When a church plans to build a new website, platform selection is one of the first and most important decisions they’ll need to make. While there are numerous options available, it’s quite common that a church would narrow their choices down to WordPress versus Squarespace. The following article provides meaningful insight into each of these popular Content Management Systems (CMS) for churches with the goal of helping them to make the best possible selection for their organization.
Important Note: Regardless of whether you choose WordPress or Squarespace for a church website, we’d first like to point out the vital importance of having a 301 Redirect plan when moving from your old website to the new one. Failure to take this necessary step could cripple your web traffic for an unforeseen length of time without any immediate option for recourse. Click here to read more information about SEO best practices in a website migration with a 301 Redirect plan for your church.
Our expert staff can help you implement this absolutely critical process for retaining your website’s existing SEO value, but please note that we’ll need a chance to obtain a complete crawl of your old website before it’s taken down. You may also wish to retain our team for On-Page SEO for your church, even if your staff or another 3rd party firm is building the new site for you. Website developers don’t necessarily know anything about SEO, which makes it a very important discussion to have prior to spending any money on a website build.
It’s a matter of fact in today’s world that your website creates the first real impression any new visitor will have of your church. We know that most (if not all) new visitors walking through your door on a Sunday morning will visit your site before an in-person visit. We’re living in a time when having an effective website for your church isn’t simply an option, but absolutely necessary in order to be found. And not only does your church need a technically sound and user-friendly site, but the site must also communicate to visitors how your church can help solve everyday problems and answer some of life’s most difficult questions.
Your website can much more than a digital bulletin with the latest church news and activity list for your church members. If effectively designed and optimized, it can be the most powerful evangelistic tool you deploy for reaching people in your community who don’t yet know and follow Jesus. For this reason, a church website build should not be taken lightly. Your church can and should be leveraging advanced digital tools and knowledge to make the greatest possible Kingdom impact, and while selecting a CMS is only a small piece of the puzzle, it can be considered a critical part of your church mission.
By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of the pros and cons of both WordPress and Squarespace and be better equipped to make the right CMS decision for your church.
The Bottom Line
For small churches without a staff member who’s experienced in website development, Squarespace may be the best option. Generally speaking, it takes less time to get a new Squarespace website up and running than to launch one using WordPress, however, there are some significant and long term trade-offs. By selecting Squarespace you’ll gain ease of use, but you’ll be trading away valuable features such as customization, expandability, SEO capability, and functionality. As your church grows, you may very well need to migrate from Squarespace to a more robust Content Management System like WordPress, and it could happen sooner than you’d like.
WordPress is most certainly the better option for churches with a staff member who has some sort of basic website development experience and who’s comfortable doing routine posting and maintenance. WordPress is almost unlimited in terms of functionality, customization, and SEO capability.
It’s important to recognize that Church CMS offerings will almost always fall into one of two categories:
- Flexible offerings that are open-source: they’re built to be modified/extended by others, such as WordPress and ROCK RMS.
- Offerings that are a product-managed by their creator: you pay to use the technology but aren’t given control over how it functions. This includes Ekklesia360, Clover, Ministry Designs, Squarespace etc. In some cases, these platforms are extremely restrictive in what options the user is given (Clover), and in other cases, they’re more customizable (Squarespace).
Market Share of Each CMS
As of this writing, there are about 75 million WordPress websites, representing about 40% of the 172 million total live websites, while there are about 2 Million Squarespace websites, representing only 1% of the 172 million total live websites. Clearly, WordPress is leading the CMS industry with Squarespace working hard to capture their share. This is why Squarespace places television ads whereas WordPress has no real need to do so.
Why is this important, one might ask? Being that there are so many more WordPress websites than any other CMS, there are way more human resources that have WordPress experience and skills. Therefore, it’s much easier (and more cost effective) to find a developer to help with WordPress if and when the need arises.
Maintenance Costs & Workloads
In general, Squarespace websites cost less than WordPress to maintain. This is because it is easier for church staff members to add content and edit a Squarespace website, so outsourcing work to a third party is less likely needed. A staff member can add ongoing event and sermon information rather than hiring an outside developer. Of course, this work does take a portion of that staff member’s time which should be accounted for in some way.
On the other hand, many church staff members who have enough skill to edit a Squarespace site don’t have the time or knowledge required to continuously write and edit On-Page SEO meta-data. They may also lack the time or skills to set up and monitor Google Analytics and Google Search Console and to set up actionable improvements for their church website’s conversion goals. Additionally, many church staff members would not have the time or skills to continuously monitor their Google Ad Grant for good Google Quality Scores and to add SEO Content as needed.
The table below shows the estimated hours of monthly work for typical church website tasks. The items shown in blue are well within the skill set of a non-developer staff member.
Estimated Monthly Hours of Work
|Add ongoing events, sermon announcements, and routine edits||10||10|
|Monitor Analytics & Search Console and carry out actionable improvements||3||3|
|Add and manage Conversion Goal Design & Code||2||2|
|Manage retargeting code and attributes||1||1|
|Adding Sermons and their related meta-data||5||5|
|Writing, adding, and maintaining Felt Needs Content for Google Grant Campaigns||30||30|
Design, Expandability, and Functionality
Both WordPress and Squarespace can achieve aesthetically attractive website designs. However, WordPress has a massive edge over Squarespace when it comes to expand-ability and functionality.
There are currently about 55,000 plugins available for WordPress. The potential for plugins means that website functionality costing thousands of dollars to develop from scratch can be deployed for only a few hundred dollars per year. This key feature of WordPress websites provides an incredible range of options to its users. Utilizing plugins, you can expand the functionality of your church website for virtually anything you need. You can add contact forms, open comment sections, or improve your Google rankings with an SEO plugin. The expand-ability is endless.
By contrast, Squarespace does not offer plugins, a third-party app store, or any extra functionality for your website. It does have native apps including a blog app, analytics app, notes app, and portfolio app, but they’re all integrated into the platform already.
Both WordPress and Squarespace create responsive designs that render well on all devices and screen sizes (provided no mistakes are made in setting up the pages).
WordPress is the runaway winner in expand-ability and functionality.
On-Page SEO Functionality
WordPress is superior to Squarespace for On-Page SEO. The reason being is that with WordPress, it’s feasible to improve website load time speed and much easier to tag images. There’s also a highly evolved WordPress SEO plugin named Yoast that simplifies routine On-Page SEO tasks.
Both WordPress and Squarespace allow for SEO Crawlability related metadata including H1 Tag Usage, Meta Tag Usage, Page Title Usage, Redirect Usage, and sitemap publishing.
Local SEO Functionality
WordPress and Squarespace perform equally well with Local SEO because Schema Markup Code can easily be added to a website created in either platform, and most of the work on Local SEO is done off-site.
WordPress and Squarespace perform equally well with Retargeting because Google and Facebook retargeting code can easily be added within either platform. Once the code is added to the website, most of the other required work is done offsite.
To succeed with Retargeting, your church will need to set up Google AdWords Display Ads and Facebook Ad Campaigns that are triggered by the retargeting code.
Retargeting campaigns will serve online ads to people who have previously visited your church website because they’re tagged with cookies. These cookies enable you to create audiences of website visitors to target with the retargeting campaigns, displaying ads for these previous visitors when they’re surfing other pages on the web or browsing Facebook.
Analytics Goals & Events Functionality
In order to better understand how users behave after they reach your website, establishing custom goals within Google Analytics is absolutely critical. While certain goals are trivial to create, such as tracking if users reach a certain page or the length of a visit, others require custom events to be added within your Analytics account. Custom events can be used to measure explicit user actions on your site, providing much more specific insight than the generic goals.
In summary, custom Analytics Goals and Events can be implemented most easily using WordPress, but are still possible when using Squarespace thanks to Google Tag Manager.
Google Ad Grant & SEO Content Functionality
In order to succeed with a Google Ad Grant, your church will need relevant web content for many Christian Felt Needs topics. To maintain high Google Quality Scores (a measure of ad performance), each grant ad must lead to a landing page with wording that very closely matches the wording in the ad and portray an intent that closely matches the users’.
Website Migration Considerations
Redirect Planning and Implementation
Whether you decide to build your new church website in WordPress or Squarespace, it’s crucial for you to execute 301 Redirects from any prominently ranking URLs on your old website to appropriate destinations on your new website (assuming the URLs now differ). We can’t overstate the importance of this for successful website migration. We have seen churches lose 75% of their monthly web traffic by missing this step! You absolutely must crawl your old website before you take it down and redirect existing SEO value to appropriate pages of the new site, or risk significant damage to your online traffic.
WordPress and Squarespace both have content import/export functionality that can help move your existing post/page content from a WordPress site into Squarespace, or vice versa. While this process is never foolproof and will almost always require some manual massaging of content post-import, the good news is that due to the popularity of these platforms the content migration functionality is well documented, and in the case of Squarespace, built to be compatible with WordPress as much as possible. The same cannot be said of various other CMS platforms, where the import/export of page content may be costly, time-consuming, or flat out impossible.
Social Media Integration
Both WordPress and Squarespace offer automated integration with social networks. This means you don’t need to login to your Facebook or other social media accounts one by one. You can automatically let your social networking community know that you have published new content.
Additionally, WordPress has various plugin-driven functionality that can pull your social media content (Tweets, Instagram, etc) into your website.
Website Security Considerations
Squarespace provides free SSL certificates for all domains that are connected. This is essentially a “set it and forget it” setup, so you don’t have any freedom to procure your own certificate or configure the installation yourself. This makes Squarespace extremely simple when it comes to website security, and since church websites typically don’t have the same security requirements as eCommerce sites, the free certificate provided by Squarespace should be adequate. Squarespace also automatically helps eliminate mixed-content errors, though custom HTML may still result in mixed-content being present in some cases which must then be repaired manually.
As security is a hosting level concern, WordPress has no impact on how you obtain and install an SSL certificate. Depending on your host, you may be able to obtain and install a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate with a single click, while other hosts may force you to purchase an SSL certificate from them or from a 3rd party vendor. WordPress does, however, have a wide variety of plugins that will help you force SSL usage on your site, as well as address mixed-content errors. This makes website security management much more hands-on when using WordPress, and in some cases will require some technical proficiency.
WordPress Versus Squarespace Comparison Table
|Number of Live Websites||75M||2M|
|Availability of Trained Developers||Abundant||Limited|
|Ease of Use for a Non-Developer||Average||Excellent|
|Design Template/Theme Availability||Excellent||Good|
|Google Search Console||Yes||Yes|
We hope this post has helped your church make an informed decision regarding the platform of your next church website. If you have any questions and would like to talk to us, we’d love to chat with you – please use the button below. Finally, you should know that we build church websites for churches who are especially focused on strong SEO and user experience.