November 23, 2017
An attorney called our office the other day and asked about building a law firm website using Squarespace or Wix. Would he get anywhere with those services in terms of SEO?
He’s not the first to ask. So we’re following some of our own advice: if multiple clients have asked you the same question, blog about it.
As it happens, this is a conversation worth having. Wix and Squarespace push their services hard. If you listen to any kind of business news or talk radio, you’ve probably heard their ads so many times you can recite them already.
“We make websites easy,” they claim, and that’s not wrong.
But our prospective client wasn’t asking about “easy.” He was asking about SEO. Different question, different answer.
Here at Black Fin, we build websites with WordPress and WordPress only. Never Squarespace. Never Wix. No exceptions.
That’s not because we think Squarespace is for squares (it’s an adequate means to a modest end — but more on that later) or because we have some sort of contract in place with WordPress (we don’t).
It’s because we only make one kind of website at Black Fin: law firm websites. And WordPress just plain makes more sense for law firm SEO.
Below, we look at why that it is… and we share our honest impressions of all three services based on our many years of experience in building and growing websites for attorneys.
Squarespace and Wix are both cloud-based, drag-and-drop website building tools. To create a site, you subscribe to either service and pay a monthly fee for access to the design features and for hosting the site on their server.
Once you set up an account, you pick from a gallery of pre-designed themes for your site. The theme will determine your site’s overall layout and aesthetic, and the rest of your site must be built within the confines of that theme.
Both services have become extraordinarily popular in recent years. There’s no mystery there. Wix and Squarespace are both easy to use, allowing a quick launch for a website that looks pretty decent, even if it’s uniform and relatively simplistic.
The monthly subscription fees can add up to a lot more than what you’d pay any other server to host your website. But that’s their whole business model: you’re paying for simplicity and convenience.
WordPress works quite differently. In fact, comparing it to drag-and-drop services is an apples-and-oranges exercise because WordPress really isn’t a service at all. It’s free, for starters. You just download and install it — no subscription required.
Rather, WordPress is an open-source platform that serves as both a web design framework and a Content Management System (CMS).
Drag-and-drop sites are perfect for people who need a no-fuss, no-frills website in a hurry. Ideal candidates include:
As a general rule, the more important the website is to your business — or the more you need your website to do — the less sensible drag-and-drop site builders become. And that brings us to the benefits of WordPress for attorneys.
We’re not telling you it’s impossible to see SEO gains while using drag-and-drop sites. We are telling you that WordPress is a much more powerful and effective tool for getting there. Here’s why.
CMS and SEO
In its earliest days, WordPress was primarily a forum for blogging (along the lines of Blogger.com). But the platform was always capable of more, and today, blog management is only a part of what WordPress does — one of its best and most powerful parts.
Just about every law firm website will ultimately need a Content Management System (CMS). Why?
SEO is a science, but one rule still rings true: content is king. To rise up in the Google rankings, you need a smartly designed website filled with high-quality, helpful, and informative content. Ideally, your site will add new content on a regular basis, because that what Google’s algorithms love to see.
Blogging is a great way to do that. Even better: long-form webpages added to your site every month. There are other kinds of content too. Videos, podcasts, images, infographics, white papers, and press releases can all enhance your SEO.
Your CMS manages all that content and makes it easily accessible both for users and webcrawlers. There are lots of expensive CMS programs out there, but WordPress is one of the best, and it’s free.
By comparison, Squarespace and Wix originally offered next to nothing in terms of CMS. And Google completely ignored their sites too. That has changed. Both services now offer blogging features, and they’ve fixed some of the bugs that kept their customers from making SEO inroads. As a result, Google has started ranking Wix/Square pages. But drag-and-drop CMS is far more limited than WordPress. And when it comes to law firm SEO, CMS isn’t the functionality you want to skimp on.
Not happy with Wix or Squarespace? Too bad. If you ever want to pull the plug with either service, you’ll have to start over from scratch. That’s because your entire site is stored on their cloud, and you don’t have the option of downloading the files or transferring them elsewhere.
For that matter, even if you could get your site files, they are code-dependent on the Wix or Squarespace themes… so it’s not as simple as copying the source and pasting it on a server of your own.
This is where the drag-and-drop business model rears its head again. These services make their money through subscription fees, so they have to keep their customers dependent on proprietary coding. Themes from Wix or Squarespace won’t work anywhere else.
WordPress is vastly more transferable, and that goes back to the fact that WordPress isn’t a service at all. It’s a platform. While it is true that many WordPress themes won’t work outside of WordPress, you can always download your files, back them up for third-party backup storage, or transfer them elsewhere — none of which are options with drag-and-drop.
A WordPress website can also have webpages or applications that exist outside the WordPress framework. So if you want to use WordPress for its CMS and template features but still upload some ancillary content to your server separately (via SFTP, for example), you can do that too.
More Plugins and Widgets
Drag-and-drop sites offer lots of widgets. Both Wix and Squarespace have amped up their widget and plugin library in recent years, and true to form, they’re easy to use.
But WordPress’s library is even bigger. A lot bigger. And because WordPress is open source, you can browse both official and third-party plugins, nearly all of which are easy to locate and install (using WordPress itself). There are tons of them.
In fact, there’s a whole community online that recommends and reviews WordPress widgets for a variety of applications. There are even plugins made especially for law firms!
Thanks to its customizability, portability, and plugin options, WordPress is probably the most scalable website platform around. With the other sites, you can reach a point where your site is utilizing all the available drag-and-drop features and, if you want / need to do anything else (or grow any bigger), you’ll have to start all over again somewhere else.
There’s Nothing You Can’t Do with WordPress
Even if you can’t accomplish your goals using an existing WordPress plugin or tool, there’s nothing about WordPress that will keep you from accomplishing it elsewhere using different tools.
In other words, WordPress is a foundation, not a ceiling. In contrast, Wix and Squarespace are boxes with walls on six sides.
No question about it: Wix is easier. Ditto Squarespace. They just are. If all you care about is “fast and easy,” go with those.
Then again, WordPress isn’t exactly hard. IS there a learning curve? Sure. But it’s modest. You’ll catch on quickly. There are great-grandparents running their own WordPress site. The beauty of this platform is that it can be as straightforward or as complex as you need it to be.
More to the point, you don’t have to do WordPress on your own. In fact, law firms shouldn’t be handling their own web content, marketing, or web design. (We’ve written a lot about why, but in short: you don’t have time, your expertise lies elsewhere, and your web presence is too important to neglect). So hire someone else to do it instead. That’s where we come in.
We’ve just made a case for why we use WordPress. And that’s just it: we use it. You don’t have to do a thing.
Attorneys are busy people, and they ultimately want one thing out of their website: bigger cases with better clients.
At Black Fin, we specialize in using WordPress-based web design and other online marketing strategies to deliver attorneys the SEO results they’re looking for.
Come find out why we command the #1 spot on Google for Attorney SEO, and why Inc.com just recognized us as one of the fastest-growing privately owned agencies in the country. Contact Black Fin today.