Jake Lumetta is the CEO of ButterCMS. He loves whipping up Butter puns and building tools that make developers’ lives better.
When the time comes for the casual web developer to create their first website, they often head to WordPress. This content management system (CMS) has been around for nearly 20 years now, and it has quite an excellent reputation for being easy to use and simple to navigate for beginners.
However, more experienced developers know that they have plenty of other options beyond WordPress, many of which far exceed its somewhat simplistic capabilities. Most times, these alternatives can improve SEO, increase security, and allow for the use of countless other tools that WordPress simply can’t offer (such as complex e-commerce, for example, which WordPress does not support).
One such alternative is Jamstack. It’s worth comparing and contrasting Jamstack and WordPress to determine which better handles search engine optimization (SEO), a set of best practices to get a website more highly ranked by Google and other search engines.
A Quick Overview: Jamstack vs. WordPress
There are some fundamental differences to understand before exploring the influence that Jamstack and WordPress have on SEO.
First, you must know that Jamstack is not a content management system (CMS). Jamstack is an architecture pattern that relies more on the client side than the backend server to make the site faster, safer, and simpler to scale, thus maximizing productivity. But, before you can build a website, you will need to pair it with a headless CMS or a static site generator.
You probably have some experience with WordPress, but it’s worth covering the basics to make sure everyone has the information needed to choose between it and Jamstack. WordPress is a CMS primarily written in PHP scripting. It started as a blog publisher but has become sophisticated enough to support some e-commerce sites, membership sites, and forums.
SEO Factors That Matter Most
SEO has changed tremendously over the last couple of decades. It’s no longer acceptable to stuff a page with keywords and expect to get good results — search engine algorithms have grown to become much more nuanced than that, and as such, SEO strategies must evolve, too. Here are a few examples of the SEO factors that matter the most today.
Page Experience Signals
Page experience signals are a series of signals that track how website users experience and interact with a site beyond the information it provides. Page experience signals help search engines make sure users get the most out of their web experience. These signals started affecting Google rankings in May 2021, and since then, they have become one of the most important SEO factors for marketers and web developers. Some of the most important page experience signals include:
- Mobile-friendly designs that load and function well on mobile devices.
- HTTPS, which encrypts information to make sites more secure.
- Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint, which is a metric that measures perceived load speed.
- First Input Delay, which is a metric that measures load responsiveness. (Aim for First Input Display within 100 milliseconds.)
- Cumulative Layout Shift, which is a metric that measures visual stability. (Aim for a Cumulative Layout Shift with a score under 0.1.)
- Avoiding intrusive interstitials (such as unnecessary pop-ups) that make content difficult to read.
Page Performance and Speed
According to research by Google, 53% of mobile web visitors will leave a site if the page doesn’t load within three seconds. Pages that load under five seconds boasted 25% higher ad viewability, 70% longer average sessions, and a 35% lower bounce rate. With this in mind, it’s clear to see why page performance and speed have become increasingly important to Google’s ranking algorithm. While Google doesn’t say precisely how much page performance and speed affect rankings, it’s safe to assume that faster is always going to be better when it comes to their ranking algorithm.
Another important part of a user’s web experience that factors into SEO is the engagement rate. This is the phrase used to describe the actions users take on a website. Engagement rates help tell the search engines whether or not a website is serving a useful purpose or not. Some of the most important engagement factors include:
- Dwell time — the time a user spends looking at a site before clicking back to the search results
- Time on site — the average duration of a user’s time on a site
- Pageviews — the number of times the site has been visited
- Bounce rate — the percentage of users who visit a site and then leave
- Click-through rate — the ratio of users who click on a link on a page, email, or advertisement
Traditional SEO Factors That Still Matter
Of course, while Google and other search engines have evolved significantly, search engine algorithms haven’t abandoned all traditional SEO factors. It’s in your best interest to continue to pay attention to:
- Keyword phrases
- Keyword density
- Authoritative links
WordPress SEO Overview
Plenty of website developers find that WordPress works fine for basic SEO. Maximizing your optimization, however, often relies on how much you know about plugins. The WordPress community has built a vast ecosystem of plugins, but you have to know which ones work well.
WordPress is also very convenient because it’s an all-in-one publishing and development tool. Assuming that you know PHP, you can add and change code to personalize sites. You can also use built-in analytics to track performance. If you see that some pages aren’t performing as expected, you can review them and look for additional optimization opportunities.
That said, load speed and security are the biggest problems with WordPress. WordPress pages can load quickly, but you need to check all of your formatting, text, links, and images to make sure they work perfectly. WordPress has all kinds of common browser issues, and one oversight can damage a page’s ranking.
When it comes to security, you can enable HTTPS, which helps a lot, but experts have discovered significant problems with WordPress such as unauthorized logins, outdated core software, undefined user roles, outdated themes and plugins, malware, and more. HTTPS can help with some of these issues, but it won’t solve every issue.
Additional WordPress Pros:
- Most WordPress themes use responsive designs that work well on mobile devices.
- Adding tags and meta descriptions is very easy.
- Built-in analytics can help you track engagement.
Additional WordPress Cons:
- Users need to add a ton of plugins to get the most out of WordPress, which can slow down your WordPress page as a result.
- WordPress can crash at a moment’s notice, taking down everyone’s websites outside of their control — sometimes for days or even weeks.
- Infrequent updates mean users must wait for the latest features.
Jamstack SEO Overview
Jamstack’s biggest SEO advantage is that its static pages load extremely quickly because it prerenders all the elements on a page. In other words, according to the Jamstack website, it “generates the markup which represents a view in advance of when it is required. This happens during a build rather than on-demand so that web servers do not need to perform this activity for each request received.”
This frees up web servers from having to perform this activity every time a request is received. This gives you an immediate advantage over competitors using WordPress. Assuming that all other SEO factors are equal, your site will perform better because of its faster speed.
Jamstack also excels at security because it doesn’t rely on a direct connection between the frontend and backend. Practically everything takes place on the client’s side instead of on your server, giving cyber attackers fewer points of attack. This makes it much harder for your average hacker to steal data from your site.
Like all technologies, Jamstack also has its drawbacks. For example, pages don’t generate previews very quickly, which will annoy some users, and it might even have a small impact on your SEO. Luckily, Jamstack’s fast load times can help counteract this disadvantage.
There is also the issue of choosing a headless CMS that emphasizes search engine optimization. Jamstack provides a scalable and safe way to construct web pages, but it does not act as a content management system.
If you choose a bad CMS or SSG, Jamstack will struggle to demonstrate all its SEO benefits. On the other hand, Jamstack does a good job of partnering with excellent headless CMS options. You should always research them before deciding, but it’s unlikely that you will choose a terrible CMS from Jamstack’s list.
- It automatically adjusts to meet the demands of diverse devices, including smartphones and desktop computers.
- Jamstack doesn’t have a direct connection to your database, providing fewer points of attack from malicious entities.
- Prerendered pages load faster, which improves Google rankings.
- Static pages make it easier for search engine crawlers to scan content for keywords because of their straightforward HTML.
- It provides easy options for adding metadata (alt text, meta descriptions, etc.)
- Jamstack pages don’t generate previews as quickly.
- Some SEO advantages rely on choosing the right CMS.
The Final Word: Jamstack vs. WordPress?
Familiarity might encourage you to stay with WordPress, but it really makes sense for you to explore innovations like Jamstack. At the very least, you can expect to gain a slight SEO advantage over your competitors and if you don’t see the results you want, you can always return to WordPress.
Jamstack offers an SEO advantage over WordPress and can become even stronger with the right CMS. Its rapid page-loading and security features make it a strong choice among developers willing to abandon WordPress.
A combination of Jamstack and ButterCMS works extremely well for developing and optimizing everything from blogs to e-commerce sites. With ButterCMS’s easy localization and built-in SEO, metadata, and description fields, this headless CMS makes it easy to further strengthen your SEO.
Ultimately, the best way to settle the Jamstack vs. WordPress debate is to try both and decide which one works better for you.
Feature image via Pixabay.