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Wordpress code good for google ranking, vs hand-coded sites?
neophyte

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 3:56 am on May 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hello All -

I was having a discussion with a friend last night regarding whether to use a WordPress or a hand-coded site for a new project.

The point of the project is to get ranked by google asap.

He's under the impression that - for some reason - WordPress sites are "pre-wired" with some sort of code that google looks for/likes and would rank quicker than a new hand-coded site WITH THE SAME CONTENT.

Of course, he couldn't give me an example of this "magic" code.

At any rate, I find this hard to believe... but maybe I'm wrong. I'm not a professional SEO person by any means (I am a custom coder) and all of the information I've read regarding good google rankings (nowadays) are essentially based upon continual, relevant content being added to the site.

Can anyone who "knows" give their opinion on if it makes any difference at all (regarding google ranking) if a NEW site is built from scratch or from a WordPress template?

Thanks to all in advance.

 

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 12:46 pm on May 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't think WP offers an SEO advantage, but I don't think it's a detriment either, and it does make some aspects of SEO easier for me to deal with without having to bug my developer.

As far as SEO plugins, I'm all for them if you pick the right one; I don't pay attention to the keyword optimization features myself, but for hand editing titles, meta descriptions, generating sitemap files, dealing with social meta data and so on, again - it saves a lot of time and effort.

My first main site was hand coded for many years, and it did wonderfully well in the SERPs. When I converted it to WP, it did equally well, maybe better (mostly cause in the process we cleaned up some of the problems that handed coded site had)

The one thing - performance has become more and more of an issue, and due to the extreme spiky nature of my traffic, I'm not sure how much longer I can stay with the WP platform, so we're looking around to see where we gotta go next.

In the end, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. As always.

Lorel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 2:50 pm on May 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Wordpress produces massive code bloat which slows download time (as do most CMS), so unless you tread lightly on the plugins and images it may be hard to outrank a site built by hand (all other factors being equal). But then you loose the optiion of accepting comments.

I prefer to build a clean, lean site by hand and add a WP blog to it, not set up WP as the main site.

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 5:20 pm on May 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

I "know" a lot about this subject, drawn from many years of experience.

- Google "knows" a site is built on wordpress simply by finding specific core files, such as the remote publishing page, and it checks to see if your installation is up to date.

Does Google rank a site differently just because it's wordpress? Probably not unless....
- Your running a wildly outdated version, Google may even send you a notice about an outdated version
- You have security issues, such as remote publishing without needing to be logged in
- You have spam issues, such as comments without filtering or pre-moderation

So out of the box Wordpress "ranks" fine unless you allow 3rd parties to modify content without filtering or login of some sort.

Speed and security, wordpress has neither(compared to a static page). Wordpress plugins all cause added security concerns and a plugin can never be a good frontline for security because it requires that wordpress run to be effective, hackers can fool the site into thinking wordpress is running when it's not or they can visit critical files directly if you don't have a solid .htaccess file.

As for speed, this is a usability issue, a static site will always be much faster since it doesn't need wordpress to dynamically create a page. The BIG slowdown with wordpress is the database, or rather the fact it must interact with one. Shared hosting accounts have it worst since many, many sites share a limited number of access slots. We're talking about milliseconds here but with bloated addons it can amount to seconds if they make a lot of calls to the database.

Wordpress is great at creating pages, it's much less efficient at displaying them, even with fully configured cache plugins which I highly recommend you use.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 5:50 pm on May 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Having a good host makes a big difference too. I'm on my sixth host now, and you couldn't pry me off with a crowbar. I tried all the cheapo ones, and they just weren't optimized to serve WordPress efficiently at the traffic level I require. My current setup is still shared hosting (probably my last year till I go dedicated) and it's still relatively inexpensive, but they specialize in WordPress, and knowing of my traffic spikes, they will stress test my sites ahead of peak, and warn me about any potential issues with plugins and scripts. Hosting *matters* when it comes to performance, and of course, Google looks at performance. Particularly if you are serving a mostly mobile crowd (which I am)

[edited by: netmeg at 5:51 pm (utc) on May 20, 2014]

CaptainSalad2



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 5:51 pm on May 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

As for speed, this is a usability issue, a static site will always be much faster since it doesn't need wordpress to dynamically create a page.


When we talk about hand coded sites performing better in terms of speed/bloat, just to be clear I don't mean static pages.

I hand code dynamic database driven sites from scratch using server side coding and handwritten databases, then wrap my own CMS I developed around it. I believe COS also does this!

Static pages without the additional roundtrips would be faster but from maintaining/updating point of view a hand coded server side site canít be beaten, even for very small sites (4-8 pages) I would still use server side scripting just from a future update and migration point of view!

But not all of us have years of programing experience to fall back or the budget to pay a decent developer to build a bespoke website, so in those situations WordPress is the perfect tool!

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 4:18 am on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

Wordpress produces massive code bloat which slows download time (as do most CMS)


Use (preferably your own) lightweight theme. My Wordpress blog has no bloat BUT the theme is not as flexible as most modern Wordpress themes.

I hand code dynamic database driven sites from scratch using server side coding and handwritten databases, then wrap my own CMS I developed around it. I believe COS also does this!


The real advantages of a custom database are that it ensures data consistency, simplifies code and reduces human error. Less so if you use something that is not a proper RDBMS like MySQL with MyIASM.

the budget to pay a decent developer to build a bespoke website, so in those situations WordPress is the perfect tool!


1) If you value your own time, how much of an investment are you making anyway? Paying a developer may not add that much more when you think in those terms.

2) Why Wordpress? There are lots of good tools. OK, that is another topic...

Has anyone here used static site generators? Its something I want to experiment with.

atladsenser



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 1:50 pm on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

My current setup is still shared hosting (probably my last year till I go dedicated) and it's still relatively inexpensive, but they specialize in WordPress...


Netmeg, could you share who this host(s) might be? I'm about to move a hand-coded site to Wordpress, so I'd love any pointers on better hosts. Nothing is wrong with mine that I can detect -- I had another, much smaller, site that used Wordpress for years and ranked great -- but I want to make sure my site speed for a larger site is as fast as possible.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 2:08 pm on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

Against the forum charter.

atladsenser



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 3:03 pm on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

(Sighs) Ok.

ColourOfSpring



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 5:55 pm on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

I hand code dynamic database driven sites from scratch using server side coding and handwritten databases, then wrap my own CMS I developed around it. I believe COS also does this!


That's right, CS2. I handcode everything I do, but I am a "traditional" web developer (and programmer as far back as the 80s/90s) - and my background compels me to handwrite stuff. As CS2 says, it's not really practical, possible or recommended for most people to learn how servers, databases and server-side scripts work when there are ready-made solutions already out there. Life's hard enough without imposing all those learning curves onto yourself.

Having said that, it's been an eye-opener to see how a basic install of WP hammers a server. Admittedly, I've not touched WP for a few years, but when I did mess around with it, I noticed there was no caching at all - so everytime a page loads, it's rendering EVERYTHING from database calls. There are plugins to prevent this (WP-cache), but I wonder how many people use them?

I learnt my way around dedicated servers because of the sheer slowness and unreliability of my shared hosting experiences. Maybe I was unlucky, but it seemed like on a shared host you can't choose your neighbours and it only takes a few rogue scripts to impact negatively on your own sites. It was also just interesting to see the "other side" of web development - the server itself - to see its resources being used literally as each page loads.

Ultimately, I'm sure Google just want decent content that loads quickly and is hosted on a secure platform that isn't likely to host and share viruses.

scooterdude



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 6:07 pm on May 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

What would folk say the "slow site" ranking suffers threashold is nowadays, 3,4,5,6,7 seconds ?

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 4:50 am on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

it's rendering EVERYTHING from database calls.


That, in itself, is not a problem for most sites - I have sites that do the same that are fast.

The problem is the sheer number of queries Wordpress makes. My sites make a few queries per page: usually fewer than five. Wordpress makes about 25 for the home page with a default install, and I have found discussions in which people talk of having well over a hundred queries on the home page! One even argued that anything under 50 is OK!

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 5:39 am on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hand-code every time -- With WP anyone concerned about security should scrub the code every time there's an update to the base code or a plug-in they use.

It's way more cost effective for someone to hack WP or "popular plugins" [millions of installations] than custom code -- I would not ever use WP myself, because it's too much like Windows [hack one, hack 'em all] while a custom coded site makes it cost-ineffective for a hacker to bother with, so unless someone has a personal vendetta/reason to pay someone to hack your site or there are gaping holes in the code, hand-coding is likely much more secure than WP is.

No professional hacker is going to bother to spend time trying to hack a single site, unless they have a personal vendetta or they're guaranteed of payment for getting in to the site, which means, based on basic reasoning skills, custom code [single installation] is more protected/secured than WP [millions of installations] will ever be.

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 8:38 am on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Security is another issue: but now its been mentioned, as I said in a thread a few months ago, Wordpress's problem is not just that its popular, it is poor/old design.

Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 12:20 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

> hide wp headers.

They don't need the headers or page content to detect wordpress. Simply pull index.php or wp-admin or any of a dozen other default wp scripts and you instantly know it is WP with a high degree of accuracy and no need for messy code parsing. There is very little a wordpress site can do to hide the fact that a site is running wordpress.

>WordPress sites are "pre-wired" with some sort of code that google looks for

The type of Corporate based brand PPC driven sites the Google algo is looking for today, are not found on sites using WP as a base. I have zero doubt Google devalues Wordpress based sites [fullstop]

mhansen



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 1:21 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Sorry for the long post... I usually keep it short and to the point. Just wanted to share our experience with WordPress and our "preference" to use WP as often as it's a good fit for the project.

Regardless of the site we're working with, we look to WP first to determine if we can make it within our needs. Everything from small business-card-presence type sites, to 10-20 product e-commerce sites. WP is not perfect, as has been outlined thoroughly in this thread, but with a plan in hand, you can setup to perform just as well as a hand-coded site. In my opinion, the ease of use, time-to-market and flexibility of options far outweighs the effort it takes us to eliminate the negative effects of most WP user mistakes.

- Start with a GREAT host! Avoid the "$5/month for unlimited blah blah" shared and overloaded providers. It only takes 15 minutes and a whois lookup to go through a blog directory, use a site load simulator, compare 15-20 sites and determine which host is good or not.

- Make efficiency and site speed a priority. Find yourself a good waterfall-style speed tool to analyze every aspect of your site load speed and eliminate everything that slows the site down. Reach for a 100% speed score, settle on 98 as the lowest!

- Start with a bare-bones and responsive theme that is free of all the glitter and glam of what most theme designers call "features" (like 10's of various custom db calls, fancy widgets in footer, etc) We find it easier to code features IN to the theme, versus taking them all out of a bloated functions.php file.

- Go through your code and clean up all the bloat you don't need. In our case, we use WP more like a CMS than a blog, and eliminate most of the "blog" friendly features that are spit out in the <head> section. Essentially, if it's not something we would have in a hand-coded static site, we take it out of WP also. We have minimized our <head> section down to 15-20 lines after removing the bloat... shorter, if we spend the time to remove plugin comments naming the plugin, versions, etc. (but you need to re-delete after each plugin update)

- Minimize the use of plugins to only those essential to your needs, and those with high reviews from the WP plugin repository. We DO use a popular SEO plugin, for it's ease of handling several functions on the site. A good cache plugin, and very few if any others. If you use a popular plugin, spend the time to go to the developer site and learn how to optimize it's use. (turn off the features you don't need, only use what you do)

- If you don't care about visitor comments, turn off the feature built for the comment system (gravatars, pingbacks, etc) and squeeze it off. If you DO use comments, get rid of the URL form field from your comment box... it cuts down 99% of spam comments.

- Clean up your database monthly. Eliminate all the historical records (revisions, etc) There are plugins to help... Active-plugin/use-plugin/disable-plugin.

- If you're concerned about shysters getting in and exploiting your plugins or WP code, move the /wp-content/ folder to a random directory (like "/files/" or "/assets/" and declare it within the config.php file. Takes 2 minutes, conceals the location from lazy hackers, and makes you feel better about security. There are also a few great security plugins out there that you can enable/scan/then disable, for your monthly code checkup on the site.

- If you want to deter scrapers/copycats - Kill the RSS feeds and add a lightweight plugin (or code it into your <head>) that disables right-click and copy/paste. It eliminates 99% of the lazy scrapers who will copy/paste your text to their site.

- For form pages, (contact forms, etc) make sure your form validation code only loads on the actual form pages, versus sitewide.

- Eliminate any chance of content showing in two places on your site. 1-content resolves to 1-url. (aka, noindex/follow category pages, archives, author pages, anypage that shows snippets, etc)

- If you use the site as a CMS, create a hierarchy of pages, just like you would in a hand coded site, and stick to it.

- Hand-code your H1's into your pages, versus letting WP name and place them for you. Remove that pesky <h1 ><? php title >< /h1 > and use your WYSIWYG editor to write your page h1's. It gives you the flexibility to be more creative in your onpage SEO. It also helps you avoid over-seo snafu's with a matching h1 and url. Which leads to...

- Avoid letting WP create the URL for you. Sure, friendly URL's is important, but don't let it create: "/this-is-the-seo-url-of-my-main-landing-page", when "/seo-keyword" is much shorter and better.

As I stated, we use WP as often as we can. We manage many sites and the time-saving features of using WP are the hot-button that keeps us coming back. We have a few sites that entertain 25,000 daily visitors / 150k daily pageviews, but that's about the highest we've seen. We've always approached the use of WP as many of the old-time webmasters we graciously learned from since 2001... If it's non-essential to the contents of the site/page, eliminate it. Focus on speed and the user. We've never felt that WordPress was the reason for ranking issues when they occur. Just as true, we've never felt an SEO advantage by using it either.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 1:45 pm on May 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

It comes down to tuning; at peak last year I had five WP sites each serving 165K users and 700k pageviews per day, and they seemed to handle the load just fine.

But this is not the WP forum, this item is about SEO and WP. If you're not a developer (and/or can't lay your hands on one) then WP may be a better choice, just because you won't need a developer to properly implement your onpage SEO.

However, there are pitfalls, and WP generates a lot of duplicate content, so it's best to hie thee over to the WP forum to read about how to prevent that. For example, I disallow tag pages, categories, author pages (I'm always the only author), search results pages, and basically anything that isn't flat out content. What you keep out of Google is almost as important as what you let in.

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 6:32 am on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

@mhansen, looking at the amount of work you do to set up a Wordpress site, it looks like more work than I do to develop a custom site.

Start with a bare-bones and responsive theme that is free of all the glitter and glam of what most theme designers call "features" (like 10's of various custom db calls, fancy widgets in footer, etc) We find it easier to code features IN to the theme, versus taking them all out of a bloated functions.php file.


This is the critical bit for both SEO and performance, but, again, it means more work.

@netmeg, that takes a fair amount of time, I imagine. Time is money.

Muskie

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 9:34 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

The advantage to WordPress or any CMS is you can concentrate more on the content then on the code so you can get a website up quickly. WordPress in 2014 also has an absolute avalanche of tutorials, plugins, and advice. I still have webpages I've been maintaining by hand since the 90s but it is just easier to use WordPress or at least some lighter weight content creation system.

One theory is the sheer number of WordPress sites online now, may eventually result in handcoded websites getting a boost, but Googlebot is pretty good at indexing ugly HTML now and I think the age of the domain is the bigger advantage of old handcoded websites, not the actual handcoded HTML.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 10:09 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, that takes a fair amount of time, I imagine. Time is money.


Only the first time. Now it's less than half an hour.

mhansen



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 10:29 pm on May 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

This is the critical bit for both SEO and performance, but, again, it means more work.


Ditto to what Netmeg said... If you've already got your base theme/setup in place, it's just a matter of adding the stuff you need to make it for the specific site and visitors.

MH

neophyte

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 4:12 am on Jun 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hello All -

Thanks ever so much for all of the responses to what I though would be a "fairly" easy question to answer... I hope this thread was also of advantage to other members wondering if anyone else was wondering about the SEO/Ranking "advantages of" a freshly hand-coded vs WP templates.

deeper

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 3:24 pm on Jun 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

@mhansen:
thanks for the overview.

I'm very surprised to hear you all talking about speed all the time.

This is not a big ranking factor, why do you think so? It's one of more than 200 factors, that's all.... If anybody can proof the opposite, please feel free to do it.

It's a usability factor. But only if very bad: Many don't want to wait longer than 3 seconds, afterwards they are gone.

Therefore, if the speed of a WP-site is "o.k.", this is not a big thing against WP IMHO.

deeper

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 11:29 pm on Jun 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

Btw, anybody here knows the WP-theme (better framework) called "headway"?

Very flexible, so I'd like to know the code quality. I have a test installation, but I'm not able to consider the code quality as I'm just a webmaster with few technical skills.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 1:11 am on Jun 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Arguing about WordPress vs. hand coding (or a CMS vs. static pages, for that matter) is like arguing about PCs vs. Macs or iOS vs. Android.

Take everything you read from either side of the argument with a grain of salt. Better yet, ignore the argument altogether, do what makes you feel more comfortable, and focus more on the site's content than on the "how."

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 4:35 am on Jun 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Use Wordpress but be cautious and knowledgeable on many aspects:
1. Speed? Select a good caching plugin - WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache and use the preload mode (makes most pages static).
2. Avoid (!) using plugins as much as you can - Try to hand code many functionality that you may need down the road.
3. Adjust, modify and adapt the theme to you needs. Learn/know it from top to bottom.
4. Mind the security issues.

That's it.
Wordpress is the 'web platform' of many big professional sites, to name some - smashing and mashable.

mhansen



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 3:10 pm on Jun 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm very surprised to hear you all talking about speed all the time.

This is not a big ranking factor, why do you think so? It's one of more than 200 factors, that's all.... If anybody can proof the opposite, please feel free to do it.


For myself, I try to eliminate anything that could have a negative effect on user-metrics, as I find them to be related to SEO. Speed is just one of those 200 factors that easy to control, and is 100% in my control to fix.

Low hanging fruit... so to speak.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4671556 posted 4:48 pm on Jun 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Speed on mobile is a huge usability factor, specially when 70 to 80% of my traffic is mobile, and if you think Google isn't paying attention when someone on an Android phone navs away to search again because my site doesn't load quickly enough, you're kidding yourself.

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