Analysis of SMB site builders finds connection between vendor and rankings

WP Engine, Squarespace perform well, market-leader Wix does not.

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Can the small business (SMB) website building platform you select affect your search rankings? An analysis of 150,000 SMB websites strongly concludes it can.

Directory site FreshChalk evaluated the top SMB site builders, including Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, the Google My Business site builder, WP Engine and several others. The company found connections between sitebuilder/host, page speed and rankings.

Wix the biggest, not the best. Among its sample of 150,000 SMB sites, Wix had the largest market share. That was followed by GoDaddy (15.6%), Squarespace (14.4%) and Square-owned Weebly (8.5%). Google My Business’s free site builder launched in 2017 and has grown fairly rapidly. It and WP Engine each had 4% share. Hibu (3.5%) and Thryv (2.6%) are former directory publishers that have transformed into SMB marketing services providers.

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Google wins on Google PageSpeed. FreshChalk found that Google’s site builder had the fastest page speed among the most popular site builders, which is a ranking factor, when tested using Google’s own PageSpeed tool. Market-share leader Wix had the slowest speed among the big SMB site builders/hosting providers. (The annotations in the charts below are from FreshChalk.)

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The scores among the providers with smaller market share among the sites represented in this study rivaled those with greater share. Carrot matched Google My Business’s page speed score of 98. Thryv (92) and WordPress (91)each had page speed scores above 90. Shopify (83) and Hibu (81) had scores in the 80s.

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WP Engine sites had best rankings. Despite GMB’s growth, FreshChalk said that there were too few organically-ranked GMB sites in its sample to make a comparison with the other vendors. The chart below reflects “median rank” based on an analysis of 11,000 sites within the FreshChalk sample. WP Engine was the rankings winner, followed by Squarespace.

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The study’s methodology is discussed in more detail in FreshChalk’s blog post.

Why we should care. If these results are accurate it obviously has significant implications for the market and could sway vendor and hosting decisions on a large scale. All other things being equal, why wouldn’t small businesses automatically choose providers that maximized their ranking potential? Those providers would also be in a position to raise prices.

Before we fully accept these findings and conclusions, others need to take a close look at this issue. The study needs to be replicated. At a minimum however, it initiates an important discussion and brings some transparency to the sitebuilding/hosting market, which has generally been lacking.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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