Revealed: Which CMS Is Best For SEO?

Which CMS is best for SEO?

During the past months, we’ve been testing the SEO capabilities of the world’s most popular CMS systems.

We’ve been revealing the results of our individual tests as we go. And it’s safe to say that some CMS systems performed better than others.

Now it’s time to get to the nitty gritty, as we:

  • compare the CMS systems we tested head-to-head, and
  • reveal the CMS we believe will be the best SEO choice for content based sites

If you want to know why we came to our conclusions, then we’ve got all the info you need coming up…

But hey, we know you might be busy. So if you’re just looking for a quick answer… well, here it is!

Quick answer

The best CMS for SEO right now

The best CMS for SEO is also the world’s most popular: WordPress. Joomla (particularly version 4) runs it close. But when combined with the YOAST SEO plugin, WordPress’s out-the-box speed, full control over all on-page SEO fundamentals, and huge community support give it the edge.

The best website building platform for SEO

While WordPress and Joomla can be classified as fully-fledged CMS systems, the other three platforms we tested (Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy) are better classified into the subcategory “website building platforms”. Wix was the clear winner in this subcategory, offering much greater control over SEO fundamentals than its peers.

How we selected the CMS systems to test

There are a ton of CMS systems out there.

But we decided to focus our testing on the most popular content-focused CMS systems by market share (with one exception).

Why do we say content-focused?

Well, technically Shopify is a CMS. Indeed, according to w3techs it’s currently the second most popular CMS on the planet. But we’re sure most would agree that Shopify is better classed as an eCommerce platform.

So we skipped Shopify and selected the other four most popular CMS systems in w3techs top five:

  1. WordPress (65.1% market share)
  2. Shopify (6.6%)
  3. Wix (2.9%)
  4. Squarespace (2.7%)
  5. Joomla (2.7%)

For our final selection, we decided to deviate from using popularity for selection.

The next most popular content-focused CMS system by market share is currently Drupal (2%). But we believe that much of this share is likely to be made up of legacy sites. Google Trends shows that its popularity has been on a serious decline for the past 10 years.

drupal google trends

So instead we jumped the list a bit and chose to test GoDaddy’s Website Builder.

Why we included GoDaddy’s Website Builder in our testing

GoDaddy continues to be the world’s largest individual domain registrar.

domain registrar market share

And while their Website Builder has a low overall market share (0.4%), we feel that it is likely to include a disproportionately high number of small businesses.


Because anyone who registers a domain on GoDaddy (currently around 15% of monthly domain registrations) is going to get bombarded with upsells to create their site using GoDaddy’s Website Builder.

They’re going to be getting their CMS in front of a lot of small business owners, many of whom will be looking to launch a website quickly, simply, and fuss-free. That’s the perfect customer for their platform, and the more targeted marketing is, the more effective it is.

So with GoDaddy selected for testing, here’s what our final list looked like.

You can click the links if you want to read the individual reviews.

Now let’s look at how we conducted our tests.

How we tested the SEO capabilities of each CMS

We’ll start this section by getting something out of the way.

The CMS system you choose is only a part — perhaps even a small one — of whether or not your site will be successful in search.

Because if your content sucks, you disregard SEO fundamentals, and you don’t pull in some high-quality links, then…

…you ain’t going to rank.

In other words:

A site running on the “worst” CMS for SEO could still outrank a site running on the “best” one.

But what we can say is that the CMS you choose will either help or hinder your SEO efforts.

Which is why we decided to focus on measurable, platform specific metrics. Primarily:

  • The out-the-box speed of a CMS (and Core Web Vitals performance)
  • Support for SEO fundamentals (i.e. can you do X, Y, Z on the platform)

Now we should point out here that speed is also going to be theme and (in some cases) hosting dependent.

For that reason, we again used popularity to pick themes to test.

And for self hosted sites (WordPress and Joomla) we used identical server setups/hosting. Specifically, a 2GB Digital Ocean server in NY:

server setup

Each site was set up with similar content.

And we kept external plugins/extensions to a minimum to get as close to an “out-the-box” configuration as possible.

Although we did install an industry standard SEO plugin on both WordPress (YOAST) and Joomla (4SEO), and have also recommended a couple of image compression plugins.

Once our demo sites were set up, the testing process for each CMS included:

  • manual review
  • running the site through our own SEO audit tool, and
  • using third party tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix

So let’s dig into how our CMS platforms performed. We’ll start by reviewing speed.

How fast (or slow) was each CMS?

Speed matters for rankings.

It’s one of the few signals that Google has confirmed influences rankings. And with Core Web Vitals rolling out as part of the Page Experience update last year, its importance is only going to increase.

We measured the performance of each of our test sites using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Here’s a summary of the results…

CMS Systems Page Speed

It’s not even close.

The self-hosted sites (Joomla and WordPress) significantly outperformed the sites built with platform-hosted CMS systems.

Our WordPress test site — running the popular GeneratePress theme — was fastest overall. But Joomla ran it close. Both CMS systems were super quick out-the-box and passed Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV) tests with flying colors.

Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy on the other hand all suffered speed issues and would be likely to fail CWV.

So what was slowing them down?

Well, while they all had their own little quirks (you can read the individual reviews for more detail), there was a common denominator:

Blanket loading of scripts.

Don’t need the script for that fancy homepage carousel? Tough. You’re getting it on every page of your site regardless.

It seems that the core of the platform-hosted CMS systems is heavy and bloated, and there’s no simple way to turn things on and off.

This is clearly less than ideal, and leads to this…

minimize main thread work - google pagespeed insights

Almost 5 seconds evaluating scripts, most of which we probably don’t need.

That particular test is from our GoDaddy Website Builder site, which was by far the slowest platform. But the same issue affected Wix and Squarespace.

For example, on our Squarespace site, we could have saved over 3 seconds of load time by removing unused scripts.

squarespace slow load times

Which is a LOT.

Could the speed issues be resolved?

If you’re on GoDaddy… you’re probably screwed.

If you’re on Wix or Squarespace, you should be able to speed up your site with some technical knowledge, time, and (probably) some spare cash for an extension or two.

We’ve certainly seen some fast Wix sites out there.

But for the non-technical user, who just wants to use the platform to pick a theme, launch a site, and work on content, speed issues are likely going to hinder rankings.

And in our opinion, that type of user is likely to make up most of Wix and Squarespace’s client base. After all, launching a site quickly, and not requiring technical knowledge are the selling points of those platforms, right?

So we hope that future builds will start to address the out-the-box issues with speed.

We should also point out here that this was the out-the-box speed of our WordPress and Joomla sites. With some page speed optimization, we’d certainly be able to get them to run even faster.

Support for On-Page SEO fundamentals

Now let’s turn our attention to control of some of the fundamental on-page SEO factors.

And since a picture tells a thousand words, we’ll start with a visual summary, which includes an overall score (out of 21) for each CMS.

CMS Systems On-page SEO Control

As you can see there was a large disparity in the capabilities of the platforms, with the self-hosted CMS systems (Joomla and WordPress) offering much more control.

Let’s take a closer look at how each platform supports (or doesn’t support) some of these fundamentals.

Note: Having control of an SEO ranking factor is not equal to its optimization. SEO audit tools like Seobility offer advice on how to properly optimize each element, and find errors in optimization which may be holding back your site. See our SEO audit guide for more information on how to fully optimize your website.

SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions

page title and meta description control

A page’s title continues to be one of the most important on-page ranking factors. And a well-written meta description can help you get more click-throughs (although Google won’t always use it).

What were we looking for?

Bare minimum? The ability to create custom SEO titles and meta descriptions for each page.

But we also wanted to see search snippet previews (mobile and desktop) and a way to template title and meta descriptions.

How did the CMS systems perform?

WordPress (with YOAST) was the only CMS that gave us everything we wanted.

YOAST makes it super simple to control your titles and meta descriptions, preview how your snippets will look in search, and create templated title/description formats.

yoast wordpress meta

Joomla (with 4SEO) was close but lacked a simple way to create templates. Although it can be done with some simple code.

And Wix and Squarespace also performed reasonably well, with only mobile snippet previews missing from our checklist.

How about GoDaddy?


It’s not even possible to create a custom title/description for each page on your GoDaddy site, as the option is missing on blog posts.

They get a little credit for desktop snippet previews (no mobile), but other than that, it was a big fat fail.

Learn more about SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions

Page slug / URL

page slug control

We recommend creating short, descriptive, 2-3 word slugs, including the primary keyword (or phrase) for each page. Use hyphens to separate words.

What were we looking for?

The ability to set a custom, SEO-friendly URL for each page.

How did the CMS systems perform?

All the CMS systems we tested allowed full control over URLs, except for…

…you guessed it, GoDaddy.

Again, while it was possible (although highly unintuitive) to set a custom URL for standard pages, on blog posts the option was completely missing.

Learn more about URL slugs/permalinks

Canonical URLs

canonical url control

On smaller sites, you probably won’t need to worry about this.

But if you have a series of similar pages on your site — i.e. targeting the same keywords, or with very small variations in content — there may be times when you’ll want to set a canonical (master) URL.

This helps to avoid duplicate content issues.

What were we looking for?

The ability to set a custom canonical URL for each page.

How did the CMS systems perform?

On our WordPress, Joomla, and Wix sites we were able to set a custom canonical URL for each page.

setting a canonical URL in Wix

But on our SquareSpace and GoDaddy sites, we were out of luck.

Learn more about canonical URLs

Index control (robots meta tag)

index control

The robots meta tag instructs Google to either index (1), or not to index (2) a page:

  1. <meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”> – index this page please Google
  2. <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”> – ignore this page please Google (but follow the links on it)

You don’t actually need the first one as (assuming your page meets their quality standards) indexing is Google’s default action. But it doesn’t do any harm to have it in place.

What were we looking for?

The ability to control indexing (through a robots meta tag) for each page.

How did the CMS systems perform?

Again, WordPress, Joomla, and Wix had this covered.

Squarespace allowed us to noindex regular pages, but for some reason didn’t give us the option on blog posts.

squarespace noindex

But at least this was better than GoDaddy’s Website Builder, which didn’t give us an easy way to noindex any of our site’s pages.

You may notice a theme here…

Learn more about index control

Heading Tags (h1, h2, h3 etc)

heading tags control

Heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc) help Google understand the structure, and topic(s) of your page.

They should be properly nested.

For example, an h1 tag would generally be the main topic (level 1), an h2 could be a subtopic (level 2), and an h3 could be a sub-sub topic (level 3) etc:

<h1>Pets</h1> (topic of the page)

<h2>Goldfish</h2> (subtopic)

<h3>Caring for your goldfish</h3> (subtopic of goldfish)

<h4>Clean your fish’s tank regularly</h4> (subtopic of caring for your goldfish)

<h2>Cats</h2> (subtopic)

<h3>Caring for your cat</h3> (subtopic of cats)

What were we looking for?

The ability to set a full range of headings from H1-H6.

How did the CMS systems perform?

No issues with WordPress and Joomla, we got the full range from H1-H6.

Wix allowed us to go down to H6 on regular pages but limited us to H1-H3 on blog posts.

wix blog post headings

While Squarespace restricted us to H1-H4 sitewide.

squarespace headings

How about GoDaddy?

Another hot mess.

On regular pages, there’s no way to set the heading tags you want, GoDaddy will just choose one for you. They often chose wrong.

And on blog posts, hit the “T” button and you’re getting an H4 whether you like it or not.

godaddy heading tags

(It’s H4s all the way down)

Learn more about heading tags

Structured data (aka schema)

structured data control

Structured data (also known as schema) can help Google understand:

  • the type of content on a page (i.e. recipe, review, product, article),
  • the entity behind the website (i.e. organization),
  • and can also be used to show additional search features (rich snippets)

If you’re not familiar with structured data and its impact on SEO, we recommend reading our rich snippets guide.

What were we looking for?

The ability to add custom schema to pages and blog posts.

How did the CMS systems perform?

Both YOAST for WordPress and 4SEO for Joomla have excellent support for schema.

For example, YOAST includes custom blocks for Gutenberg that allow you to easily create FAQ and How-to schema.

yoast schema markup

While 4SEO has a powerful wizard-style schema markup generator.

4seo joomla schema markup

To add custom schema to a page on Wix or Squarespace, you’ll need to generate your markup externally, then copy and paste it into the platform.

Wix makes it obvious where to add your code…

wix schema

…but for adding schema to a page on Squarespace you’ll need to use the “Page Header Code Injection” setting under advanced page settings.

squarespace schema

We recommend this free tool for generating schema in JSON-LD format.

There is no simple way to add schema markup to a page on a GoDaddy site. Surprised? By this stage, probably not.

Learn more about structured data and rich snippets

Image SEO

image SEO control

The three most important elements of image SEO are:

  • Alt text (description of the image for screen readers and search engines)
  • File size (smaller = faster = better)
  • File name (we recommend using descriptive file names)

What were we looking for?

Generally, we were looking for the platform to support alt text, and not mess with image filenames. But some form of image compression was a nice bonus.

How did the CMS systems perform?

Out-the-box, all platforms support alt text.

Yes, even GoDaddy.

In fact, we’ll go further and give a hats off to GoDaddy on compression as they’ll automatically create and serve optimized WebP versions of uploaded images (as will Wix).

But before we get ahead ourselves…

…we should point out that they’ll also mess around with filenames. Again, ditto Wix.

WordPress and Joomla won’t automatically compress your images. But Imagify for WordPress, and Image Recycle for Joomla are widely used, and will do the trick nicely.

Learn more about image SEO


HTTPS support

HTTPS has been a confirmed Google ranking signal since 2014.

And in 2022 there’s really no excuse for any site to still be running over HTTP. Notwithstanding any SEO benefits, it’s unsecure.

If your site is hosted by Wix, Squarespace, or GoDaddy, you’ll get HTTPS by default.

If you’re on WordPress or Joomla, then setting it up will be your responsibility.

Learn more about HTTPS

Robots.txt file

robots.txt control

A robots.txt file allows you to stop search engine bots from accessing certain areas of your site.

For example, you might have a section with user-generated content that you don’t want crawled or indexed by Google.

What were we looking for?

The ability to edit a site’s robots.txt file, either via FTP or through the admin area.

How did the CMS systems perform?

As WordPress and Joomla are self-hosted you can access your site’s robots.txt file through FTP.

But if you’d rather edit through the admin area, 4SEO also has a nice built-in editor.

4seo robots.txt

And there are a host of free plugins (like this one) available for WordPress.

Wix admin also gives you full control of your robots.txt file.

wix robots.txt

However, unfortunately there’s no way to edit the robots.txt file on a Squarespace or GoDaddy site.

Learn more about Robots.txt

XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps control

An XML sitemap helps Google find (and index) all the pages on your site.

What were we looking for?

Firstly for an XML sitemap (or sitemaps) to be auto-generated and maintained by the platform, and secondly for the ability to manually add/remove pages from the sitemap.

How did the CMS systems perform?

While all the CMS systems we tested created a sitemap, only Joomla and WordPress allowed us to manually control which pages were included.

Learn more about XML Sitemaps

Mobile friendly

mobile friendliness

When designing your site, there’s a good chance you’ll be focusing on how it looks on desktop.

But mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic in 2017. And Google now prioritizes the mobile version of your site for crawling and indexing.

Whether or not your site is mobile friendly is more likely to come down to theme choice, rather than CMS.

So if you spot any mobile usability errors in Google Search Console…

mobile issues search console

…the first thing to check should be your theme.

Because all CMS systems are perfectly capable of hosting a mobile-friendly site.

Note: HTTPS and mobile-friendliness are both important Google ranking factors, which is why we included them in our tests. However, we didn’t factor them into the overall scores as they don’t really provide more SEO control for users — hey are either covered by the platform or not. In any case, both factors are covered by all the CMS systems we tested and would not influence the final positions.

301 Redirects

301 redirects control

301 Redirects can be used to tell search engine crawlers and browsers that a resource (e.g. HTML file) has been permanently moved to a different URL. From an SEO perspective, they are important as they can pass on the relevance and link juice of a page to its new URL.

Four out of the five CMS systems we tested allow you to set up 301 redirects on the platform itself or by using an obvious extension…

…but once again, GoDaddy dares to be different.

Learn more about 301 redirects

In summary: Self hosted platforms still lead the SEO way

Let’s finish by summarizing our findings.

There is a clear divide in the SEO capabilities of the self-hosted CMS systems (WordPress and Joomla) and the platform-hosted systems (Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy).

Not only are you getting a running start out-the-box in terms of speed and functionality, but you’re going to be free to tinker to your heart’s content.

The code is open-source, and you can do what you like with it. Whereas with Wix et al, you’re not going to be able to mess around too much ‘under the hood’.

Which is why in some ways we feel it’s better to subdivide our results into 2 groups:

  1. Self hosted CMS systems: WordPress and Joomla
  2. Website building platforms: Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy

While WordPress is the overall best CMS for SEO, Wix is the clear winner in the “website building platforms” category

As we said at the start in our quick answer, WordPress is the overall best CMS for SEO, at least out-the-box. But if you’re technically minded you’re going to be able to optimize a Joomla site every bit as well as a WordPress one.

Can you optimize a Wix site to the same level? Perhaps, perhaps not. But either way, if you’re tech-savvy enough to do that, we’d question why you’d want to. You’re ultimately locked into Wix’s underlying code and their server config.

But that’s not to put Wix down. While still suffering from a number of issues, we were impressed by how much Wix has matured in the past couple of years. It’s certainly no longer the SEO horror story it once was.

In fact, it’s the clear SEO winner in the “website building platforms” subcategory. So if you don’t want the hassle of managing your own code/server, and just want a platform where you can quickly launch a site, focus on content, and control most SEO fundamentals, then it could be a solid choice.

Squarespace lags Wix in terms of SEO functionality. But it is what it is, and you’ll certainly be able to optimize a number of important on-page factors.

If you’re on GoDaddy’s Website Builder…

…good luck!

Here’s our overall scores again.

CMS systems on-page SEO control

And here’s an overview of the final scores only if you want to share our results:

final scores

You can read our full reviews of each CMS system by clicking the links below.

PS: Get blog updates straight to your inbox!

David McSweeney

David combines 20+ years of experience in SEO with the passion for teaching people how to optimize their websites the right way. Unsurprisingly he loves SEO and writing. That's why David focuses on the particularly advanced SEO topics on the Seobility blog.

5 thoughts on “Revealed: Which CMS Is Best For SEO?

Joomla fan
19. August 2022 6:34

This is one of the most pro comparison I seen so far

    23. August 2022 16:18

    Thank you! 🙂

Fahad Bhatti
4. July 2022 12:03

I think as per above analysis. WordPress is best CMS.

16. February 2022 19:00

Hi David! Thank you so much for all this useful info. I was just about to choose Wix (again) to build my website, since it lets me control every aesthetic aspect of it in an easy way.
I had another website built on Wix 7 years ago and I left mostly because of the slow page loading. And I was hoping that this issue had been fixed… But….. now I’m not sure. I want my site to be as SEO friendly as I can…
Can I make you a quick question? Do you think it’s possible to “fix” the low speed problems that Wix has, by hiring a professional service after the site is built? Or are those problems unsolvable even for SEO consultants/professionals? In other words, are all these “invisible trash code blankets” removable, by professionals like you?

Thank you so much for your time and help!! Greetings from Spain 🙂

    David McSweeney
    21. February 2022 13:07

    Hi Clara, I would say that you’d want to get someone involved from the start if possible as you’d probably be better with a custom template/design. But with that being said, if you do go down that route, perhaps Wix wouldn’t be the best CMS to opt for as you’re always going to be somewhat limited on a website building platform. On a final positive note though, I’ve seen fast Wix sites in the wild, so it’s definitely achievable.

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