WordPress vs Joomla: Some observations from the trenches

A duel between WordPress and Joomla

The mighty duel: WordPress vs Joomla (Image uwdigitalcollections via Flickr)

If you want your head shot off in web production circles, you speak out about the benefits of one particular website content management system over another. And that is exactly what I will do today.

Last week, it became clear that a client would benefit from transitioning their website content into WordPress to harness the Google indexing clarity and power of the system.

As part of their due diligence, they referred the suggestion to their current design house and the comment came back that they could see no difference between the two, from an SEO perspective or a usability perspective.

I want to deal with both of these issues in context.

But first, some reasons why I prefer clients using open source content management systems, and WordPress (on your own web host, not WordPress.com blogs) in particular:

  • Open Source projects like WordPress are vibrant, cutting-edge and able to push forward with innovative responses to security threats and engineering opportunities, must better than relying on proprietary systems being developed in house by local web firms
  • WordPress is now used by almost 1 in 5 websites worldwide, meaning there is a large pool of people you can turn to for advice if you ever fall out or lose contact with your original webmaster
  • Matt Cutts from Google has said publicly that webmasters who choose WordPress automatically deal with 90% of the issues websites face in getting their content indexed in Google

Now to the issues of SEO and usability.

Search Engine Optimisation – and why WordPress just gets it

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is an important consideration when building your website because it relates to getting the content and architecture right so that search engines like Google (is there really any other?) can get into your content deeply and list it when people search the web for related topics.

I am always surprised when someone dismisses the WordPress advantage out of hand.

But, in fairness, there could be some situations where both are on par, namely:

  • You are just putting up a simple one or two page website
  • You are really just creating a static website with no regular publication of content

In both these cases, WordPress or Joomla with search engine friendly URLs switched on (the web address for pages in your site contain real words search engines can read and not gobbledygook) will normally perform on par.

Or so I thought.

I ran a test on this clients site by taking the title of a minor page along with their business sector and searched in Google. They were not found. So next I added their business name to that page title and was surprised by the results.

Their website did arrive at the top of search (as you would expect, Google gives that to you even if you have the worst site in the world), however they did not rank for the page with that title. Instead, other pages were listed.

By comparison, I chose a similarly obscure page from the Baker Marketing website and searched for it with our company name, and thanks to WordPress, that page was the very first listing.

This is not a macro SEO test, but rather one that shows how WordPress can help search engines get down deep into site content.

Add blogging to the mix, with a regular infusion of good content, and in my experience over dozens of Joomla projects and hundreds of WordPress projects is that WordPress will leave Joomla in its dust.

It’s WordPress easy

One of the things that has long impressed me with WordPress is that with just a little guidance to start with, most people just ‘get it’.

There is a simple, intuitive layout behind the scenes where all Pages are listed and easily accessible for editing, and likewise with blog Posts.

Across in Joomla, the administration area is much more complex and, for many, counter intuitive.

While it might be fine to argue that some current staff members have mastered the Joomla administration screen, it will provide a steep learning curve for new recruits.

Only last week, another client after a transition to WordPress commented that it was, ‘better than I had ever thought’.

Of course, all new systems will require some learning but in my experience, people from young adults to seniors can take to WordPress like ducks to water.

And with less technical obstacles, there is a greater chance of cultivating a content creation habit!

Final thoughts

Both content management systems can be built well or poorly; one of the reasons I always recommend you get experts to set up whichever one you will choose to use.

Someone who has built hundreds or thousands of installations will have developed optimum ways of combining components and plugins.

And, at the end of the day, if you are not going to be actively publishing good content to your site, neither will be of much use to you or your visitors.

So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, your website building choice should start with your marketing objectives. Then you will know what to do. Hint: In my opinion, it will start with a ‘W’.




  1. Peter | Woof Media

    Great summary, Steve. It mirrors our experience also.

    As one who used to write off WordPress as “just a blogging platform and not a real CMS”, I’m now using it for a majority of projects for small-medium businesses. More often than not, after evaluating a client’s content requirements it becomes a case of “why use anything else?”

    I particularly agree with your final comment “at the end of the day, if you are not going to be actively publishing good content to your site, neither will be of much use to you or your visitors.” This is where most fail, and that has more to do with a lack of strategy than a poor CMS!

    • Steve Davis

      Thanks, Peter. Thanks for chipping in and great to hear a colleague in the industry share the fundamental belief that it starts with good content and strategy! Cheers, Steve

  2. Alice

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more. After struggling for 3 years on Joomla, in April I set aside a week to migrate the site to wordpress, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the result.

    It was incredibly simple to move the content, and it is so much more user friendly to setup menus and categories.

    I stuffed up a few of the redirects with the site move (but they were low rankers anyway) – not that is seems to matter, within a week I am showing up again in search engine results.

    If you need lots of complex stuff, I guess Joomla is useful – but if you just want to get your brand communicated and start sharing content – go for WordPress.

    Funny, now that I no longer have technology issues (everything just works!) it has freed me up to start writing and enjoying the site again.


    • Steve Davis

      Alice, I think many people would agree with you. Mind you, when a multinational corporate site like that of Treasury Estates can be made and maintained in WordPress covering dozens of brand portfolios, investor information and a myriad other types of information, I think you’ll find that the platform has closed the gap on Joomla regarding complex, separate functions for sections of a site.

      Thanks for your input.

      Also, as a side note, I’ve visited your site and am looking forward to building a kitchen garden with my young daughters (Steve Davis).


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