The question of which CMS is best for SEO has been a rather touchy subject on the internet in the past couple of months. Many developers and SEO experts have been telling clients that you absolutely need a certain type of CMS, or certain combination of plugins to get excellent SEO results from your website. As Moore Legal Technology’s Head of Development and Support, in this post I’ll explore some of the key points of contention and explain what we think is the right approach when considering what CMS (if any) is the best one to achieve great SEO results for your law firm.
A LinkedIn Debate – ‘You need WordPress because Joomla! and other CMS platforms are bad at SEO’
Just recently I saw a post on LinkedIn about how a developer’s client was chatting to someone at a conference who needed to really focus on their SEO. The person in question contacted an SEO specialist / web developer about improving their Joomla! based website’s SEO. The specialist immediately turned around and said 'to perform really well, you need WordPress. Joomla! is bad at SEO'. However, in our experience of having used Joomla! extensively to help law firm’s grow their bottom line, Joomla! most definitely is not bad at SEO!
Search engine optimised URLs
Now I won't lie, Joomla! isn't the 'easiest' CMS options for acquiring or implementing native Search Engine Optimised URLs because you need to have a menu structure. However, Joomla! 3.7 will allow creating articles at the menu item level so this will help with the initial setup reduce time spent. On the other hand, with Wordpress you can just create a page and define its URL. Whilst this may seem like a negative, it's really not. To overcome any seemingly troublesome difficulties with attaining optimised URLs with Joomla, we plan, structure and set up correct and accurate URL structures for our clients’ Joomla sites which are just as good as the best WordPress URL structures you could have, are easy to understand and allow for the accurate tracking of conversions.
Automatic meta data
Another reason WordPress is said to be better is because of ‘automatic meta data’. This too, in our opinion, isn’t correct. Joomla! doesn’t require a specialist 3rd party plugin (like one of the ones we use to great effect which allows us to edit all meta data of a site in a one-page view) to control Meta Data - you can do it on a menu item or article basis. But do you really want automatic meta data? Whilst for hobbyists or amateur internet marketers it's not a bad solution at all, for a law firm to thrive in an intensely competitive online environment against competitors with significant marketing budgets, particularly where you are focusing your SEO efforts on a particular legal sector, this meta data should be manually written, refined, and based on thorough keyword-research - bearing in mind Google’s recommended character limits for each of your main landing pages. Automatically generating meta data based on the content of any given page may not get you the result you want at all.
Content is King for Best SEO Results
When it comes to SEO in the legal sector, or indeed any other sector, content is king. You need to be providing value and engaging with your audiences. If your web developer is telling you to move from one CMS to another, you need to ask why. We have clients performing well on both WordPress and Joomla! sites (and a variety of other CMS platforms used for bespoke reasons) and it really is irrelevant to form an SEO perspective which out of the two is chosen. It’s more down to the developer or agency’s preference. But just because a company prefers working with a certain CMS such as WordPress over Joomla! doesn't mean that’s the sole reason you should be paying to have your site rebuilt. However, if there are underlying reasons like inherently poor structure, hardcoding of certain parts of the site etc, then it may well be time to rethink the CMS (which could include a rebuild on that same CMS from the ground up).
95% of our law firm clients are using Joomla!
Around 95% of our law firm clients are using Joomla! as their core CMS for their legal websites with great success from an online business generation perspective.
We have advised clients to move from WordPress to Joomla!, not just for the fact we love working with Joomla! and what a great platform it is to build high performing legal firms websites on, but for other practical reasons. This includes the need to replace poorly built WordPress websites, where the previous developers have hardcoded certain elements and have advised not to upgrade regularly and to disable the build in automatic updates that WordPress provides by default (see below the example proposal we gave a firm based on very similar circumstances). These are fundamental security issues. We could of course fix the current website (as we achieved following the example below). But 90% of the amount of time and effort that goes into fixing a poorly designed and built website would be better spent on creating a new well-built and fully optimised website, which may well be achieved through starting again on WordPress, using Joomla! or any other capable CMS platforms.
Wordpress | Does your WordPress site have legacy issues? Here’s a sample proposal we sent to a law firm
The following is an extract from a proposal we recently sent to a law firm client recommending a move away from their existing WordPress site onto Joomla! for various strategic reasons.
“First and foremost, WordPress is inherently a blogging platform designed for posting updates and news. While it is still a popular means of powering professional services websites, WordPress is not, in our professional opinion, a suitable CMS for a firm the size of yours.
Before setting out some options below, we thought it would be useful to provide some technical background info on why your existing WordPress build has turned out to be problematic for you and for us. Your site is built on WordPress and uses a customised theme. The site’s page layouts are built and edited using a plugin called Visual Composer. The way the theme has been developed means that your site is essentially not future proofed against updates from WordPress or the Visual Composer plugin. In addition, when attempting to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress or attempting to upgrade plugins, not only have there been further conflicts with the Visual Composer plugin, but there has also been unexpected deletion of a lot of the optimisation we have been putting in place to improve the site. Since upgrading to the latest version of WordPress or its plugins is essential for security purposes, there is now a real risk given that we can’t easily or reasonably do that.
Further, Joomla! is a less targeted CMS compared to WordPress from a hacker’s point of view. Whilst many professional companies use WordPress and use it for more much than just a blogging platform, because so many more people / bloggers and companies use this, it is inherently the prime target for hackers. A security report released by Sucuri recently shows that in the first Quarter of 2016, WordPress was the most hacked CMS from their users. (See this: https://blog.sucuri.net/2016/05/sucuri-hacked-report-2016q1.html (8,900 websites were hacked compared to 1,600 Joomla! websites). At Moore Legal Technology, security is paramount. Note that most of the Joomla! hacks were caused by a bug in the CMS which we patched across all our clients within minutes with our automated patch roll out system, and due to our security process we were never inherently at risk. Monitoring the CMS changes as it is open source we can implement the patch even before it is available, whilst also monitoring file changes per site.
To allow us to further develop your site in line with your ongoing business objective while ensuring that it performs for you in terms of generating increased levels of traffic and enquiries, our recommendation would be to migrate the site onto the secure and scalable Joomla! platform.
The alternative is to leave the site on WordPress, an option we wouldn’t recommend as the build is inherently flawed with various ‘bugs’, as noted above, which means we can’t easily or reasonably upgrade the site regularly, which leaves the site exposed to security flaws and hackers and means we are very limited to what we can achieve in terms of both design and development.”
Achieving Great SEO Results for Your Law Firm
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to which CMS out of Joomla! or WordPress is most capable in terms of SEO. It really depends on how competent the developers are on a site-by-site basis. There are many capable companies who can produce excellent sites built on WordPress that perform really well from a functionality and SEO perspective. However, we’re seeing more and more poorly built WordPress-based law firm sites that need to be reworked, often from scratch. We know how capable Joomla! as a great open source CMS can be, not just for results from SEO, but for overall law firm success.
If you are serious about growing your law firm, whether you think that’s through great SEO, better lead generation or other techniques, and are looking to build a relationship with a partner willing to invest the time and effort to help your practice grow, then call Chris on 0333 130 8040 for an informal chat or email Chris here.