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Who Has Better SEO? WordPress or Joomla?
Being a web design agency that offers WordPress SEO as well as Joomla SEO services, we’re often asked which content management system is better to build a website with. Since we also offer additional WordPress SEO Services and Joomla SEO Services, it is even more important for us to know if one platform is better for our clients than another.
There are hundreds of WordPress vs Joomla SEO blog posts published every year. These blog posts usually focus on comparing certain features that one CMS has over the other and is usually geared towards plugins and extensions. Most WordPress vs Joomla posts you find on the net is used for link bait and traffic to their website. These posts are just regurgitated content written by hired content writers that have no real-world experience using either platform for actual clients or their own business. There have been others that mention WordPress vs Joomla SEO differences too, and those are all 100% based on the opinions of the author of the post and not backed by any proof to substantially qualify their claims.
We decided to test the SEO of both WordPress and Joomla as they come “out of the box” in a head to head test. This test will hopefully put to bed all the theories that are spread throughout the world every year by the so-called SEO’s that just guess at everything they do. So let’s put this to bed right now and get on with the test results and how we did it.
The idea behind this test was to determine if there is an “out of the box” SEO benefit between WordPress and Joomla content management systems without using any plugins/extensions. This test could possibly determine if Google favors one CMS over the other.
My Pre-Test Assumptions
I thought I should document my assumptions upfront about what I believe the test results could ultimately show. My initial thoughts based on many years of experience working with both Joomla and WordPress and SEO, in general, boils down to 3 points. These are my personal predictions.
- Due to their simplicity, I “think” that all 4 HTML websites will rank above the CMS websites.
- I have a fair assumption that WordPress could possibly edge out Joomla, but not the HTML websites.
- Although Joomla has a few more SEO settings and features in the core application than WordPress does, I think Joomla could come in at last place.
Will I be right? There’s only one way to know for sure. TEST IT!
We used a fake keyword that was not in Google’s database so that we could accurately test the websites against each other in an isolated search result. This way only our URLs would show up for this keyword.
I reached out to a fellow SEO tester, Kyle Roof from the SEO Intelligence Agency, to get some advice on how he would set up the test and validate if I was setting this test up properly. After taking his recommendations into account here’s what I decided.
Keyword = xzsaelueqzowd
For the URLs, we decided to register 6 new domains.
In order to have something for the CMS sites to benchmark against, we also used a set of 4 identical HTML websites to be our “control” sites. Having a total of 6 sites allows us to have a larger pool of sites to measure the outcomes.
Each of the 6 domains was an exact match domain for the keyword with the only difference being a,b,c,d,e,f added to the end of each domain in order to keep them as consistent as possible.
- xzsaelueqzowda.com – HTML Control Website – Bootstrap 4 Bare Template
- xzsaelueqzowdb.com – HTML Control Website – Bootstrap 4 Bare Template
- xzsaelueqzowdc.com – HTML Control Website – Bootstrap 4 Bare Template
- xzsaelueqzowdd.com – HTML Control Website – Bootstrap 4 Bare Template
- xzsaelueqzowde.com – WordPress 5.1 Website – Twenty Nineteen Theme (core)
- xzsaelueqzowdf.com – Joomla 3.9 Website – Protostar Template (core)
- In order to have some consistency in the HTML control websites, I used a very basic Bootstrap 4 template to ensure mobile-friendliness to compare to the default WordPress and Joomla themes.
- All sites used the exact same content on each home page. (331 words 2,113 characters)
- Each site included the keyword as the H1 tag.
- Each site had the keyword used as the site title.
- Each site’s home menu items were renamed to be the keyword and were a hyperlink.
- All sites were hosted on the exact same hosting package.
- The server was Apache LiteSpeed running PHP 7.2 at a Singlehop data center in Chicago.
- All sites were non-secure protocol (http).
- Due to the fact of WordPress not having meta keyword and meta descriptions without the use of a plugin, all other sites did not use these to keep it a fair comparison.
- So with the site title, H1 tag, and the menu item, the keyword was mentioned three times on each website homepage.
- None of the websites included any sub-pages, only homepages with identical content.
WordPress Specific Settings
- Version: 5.1.0
- Default Theme: Twenty Nineteen
- Site Title is the keyword
- No tagline used
- For the homepage I simply made a standard page and entered the raw html paragraphs into the code view. I did not build the paragraphs using the Gutenberg editor in order to ensure the page code was clean and no other markup and classes were included.
- All widgets were removed
- Footer code was removed from the Twenty Nineteen Theme to eliminate variables of the test having external links and real words in the footer.
Joomla Specific Settings
- Version: 3.9.3
- Default Template: Protostar
- For the home page, I created a standard Joomla article. I then pointed the homepage menu item to use this article. For that menu item’s parameters, I disabled any meta information such as category, author, dates, etc so that only the title and content were displayed.
- All modules were removed
- SEF URL’s were enabled in the global configuration settings. Joomla SEF Settings
- Footer code was removed from the Protostar template to eliminate variables of the test having external links and real words in the footer.
What did the WordPress and Joomla websites look like?
Here’s what each site visually looked like. Nothing special. Just plain website homepages.
STATIC HTML SITES
The Test Results
As I got started I wondered what other factors could I benchmark with these websites while I have them set up. So I figured what the hell, while I’m at it let’s test the speed of these sites while we are at it and see where they shine and fall short. So we went over to GTmetrix.com and checked the speed of each website.
There was not any caching enabled for any of the websites and absolutely nothing was optimized at all. I fully expected the HTML site to load faster than the CMS websites simply due to the CMS overhead included in those sites.
HTML SITE SPEED TEST RESULTS
WORDPRESS SITE SPEED TEST RESULTS
JOOMLA SITE SPEED TEST RESULTS
Google Search results
This post will primarily focus on the Google search results but we will also address Bing and Yahoo results as well.
The first thing we did was entered all 6 websites into Google Search Console and submitted each URL to be crawled. Here’s a screenshot only 20 minutes after submitting to Google Search Console.
The middle 3 sites were bouncing up and down and all over the place. However, the top and bottom sites were the most consistent.
But wait, weren’t there 6 sites? Here’s where things started to get a little complicated.
The HTML Site “C” never made it into the index because Google flagged it and selected a canonical URL to the Joomla (F) website URL. This is interesting because the sites were submitted to be crawled in search console in alphabetical order (A through F) and all URLs except “C” showed up in the results in the order they were submitted in about the same amount of time (5 to 6 minutes each).
I would have assumed Google would have selected one of the other 3 HTML sites with the identical codebase to be canonical. And since the canonical is to the Joomla website URL (F), it might be a factor for why site “F” is outranking HTML site “B” and the WordPress website (E) in this early stage.
I knew that Google had the ability to select canonical URLs on a single domain in order to handle duplicate content on multiple pages within that single domain. However, I was taken back that it also did this between separate domains and that it happened not long after HTML site “C” & Joomla site “F” was submitted. I almost didn’t catch this in search console and I kept submitting site “C” to be indexed a few times and wondering why it was not showing up in the results. There was not any clear message that stood out about this so you have to pay attention to what is going on in the discovery and Crawl areas below the URL submission field.
Search console kept telling me for website C that the “URL is not on Google”.
Even though site “C” was removed from the keyword search results, if I searched for the URL directly, Google did display the snippet. So the site was in fact indexed and in the Google database. It was just not included in the keyword search results.