WordPress has long been the content management system (CMS) of choice for small business owners, startup entrepreneurs, and anybody who wants a decent-looking website on a tight budget. WordPress is a free service that allows you to create your own blog or full website, using one of their free templates, purchasing a template from a massive store, or customizing your own site.
WordPress has become popular for a number of reasons, but two of the most significant are its SEO value and customizability through the use of plugins. There are hundreds of free plugins available, each of which can improve the site or bring it closer to your original vision. WordPress sites, on their own, can be easily optimized for search engines, and specific SEO plugins can make it even easier.
Despite its ease of use, cheap cost, and general functionality, WordPress isn’t perfect. In fact, there are several free (or nearly free) alternatives you can use to build and maintain your own website—and most of them carry the same SEO power as the CMS giant.
Blogger was once an independent effort, but the massive platform is now property of Google—and if Google takes ownership of it, you know it’s got to be good for your rankings. Blogger is actually considered by most to be Google’s direct answer to WordPress, making it a potentially excellent alternative, depending on your needs.
Blogger has a number of advantages for SEO, but the most important one is a result of its affiliation with Google. Webmasters using Blogger for their website can actually log into Google Analytics and read data without having to visit a separate site; all the information is tied into one platform. AdSense is also seamlessly integrated into the system.
Blogger also ties in directly with Google+, as you might expect, giving you a clear and direct path to the powerful social media channel. Webmasters can leverage Google+ to directly manage and respond to blog comments, cutting out the extra step of logging into the blog platform’s back end.
There are a few drawbacks to using Blogger, however. While there are several easy-to-use templates, they aren’t as diverse or as easily customizable as WordPress’s options. Plus, the entire platform is geared toward blog hosting; if you want a fancy site with lots of plugins and functionality, Blogger may not be the right choice for you.
Statamic is described as a “flat-file” CMS that uses both static and dynamic site elements to keep your website simple, but customizable and reflexive. The platform itself runs on PHP, but like with most modern CMSs, you don’t need to be familiar with PHP in order to use it effectively. Just like WordPress, Statamic keeps all your web pages rendered on the fly, but it uses flat files layered in a simplistic directory in order to keep your site loading quickly—a quality that search engines love to see.
Statamic does not use a database, which eliminates one of the security vulnerabilities that WordPress sites face. It also allows its users to write in it using HTML, markdown, or simple text—making it quick and easy for users to update. The only real downside is that, unlike WordPress, Statamic is not free to use. It’s still cheap, however, with pricing around $29 for a personal domain, and $99 for a professional one.
If you are looking for a free software package that allows you just as many publication options as WordPress, Drupal might be the answer for you. While WordPress offers user customizability through the use of various plugins, Drupal itself is actually open source, and managed by a dedicated community of users and developers. Because it has a GNU General Public License, anyone in the world can download it, share it, and manage it, with no strings attached.
The number of modules and customizable features of Drupal might seem intimidating, but if you spend a little time with the system, you should find it quite easy to create your own website—a simple one, at least. If you encounter any problems with the software or try to do something that currently exceeds the limitations of the system, you can reach out to the interactive community and seek help. And like all the WordPress alternatives on this list, Drupal is easy to optimize for SEO, so you never have to worry about ranking limitations because of your content platform of choice.
Ghost is a fantastic WordPress alternative for a very specific type of audience; the webmaster who only needs the basics. Ghost strips away all of the superfluous additions and functionalities of WordPress (such as the additional plugins), and instead focuses on the priorities of writing and publishing. For the content marketer who’s only looking for a solid publication channel, Ghost is perfect.
If you’re looking for sophisticated designs or a multitude of structural options, Ghost is not for you. But the SEO structure of your website and potential for rank is extraordinary. You won’t have to mess with configuring plugins or experimenting with various options for site speed. In essence, you’re giving up a bit of your precision control in exchange for greater simplicity. With Ghost, you can focus on the most basic and most important element of your SEO strategy: content publishing.
As an added bonus, Ghost is a completely free platform—all you have to do is ante up a small monthly fee for hosting (and the fee is dependent on your traffic, so if you have fewer than 10,000 monthly views, it could be as low as $5 a month).
Craft is a newer CMS platform created by Pixel & Tonic as a simplistic solution to the common problems of complex CMSs. Minimalism is the core principle behind Craft—while there’s plenty to explore and plenty to customize, its developers wanted a product that didn’t have more than what was absolutely necessary to build and manage a great site.
The most important component of any SEO campaign, posting content, is incredibly easy in Craft’s back end. Rather than sorting through dozens of fields, users are only presented with the basics as options. It will allow you to keep your focus on top priorities without worrying about all the superfluous, unnecessary features that get in the way.
The basic Craft setup is free, just like WordPress, but for a little extra money you can buy packages that can enhance the functionality of your site (such as the ability to manage multiple languages or offer cloud integration).
If you’re interested in getting the most SEO power for your website, but you aren’t interested in building a site in WordPress, try out one of these other options. As long as you publish content regularly with appropriate meta data, make adjustments so your site is crawlable, and build plenty of high-quality offsite links, you’ll have no trouble achieving a great rank with any of these high-grade alternatives.
SEO isn’t as much about what type of site you build as it is about how you maintain your site. Maintain best practices for content syndication and user experience, and you’ll wind up in a great position no matter what.