Candour

Episode 88: Wix SEO with Mordy Oberstein

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Mark Williams-Cook talking about the Wix platform with SEO community liaison Mordy Oberstein

  • Why does Wix have a bad reputation within the SEO community?

  • What problems has Wix have and does it have with SEO?

  • What kind of priority is SEO for Wix?

  • Is it possible for a generic platform to compete, performance-wise?

Transcription

MC:: Welcome to episode 88 of the Search With Candour podcast, recorded on Thursday 19th November 2020. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today I'm going to be joined by Mordy Oberstein who is the Liaison to the SEO Community at wix.com. That's right, we're going to be talking to Wix, all about their platform SEO, how good their platform is for SEO, or how maybe it isn't good for SEO, according to the SEO community; I've got some questions and feedback from the SEO community that Mordy's going to tackle for us, and find out what's going on behind the curtain at Wix, should be a really interesting episode.

Before we get going, I want to tell you that Search With Candour is sponsored by Sitebulb, which is a desktop-based Windows and Mac site auditing tool, and every episode I'll tell you a little bit more about Sitbeulb and some of the things I use it for. It's one of the tools we use primarily for technical SEO audits within Candour agency. It's incredibly popular, if you haven't heard of it you can get a free trial at sitebulb.com/swc, and going to /swc will get you an extended 60-day trial. You don't need to put a credit card in or anything like that. I've spoken a couple of times before about different features in Sitebulb, about how it does things like prioritization, and explains problems to you, some of the things that make it really great to use. I wanted to tell you a very quick story; one of our competitors, another agency local to us, frenemies if you will, we help each other out but we do compete over work sometimes, they launched their new website a couple of weeks ago and, me being me, the first thing I do is just have a little poke around. So, I ran Sitebulb on their site and I just wanted to talk to you quickly about the output I get from that, and why it's so cool. With many tools that will help you in auditing websites you just get a bunch of raw data back that's not particularly ordered. The cool thing about Sitebulb is, it will break down all of your SEO issues into things like internal links, indexability redirects, on-page duplicate content, even things like security and page resources as well. I ran Sitebulb on their site and the first thing I noticed was it said “indexable pages 4, not indexable 129” which, as you can guess, wasn't probably what they're hoping for. The cool way in which Sitebulb processes and gives back the data was, I could scroll down and immediately see a pie chart of the indexability status, I could see that around three quarters of the website it said was canonicalized. Then there was a pie chart next to that that said pretty much all of them were canonicalized to external URLs, which basically told me what the problem was before I'd even looked at the site. When I looked at the site I could confirm it, which was, essentially, they'd left lots of their canonical tags pointing towards their development site, which was just a raw IP. So, really really powerful tool, certainly top shelf for whenever I'm doing a technical audit. You can get a free trial at sitebulb.com/swc for 60 days with no credit card, so do give it a try.

Today we are joined by Mordy Oberstein, who's the Liaison to the SEO Community at wix.com, an experienced SEO and previously CMO at the Tool Rank Ranger. Thank you for joining us, Mordy, really appreciate you taking the time to come and speak to me.

MO: Yeah, my pleasure, thank you for having me. It's an honour.

MC: Well, let's not go too far, we haven't done it yet, we haven't done the interview. See what you say at the end.

MO: Oh no, Andrew at Optimisey speaks very highly of you, anything Andrew says I agree with.

MC: Oh that's nice to hear, that's always nice, okay I'll take that compliment then and thank you Andrew from optimisey.com

MO: I get paid by the shout out, by the way.

MC: Mordy, you were previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Rank Ranger, you're now at Wix, do you want to just give us a little bit of background of your SEO story. Your background, how did you end up at Wix and how did you get into SEO? Don't read too much into when I say “how did you end up at Wix?” I think that's related to everything we're going to talk about but, yeah, give us a little bit of your background.

MO: Everything's by accident. I got into SEO by accident; I used to be, a long time ago, I was a property manager in New York, then I became a teacher through a program called “Teach for America” and then we moved from Baltimore to Israel, and I was working for an educational software company. I was one of the only native english speakers, so when it came to anything web content or social media content, they were like “hey how about you write this?”. I’m like “ok, I never written web content before just, so you know…”

Alright let me dive into this, how does this actually work, then stumbled upon SEO and one thing led to another. A few years later I ended up with Rank Rangers, started doing content management for them, then one thing led to another, and I ended up becoming CMO of Rank Ranger. Then one other thing led to another and now I'm here at Wix. On that latter note, the way I got to Wix, was actually interesting. There's an SEO named Nati Elimelech and he was the CEO of the largest SEO agency in Israel. He's a wonderful person, he's a pain in the ass to work with but he's a wonderful person, and I actually met him at Rank Ranger on a couple of projects there, and he moved to Wix to be their lead Technical SEO. At some point he came to me and was like: “hey you know they're looking for someone to come in and represent Wix to the community, and represent the community back to Wix, and I recommended you. You're gonna come join me.” I'm like “you’re out of your mind! One, what, and two, I have to work with you?!” But one thing led to another and here I am, I am now the SEO Liaison at Wix.

MC: The other thing I saw, is this correct, you run the organized #SEOChat on Twitter, is that right?

MO: That is sort of kind of true. As with all things in life, it's sort of kind of true. That's Carolyn Lyden, she brought me into it. Ironically, when I was back at Rank Ranger I knew of SEOChat, I know Carolyn really well, I’m like “hey you know I'm thinking of doing a Twitter chat for Rank Ranger.” And she's like “well, yeah, great, but I need someone to help me with SEOChat, I can't do it every week. So I'm like “okay, I'll do that” and then one thing led to another and now we co-organize the whole thing. It's like a grassroots Twitter chat about SEO, in case you're wondering, happens on Thursdays at 1pm Eastern time, I'm sorry to plug. There's no money, I'm not plugging anything I earn any money from, it just makes more work for me.

MC: So was it Carolyn that started off that hashtag?

MO: I think it started off before her.

MC: I was just interested because I saw it said in your bio that you helped organize it, and I've participated in it before, but I had no clue and never thought about who organizes it or where it came from.

MO: It's totally grassroots, it's awesome

MC: So Wix.com, and this is from Wix, their description is “the leading cloud-based web design and development platform, trusted by over 150 billion people worldwide. With Wix, you can create a high quality custom website for your clients that are SEO friendly, mobile optimized, fast performing, and ready for business.” I'm sure most of the people listening will have at least heard of them. It’s, if you excuse my explanation, one of those platforms that you can build websites without too much technical knowledge, is how I would describe it to people. One thing I've noticed about Wix and their marketing that's brought them onto my radar, more than it more than other platforms recently, is Wix are very heavy with their marketing messaging around being SEO friendly. I think that's fair to say, right? A lot of their marketing is around building SEO friendly websites. With your role, with the name of your role, I think Wix has obviously recognised that their reputation in the community is important, and there might be some issues there. I guess if they didn't feel it wasn't important, or there weren't some issues, then your role probably wouldn't exist. I think that's really brilliant and I think it's important. Can you just describe what your role is in a bit more detail, maybe what you're aiming to achieve, and how you're going to go about doing that.

MO: Sure. It's funny, a lot of the way things evolve are almost by accident and the way Wix has to develop its relationship with the SEO community, and the way their community responded back, is almost like a comedy. I’'ll describe it as a comedy of errors in a way. I'm referring back to the “cat out of the bag” kind of thing, the Super Bowl ad back a couple years ago, was it the Seahawks’ Super Bowl, I think it was. Wix put out an ad saying you can rank at the top of search and SEOs took that as “hey well guess you don't need us for SEO”. The ironic thing about that was, I wasn't at Wix at the time but my general impression was that they weren't even thinking about SEOs, their base was do-it-yourself users and they're trying to explain Google to a do-it-yourself user in a 30-second Super Bowl ad. It was like “whoops how did that happen?” and I think a lot of the things that have happened, in terms of Wix and it's relationship to the SEO community have been these comedy of errors; there's no nefarious thing at Wix to say “hey let's just make SEOs feel their profession is easy.” I don't think anybody had the intention to ever say that, anyone out there in the SEO community saying that, does that really make sense? You know, the CEO of Wix is saying “let's make SEO sound overly simplified!” What I think has happened is that Wix has realised we need to repair this relationship, and I think, at multiple levels, we need the product to be better and I would say, for the past year or so, there's been a heavy push to make the product better for SEO. If Wix would have come to me a year ago and said “hey, why don't you join up with us?” I would have been like “I don't see how this would work.” The entire reason I joined up was because I’m close to somebody on the product team and I saw that they brought him over, in my mind, that was already a huge step to take. They basically took the top Technical SEO in Israel and brought them onto their team. It was an amazing step, in my mind they're very serious, and once I started seeing what was in there, I'm like “there's a lot of things that are here that people don't know about. There's a story here.” I don't know if you saw this a couple of weeks ago, I put out a bunch of tweets of what I've learned about SEO for Wix since I joined, and there's a million things I didn't even know about. What happened was, Wix started to take the product of SEO, more seriously, way more seriously. It's a top-down company priority; from the CEO to whatever SEO is a major part of the conversation. I know to people listening to this, that may sound a little bit like “really? SEO is a major topic?” It is probably the biggest topic at Wix right now, I think I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, and it's because they've been doing a ton of work to improve the product. They improved the product tremendously, we'll get into that I'm sure, but the perception about it or the relationship to the community, wasn't there. That's why I'm here, I'm here to be that bridge. What does the SEO community need from Wix and what can Wix do for the SEO community?

MC: You've mentioned there “we need to repair this reputation with the SEO community”, how do you feel Wix, currently, is viewed by the SEO community? If you had to, cards on the table, sum it up, what do you feel the general feeling is?

MO: That's an interesting question and there's multiple levels to that. “How does the SEO community feel about Wix as a product?” is one question, and i think that's the easier of the two questions. The other question is “how do people look at Wix as a brand in the context of SEO?” I think there's the problem. This is something I've encountered where you'll see somebody on SEO Twitter say something about Wix and I'll be like “hey great, tell me what is your specific problem because I will legitimately bring this to the team”, and I can't get an answer back. I think there's a perception problem. Wix, in the eyes of SEOs is “too market-y” in their tone or not engaging in a real conversation with SEOs, or not really caring about what we, as SEOs, have to say. I think that's really where the problem is. I think that's why, when you go out there into the Twitter-verse, you'll see some real questions about Wix and then you'll see statements like “well yeah, whatever, Wix…”

MC: I think that that's fair. Before we came on to this recording I was asking my connections on Twitter, on Linkedin, talking to the SEO community saying “hey, give me your questions for Wix” and I got, like you said, pretty sort of tongue-in-cheek replies there, and the same when I said “what are specific things you would fix about Wix?” The agency I’m at doesn't have any clients on the Wix platform, it's very rare that I speak or engage with people on Wix. It's always been in my peripheral vision, when I've just come across Wix sites or Squarespace, even people like Shopify, those kind of platform-based content management systems. I asked this and I put it out to the community “what are your questions for Wix or what specific problems do you have, why do you think…”, excuse me “why do you think it sucks?” because that's, like you say, the reaction I've seen when people talk about Wix. It's just a “pfft Wix” kind of thing. I wanted to dig into that and say “Why? Why are we being this dismissive?” I got some feedback from the community I wanted to bring to you, to lay it at your feet and see what we could make of it. I think, when I dug into this, a lot of historic stuff came up. There were some good points here around people talking about, historically, there have been loads of client-side javascript, hashbangs in urls, not being able to customize page titles, use canonical tags, and I know a lot of that isn't the case now. What's the history of this progress been? I assume, like you say, this was in motion before you started right? This role of “we need to sort this”. What's the progress been and where do you feel you're at, at a product level right now?

MO: There's been a tremendous amount of work done, there are things that we know we can be better at, and we want to be better at, so tell us, give me something specific that I can work with that I can bring to the team. One of the first things I did here was, I spoke to about 25 different SEOs and I'm like “alright lay it on me, what do you think about Wix?” Most of the people I spoke with were like “I haven't really touched Wix.” There's a lot of misconception because people haven't really touched it and I think there's a place for Wix. If you don't want to spend a lot of money in development or design and you want something that is SEO friendly in a way, it's a great option for you.

Let me jump into the specifics. A lot of the things that we've tried to do is give you access. I’ll try to create a theme out of this, off the cuff, access europa.txt files, you can edit them, access to title tags, meta descriptions, you can do all of that. In fact, you can set up patterns for your meta descriptions and your title text. So an easy example, let's say you want all of your product pages to have the name of the product tagged onto the title tag. So you basically click one button and you do that for all your product pages. So there's a lot of on-page things that you can restructure data - yes you can certainly add structured data to your static pages, you can add whatever data you want for your dynamic payload. Say you have a store, it's going to be a dynamic page, so for certain verticals like a store or bookings - that's a bad example actually - events, we create an out of the box structured data markup for you. So for all of your products, we create out of the box.

Now there are certain dynamic pages where we don't create out of the box structured data, like your blog. There is a development tool that you can use, this is called Corvid. The R is really, really important in that name.

MC: It’s a hard R is it?

MO: It’s Corvid. It's almost as bad as being named Corona and being a beer, but to be fair it was named before the pandemic and when we shook the magic eight ball and said is this a good name, it didn't mention that there would be a pandemic called Covid. But it's basically a wrapper around Javascript that enables you to customise functionality. Also from an SEO perspective, it enables you to access the metadata. So for example, if there's a dynamic page just the blog page we don't create out of the box structured data markup for, you can edit that way, or for example let's say your product pages where we do create the out of the box markup, but you want to modify it a bit, there's certain modifiers that we don't that are not out of the box. Fine, you can go in there into this development tool, enter it that way, the few lines of codes, anything you enter there overrides what's created automatically and there you go, there you have it.

By the way, since we're on the topic of structured data, there's a very strong focus at the team right now on structured data - I'm trying to remember so I get this all right. One of the things that we're working on now is to make sure that you're able to add more than one markup to a page that you can override the out of the box market we do create, without having to use a development tool, I think that's stage two of our of our process right now. And there's one more thing that is totally on the tip of my tongue, and I feel like such a fool for forgetting it, wow okay - I'm a wonderful liaison.

MC: Okay, let me ask you some questions then, and if it comes back to you, it comes back to you. So I hadn't heard before this podcast of this Corvid tool, so let's help me understand that and I understand that Wix is doing a bunch of stuff out of the box for the site owners and are you saying this Corvid tool allows, is it using Javascript at the front end to change change the dom? So is it working a bit like say Google Tag Manager, where Wix is generating some html and then this Corvid tool always saying, okay well we just need to tweak that and add this on?

MO: I don't want to give an answer about that because I don't know - that's a good question and I don't know exactly how the tool functions. The best way I can describe is like it it wraps around the current Javascript, so it's not like you have full html, it's not that exactly, it's functioning almost like an overlay, but that does impact - for example, one of the things we're working on is being able to add nofollow tags to a link, which you currently can't do.

MC: Okay.

MO: Okay theoretically, you could use Corvid to set that up, almost like a way that the tag manager would work. That's a bit complicated, the code to do that is, I've seen it done, it is a bit complicated but yes, it can be done.

MC: So it does sound like to me like a very targeted version of Tag Manager because I can understand with the target audience for Wix, you wouldn't want to give them the same breadth of control that you get with Tag Manager, because obviously you can break lots of things by just letting people manipulate the whole page.

So from the community, I did get some solid feedback that I did want to share with you. It was framed in all different ways. So, Michael Curtis, who's the head of SEO from an agency called Further phrased it this way which was, I've never once hit view source - this is on a wix site - and not had a flock of bats fly out of my screen. I took the opportunity and this might interest our listeners that a group of bats is actually a dungeon of bats which I found fascinating, not a flock. I think Michael found that interesting as well.

But I think this was one bit of feedback that I did have consistently across lots of people and it's to do with performance. We know performance is, even for reasons outside of SEO, super important for user experience, we've just had Google and we've done a few episodes about the webcore vitals and we know in May 2021 they're going to come on board with other page signals as direct ranking factors. We've got Google relaxing their top stories criteria, so you don't have to have amp pages anymore, they just have to basically be fast lightweight pages, which again is leading into this performance. I always say speed, but I'm saying performance. So we know for lots of reasons especially now for SEO, it's becoming more topical that performance is really important, and the feedback we got is that the performance that people see on Wix sites hasn't been great. The examples that Wix have used, I think Isaw you have this conversation with Remco on Twitter, around the examples that Wix were using were very light websites. So it was like, well the reason they're performing quickly is that the pages are almost empty.

So I guess I wanted to ask you around, is this just a fundamental downside to these generic platforms? I.E when we look at building websites, there's all kinds of post development processes we can look at, with things like bundling and making sure we're only using the bits of Javascript that we need for that particular page to try and improve performance. And Wix has a very challenging task, you know I said at the beginning of the podcast, you've got over 150 million users, each of those people have got their own idea of what they want from a website. So does it just come with the territory, that if you're going to make a platform that can serve all of this huge diversity of needs, and do it cheaply and quickly and pretty good, that performance is always going to suffer? Or is this something you've got road maps for, and there's light at the end of the tunnel here?

MO: Quick answer is no. It is something that can be tackled, let me jump back wow there's a lot that i want to get to here um how long do we have for this podcast again?

MC: As long as it takes.

MO: Okay, first off the thing with Remco, by the way, was he wanted us to use more complicated sites in our creatives, which is I thought - by the way, just so you know when you tell me something on Twitter I will bring it to the team, I actually brought that to the team. You're like Mordy, it's a YouTube ad and you can't see the screen if we use more complicated sites, and I’m like, alright - I'm just telling you, I thought it was a good point,it does make sense somehow when we can do this. So I'm letting you know, if you're listening to this, if you bring something up to me I will bring it to the team, legit.

On the performance thing, so a couple things really quickly. One, there is a certain misconception about code bloat and how this works like. I thought the same thing: code bloat means impact performance, that's not by the way what generally impacts performance with these sort of platforms. For example, you know one of the things Google does is they flatten the html. So it's not the same kind of issue that people think it is. That's not to say that the platforms don't have performance problems, they do. If I tell you that SEO is the hot topic at Wix, performance and core web vitals are like the hot topic within the hot topic. I pretty much spent my entire week talking about this in meetings, it is a dominant conversation what's going on here.

Wix is super serious about improving performance, we don't take it like, oh we're a closed platform, it is what it is, that's what you're gonna get. The answer is no, we're going to improve the performance they already have. I'll call stage one, it's not fully out yet, but they spent the better part of the last year working on the infrastructure, overhauling the infrastructure, with the idea for specifically improving performance, and it's rolling out now, i believe - hopefully legal won’t be all over my case about saying that - I'm pretty sure it's coming out now or they started rolling it out. I've seen cases of out in the wild where they changed some of the infrastructure and that boosted sites particularly on desktop performance. Because again, for us, performance is not just core vitals ranking factors we want - it's the holistic, you know from CRO to SEO, performance matters into all verticals, all dynamics, and it also boosts mobile performance. So they are currently rolling out a giant boosted performance.

I'll go out on a limb here and say this without data backup outside of me playing around with like a ton of sites; if you're sitting here and saying, oh Wix is terrible for performance, and then you're going through your shopify site or whatever platform you think is better, that's not open source, that's not true. From my experience, again, I'm not saying that based on tons of data that I looked at, it's me, Mordy Oberstein, messing around with SEO and the tools.

I’m not saying performance is perfect, I'm going to get that in a second, but I am saying there's a certain amount of misconception about Wix and performance and I think this goes back to like Wix's old days, like what Wix used to be, like flash and Wix went together. So like you and code bloat and Wix are things that go together. So if you're looking at Wix and saying, well that's terrible for performance and other closed platform are fine with you, from what I've seen based upon this more recent update, Wix either performs just as well as say Shopify, or outperforms it in certain cases, or in a nice number of cases. And again, I'm not saying that based upon like a huge number of urls that I've looked at, I’ve looked at a nice chunk of them, that aside the really important thing to me is not that. The really important thing to me is where we're headed with this because, I don't know if you saw this, but Google put out there, or like search engine land, I think it was actually Google themselves, how many sites are ready and how many sites are working on getting things going? The number of sites ready for core web vitals are 30% or something like that, am i wrong?

MC: Yeah, it's low - it was Google because they were talking about the increase as well of the amount of people that have been using their performance tools because they think they saw like a 70% increase, people checking stuff, yeah.

MO: We're the same as everybody else but the thing I'm excited about, or the thing that makes me feel confident is that there is a road map ahead, it's like the dominant conversation. They've already started working on, and by the way, the fact that Google announced an actual date sort of puts this all into overdrive. So, while we spent the better part of a year working on the infrastructure to improve performance, now there's actually a hard date, it went from like impulse speed, if you're a star trek fan, to warp speed. I personally think in a lot of ways core vitals are the best thing to happen to the web in a long time, but it's something we're taking very seriously, something we're working on, it's something we have worked on, it's something that we have a road map for and we do not, one million percent, take the view that, oh we're a code platform, that's what it is.

MC: In terms of performance how much - I actually mentioned shopify there, how much does the theme or template on a Wix site impact performance? Because one thing I saw in regards to Shopify performance was there's now lists of Shopify themes as ranked by core web vitals. So it's like, if you want a shopify theme, here's the one that out of the box performs best for core web vitals. How much impact does that have on Wix platform and performance?

MO: There's a lot of things that impact this. I wouldn't say that I understand what Shopify is doing, and it's something that has been discussed because the template does matter, there's no way around that. Let's say an older template, it just hasn't been developed with the same thoughts in mind as a newer template. There's a lot of things that go into this though, you can have a great template but you can add all sorts, you can do a lot of things with images that aren't helpful or animations that aren't helpful, so really it's a combination of a) the platform itself b) the template and c) the user, so I don't have a simple answer.

MC: So this has been really interesting so far what you're saying about and it reflects the feedback I got from the community about this long-standing reputation and what's happening behind the scenes and the actual objective facts about the the state of the product, because like you said, if you want to separate it into Wix as a product and Wix as a brand, at least in the SEO community, the product leads the brand perception. There's definitely a lag behind that, so if the product improves and that goes up, it's going to take a while before that trickles back down and changes brand perception.

MO: And for us, it's been interesting because that's normally the case because some of the marketing creators that have come out in the past regarding SEO, I think we have this whole thing we're building, where let's say - I'm not making a one-to-one here - but, let's say Shopify and Wix, in terms of performance, they're pretty much the same thing, I'm not getting into like are they exactly or not, let's just assume they are for a moment.

MC: Sure.

MO: Okay, people will not realise that, or may not realise, that because there's a general poor brand reception around Wix, in terms of SEO, because of some of the things they've done like the ranking competition, that kind of thing, which are things that i don't think have helped improve perception, and I think they've done the opposite - if i can go on the limb and say this. They've made it where it makes SEOs take Wix a little bit less seriously, so much so that SEOs have sort of ignored what's been going on with the platform because the brand has been so, for lack of a better word, toxic.

MC: Yeah. So, I had it in my notes and I looked back at the SEO competitions Wix had run, the one that had been run last year and actually I was going to talk to you about how you felt they had gone down in the community. Because when i started digging into it and the results; so obviously for those that don't know, last year Wix ran a Wix SEO lovers and a Wix SEO haters type competition, and had two different SEO agencies compete and see who could rank best for Wix SEO, and the Wix SEO lovers won in the end, and when I was reading back and doing my own little bit of research, there was saw some interesting theories as to what may have happened there and it got very conspiratory.

And this is part of the problem of having an open and I guess regulated SEO competition which is that a lot of the decisions are made behind the curtain that is Google, so there isn't a way to, with any certainty say this happens because of this, and again even when it comes down to things like Google's guidelines, they are just guidelines, regardless of what people say, there is a margin for interpretation.

So I looked into that and I was like, wow this is really muddy water here, so I probably won't go too deep into that, but is that something Wix, you think, isn't going to do again? Those seo competitions?

MO: I mean, Google themselves and John Mueller came out and said, hey that's not why we rank sites, I am here to tell you and I'll say without any hesitation, that was and I’ll try to get some context about why I think something like that evolved, because again it's not nefarious like, if I can say this - of all the places that I've worked for, at Wix they're the nicest, most down-to-earth people I've ever worked for in my entire life. I'm not saying that because they're paying me, because they are paying me, but you know those things don't help and my entire purpose here is to have open and transparent conversations about what's going on with Wix, with the community. Just to talk. I want to hear what you have to say, I'll tell you what's going on with us, I'll try to show you some of the things happening with sites, I want this to be an organic conversation. This is where I'll try to get some context about how something could ever, because to us and I thought the same thing when I was was not part of Wix, when this competition came out and, by the way, it is a shame to a certain extent because it was Marie Haynes who won that competition and she did a really interesting write-up about what was good and what was not so great about working with the Wix platform, and there was a lot of interesting information, information I've been sharing people who have been like, oh wow I never knew that before. But if you actually read Marie Haynes's thing, a lot of it was already in there. I got lost because it's this whole gimmicky competition and the real benefit of an SEO looking at Wix, saying okay this was good, that was a little bit hard to work with, I would really like for this, but this was really great, kind of got lost and that's the conversation I want to have. That's the comment that I've been having. This is great, I love this, oh I didn't know you had this, can we get this - that's where I want to go with this.

What I think happened is - like Wix, we're a beas, we're huge. I mean, I think like 1.5 million users, or even 2 million at this point, something like that, it's a major company, a publicly traded company, trying to cater to different user demographics and user types, and trying to do what works well with one group,but that sometimes doesn't work well with another group. So if you've ever gone to YouTube, I'm sure you've seen the Wix ads, like the pre-roll ads that they have there.

MC: One or two, yeah.

MO: Yeah you know, you go to a video, someone on a screen telling about how you know start your site with Wix. Obviously, the target audience is not SEOs with that, but they had tremendous amount of success - obviously you have two million people using your product - you've had a tremendous amount of success, and part of that success has been through this you know marketing, I'll call it a marketing machine; I don't mean that in a bad way, that's just what we are, like we're just a major marketing corporation, we have a major marketing team. So when they see a problem of perception in the past, well okay we'll market this, we'll tackle this head-on but the SEO community is so niche. I don't think, again nothing was nefarious because I work with these people, like they’re good people, and when I tell people that looks, hey you know I don't think that's the way to go, they are like, oh okay now we know, great, we're glad you're here. I think what happened was, I call it a comedy of errors, it is that Wix as a company was so used to talking to another type of demographic and they tried it, it worked here, let's try it here and it really just backfired.

MC: So they kind of just stumbled into SEO twitter, that’s what you're saying.

MO: I don't think anyone in their right mind, knowing seo twitter and knowing how those sort of things are taken, would be like this is what we should do.

MC: So you have got a few things working against you. I think that's gonna make your job more tricky than it might be. So when I was preparing for this podcast, one of the recent things I found, so by recently I'm talking about October 2020, was a study published on the ahrefs blog by a chap called Joshua Hardwick and it was about comparing Wordpress to Wix in terms of SEO. They've used a 6.4 million domain data set and the opening line to this study was: let's face it Wix's reputation amongst SEO professionals isn't great. Most believe that Wordpress is not only superior, but also that Wix is inferior to pretty much any other CMS out there. And this was published, last month, like a month ago.

MO: It wasn't really last month by the way, it was published a while back and I don't know what they updated, looks like the same parts to me.

MC: Yeah so I thought I'd seen this before, but when I Googled this, it came up as October. I have to find out when that was originally published, do you know roughly how long ago?

MO: I don't, I remember seeing before I started a wix.

MC: Okay, so a while ago.

MO: Yeah it's definitely - i don't want to say a while because that could mean a year or two years, or it could be five months, but it was definitely not October.

MC: Yeah, I can't see the original date on here. My point is, that ahrefs is obviously a really well-known, widely used tool within the SEO community. This is ranking on their blog when you're doing research around SEO and Wix, it wasn't something I'd bothered reading before to be honest, but I took the time to read this and just as I said this isn't any disrespect to Wordpress or Wix or whatever, it is that I don't encounter Wix in my day-to-day job, so it's just not on my list of all the things.

MO: I'm here to change that.

MC: So I had a look at this though and obviously this opening line was just reinforcing already to me this reputation of Wix, right. So there's going to be people Googling this like, okay what platform should we use, oh should we use Wordpress or Wix, I'm sure that conversation has happened a lot, people Google it and they'll find articles like this that says, wordpress versus wix, here's a huge data set by a well-known brand, and they're opening with this kind of statement that well the reputation's not good in the SEO industry. So already, before I've actually read the data, it's priming me to think well Wix isn't as good.

There must be a reason for this reputation, right. And actually when you start reading through this study,the first few graphs are terrifying, so you see this pie chart that says 98/ 99% of Wix sites don't get any organic traffic, and immediately you're just, before you've even scrolled you're like oh this is obviously going one way, but then if you actually read through it and it starts to fall to bits and then the conclusion that Joshua's written at the bottom of this is a conclusion, so i'll read it for you for the basis conclusion. “Unfortunately the data is somewhat inconclusive. There's just no way to say whether one platform is better than the other based solely on the results of our study. Having said that, we did learn a few things in this study. It seems that more SEO might have been done on Wordpress sites than Wix. We're able to see this based on the huge differences in organic search traffic as a whole, as well as the number of referring domains pointing at the websites. There's seemingly no relationship between the platform used, Wordpress versus Wix, and the site's ability to rank in the top 10 Google search results. Wordpress sites got more search traffic than Wix as a whole, but Wix had more search visibility on domains that get more than 100 monthly search visits.

So I think the summary of that is, and I think it's correct, which is that historically more people doing SEO, SEO professionals have been working on Wordpress sites. Therefore, if you take this quantitative view of which subtypes, which platforms are ranking better, it's going to be Wordpress because these are the sites people are working on and not just a new person to the web that's playing around creating a site on wix.

I just think that's interesting, but there were some points that I did want to pick up at the end. I mean first off, would you agree with that summary, that you're finding just being reinforced still and you know you've got studies like this that that you know in fairness are showing that actually maybe the platform is a lot more, or the playing fields a lot more level in platforms than might appear?

MO: Okay, let me take off my Wix hat for a minute and put on Mordy the SEO. So, a while back I was, I don't know it was in a blog post or on a podcast I did a while ago, one of the things I went off about was like as an SEO, when we do these sort of studies we get very quantitative about it, but you have to qualitatively analyse what you're looking at here. And my first reaction seeing the study, when they showed me it was hey, do you know this? Because it did come up, this particular study came up, I'm like yeah, no one qualitatively analysed this, you're dealing with apples and oranges. So I’m not upset about it, I think it's just something that happens a lot with these studies, so like I understand and I hold no hard feelings about it at all, but it's a general thing like, Mordy the SEO, not Mordy Wix saying this, you have to like apply your noggin a little bit and qualitatively analyse what you're looking at, you can't just be like data, data, data, data, data, there has to be a context for the data. Okay, I'm done ranting because like my thing is to rant.

Yeah, I mean these things, I'm not happy, if you would Google this and it shows up like, no that's not what I want to be there obviously, which is why I'm working to change that.

MC: So I heard from earlier, you were saying that at the moment you can't easily set nofollow links within Wix?

MO: This agenda is on the roadmap, you can do it through a panel thing, but okay in this post and it says it's ironic that it was updated in october and this I will take issue with, if you're listening whoever wrote this, was it Mr. Hardwick?

MC: Joshua.

MO: If you're listening, I do have it on my list to reach out to you anyway, so here I am reaching out to you. You can easily edit robot.txt, you could have done that for months using Wix.

MC: Okay, this is something I wanted to ask you. So there are a couple of points. So Joshua finishes the article listing, and I was like yes I found some specific things that SEOs want to do, that they can't do, that I could talk to you about and one of them was - so Joshua enlisted robots.txt, another technical limitation related to SEO is the inability to modify your robots.txt file.

MO: I’m just messing, I'm not actually upset at him, like I have a life

MC: Okay, but that’s wrong now, right?

MO: Yeah, for a while for a long while.

MC: Okay, so that's interesting because that's something I know people still complain about Shopify and the inability to modify robots.txt.

MO: I will say this if you want to take a look at Wix, actually go in there now and go look at Shopify, I think you could be pleasantly surprised, obviously everyone has their own assessments and their own priorities. But what you thought was there with Wix is currently not what is actually there, there's a lot that's changed robots.txt, being like just the tip of the iceberg - that's me plugging Wix, and I'm done plugging it.

MC: So the last thing on Joshua’s list was about multilingual SEO and he says Wix doesn't support href lang at this time, is that still correct?

MO: That is correct. It's on our list, but you can do that through Tag Manager, so it is possible to do. We have a very easy integration, you just basically click a button and you're just connected - your works site to Tag Manager.

MC: Okay, so being able to put Tag Manager on the site does allow you to do lots of things. Speaking honestly, I probably wouldn't wish that on many people trying to dynamically manage href lang.

MO: We're aware of it, but it is possible to do it, by the way it's a really quick thing like this. I'm sorry you guys i don't want to hijack your podcast

MC: No, go for it.

MO: I was going to say some of the things. I personally hate Tag Manager, so I'm with you. Some of the things that we do with Tag Manager - I know on the ecom side, we'll automatically send events to Google Analytics, so you don't have to use Tag Manager, so just a heads up there.

MC: Cool. Mordy, we've exceeded 45 minutes already and I feel like we could still talk Wix. Is there anything you want to finish on as a message to the SEO community, to our listeners, in regards to Wix, your role, and what you want them to do, how you want them to reach out to you?

MO: Yeah, I basically live on Twitter. It's how I ignore my family, joking. It's @MordyOberstein, reach out to me. If there's something you don't like about Wix, just reach out to me again. I don't mind taking flack, I have a good time with it, like I think it was Barry, when you i saw your tweet, he put “what the f are you thinking?” I think was his response to one of your questions - which I think I wrote back then, I'll bring that right up to the team, I like that kind of stuff from a humor perspective, but if in terms of helping you, the more specific you are, the easier it is for me to tell the team, hey like there's a real issue here. We're dying to hear from you, I'll bring it to the team. The team is like balancing a million different things, they're trying to balance things that we consider ‘we must fix this’, ‘we must upgrade this’, we really want to upgrade this, and then there's a whole other side that is, how do we make Wix more scalable, or easier to work with. So, if you're managing your SEO, if you're a real professional SEO, we're trying to balance all these different things, so hearing from the community helps us a) know about what's important to you, but it also helps us prioritise a little bit, so now reach out I'm here.

MC: Brilliant Mordy, thank you so much for your time, really appreciated. It’s really interesting to hear what's going on behind the scenes at Wix. It's been an interesting process for me actually even researching before we did the podcast about what is actually going on and what the state of play is with the platform, as opposed to what my preconceptions were. So you heard him, it sounds like Mordy's got thick skin, so no matter what feedback you want to give him, he's there on Twitter, have that conversation with him, help him do his job better and that's it really.

Thank you all for listening. We'll be back in one week's time, which will be Monday the 30th of November; we are heading towards Christmas. If you did enjoy this episode, do share with a friend, subscribe, maybe even link to us and I hope you all have a brilliant week.

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