Is WiX SEO Friendly?

Wix LogoAlthough WordPress is my preferred platform, I’ll provide SEO and digital marketing consulting on any site built in any technology. I’ve looked at sites built in Adobe CQ, Magento, Joomla, as well as many sites built using an in house custom CMS (content management system).

Recently I’ve come across several sites built with WiX. Wix.com is one of several site builders that aims to make it really easy for the non geek to build a website. Others are SquareSpace and Weebly.

You can see the attraction; point and click, drag and drop, and presto you have a website! But what about SEO?

I’ve now looked at WiX multiple times and it’s really a case of “your mileage may vary” when it comes to SEO.

Feb. 18, 2016: Things have changed in the last 10 months since I wrote this, so many updates and comments have been added to this post over time to bring it up to date, and continue to be added.

When I first published this post a couple of people have pointed out this post is not a complete SEO review of WiX. Which was true, but for me, the indexation issues that I talk about below was such a big showstopper that I didn’t initially look much further.

However I have since spent more time looking at WiX, so I have updated the post recently to touch on a few other on page factors.

Speaking of indexability – let’s get right to it.

WiX and Google indexability

When I look at a website I always check to see what Google has indexed of that site. You can use advanced search operators such as the site: command to get a peek at Google’s perspective of the site. If you have the site set up with Google Webmasters Tools, (now known as Google Search Console), you can get even more information, but in this case I did not have that access.

Of the three WiX sites I looked at:

  • Site #1: I could find all the site’s pages in the Google index.
  • Site #2: Only the home page of the site showed up in the Google index.
  • Site #3: Some of the pages were indexed, some were not

Ajax with JsonWhy the variability? To understand why, we have to get a bit technical. The WiX platform is reliant on a technology called AJAX. AJAX helps web pages interact with users without having to go to the web server to fetch additional information. If you have heard of Javascript, AJAX is Javascript on steroids (AJAX is “Asynchronous Javascript and XML”). If you have ever seen a web page change (for example show you a drop down list when you clicked on a down arrow) without having to completely redraw itself (more obvious on slow internet connections), then you have seen Javascript or AJAX in action.

Unfortunately search engine bots can have trouble with this client side technology as a program can’t always trigger the event (such as scrolling down a page like a user might) that causes the scripts to run. Google has gotten a lot better at reading Javascript, but it can be hit or miss.

WiX has implemented a technique called Hashbang (because literally the characters “#” and “!” appear together in the URLs) that works with AJAX to provide crawler friendly AJAX content. (Google usually refers to this technique as “AJAX-crawling”). An example of this would be: www.foo.com/#!pagename/c1ik7. The Hashbang approach provides separate Googlebot friendly pages (escape_fragment_urls) that are referenced in the source code of the original pages designed for users. Update: The escape_fragment_urls are still there, but the reference to them has been removed.

It sounded good in theory, but in practice it has been problematic. Gawker, a well known site, struggled with a Hashbang implementation a few years ago. With the advent of HTML5, Bing strongly recommended using HTML5 PushState in 2013 instead, pointing out that many AJAX implementations were done incorrectly.

Having two sets of URLs, (one for Googlebot, one for humans) seems complicated to me, When it comes to technology I belong to the “Keep it Simple Stu—” club.

According to one of my Google+ buds: Ashley Berman Hale – the indexability of your WiX site probably will depend on the package you have chosen.

Update 10/16/15: On October 14, 2015, Google published on the Google Webmaster Central Blog that they were deprecating the “AJAX crawling” proposal as they announced as an intention earlier in 2015. As I have explained above, this is the technology that WiX uses. One key reason given is that Google has gotten a lot better at reading and rendering javascript. So this additional complexity is not needed any more.

This should means that Google can now crawl AJAX sites like Wix fine without the need for the “HTML snapshot” that you get with the escaped fragment URLs. However back in late October in a Google Hangout John Mueller admitted that there was still problems with crawling AJAX (around the 1:00 mark).

Although the Google blog post stated that sites employing the Hashbang AJAX crawling scheme should not be impacted by the deprecation; that same day, Wix sites were de-indexed from Google temporarily. It was fixed quickly, but WiX site owners were without the benefit of Google search for day or so.

Update 3/5/16: Here’s a pointer to a Google+ post where John Mueller of Google recommends not to use AJAX-crawling on new sites and to “consider migrating old sites that use this scheme soon”.

Keep in mind also that Javascript/AJAX heavy sites can be slower and they don’t work at all for anyone that has turned off Javascript in their browser (and yes there are people who do that). If you are using WiX, your site is probably fairly simple – do you really need all that baggage?

How to set Meta Tags in WiX

Ok, so you have WiX and maybe you have indexability problems or maybe not. But let’s say your pages ARE indexed. What are some easy steps you can take to improve the SEO of your WiX site?

If you have read my SEO friendly CMS checklist, you know that having a way to specify meta tags such as the title tag and meta description are essential for a SEO optimized site. Most sitebuilders (including WiX) provide a way to customize these tags.

In WiX, it takes a few clicks, but you can find a place to set both the title tag and the meta description for each page.

WiX SEO settings

How to set Title and Meta Description Tags in WiX

Here’s how to set the Title and Meta Description for a given page in WiX:

  1. Click on the Pages icon and select the page you wish to update.
  2. Click on the “Settings and SEO” link, this will open a new window to the right.
  3. Towards the bottom, click on “SEO Page Settings” to open up the dialog.
  4. Fill in the Page Title and Page Description fields

WiX also provides a way to “Hide page from search results” (a checkbox under the fields described above). This will add a meta robots “noindex” tag to the page that Google crawls. When Google sees this it will drop the page from the index. You might want to do this if a page is still under construction. Just don’t forget to go back and uncheck the box when the page is complete.

Revisiting WiX in 2016

Update 2/15/16: I recently looked through a number of other WiX reviews hoping to find one that looked at additional SEO on page factors, unfortunately I didn’t find one I thought was good/accurate enough to link to. Eg. One review mentioned a problem with the canonical on all pages set to the home page URL, however looking at a couple of WiX sites I see no evidence of that problem. Many reviews complained that the ugly Hashbang URLs are a problem. However the Hashbang URLs themselves aren’t really a SEO problem per say (you can still name the page something reasonable and get a keyword into the URL). Keep in mind though, it is well documented that ugly (and longer) URLs get less clicks, and isn’t that why we have a website at the end of the day, to get those clicks?

I also took a look at additional WiX sites. I was still able to easily find a WiX site that only had its home page indexed even though the site clearly had multiple pages and separate URLs for each. So the original reason I wrote this article still stands (see the “WiX and indexability” section above).

In the other two WiX sites I reviewed, all their pages appeared to be indexed, HOWEVER so was their images (in other words, a separate URL was created for highlighted or pop up images). This is BAD for SEO, you don’t want these pages indexed, it’s either duplicate content or thin content. It’s not necessarily a great user experience either.

I looked at the Google cache for some of the pages of the WiX sites I was taking a look at. In all cases I looked at, Google was caching the escaped_fragment pages rather than the Hashbang pages. In the pages I was looking at (which were content light and image heavy), most of the images DID have an alt tag (which one reviewer claimed was missing), but they were not particularly useful, and the actual image filenames (which are hosted on static.wixstatic.com) were terrible for SEO. You want image filenames that give some clue to what the image is about, like business-card-example.jpg not: 3006fa_8b66c3ca8c7b4a909bfd23e2da275101.jpg_srz_2144_1608_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz. In some cases I found the alt tag to be set to the original image filename or not set at all.

I did find schema.org tagging. I also found “og” tags (Facebook open graph tags).

Although the canonical tag is not present on the Hashbang URLs, it is present on the escaped_fragment pages and points to the Hashbang URL.

So although the on page factors are not exactly ideal, I didn’t find any huge problems. The name of the image filenames and the extra image pages are the worst of the bunch.

A point I have made above is that WiX is heavily dependent on Javascript and people do still turn Javascript off (although it is a small minority). What I like to re-emphasize, is that this heavy use of Javascript can really slow down your website. This IS an SEO problem as Google has stated that it may favor faster sites in the rankings. And todays users are impatient, if your site doesn’t load quickly (especially on a mobile phone), they don’t stick around.

So that brings us to: What if you have a WiX site? How can you decide whether you need to move?

What if you have a WiX Site?

I get it, moving/changing websites is a pain and a cost, and you rather be running your business. I’m in a similar boat, my sites need so much work it’s ridiculous, but I’m too busy serving my clients. So here is what I recommend you do if you have a WiX site:

  • Set your meta tags as described above.
  • Check the indexation using the site: search command. See if most of your pages are listed. If not, then you might be able to help Google along by submitting a XML sitemap of your pages. Otherwise, then you need to move off Wix sooner rather than later.
  • Check that your site looks Ok on a smart phone. WiX does provide a mobile browsing experience for its sites, but you should double check. Use Google’s mobile testing tool.
  • If you have Google Analytics setup, go check out the Page Speed Insights section, (Behavior -> Site Speed), how does your site perform? If you are in a market where your competitor sites are much faster, then that is a problem.

Update 3/4/16 In an earlier version in this post, I suggested checking out how Googlebot sees your WiX pages with the Google Search Console Fetch and Render tool. However I have since found out that the tool does not support Hashbang (#!) URLs.

It might be useful to take a look at the Google cached version of your pages (note that they have to be indexed in the first place). When I looked at the cached versions of some WiX, some looked Ok, some were definitely missing elements. To use the cache: command, just add “cache:” in front of the URL in the Google search box.

To be fair to WiX, with Google getting better and better at reading and rendering Javascript, the indexability of your content might be less of an issue. But it was discouraging to still see it as a problem – 10 months later. I’m still not recommending WiX as a sitebuilder anytime soon. The fact that Google is still caching the escaped fragment URLs suggests to me that not much about the situation has changed, except that Google is now on record recommending against using AJAX-crawling.

Google+ post thread on the topic (complete with a troll)

Can you now trust Google to crawl Ajax sites?

Ajax with Json image courtesy of code.tutsplus.com

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a traffic and conversion expert specializing in SEO, Copywriting and Facebook Ad Campaigns. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

Leave a Comment:

5 comments
Steve says April 11, 2015

there are actually web security experts that recommend turning off in-browser JavaScript. There have been articles published with their recommendations, so I’d expect some of the more security conscious and their disciples eschew JS in their browsers. As you suggest, that would spell big trouble for Wix sites.
Thanks for the Wix rundown. Clients do ask why they shouldn’t use it, because it’s so simple.

Reply
    Kathy Alice says April 24, 2015

    Yes, although it’s a small minority, there are definitely users that browse with Javascript turned off. So ideally you want to provide a reasonable experience for those users so they can still view the site.

    Reply
Kathy Alice says May 4, 2015

Google recently announced that it will be dropping the AJAX crawling friendly guidelines see:
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-ajax-deprecating-20218.html
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-ajax-guidelines-dead-19986.html

So this SHOULD mean that platforms like Wix don’t need to provide “shadow” escaped_fragment pages for crawlers… and indexation should be a lot less of a problem. So this may hopefully make Wix a better plaform, although there is still the problem of browsers with javascript disabled.

Reply
Kathy Alice says February 15, 2016

October 2015 – Wix Websites were temporarily de-indexed by Google: https://www.seroundtable.com/wix-google-deindex-21034.html

Moran Frumer, a SEO at Wix, says those issues were fixed quickly by Google, in this G+ thread: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkTraphagen/posts/bY5PQs2aShw

Reply
Piyush Pal says February 18, 2017

GREAT,GOT A LOT OF INFORMATION BUT STILL CONFUSED THAT HOW WILL I CHECK MY BACKLINKS FOR THIS WIX WEBSITE IT STILL VERY DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND IT…………SO IF YOU HAVE ANY REPLY PLEASE HELP.

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