WordPress has long been the bread and butter of preferred website platforms, but it can present new users with a steep learning curve.
This has provided a market for other providers like Squarespace, with it’s all in one easy to use interface it’s allows its users to get up and running faster, but is it actually better?
In this post, I’m going to break down the pros and cons of each platform so that you know which is best based on what you want to do.
Working on WordPress is like working with a blank canvas, you can do pretty much anything with it, which is why it’s used by so many people in so many different ways.
WordPress is just the foundation of the site. There are endless possibilities for themes and customization that impact the functionality and design of the site.
There are both free themes and paid themes. Each of which can be customized to suit your needs, ensuring that not every website looks like a copy of another site.
Though it’s worth noting that in most cases Themes require quite a bit of customization to look nice, though paid themes are usually more user friendly to customize.
(Personally, I use Thrive Themes which allows for easy customization and provides a drag and drop interface with Thrive Architect)
Then on top of the endless possibilities of themes, there are plugins.
There is a plugin for pretty much anything you could want to do with your WordPress site.
Though you want to be careful with how many plugins you use and which ones. They don’t all play nicely together and could impact how well your site works.
Because WordPress has been around for so long, there is a huge and expansive knowledge base meaning you can pretty much always find an answer to any question you might have.
One of the great advantages of using WordPress over Squarespace is the number of tools it integrates with allowing you a choice in the tools you use.
For example, you can use pretty much any email marketing service directly within WordPress including:
Squarespace on the other hand has it’s own email marketing built in (at a very reasonable additional cost) or connects to Mailchimp and if you want to use something else you have to do so through Zapier.
Squarespace found its market by being a much easier to get started platform. Where there is a learning curve on WordPress, Squarespace is more intuitive for most people.
Squarespace comes with 24 beautifully designed templates. Templates on Squarespace are the equivalent of Themes on WordPress.
The biggest difference comes in the implementation of each. Whereas on WordPress it can take a lot of work to customize a Theme to look stunning, Squarespace Templates are stunning out of the box.
While you would still want to customize the template to make it your own, you’re not having to customize it to make it look nice which is often the case with WordPress Themes.
Plus, all the templates are included in the cost of using Squarespace so there isn’t an additional cost like there might be with WordPress. Using My Head has a great chart comparing all of them to help you decide which is best for you.
While you can use any tool on WordPress, it requires you to choose all those tools and build it out. Squarespace on the other hand is an all in one platform.
Meaning, it includes email marketing, social sharing, calendars, and other features most websites use.
The idea is you pay for Squarespace and wouldn’t have to pay for anything else.
In WordPress when you tweak something, you tweak it then preview it, then maybe have to go back and tweak some more (unless you have a Thrive Themes Membership).
Squarespace is all drag and drop as you see it on the back end. Want a little more space here and there? No problem, just add a spacing block. Want an image to resize? Just drag the sizing box, no need to deal with pixel numbers.
While it still takes a bit of time to adjust to using Squarespace, it is much more intuitive. Overall, it takes less time than it does to learn WordPress. The only thing I wish it had was a page dedicated to explaining what each of the designer blocks do, some are obvious, other less so
Getting the skeleton of a WordPress site set up can be done in a few minutes and about 10 steps. Though before you start you have to decide if you want to use free or paid WordPress.
There are two different ways to use WordPress, you can have a WordPress hosted blog for free, meaning your URL will look like this: nameofblog.wordpress.com.
From there you can simply go to WordPress, pick a theme, a domain, and create your sign in information.
Though you are limited in some of the things you can do when using the free wordpress platform. For example, you would be unable to use display advertising on your site and cannot upload plugins.
If you’re planning on monetize your site then using the paid WordPress is best.
Alternatively, you can self-host which costs money (how much it costs depends on who you chose for hosting) which allows you to have a customized URL and means there are really no limitations with what you can do with your site.
Setting up a self-hosted or paid WordPress site can be done in 10 simple steps:
From there you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the WordPress platform. I highly recommend you take iMarkInteractive’s free course - Understanding WordPress
Then it comes time to choose and install a Theme, customize it and start creating pages and posts.
It’s pretty simple to get started with Squarespace:
Click “Get Started”
Answer some questions
Have a demo version of your site created
From here you have two weeks (the length of their free trial) to customize your site before needing to pay for Squarespace and choose a domain to apply the site to.
Again while some people find Squarespace very intuitive, others less so. When I first started a Squarespace site I was very used to WordPress and I struggled a bit. But just as there is an excellent free course on WordPress there is one on Squarespace created by Megan Minns.
WordPress hosting for 1 year: $50
Squarespace for 1 year: $144
As you can see there is a big difference in the two. However, you have to keep in mind you’ll likely see some additional costs with WordPress if you so choose.
While you can really bootstrap WordPress to keep costs down, eventually you will likely invest in a paid theme and possibly some paid plugins, though you don’t have to.
On the other hand the all-in-one aspect of Squarespace is reflected in the higher price. Though Squarespace does offer some add on costs as well. For example, using their email marketing service will cost a minimum of $5 a month, though that is a very reasonable price.
Additionally, if you want more premium features on Squarespace you may need to use one of their other plans, Squarespace costs a minimum of $144 a year but can cost up to $480 a year.
Truth be told, how much you’ll spend on either WordPress or Squarespace depends on what you want to do with your site.
Many bloggers and business owners like to add affiliate income as a passive income stream.
If you don’t know affiliate marketing is when you share a special link that has your tracking code in it. If someone clicks on it and purchases the company will give you a small commission as a thank you for the referral.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires sites that do this to disclose the affiliate relationship before a reader is able to click on the link.
This can be done different ways but is most often done by including a general affiliate disclosure at the top of a blog post or page that says something like:
This post may contain affiliate links meaning if you purchase through my link, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. Please see my full legal page for more info.
So on the backend there are two things to consider when it comes to affiliate marketing:
The required affiliate disclosure
Affiliate link management
In WordPress there are tons of ways to include the disclosure at the top of every post or to include it with just the click of a button.
If you use the Genesis theme you can do a hook. Or you could use an ad block to add the disclosure to posts and pages. Or there are page builders that allow you to create content templates, so you just have to drag and drop the disclosure in.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to automatically include a disclosure in Squarespace.
While they do have Amazon blocks which makes it easy to include Amazon affiliate products in your posts, those blocks don’t include a default disclosure. Which means it’s really easy to be in violation of FTC rules on a Squarespace site.
The other side of affiliate marketing is link management. Because if an affiliate program changes or gets updated you need to know where on your site those links are being used so you can update or remove them.
There are tons of plugins that you can use to manage your affiliate links, that also allow you to make what is usually a long and impossible to memorize affiliate link into a shortened easy to remember link.
For example you can turn: https://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=992347&u=1412327&m=50947&urllink=&afftrack=
The most popular free affiliate link management plugin for WordPress is Pretty Links.
All you have to do is add your link into the plugin and then you can use the shortened version all over your site.
When the link needs updating, just update in Pretty links and it will update sitewide.
There are also paid plugins, like what I use, Lasso that allow you to see how well monetized a post is and will track when affiliate links get clicked and on what page. This allows you to evaluate and form a strategy with your affiliate marketing efforts.
Because Squarespace is an all in one platform, you cannot use a plug in like pretty links. What you can do is use URL mapping. However, in my opinion it is really tedious to do so, this blog post from Nicole Stone walks you through the process.
Additionally, this shows that there is no way to easily add content across your site, which means you’re also limited in placing display ads or at the very least it’s incredibly tedious.
Search engine optimization is how you get your content to show up in sites like Google. While it can involve doing a lot of different things for those just getting started there are some very simple things you can do.
In WordPress this means the Yoast SEO plugin which allows you easily set your meta description (the description that shows up in google), choose if a site can be found by google, and check if your content is well optimized around a certain keyword. It will also create a sitemap.
Squarespace on the other hand doesn’t use Yoast SEO because many of it’s SEO features are built in. And while it means you don’t have to do much to have your site working well in terms of search engine optimization, it also means it takes more work to make any tweaks or changes.
Given the main ways bloggers monetize (affiliate marketing, display ads, product sales, sponsored content) and the need to implement site wide content (disclosures, ads) I think WordPress is the clear winner in terms of long term ease of use and management.
While it may take longer to get set up and your site looking how you want it to, you’ll be able to do a lot more with it without the limitations of only using certain tools.
If you are just offering services or selling products and not doing affiliate marketing or ads, then I think Squarespace is the way to go.
You won’t have to learn a bunch of different tools and can get things up and running pretty quickly.
They are both great platforms with some pros and cons but which will be best for you will depend on what you want to do, your budget, and your technical abilities. If you still aren't sure which might be best for you, download the Squarespace vs WordPress chart.
$50/year in hosting + potential fees for other tools
Ease of Use
Simple Business Site
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Elizabeth Stapleton is the founder and voice behind Less Debt More Wine and ElizabethStapleton.com. She is a Pinterest marketer, online entrepreneur, and recovering attorney whose writing has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Budgets Are Sexy, Credit Sesame, and Magnify Money. Additionally, she has been quoted in articles on Business Insider, Student Loan Hero, and Nerd Wallet.
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