Are you planning on building a new website?
You may be wondering: “Is WordPress the best option for my holistic practice? Should I use WordPress or SquareSpace or Wix?
I’m going to tell you the exact reasons why I chose WordPress for my acupuncture website over other platforms like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace.
As a digital marketer, I witness a lot of confusion about what hosting platforms (not to be confused with hosting plans, from hosting companies.) As an acupuncturist, I understand how cash flow can be an issue when you first start out.
Many choose to start out with the cheapest and “easiest” options. After doing a lot of research, and testing Weebly, Wix, and SquareSpace myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that my initial instinct was correct: WordPress can save time, money, and energy in the long run, if we know how to set it up correctly as an entire marketing system.
I’m going to go even deeper than what most developers typically share, because many of them don’t know much about marketing, or the acupuncture and tourism businesses.
First, let’s talk about what a hosting PLATFORM is.
Some examples of major platforms are:
From here on, I’ll be referring to WordPress as WP, and Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace as WWS platforms to spare myself having to type each one repeatedly.
I won’t be referring to Kajabi and Kartra in this blog. They can make sense for certain types of businesses, usually global sites, and I’ll be writing about them soon.
I also won’t be exploring other self-hosted platforms like Joomla or Drupal.
Many people tend to default to the first three because they think it will save them time and money. (WWS) In the vast majority of cases, I don’t think this is a great idea. Let’s talk about what might work for you, and why.
I’ll also give you some specific examples, not just dogma or theory.
An honest guide
Obviously I’m biased towards WP because it is my preference and I truly believe it is the best option for most small businesses. In addition to my opinion, my goal is to provide you with up to date and accurate information.
WWS bloggers also have their own bias and tend to manipulate data, stretch the truth, and leave out important considerations when it comes to writing about what WWS platforms are best for specific users.
Before we begin, it’s important to be familiar with a few key concepts:
Hosting: Self-hosting vs. Fully hosted
A lot of people get confused about this.
Self-hosting doesn’t mean that your laptop is a server. It simply means that you pay a fee, typically yearly, to host your own site, but via a hosting service. When most North Americans think of web hosting, they probably think of the big, obvious companies like GoDaddy or HostGator.
This is a different scenario from paying a monthly fee for WWS services, which host the site for you.
What’s the big deal? Why is a self-hosted WP a better choice?
1. You own your own website. With a hosted platform, all of your site’s data and assets are stored on their servers and can’t be moved. With WP, you have control over your website.
2. Portability. All of your content and databases can be moved on a WP (self- hosted) platform. Most hosting companies support WP. If you are not satisfied with your current host, you can migrate the site to a new one.If you want to relocate a WWS site, you will have to build it from scratch.
Since eventually people discover that WP offers so much more in terms of building a powerful marketing website, migration and portability IS a major thing to consider. These 2 reasons alone are compelling enough to make the switch.
Themes control the overall look and navigation features of your website.
While WWS platforms give you a fairly decent selection of pretty and elegant themes to choose from there are a few rather significant caveats:
1. You can’t modify a WWS theme. This may not sound like a big deal, but once you start really getting into the nitty gritty of how your site will work and how it will need to evolve in order to grow your business, you may find yourself either becoming frustrated with the limitations of a WWS site or settling for a less than desirable option.
2. With WWS, once you choose a theme, you are stuck with it. You can’t go back and change it.
3. WWS sites tend to have a similar look and feel.
The other day I saw a beautiful site my friend just had built. It is unique and looks custom-made, and her branding is spot-on. You won’t get this from a WWS platform.
Limited Marketing Tools and Options
One of the biggest mistakes I see is when business owners focus solely on how a site looks, while overlooking how it actually works as a marketing tool.
I get it. It’s hard to predict and envision what you are not yet familiar with!
Marketing tools can mean added features, but also how the user experiences the site. Much has to do with the specific actions they can take as you guide them into your marketing funnel and begin a relationship with them.
I don’t generally recommend certain platforms for many essential marketing functions.
Specific example: Recently I had a client who wanted to create an opt-in form to collect leads on her SquareSpace site. In WordPress, the whole process would have been a matter of setting up from a choice of decent plugins.
As of the time I write this, in order to do this type of lead capture with forms that are attractive, professional looking and able to convert.. AND for her to have the choice of using her current email marketing service, we had to rely on ONE third party service (Privy). Yes, we made it work, but:
The problem with this:
1. It was pretty much a “jury rigging” or stopgap solution.
2. 3rd party services can and DO go out of business. In fact, I had only one option simply because a guy named Seth was one of the few who were able to offer the service currently provided only by Privy.
This isn’t a great situation to be in.
I’ll be honest too: From a technical standpoint, it was a bit of a pain. WordPress would have been much easier in this case.
It’s also cheaper when you have the flexibility of using which ever email hosting service you prefer, rather than be locked into the whims of a freemium platform.
I don’t blame them for wanting you to buy their stuff, if it offers everything I need.
For the price, this is inching towards the cost of a more powerful platform like Kajabi or Kartra.
If you find that you need to rely on 3rd party apps and Zapier (Another 3rd party solution to make apps “talk” to each other) in order to perform some pretty basic marketing functions, it ends up being a bigger headache.
The solution is also often more expensive than having the flexibility that WordPress offers.
I must say that SquareSpace does have great customer service, which came in handy.
I highly recommend considering your needs not just for the coming months but for a few years out, and to sit down and crunch some numbers.
Often WordPress isn’t a bad option, evven for bootstrappers. It could be worth it for many to take the time to learn it.
WordPress Has More Powerful Tools
With WP, you have access to many more plugins. As they say in WP land: There is plugin for everything!
From creating clickable Twitter quotes to optimizing photos to setting up child themes to creating custom opt in forms, there are plugins to customize your site to make it work exactly the way you want it to.
A word of caution: Too many plugins can slow down the performance of your site, and the wrong plugins can actually harm your site. (more on this later)
This is important, especially once you start adding more and more content to your site,. Yes, you SHOULD be doing on a regular basis!
If you want leverage your site as a true marketing tool, I highly recommend the power and flexibility that WP provides.
Here are some specific elements you may likely want to integrate into your website:
• The ability to connect to certain databases which may be an integral part of your services. Real estate and job recruiting comes to mind.
• More options for connecting to booking sites, reviewing sites, webinar platforms, and other widgets. Even for a simple sales funnel, it’s good to have customized options.
• Advanced ecommerce features. If you are selling a product, such as herbs, memberships with recurring monthly fees, or online courses, you may need some of the more advanced features WP can offer.
• The ability to create an email opt in form and customize it to work the way you want it to and connect to the services you want and need. The site should serve your funnel, not just sit there and look pretty, waiting to be discovered!
• Integrating your content and SEO in a seamless manner
• Themes with features and navigation options that work for your business and are not limited to the rigid structure of the WWS theme
(WWS platforms do offer a wide variety of “plugins” (or apps) as well, but not nearly as many as you can find in the WP environment.)
Another thing to consider is that in WP, you can have multiple accounts and administrative roles. Say for example you hire a blogger. You can limit their access to the vital functions of your site, while still allowing them to publish posts. You can’t do this with WWS services.
SEO best practices are more dependent on creating high quality content and on-page SEO than what any one platform can offer as far as features. In other words, it’s the CONTENT of your site that matters the most. However, WP does have more features.. and plugins available to make SEO much easier. My favorite is Yoast.
Still, WP has an edge. Since WP is a CMS and was originally created for blogging, and maintaining a blog is one of the best ways to improve SEO.
Potential drawbacks of using WP
These drawbacks are not to be considered risks if you take proper care of your site. A good web hosting service can also be very helpful when it comes to making sure you have easy options for backing up your site content AND database. The 2 main things to consider are:
• Plugin conflicts
Is it because WP is inherently inferior and “buggy? No. WP is an open source CMS. (content management system) This means that its code isn’t proprietary, as is the case with hosted platforms.
If you talk to a WP advocate, they will tell you that this is a GOOD thing.. and it IS!
But you do have to keep your site “healthy” by choosing only trusted plugins and keeping everything updated.. especially WP itself, in your dashboard.
Furthermore, since most websites are built using WP, the statistics don’t show that a site is more likely to get hacked just because it is a WP site. There are simply more WP sites that get hacked because there are more WP sites!
A blogger biased towards WWS will play this up as being a HUGE negative.. as if your site will likely get hacked unless you “lease” from a WWS platform.
The truth is, keeping your site healthy isn’t difficult. Every site owner should be spending a set amount of time each week on maintenance and adding new content anyway, just as you would with bookkeeping.
Here’s another analogy: You may have a high-performing custom made race car, but you DO have to change the oil and you DON’T want to hire a bad mechanic to do your maintenance or add sketchy performance-enhancing features.
The above points are important to be aware of, but not good reasons for avoiding WP. That would be like saying it’s not worth it to invest in a property that is likely to appreciate in value because a sink COULD get clogged.
I think we all need to get over it and stop seeing a website as something you set up and then ignore until it becomes so outdated that an overhaul is required. A website is a “living” entity and should be treated as such.
Having said that, hacking does happen. You do want to take whatever methods you can to prevent it. If the worst case scenario happens.. don’t panic. If you have a good hosting plan and do regular backups, it won’t be as devastating as you might think.
Finally, I will say this: If the choice of platforms for a serious business owner is based SOLELY on avoiding hacking and plugin conflicts, perhaps some re-thinking of priorities is in order.
Choosing WordPress can save you money in the long run.
Let’s continue with the leasing analogy. Sure, the $29 a month sounds more affordable, but if you do the math and factor in lost time and revenue, it could be that you are throwing money away in the long run.
As your business matures and begins to require a stronger market presence and tools in order to grow, the drag-and-drop environment will begin to lose its effectiveness.
And once you build it, you are stuck with it. You are leasing a site that very likely will be underperforming, if your plan is to grow your business.
WWS platforms are also classic “freemium” services. “Extras” that you need to run your website like a true marketing tool tend to require subscription upgrades.
Eventually, the hours you spent on your WWS site or that $29 per month that didn’t really do anything for you.. is simply wasted time and money.
There are WWS biased bloggers (affiliates) that inflate the actual costs of building a WP site, and make the monthly rates sound attractive. Lost revenue due to underperformance, site migration costs, and having to start from scratch are not surprisingly, also not factored in.
It makes no sense to “lease” a site that will probably need a major overhaul once your business gets to a certain point. And in today’s online world, that’s probably going to be sooner than you might think.
My favorite analogy is that using hosted WWS platforms is like renting a home that you can redecorate up to a point, but can’t customize. Anything you invest or put into the home also cannot be taken with you when you move. To me, it doesn’t make sense to put so much time and energy into something I can’t even take with me!
WP is like owning your home.. when it’s time to build an addition you will need, you can easily do it, change domains, switch hosting plans, and tweak your site to meet the demands of your growing and evolving business.
Hiring a professional also doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars, especially for a simpler coaching or acupuncture site. As your business grows, you can pay for added features, content, marketing, and SEO as needed. It could be cheaper in the long run to pay a hosting company and up-front developer fees, and this doesn’t even factor in the ROI of having a better performing website.
It’s at least worth sitting down with a calculator as you investigate all your options, looking at not just your short-term goals, but the big, overall picture.
WordPress, honestly, isn’t that hard to learn.
Yes, it does have a learning curve. But it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it’s made out to be.
A lot of right brained types have shied away from WP because they think it will be too hard to learn. Honestly, it’s not THAT difficult to learn. Almost anyone can set up a basic site in under an hour, if they want to. (This doesn’t mean you need to, you can outsource it too, of course!) My point is that it’s not impossible.
Many WordPress themes don’t really require any HTML or CSS coding knowledge. This website is actually built using a theme/builder called Divi. I use it because it is easy for a client to manage on their own without having to rely on a developer or coding knowledge.
Other builders on the market included Elementor, WordPress Bakery (formerly VC or Visual composer) and Beaver Builder. Even Gutenburg is fairly intuitive for WWS builders who may be used to the block format.
The truth is, “drag and drop” is no longer a valid argument for avoiding WordPress in favor of WWS.
It’s true that learning the basics is easy, but mastering WP does take more time. As you become more skilled, you can customize your site in order to take your business to the next level. With WWS platforms, you are limited.
If you are used to a certain platform, there may be a learning curve not necessarily because one is inherently more difficult, but just a different intuitive process. Much like driving a different type of car.
It could be entirely worth it to purchase a few domain names, purchase a starter hosting plan, (some companies now allow you to pay on a monthly basis) and explore WP.
I do get that it just isn’t something that everyone wants to spend time with.. whether it’s WP or WWS. It could also be entirely worth it to outsource to a developer (the RIGHT developer for YOU) who is willing to show you how to manage your own content and make modifications.
WWS platforms are a placeholder option for those who just want to begin a website presence. Sometimes, it makes sense.
But if you are serious about leveraging your website as a marketing tool in the long run, WP is the way to go.
When clients work with me I have an onboarding and offboarding procedure I walk them through so they can feel confident about using their own site. Depending on your needs and budget, there are customized options available which can make having your very own self-hosted WordPress site entirely DO-ABLE.
Want to know more? Click on the nifty gold button below for a consultation.