Which CMS Is Ideal for SEO?

40% of the web is powered by WordPress, and it only seems to be moving in one direction: up and to the right. As SEOs and others continue to promote it as the ideal CMS, that trend does not seem to be stalling any time soon.

Having said that, I’ve always had my issues with WordPress. Not just as a CMS, but as one specifically for SEO. Sure, it has many great features and an overall solid foundation for creating a well optimized website, but is it the most ideal?

I have my suspicions, to say the least.

The lack of critical features that I would assume at this point should be a requirement, such as sitemap files, lazy loading, CDN support, security, spam prevention, redirects, permalinks, canonicalization, HTML-friendly editors, code snippet management and link management to name a few. Yes, most-if-not-all of these can be found via third-party plugins, but that is the point: Why do we need to download extra plugins for basic features? Why would we need to go through the trouble of testing multiple plugins for each problem we are looking to solve, testing them all out then uninstalling the ones we didn’t like, and now have to constantly update the one we kept, rejecting their constant reminders that they have a PREMIUM version of their plugin with extra features for $49 a year? It’s bad enough they serve as a potential security threat, now they are also a load on our server and a constant annoyance to deal with. Multiply this by 10X, and you’ll begin to see what an average SEO has to deal with on a daily basis with WordPress.

WordPress is like any other living thing – it needs constant monitoring and maintenance. The necessity of plugins & themes and their mandatory updates (at the risk of hacks and vulnerabilities) is a necessary evil at this point. The question does come to mind, though: Is there anything better out there?

Some have motioned in the direction of Ghost, an open source CMS which started as a blogging platform in 2013 but has evolved into a powerful solution for any serious business owner. Having an experimental content site currently living on WordPress, I decided to replicate it on Ghost and see how it fared in overall optimization potential. Here is what I found:

URL Permalinks

Permalinks
It’s nice knowing Ghost doesn’t require me to go into the settings to specify that I want the URL to reflect the title of the post! I don’t think any website owner wants their slugs to include the date, the author, or some other random string or parameter. It’s clear and logical: they give us what we want. Common sense prevails. Case closed.

Structured Data

Structured Data
Code injection for headers and footers? Yes please. Facebook and Twitter card insertions? Absolutely. So simple, yet so effective and appreciated. It’s especially useful when certain structured data needs to be included for some pages, and not others. Surprisingly, I was expecting more social cards, but perhaps that is the err of the channels themselves, rather than of Ghost. Easy points here for the devs.

Meta Elements + Canonicalization

Meta Data
Perhaps the game changer is something as simple as the meta data tab. Ghost makes it easy. Change the title the search engine sees when they crawl the page. Tell the robots what the page is about with the meta description. Instruct them on the correct canonicalized page, if necessary. The results preview is also a nice touch. Why doesn’t every CMS have this setup as default?

Sitemap.xml

It’s surprising that in 2021 WordPress still doesn’t auto-generate XML sitemaps. It’s not a difficult thing to implement, and yet they fail to do so. Ghost does a nice enough job, although it would still be great to have the option to decide whether the sitemap should be split up by category and taxonomy. Maybe on the next update.

CDN

Ghost, of course, offers a fully managed service with an end-to-end infrastructure and a deep integration with Cloudflare as the edge CDN, which is configured and optimized to serve your site with the best performance possible. No need to download the plugin, then edit it on your account, then manage the DNS switches, then check to see if it has propagated. Granted, this may fall on the hosting company moreso than the CMS, but regardless, WordPress does NOT make it easy to feature a CDN; something we would’ve expected by now.

Security

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Ghost is in its security. While not a SEO feature per se, it still requires a mention due to the growing trend toward security from search engines, as we’ve seen with the HTTPS requirement set by Google a while ago.

Ghost automatically configures SSL certificates by default. Brute force protection exists, with user login attempts and password reset requests limited to 5 per hour, per IP. Encoded tokens, password hashing, SQL injection & cross site scripting (XSS) prevention all come standard. It’s the make-or-break deal for many users.

Verdict?

When it comes to ease-of-use, design, speed and security, Ghost wins as a CMS. It is hard to deny that. In terms of scale, customization, price and overall flexibility, WordPress is still the winner, however. Unfortunately, SEO lies somewhere in the middle of both. We have hope for both CMS’ to iterate and strike the perfect balance of simplicity and dexterity to where the choice will be literally foolproof. Until then, we just have to pick one and hope for the best.

About the author

Sebastian Hovv

Sebastian is the author of "The Little White Book of SEO" and curates a weekly marketing newsletter just for fun.