system lets us easily find, access, review, and edit our content.

WordPress

WordPress files your content as blog posts, pages, and custom content types, like projects, clients, and locations. It organizes your WordPress Dashboard by these different content types, so you can easily find, access, create, and edit your content.

Drupal

Finding and accessing content in Drupal isn’t as straightforward as it is in most other content management systems. The reason is that content can exist in lots of different places and forms, as static pages, blog posts, views, blocks, and other custom content types. However, once you get the hang of the typical Drupal site structure, you’ll be able to cruise around the site. However, for first-time users, finding content isn’t as user-friendly as in other CMSs.

Squarespace

Squarespace organizes your content by your main navigation. Organizing by main navigation, what Squarespace calls Top Navigation, makes locating content easy because it’s based on a menu created by you.

Shopify

Shopify separates your product pages from the rest of your site. WordPress does the same thing, but Shopify makes the separation confusing. For example, if you’re looking for your about page, your content page, or any of the pages on your website that aren’t your product pages, these are all located under Online Store > Pages. And if you’re looking for your product pages, they aren’t located under Online Store; they’re located above Online Store. Hold on a second. These product pages are what make your online store an online store, right? Exactly. Anyways, aside from this confusing organization, you can still easily review and edit your content in Shopify.

Step 7 Winners: WordPress and Squarespace

Step 7 Losers: Drupal and Shopify

Step 8. 301 Redirects

Here we want an answer to whether our content management system creates 301 redirects.

WordPress

Creating and editing 301 redirects in WordPress is easy. We recommend using plugins such as Yoast SEO PremiumSimple 301 Redirects by Scott Nellé or Redirection by John Godley.

Drupal

301s are as easy as pie in Drupal. Plus, you can filter existing redirects to edit or delete them.

Squarespace

301 redirects are simple to create in Squarespace. However, the 301 redirect component, what Squarespace calls URL Mappings, looks and feels like an afterthought. Squarespace is all about building it beautiful, but not here. The 301 redirect component is a big text field, similar to Squarespace’s code injection fields. Filtering redirects to make updates is challenging the longer your redirects list is. And if you’re not careful, you could easily delete everything in your URL Mappings text field, too.

Shopify

Creating 301 redirects in Shopify is easy. However, before you can redirect, you have to hunt. The 301 redirect component in Shopify is hidden under Online Store > Navigation > URL Redirects. Again, Shopify’s organization conventions don’t make sense. Do redirects really belong under navigation? When I think of navigation, I think of updating my navigation menu, not creating 301 redirects. Nevertheless, once you find URL Redirects under Navigation, you can easily add redirects. However, editing old redirects is impossible. If you need to make updates to an existing redirect, you have to create a new redirect, and delete the old one.

Step 8 Winners: WordPress and Drupal

Step 8 Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 9. Local Search

In step 9, let’s find out how our content management system helps us with our local search strategy.

WordPress

WordPress makes executing your local search strategy a breeze. You can add location information to your page titles and meta descriptions, and you can create information rich location pages and local content. Plus, marking up your location data manually or with a plugin is simple. More on markup in step 10.

Drupal

In Drupal, you can easily update page titles and meta descriptions to include your city and state. If you have multiple locations, you can create a custom content type for locations, and creating local content is simple. As for structured data, use Drupal’s Schema module.

Squarespace

In Squarespace, you can easily create location pages and local content. However, updating page titles and meta descriptions to include local information is challenging in Squarespace. As we mentioned earlier, Squarespace themes sometimes surface your page title and meta description. However, adding structured data to your Squarespace website is easy through top-level code injection.

Shopify

Shopify is first and foremost an e-commerce platform, so there’s little emphasis given to local information and local content creation. Still, you can create location pages and local content.

Step 9 Winners: WordPress and Drupal

Step 9 Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 10. Schema Tagging

In our search for the best CMS for SEO, we’ve at last arrived at our final step! In step 10, we want to know how our content management system helps us create structured data on our website.

WordPress

You can easily mark up your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, blog posts, products, and more in WordPress. Add your structured data to a theme file or by using a plugin like Schema by Hesham.

Drupal

In Drupal, you can add structured data using the Structured Data module.

Squarespace

Adding structured data to a Squarespace website is easy by using your top-level code injection field.

Shopify

Shopify automatically creates structured data for your products, which means you can check schema tagging right off your SEO Checklist!

Step 10 Winners: WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, and Shopify

Step 10 Losers: No one! 

A Review of Winners & Losers by SEO Checklist Step

Step 1 — Keyword Research

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify
  • Losers: Squarespace

Step 2 — Install WordPress Plugins

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify
  • Losers: Squarespace

Step 3 — Google Analytics

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace
  • Losers: Shopify

Step 4 — Search Engine Verification

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, and Shopify
  • Losers: No one!

Step 5 — XML Sitemap and Robots.txt

  • Winners: WordPress and Drupal
  • Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 6 — Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, and Shopify
  • Losers: Squarespace

Step 7 — Content Review

  • Winners: WordPress and Squarespace
  • Losers: Drupal and Shopify

Step 8 — 301 Redirects

  • Winners: WordPress and Drupal
  • Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 9 — Local Search

  • Winners: WordPress and Drupal
  • Losers: Squarespace and Shopify

Step 10 — Schema Tagging

  • Winners: WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace, and Shopify
  • Losers: No one!

And The Winner is...

Total WordPress Wins: 10/10 

Total Drupal Wins: 9/10 

Total Squarespace Wins: 4/10 

Total Shopify Wins: 5/10

We hope our CMS evaluation using WP SEO Hub’s SEO Checklist helps you find the right CMS for your website! If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your buddies on social media. Use the hashtag #BestCMSforSEO, so we can follow the conversation.

For more on why we think WordPress is the bee’s knees for SEO, check out our article Wordpress + SEO.

 

¹ Why WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, and Squarespace?

  • Wordpress is by far the most popular content management system, accounting for 29% of all websites on the internet.
  • Drupal, like WordPress, is a free, open-source platform.
  • Squarespace is the most user-friendly when it comes to design.
  • Shopify is the go-to platform for e-commerce websites.

What about other content management systems like Joomla, Magento, Blogger, Bitrix, TYPO3, PrestaShop, Adobe Dreamweaver, Wix, OpenCart, FrontPage, and so on? We’re getting to these other popular CMSs in the future. Get informed about when we update this article with new CMSs by signing up for our newsletter.

² The content management system information provided here is relevant as of the time of writing ― December, 2017. Things change, so we’ll do our best to keep up with them! Also, feel free to let us know of any updates.