Wix.com is one of many website builders, along with others like SquareSpace, Weebly, IM Creator, and blogging platforms like Tumblr and WordPress.com. All of these businesses use some kind of back-end setup with a collection of plugins or a certain range of allowable custom code, which lets you create a website from scratch.
The idea behind these services is fine. Allowing people to make their own websites without needing to learn how to develop them from scratch, and without the cost of their own hosting, is a good business model.
The question is, is a Wix site usable for a real business? It all comes down to SEO. If the SEO hit from using Wix is so large that it becomes an insurmountable obstacle to growth, you obviously don’t want to use it. Let’s look at the details, shall we?
A View From Inside
In order to write this article – since I’ve never grown a Wix site of my own – I’ve taken to looking at other blog posts written on the subject and analyzing their data. One such point is Wix’s own blog, which you can bet is going to be biased in their direction, with the intent of outweighing any negative opinions. Their post is here.
Wix presumably hire a third party web designer to analyze Wix-based websites to determine whether or not their SEO is viable. They chose Debby Girvan, head of a digital marketing agency, to see what she says. Her points are:
- Wix’s SEO Wizard is an essential part of her optimization process.
- Wix has all kinds of useful features for SEO, like mobile optimization.
That’s about it. She has case studies and plenty of unrelated interview fluff to make her seem knowledgeable in broad strokes, and that’s all fine. It’s an interview, after all.
In other blog posts, Wix has said a few other wrong things about SEO in an attempt to make their platform look better. They have claimed that the SEO Meta Description is not visible (when in fact it’s the most important part of a Google search result snippet), that social media metrics boost SEO when Google largely ignores them, and that exact match domains are universally good. Wix also recommends website content in the 25-400 word range. I can personally attest that I saw positive results changing from 1,000 to 2,000 words on average; something under 500 is virtually unpublishable in most cases.
Wix also ignores some common best practices in favor of simple tips for novice website creators. For example, they have said you should be using the Meta Keywords section, which has been deprecated for years and is as liable to hurt you as help. They’ve also encouraged using keywords in link anchors, without mentioning that using too many keywords can hurt your SEO. Sure, “use keywords in links” is good advice when you know absolutely nothing, but if it’s construed as “always use keywords in links” you end up with over-optimization penalties. In other locations, Wix has recommended using as many keywords as possible, which is likely to lead to keyword stuffing. Troublingly, Wix also recommends that people trade products in exchange for links, which is explicitly called out as a technique not to use by Google.
Heck, the coder, web designer, and model Wix paid for some commercials didn’t even rank for her own name using a Wix site. If that’s not damning, I don’t know what is.
Looking at SEO Elements
Title Tags. Wix is perfectly fine on this front; you can edit your title to your heart’s content. I don’t know whether they point out display character limits or not, but that’s easy enough to discover through trial and error.
Meta Descriptions. Again, just fine. This is incredibly basic stuff, so if Wix didn’t allow the customization of basic meta information we could stop the discussion right here. Thankfully, they do. Two for two so far, Wix. There has to be something worse a little deeper…
URL Structure. In the past, Wix used a weird parameter-based URL structure. You would have a site that looks like www.example.wix.com/page-title#!more-page-title/nflqt. This is largely nonsense to a modern web developer. You can read about why they chose to use it, and why they chose to change it, in their engineering blog.
The weird #! structure caused Wix’s entire domain to drop off the face of the internet, at least as far as Google is concerned, and that caused enough of an issue that Wix made a change. Their modern URLs use a perfectly normal URL structure that looks exactly like something you would get from WordPress.com. Think www.example.wix.com/blog/2018/05/15/post-title/. Three for three!
You can also customize your URLs, though you obviously have to pay to remove the Wix domain from the URL. Additionally, you have very limited options for customizing individual product URLs if you’re trying to run an e-commerce shop on a Wix site. I’ll have to dock half a point for that one. 2.5/3.
Image Meta Data. Wix allows you to customize the image name and alt-text. However, according to BeanSEOHero, even customizing it didn’t take. On the other hand, this isn’t a common problem people mention, so it’s possible he did something wrong. I don’t have one on access to test, so I’ll give it a mixed half a point. You’re allowed to set the text, which is good. 3/4.
Analytics. You’re able to add Google Analytics tracking code to your Wix site, so that’s good. Wix also offers several analytics options in their app shop, though they have questionable value. Two of them are simple hit counters, which are pretty much worthless. Google Analytics is good, and if you can add them, you can add most other suites as well. 4/5 points and ongoing.
Canonicalization. Canonicalization is important for any time where you might have redirects, accidental duplicate content, changing URL structures, and anything else where two URLs might point at the same content. It tells Google which version of the content is real, and which ones to ignore.
At the time of Bean’s writing, being able to add canonical URLs was a feature request and was not yet implemented. As of this writing, Wix has added the ability. You can set one version of a URL to be the canonical version from inside the Site Manager. You need to do it manually for every page, though, and you have to write the code for it yourself, which is a hassle. Other CMS platforms allow a simple checkbox or plugin to do the work. Still, it’s available and it works, so 5/6.
H-Tagging. Using heading tags properly is an SEO factor, albeit a minor one. So many people misuse H-tags that I don’t think Google really pays a ton of attention to it. They are a lot more likely to analyze the structure of a page and call it a day.
Wix allows the use of H-tags, but their default stylesheets are a little wonky. It’s nothing you can’t customize, but the fact that you need to customize it is annoying. I’m going to call this one basically a non-issue, though.
NoIndex/NoFollow. You’re able to set your site to NoIndex, which can be useful when you’re still building it, but is a dangerous option for anyone who doesn’t know what it does. As for NoFollow, you have no control over it. All of your links are Followed, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The ability to select NoFollow for a link is a feature request that still requires votes to get their developers to work on it.
Since the ability to choose the value of your links is a major part of modern SEO, I’m going to dock a point for this one. 5/7 now, Wix.
Mobile-Compatibility. Wix is ahead of the curve from some other website creation platforms in that they automatically have mobile-compatible versions of their pages. It’s a serviceable, albeit simple, implementation of responsive design, so there’s nothing real to complain about here. 6/9 points, nice.
Advertising. The free version of Wix will run ads on your site. This is a deal-breaker for many brands. You can run your own AdWords or whatever other ads on a Wix site, but they will conflict with Wix’s own ads unless you pay for Wix Premium. That’s the tradeoff you always have for free web hosting, so there’s nothing new here; pay or be monetized. 6/10.
HTTPS. Another complaint Bean had was that Wix does not allow SSL at all. This is another feature that Wix has since implemented. As of now, Wix does allow SSL and HTTPS browsing on their domains, even with the free versions of the site. They do not provide support for SSL, though, so you have to be able to figure it out and implement it on your own. 7/11, and intangible bonus points for the improvements.
AMP and Schema. Accelerated Mobile Pages is a faster mobile browsing sub-code Google uses to promote mobile browsing for certain sites. Wix does not allow it. Wix does allow some forms of Schema.org markup – also used by Google, but for rich snippets and info-boxes in search – though you only have limited options for setting it. Half a point for this one. 7.5/12.
Sitemaps. Wix builds a sitemap for you and even gives you instructions on how to submit it to Google. They even use modern XML sitemaps, so I’ll give them full credit for this one. 8.5/13.
Robots.txt. The robots.txt file is important for blocking bad actors, hiding system files, and otherwise manipulating what is and isn’t visible on your site to search engines. Wix has a robots.txt file, and they have added their own system files to it, but they do not allow you to edit it yourself. This is a strike against you, Wix! 8.5/14.
Page Load Times. Since Wix requires scripts to run through all of their nonsense prior to loading a page, load times are fairly delayed. I tested using Pingdom on a handful of Wix sites that they promote on their own blog, and had mixed results. Interestingly, a lot of old Wix sites they link to on their own blog are either dead, parked, or have migrated to other hosts.
Wix is never going to be the fastest host on the block, but they aren’t holding sites back TOO much. It comes down to their own design, scripts, and geographic location as much as any other site. 9.5/15.
RSS. The old version of Wix allowed an RSS feed, but the new version of the site is still stuck in feature requests.
While RSS might not seem too important, it’s the cornerstone of a lot of advanced automation using tools like IFTTT and Zapier, it makes your site easier to browse for people who like RSS, and it’s really not THAT hard to create. Wix should have this. 9.5/16.
Foreign Language Support. Wix talks about using multilingual versions of their site for those who are in the market for such things, but at the same time, they don’t support Hreflang, one of the primary tags necessary to help multilingual sites. If you’re looking to cater to more than one market language, look elsewhere. 9.5/16.
So, overall, using sixteen potential SEO data points, Wix scored about a 66%. 9.5 out of 16 on my admittedly informal categorization is frankly not that great; WordPress is going to be better, among others. To be honest, though Wix has been improving significantly over the last couple years, they still aren’t to the point where I would trust them with a business website.
John Boitnott has worked at TV, newspapers, radio and internet companies in California for 20 years. He’s an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for NBC, Inc, Entrepreneur, USAToday and Venturebeat.
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