Although 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).
I’ve also looked at many WiX sites. WiX is a popular website builder that enables the non geek to build very nice looking websites. You can see the attraction; point and click, drag and drop, and presto you have a website! But what about SEO?
When I first wrote this post in 2015 (and even when I updated it in 2016) my answer to the question “Is WiX SEO friendly?” was a definite NO. WiX had significant problems when it came to SEO.
Today WiX has significantly improved and I’m no longer recommending against it, especially for simple brochure sites.
However there are some few remaining SEO problems with WiX that you should be aware of. And just because the platform has improved doesn’t mean your site is SEO optimized, you have to make sure you use WiX’s SEO features wisely to have the best chance of ranking well.
Since this is a long post (over 3600 words – a record for me) I have divided it up into three sections. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, just click on the item below you are interested in.
We’ll start with what WiX has improved and where it might still have some challenges.
In the February 2016 version of this post I highlighted the following problems with WiX:
Now that we are in 2017 I can report that the first two problems are now resolved which is great news for WiX users since these issues were the most damaging.
Additionally I believe I have found a way to address Issue #3 (see the notes on the image gallery in the guide below). It’s only the lightbox URLs that are still an issue for SEO. See the last section of the post on current WiX SEO problems for more details on the lightbox URL problem.
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.
Back in 2015 and 2016, I kept finding WiX site after WiX site that Google had only partially crawled and indexed. If a page is not in Google’s index then that page doesn’t come up in the search results. Which I think you would agree is a MAJOR problem.
In late summer of 2016 WiX took a major step forward and left behind the old AJAX crawling technology that Google had deprecated in October 2015. Calling it the “URL Update“, WiX announced an update to its infrastructure that now supported “clean” URLs.
Old WiX URL: http://www.awixsite.com/#!about/c1rt1
New WiX URL: http://www.awixsite.com/about
I was never a fan of AJAX crawling, it’s Ugly URLs didn’t work well as well known site Gawker found out.
And the Ugly URLs were a huge pain point for WiX’s customers. For one thing, they didn’t work with a variety of Google and third party tools (Universal Analytics, GSC’s Fetch as Google …). And if you are a small business promoting a local event that is published on your website, a URL like
looks just awful on a flyer.
So big kudos to WiX to listening to their customers and undertaking what must have been a major infrastructure upgrade to make their users happier.
However over the past year, Google has gotten really good at reading these types of sites, that under-indexation is no longer a problem. For the WiX sites I have recently reviewed, Google has found and indexed all the site’s pages. In fact the pendulum has swung the other way and over-indexation can be a problem, but more on that later.
Google looks at over 200 signals to determine how to rank your web page, and the speed of your website is one of those signals. So if your site is especially slow, your rankings in Google search may not be as high as you would like.
Users don’t like slow sites either, multiple studies have shown that revenue decreases and user abandonment increases for every extra second it takes for a site to load.
Fortunately it may be possible to improve the performance of your WiX site by optimizing your images, see the guide below for more details on this.
However this second step can occur hours, even days later (as I found out when I talked to Google’s Gary Illyes).
Here’s my list of critical SEO optimizations you should do for your WiX site.
Each page in your WiX site should have an unique title tag and meta description with keywords that are relevant to your business. These fields are not visible on the page itself but important for SEO as they are used to create the “snippet” that describes your page in the search engine results pages.
If you haven’t done any keyword research, spend a little time making sure that the words you are using in your tags (and in your page content) match what people search on which it comes to your product or service. Check out my list of 22 Keyword Research Tools to get started.
In the current WiX interface you can reach your SEO settings for that page by clicking on the circle with the dots. WiX also provides you a preview of what the snippet will look like.
WiX also provides a way to “Hide page from search results” (see button in the above image). 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.
Ideally keywords should be in your page’s content naturally, but it is especially important to have your keywords in your headers. Google and the other search engines give more weight to the headers on your page so make sure they are descriptive and use your keywords.
In WiX there is a separate mobile editor you can use to customize the look of your site on a mobile device. As you develop your site’s look and feel, I would recommend also working in parallel in the mobile editor so that you are happy with both the desktop and mobile look of your site. WiX allows you to hide elements of your site so it might fit better on the small screen of a smartphone, which is a very nice feature, but it may not be as easy to adjust things to your liking in the mobile view if you have already finalized your desktop site.
You can turn off the mobile view of your site in WiX but I recommend against this, because it will then show your desktop site on a mobile device which will make it difficult for smart phone users to navigate it and will also not pass Google’s Mobile Friendly test. Remember: Mobile friendliness is a Google ranking factor on mobile devices.
On behalf of a client I reached out to WiX and asked them if they optimized image size for their user’s sites (since they had contacted me about updating this post), I never got an answer, but I did a simple test with two of the images I downloaded from my client’s site and found that I could significantly optimize the image sizes using TinyPNG.
Regardless of whether WiX does any image optimization or not, I would compress all images before uploading them to a WiX site. Also make sure you use the right file format for your images. JPG for pictures, PNG for graphics.
One of my complaints I mentioned in my earlier version of this post about WiX SEO, is that images ended up with non descriptive filenames which is not helpful for SEO. Instead of image filenames like “black-tv-cabinet.jpg”, which along with the alt tags help Google understand what the image is about, you end up with a filename like:
I found that you could rename your images in the image gallery. I wasn’t able to explore this too thoroughly, but assuming it works as expected (ie. renaming the image doesn’t break your site), this would address issue #3 that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
Unless you strongly feel that it is beneficial to the user to have the ability to see a close up of the image when they click on it, I would recommend you set all your images click options to “Nothing happens”. Otherwise you will get a proliferation of extra URLs which could harm your site’s SEO as I explain in the SEO Problems to be aware with WiX section below.
All images on your WiX should be tagged with alt tags, which WiX calls “labels”. Again these tags do not show up on the page, but they are important for Google (and the visually impaired) to understand what the image actually is a picture of. It’s tempting to go crazy and keyword stuff your alt tags, but it’s best to just describe the picture accurately, adding keywords to the labels if it makes sense.
Although WiX is a lot better for SEO, there are a couple of problems to be aware of. We’ve already talked about the potential SEO problem of a slow loading site, here’s a two more issues.
If you had a WiX site prior to the URL update, your old Ugly URLs were redirected to the new clean URLs. The way that redirects usually work is that the web server sends a code back to the browser that essentially says “The URL you requested has moved, here’s the new URL”. The requestor then knows to request the new URL. The code that is sent is a HTTP status code 301 and that’s what people mean by a 301 redirect.
Unfortunately that’s not how these redirects work. The browser (and Googlebot and friends) get a HTTP Status Code 200, not a 301, and the redirect happens on the server side so the requestor doesn’t know about the new URL.
So the good news is that the user does get to the new URL. The bad news? The search bots are NOT notified that the page has moved. So the old ugly URL stays in the search engine index and never gets updated. If you take WiX’s advice and submit a XML sitemap with your new clean URLs, then Google will index the new URLs, but that doesn’t address the old ugly URLs in the index which hang around.
On a WiX site that is one of their featured user stories, I could easily find old ugly URLs in the Google index via the
I’m not the only one that has noticed this,
In the support thread, the WiX user quite reasonably points out the old ugly URL is not redirected with a 301 HTTP Status Code, which is what Google recommends for SEO. The response from WiX is that there is a problem with his checker (which there isn’t, see below), that his site looks fine, and that “We have a professional SEO team which made sure the new urls were an improvement in the long run ..” which doesn’t address the user’s point at all. Kind of a “we know better than you” type of response.
Any professional SEO worth his or her salt would have strongly recommended a 301 redirect, rather than the server forwards WiX is apparently using.
So how much of a problem is this?
Well, it could be a problem if you have backlinks pointing to that old ugly URL. Without the 301 redirect Google doesn’t know to attribute that incoming link juice to the new clean URL. The link juice that backlinks brings would be more impactful for an URL that is part of the current link graph.
And what happens if one day WiX decides enough time has passed and no longer supports the ugly URLs? And it now returns a 404? You can kiss that link juice goodbye unless you get the source site to update the link.
With these old Ugly URLs hanging around they add clutter and possibly duplicate content into what Google has indexed of your site (no MichaelS, there is no guarantee Google will remove the old URLs from the index). It’s like a front door with a gash in it. Not the end of the world, but would you want to sell your house without fixing it?
So how much this hurts your site will vary on your particular situation. Fortunately for new users of WiX post the URL update this is not an issue for them since their site will only use the clean URLs.
This issue is more of a concern and relevant to all WiX users. In the optimization guide above, I recommended that you always use “Nothing happens” as the image click option unless you really want the user to be able to click on the image and get a popup showing a larger version of the image. What happens if you enable this functionality is that a separate URL is created for the image popup. If you have too many of these indexed, they can dilute the SEO authority of your primary pages.
The reason why this is detrimental to SEO is that an image only page that has no content on it isn’t a great user experience if that user happens to land on that URL first after clicking through the search results. Contrary to what some think, you don’t necessarily want all your site’s URLs in the Google index, just the URLs that deliver a rich and valuable experience to your site visitor. So these “lightbox” URLs shouldn’t be indexed.
If you have just a handful of these, it’s not really a big problem, however I have looked at a site that had 300 of these URLs of these URLs indexed which was 30% of his site!
The problem is once these URLs get out into the wild there is no way to get rid of them since WiX doesn’t give you a way to de-index them.
How much does this hurt SEO? Well let’s look at the site’s SEO performance. This site was ranking at position #15 for it’s main keyword, while a competitor site with very similar SEO authority was ranking at position #1. Not being on page 1 of the Google results for this keyword is definitely impacting the revenue of this business. Although I should point out the site also has site speed issues so it’s hard to say what’s more damaging until one or the other gets fixed.
Hopefully WiX will add a meta robots noindex tag to these URLs in the future which would solve this issue.
Update 3/20/18: You can use Google Search Console’s URL Parameters configuration to reduce the number of lightbox URLs in the Google index.
When I talked with a search analyst at Google he wasn’t completely 100% sure whether these URLs would cause a problem, but he agreed that implementing “NoURLs” for the lightbox parameter using URL Parameters in GSC was a good idea.
Hopefully you have Google Search Console set up for your site. You’ll find URL Parameters under the “Crawl” menu in the old Google Search Console (at this time, the feature is not available in the new Google Search Console yet). Configure the lightbox parameter to NoURLs as shown below.
After doing this for a client, hundreds of lightbox URLs were reduced to a handful in the Google index when I checked back a few months later.
Overall WiX has greatly improved its SEO friendliness. If you are a small business owner that just needs a simple brochure style website that won’t be changing that often, you can build a very nice site with WiX and be reasonably confident Google can crawl it. However if you want an eCommerce site, want to enter a highly competitive space, or are a blogger publishing often to your site, I would look elsewhere.
If you go with WiX, as long as you keep an eye on site speed, properly optimize your pages, and avoid having too many image popups, you should be Ok.
As you probably can tell I have a real penchant for this technical SEO stuff. I spend quite a bit of time digging into websites and finding SEO problems. I’m at year 10 of doing this work and still loving it.
Ajax with Json image courtesy of code.tutsplus.com
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.