I’m going to make a bold statement:
Page builder is terrible.
one by one of them.
No SEO benefits.
Ultimately, these WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) website builders severely limit your business growth.
HTML markup created by any page builder is exponentially more bloated than HTML handcrafted by a professional web developer.
The average person might ask, “Who cares what the code looks like, as long as the browser has a pretty design?”
This is why it matters…
If you’re not very technical, you might be thinking: It seems a lot faster and easier than learning everything you need to know to design your own website, and a lot cheaper than hiring an agency. ”
Wherever that goes in your head, you’re right on both counts.
However, these website builders are still a terrible choice for serious, long-term businesses.
To understand why, let’s first take a look at the history of WYSIWYG editors, how the online landscape has changed, and what that means for today’s business owners and marketers.
The road to WYSIWYG
When people first started using browsers to browse online, web pages had to be meticulously coded by hand, usually using a rudimentary text editor such as Notepad. .
No slick interface. No syntax highlighting. White background to manually enter the code.
I vividly remember walking into Barnes & Noble in Jacksonville, North Carolina and buying my first book in HTML. This was in 1997.
Back in the day, when schools were so far behind current technology and there weren’t great resources online like search engine journals, stack overflow, or CSS tricks to find answers quickly, this was a great way to learn new skills. was the way. almost anything.
And even if they existed, search engines weren’t advanced enough yet to index the web enough for users to find them effectively.
So I learned from these giant books, which are often over four inches thick and weigh several pounds.
Creating the web page was a time consuming and painstaking process, but overall the code was clean and efficient.
Of course, everyone wanted this process to be faster and easier.
Adding features like syntax highlighting and code completion to the old-fashioned text editor made the process much better, but it quickly took me to the next logical step.
That’s when WYSIWYG tools such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver emerged. (Macromedia was later acquired by Adobe.)
Some web designers stuck with text editors, but the simplicity of it made more people move to WYSIWYG editors.
No more learning and remembering hundreds of HTML elements, designing your website is now as easy as creating slides in PowerPoint.
But that simplicity came at a price.
The final website front end may have looked great, but the code behind the scenes that powered it was a dumpster fire.
This often resulted in web pages loading significantly slower, or not displaying or even functioning correctly in one or more browsers.
Some web designers are aware of these limitations and have used WYSIWYG editors to quickly prototype web pages before manually tweaking the code.
Unfortunately, most people didn’t know or didn’t care. In other words, there were millions of websites online that didn’t work properly.
As a result, in the 1990s and early 2000s, websites saw messages such as “This website is best viewed in Internet Explorer with a screen resolution of 800×600 or higher.”
As time went on, browsers advanced rapidly, and so did the technology used by websites.
WYSIWYG editors just can’t keep up, and most real Web designers have started to go back to hand-coding websites.
This allows us to generate cleaner code that loads faster, renders well in all major browsers, and ranks higher in search engines.
In recent years, most browsers have rendered web pages more consistently.
As expected, this prompted the return of WYSIWYG editors. It is now possible to generally generate markup that renders relatively well in most modern browsers.
After that, a myriad of options arose.
Nearly all hosting companies offer third-party options or house-branded page builders, some have launched standalone desktop or SAAS versions of their page builders, while some offer full page It offered a builder + hosting package, and tons of WordPress and Drupal page builders. Plugins flooded the market.
What’s wrong with WYSIWYG?
A fast-loading website is key to creating a positive user experience and has a significant impact on:
- The amount of time a visitor spends on your site.
- The number of visitors who became buyers.
- The amount you pay per click in paid search.
- Ranking in organic search.
People who prioritize page speed tend to focus on details like image size, number of scripts, and ideal media formats, but often overlook the impact of HTML markup on page speed.
Often people don’t even realize it’s affecting them.
Think about it like this: Each byte increases the time it takes to load the web page. Individually they may seem insignificant, but they add up quickly.
And it’s not just the size of the HTML file itself.
Each element is treated as a separate node.The more nodes, the longer it takes the browser to process and render the page After download.
The problem doubles with nested elements.
Too many nested elements can further degrade performance as additional processing power is required to render the page properly.
Page builders achieve certain layouts by inefficiently nesting multiple elements.
And then nesting, and nesting, and nesting, and nesting.
you get the point.
The simple drag-and-drop interface focuses only on the front-end appearance and lacks the ability to streamline the HTML behind the scenes.
A given design can be thousands of elements when created by a page builder, but an experienced designer may be able to achieve the same look with just a few hundred elements.
The speed difference between a professionally designed website and one created by a popular page builder is amazing.
But the problem doesn’t stop there.
W3C valid HTML is important. Web pages that contain valid HTML are more likely to display and function properly.
This is also important because HTML markup sends certain signals to search engines.
Another way to look at this is that it helps you understand the content better.
As searchers get a better understanding of your content, your webpage will generally rank higher and be more organic, assuming it fits what they’re looking for. get traffic.
I’m not a purist who claims that every page on every website should always be 100% valid HTML.
While I generally advocate HTML validation principles, there are many cases where errors are trivial or not worth the time, effort, and expense to fix.
There are many gray areas in the real world.
But these website builders take HTML validation errors to a whole new level.
No excuses webpages have nearly 600 HTML validation error!
Some of these errors cause visual and functional issues and inevitably negatively impact both user experience and ranking.
But these HTML errors (which you can’t fix) reveal another, even bigger problem.
can’t access code
To properly address and fix technical onsite SEO issues, you need full access to the HTML behind your website.
However, it is not accessible with these builders.
It only has a front-end WYSIWYG editor.
If you’re using WordPress, Drupal, or any other open source platform, you can literally do whatever you want with your website.
This is important because each website has different needs and those needs change over time.
There are so many tasks that need to be performed to improve your onsite SEO.
These tasks go far beyond basic details like title and heading tags, URL slugs, structured data, canonical URLs and meta descriptions.
Sure, you can add HTML to your page, but you can’t edit the HTML that already exists.
This is a serious problem for any serious business.
We’ve already addressed a number of general performance and HTML validation issues, but there are many other, more specific issues that can arise.
For example, it’s common to change the URL structure of a blog category and then change the breadcrumbs to accurately represent the new URL structure.
This required the ability to change the PHP code that powers the website.
Or you may need to set up a redirect after deleting a large amount of old content.
Website builders require manual configuration of individual redirects, as opposed to traditional platforms that have access to .htaccess or web.config files, and typically remove appropriate redirects for all content. can be created. It’s just a few lines of code.
On large websites, the ability to modify the HTML and database directly can often fix problems on many pages quickly at once.
This may include:
- Change how certain parts of the theme are marked up.
- Adding or removing important elements throughout the site.
- Update specific links within the content of multiple pages of your website.
We don’t have access to the code behind the scenes, so we can’t fine-tune your website’s performance.
Speed optimization is both a science and an art, and this is essential because what works for one website can slow down or even break another website.
It involves a lot of trial and error.
But website builders can’t do anything about this.
If you’re using a website builder, there can be endless onsite SEO issues that simply can’t be fixed.
Website Builders Not Only Limit Technical SEO, They Limit Your Business Options
However, the inability to directly edit the HTML of a website poses problems beyond SEO.
For example, my agency completes a website for a large contractor that offers a variety of services in multiple locations.
We built a system where you simply enter the type of service and contact information into a series of custom fields on a particular page, and a unique address and phone number appear in the footer of that page. Schema markup.
Pages with no data in these custom fields default to your company’s contact information and schema.
A website builder can never do that.
However, when using an open source platform like WordPress, you can usually find plugins that do almost anything you can imagine.
In the rare event that you can’t do that, you can either develop it yourself or hire a developer.
Serious Businesses Should Avoid Website Builders
There are just too many drawbacks to using website builders.
Serious business owners should avoid these platforms like the plague.
A much better option is to choose an open source platform like WordPress. If you’re on a tight budget, you can either install it yourself and find free or cheap themes, or hire a freelancer or agency to handle everything for you.
The time, resources, and money you put into a simple website builder website will be wasted.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this column are those of the authors only and do not necessarily represent the views of the search engine journal.
Featured image: Created by the author, March 2020
All screenshots taken by the author in March 2020