Is WordPress Making Web Marketers Nervous?
The internet used to get by just fine without WordPress. Prior to 2003 – when the internet still felt brand new and exciting – WordPress didn’t exist at all. For a few years after it was launched, the website building platform struggled to find an audience. WordPress limped through life during its infancy, looking for a hook to snag the attention of the masses with. It finally got there just over a decade ago. Between then and now, it’s captured a shockingly enormous percentage of the global market share. The latest statistics available to us say that just under forty per cent of all the websites in the world are built with WordPress. That’s gone up ten per cent since 2018.
If your business relies on reaching customers through the internet, it’s impossible to ignore WordPress. Not using its features or at least integrating with its platforms would cut you off from such an enormous chunk of your potential customer base that it would be commercial suicide. For that reason, you’d expect marketers to embrace the format, and you’d think it would be at the heart of everything they did. In some ways it is, but in others, there’s a surprisingly large (and growing resentment) of everything WordPress is and everything it represents. There are genuine concerns about the long term viability being raised by some marketing professionals – and a few of those concerns are worth listening to.
The idea that WordPress would be anything other than a marketer’s dream might seem surprising. Some of the biggest and most profitable websites in the world are based on WordPress. That includes Disney’s official website and BBC America. It’s becoming increasingly common to see online slots websites built on WordPress. Slots are among the fastest-growing money-making avenues online, with franchise models opening up online slots to every territory that might want them and making it ever easier to make good money that way. If you can build a money-making online slots website with WordPress, you can surely use it to make money in just about any other imaginable way. We’re not saying that you can’t – but marketing companies think there are a lot of things it could be doing better. Let’s examine a few of them.
One of the most significant and most influential marketing development surveys that’s carried out every year is the Stack Overflow survey, which has named WordPress as the “most dreaded” of all internet platforms not only for 2020 but also for 2019. Chief among the complaints is the legacy code that often appears on WordPress templates, widgets, and gadgets. Some of this code has barely changed since the early 2000s. In extreme cases, developers even find themselves working with a version of PHP so old that the only solution is either to find a way to work around it or hand build a new API. Neither are tasks that any developer relishes, much less one that wants to get around to the task of persuading people to spend money as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Those same templates that make WordPress so easy to use have become a sticking point for some of the more forward-thinking marketers – those who want to develop a unique tone of voice or come up with a distinctive style. WordPress’s tools are easy to work with, but they can lack flexibility. Often, making them more flexible involves spending money – which is something that the development companies that engage marketers struggle to understand. A client might tell a marketer that they want something done with WordPress because they’ve heard it’s free or cheap, but that often isn’t the case when you’re done paying for bespoke or specific widgets or tools. Self-hosting – a requirement of the WordPress model – comes at a cost. As if that weren’t bad enough, it also creates a reliance on plugins that might break down beyond repair on any given day. A marketing company then has to go back to a client asking for money to perform updates that the client never asked for. The client sees this as a problem at the marketer’s end when it is, in fact, a problem caused by WordPress.
Time is money when it comes to web marketing. Downtime is wasted time, and wasted time becomes lost opportunities. You only get one chance at a first impression with customers, and if your website is down when they come looking for you, it’s likely that they’ll never come back to check again. That’s why updating WordPress sites can be such a perilous process for marketers. It’s virtually impossible to complete a large-scale update without flipping the site into maintenance mode, and so long as it’s in maintenance mode, it’s not there to make money or sell products. For the biggest businesses, even an hour’s downtime can result in a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. That’s becoming increasingly unacceptable in the 2020s.
Even when those changes are made, you might suffer for them. Your updates might include a new look, better functionality and more attractive aesthetics, but they’re of little use to you if your customers can no longer see them. Unfortunately, there’s increasing evidence that a chance of WordPress theme can affect your website’s SEO even if the content on the page has barely changed at all. Google has admitted that this is the case, although it insists that there are steps that can be taken to avoid the problem. Those steps usually involve making as few changes as possible to your headings, images, interlinks, and page load times. Given that it’s almost impossible to avoid changing any of those things while changing a theme, damage to SEO standings becomes inevitable.
Larger companies seem to be more aware of these problems than smaller companies. While the 40% figure is about right for WordPress’s market share across the board, that number drops to less than eighteen per cent when we’re talking about websites that belong to Fortune 500 companies. When they spoke to the survey research team, some of these companies said that they started out with WordPress but then switched to something more bespoke and flexible when they felt that they’d outgrown it. In other words, they saw WordPress as a fine way to start, but not a platform to stick with as they grew. It simply became easier for them to make money without WordPress than with it – and that’s bad news.
WordPress is still the world’s favourite website builder, but it might have to find new ways to work with web marketing developers if it wants to stay that way for another ten years.