Elementor Raises Eyebrows with Google Ads Targeting Full-Site Editing

WordPress’ growing market share is fueling a continual influx of new users but also a higher level of scrutiny around advertising. Companies with large advertising budgets target this segment of consumers, because many who are new to WordPress need help hosting and creating their websites.

Last week Bluehost pulled an advertisement that misused WordPress’ trademark. The company’s PR department has not responded to our request for comment, but onlookers have noted that this isn’t the first time Bluehost has floated questionable ads. Multiple Facebook campaigns, dating back several years, include trademark abuses, as well as active campaigns on YouTube in various markets.

In another advertising-related matter, Elementor, a popular page builder used by more than five million websites, has caught some attention recently for its Google ads that target “full-site editing.” Birgit Pauli-Haack, publisher of the Gutenberg Times, pointed out the ads last week in the Post Status Slack community.

“I have no trouble if Elementor and Beaver Builder duke it out on the Google Ads,” Pauli-Haack said. “It’s certainly fair game. Why I think it’s shady in regards to WordPress? It’s the searcher’s intent diverted, in a misleading way. 30% of Google Searchers do not know that the first results are paid ads and are led astray. Information about Full Site Editing has people already confused and worried. It doesn’t help if someone hijacks the new feature’s keyword. WordPress is also an easy target because the Foundation certainly doesn’t have any money to throw at the problem to bid higher on the keywords.”

At first glance the keyword targeting may appear to skirt the line of ethical advertising, but Elementor representative Ben Pines claims the company is simply advertising for a feature set of the same name. It enables customers to edit the header, footer, archive and single templates, and page or post content on the same screen.

“Our google ads vary to provide the most value for users in the search,” Pines said. “This one is no different. This doesn’t represent any new strategy. We released full site editing back in March 2020.”

Pines referenced a beta release post dated March 1, 2020, which referred to Elementor’s “groundbreaking Full Site Editing feature.” WordPress’ Full-Site Editing project predates this release by at least a year.

“Full site editing is a very generic industry name and is a fundamental capability in website building tools, searched by many of our users,” Pines said.

When asked if Elementor is considering changing the name to avoid confusion with the core WordPress project, Pines said, “We don’t see any potential confusion. Elementor’s capabilities and ads are clear.”

Others involved in the conversation on Post Status Slack said this type of advertising seems to be standard practice in the world of ad buying, since they are buying based on relevant keywords. Competitors also routinely purchase each other’s keywords.

“Instead of supporting, it is undermining the project,” Pauli-Haack said.

She and other participants in the conversation about the ads found it hard to believe that the strategy is not intentional. Some were also irked by other Elementor ads running on Google and Facebook that attempt to capitalize on users’ frustration with WordPress.

Elementor’s advertising appears to be a self-preservation strategy, as Gutenberg’s full site editing capabilities will inevitably ring the death knell for page builders that don’t build on top of the core standard. Third-party page builders will need to overcome severe performance deficiencies in order to remain competitive.

Understanding where full-site editing is heading is critical for WordPress site owners who are adopting new tools and workflows that will be future-proof with core changes. During this transition many will likely be googling for solutions that will enable them to be on the ground running when core introduces its full-site editing MVP in WordPress 5.8.

Participants in the conversation noted that the Elementor team is not very involved in contributing to the open source project. This may be why the team claims they cannot see any confusion in targeting Google ads at users searching “full-site editing.”

“We actively contribute to WP and its ecosystem through sponsoring events, translations, accessibility tools and more,” Pines said. “We are looking to further our contribution even more this year and are on the look out for a dedicated team member.”


26 responses to “Elementor Raises Eyebrows with Google Ads Targeting Full-Site Editing”

  1. Storm in teacup me thinks. Sounds like the Gutenberg cohort are being a bit precious. So far defined as being able to edit header, footer and body templates, well Elementor and other page builders have been doing that for a while now, and dare I say it in a more user friendly and sophisticated way.

    • Full Site Editing came to WordPress pagebuilders around 2014 with the Headway Theme and also Pagelines partially. In Headway, designers could drag and drop on their evolving page canvas -> headers including menu elements, sidebars+widgets, content blocks, footers any where they wanted so long as the dimensions did not overlap. A Headway Architect edition provided for templates and some layering of elements.
      Alas, Headway Architect did not come to pass. But layering of UI page content is alive and well with both modal and non-modal popups and sliders/galleries from a number of vendors [Smart Slider 3, Popup Builder, Elemento to name just a few]
      Here is hoping that Gutenberg FSE and Block Theme “core” standards do not suffocate/supplant this lively WordPress UI innovation.

    • Yeah, I get the very valid concern of being smoked out, but everything they’re doing is looking out for themselves, which is the point of a business.

      Saying the project predates the release is sort of an awkward way to phrase it because on is the project and one is the release.

      “We had the idea before they put out their idea made manifest and usable.”

      It’s not Elementor’s problem that WP core is late to its own party. As others have pointed out, Elementor itself was late to the party overall by years and years, not even having the first version of its base software out until other full site editing plugins had existed and been around a bit.

      I 100% believe they’re taking advantage of the phrasing, but if that’s perceived to be a jerk move — well, the world keeps spinning and if it can’t change because it’s not illegal, better work hard to adjust. If you don’t have as much money (not hard to believe if they just upped their prices), do the best with what you have. Have the free “negative” publicity on all your accounts putting them on blast. Talk with them diplomatically and ask them to support.

      It’s not like you can sabotage them and find ways to make their software not work anymore so everyone’s forced to use Gutenberg, or if you could you certainly shouldn’t.

      It’s okay to like Gutenberg and it’s okay to dislike Elementor — goodness knows they both have wonkiness and bugs and headaches and things. But there’s no “there” there here. Defensiveness, being entitled, etc. Nothing more.

      I am pretty sure that if, as they say, they have huge performance issues and Gutenberg is core software leaning as hard as it can on not being bloated it can eventually win in the long term on merit, so have some confidence in the product and put up a fight!

  2. A company tries to make money and some people in Post Status gets upset?
    If WordPress ever get a actually working and user friendly(and developer friendly) full site editing experience the organic search results will reflect that but until that time other WordPress companies will compete for that market share which ever way they can.

  3. “Last week Bluehost pulled an advertisement that misused WordPress’ trademark.”

    Does that mean Elementor have permission to use the WP trademark in their ads? The one that has been copied into the article is clearly displaying the WP logo and mentions WordPress (not WP) twice.

    Would suggest that this is more of an issue than buying an adword. That said, the advertisement asks, “Frustrated with WP? Get the workflow you deserve”

    I think this is known as biting the hand that feeds. If you’re going to crap all over WP and admonish the workflow then at least try not to build your entire business on top of it first.

  4. “I think this is known as biting the hand that feeds. If you’re going to crap all over WP and admonish the workflow then at least try not to build your entire business on top of it first.”

    Often the phrase “biting the hand that feeds” is used in the context of a platform and its 3rd parties when 3rd parties create and built their businesses on new features that help the platform grow because the platform did not provide the feature.

    The “biting” occurs when the platform decides to co-op for their own the features the 3rd parties built their business on, such as like when a platform decides to offer full-site editing and thus kneecap its 3rd party whose businesses depend on that need existing in the platform’s ecosystem?

    #anotherperspective #justsaying #thoughihavenodoginthishunt

    P.S. The reality is both sides need to evolve, but the platform is in the position of power, not the 3rd party, and so an ethical platform would be very careful about how they co-opt 3rd party features, and they should work with their 3rd parties to minimize disruption to those businesses. Of course this is WordPress, so I doubt they concern themselves too much with what helps or harms their 3rd parties. #jmtcw

  5. I believe mentioning WordPress in your ad is frowned at by Google Ads. Trying to make WordPress look a lot less than what it delivers and trying to make your own solution appear better is not a good practice.
    Is WordPress your competition or your business foundation? Will there be an Elementor without WordPress?

    • Indeed. I see the flawed thinking on both sides with the block editor or page builders. Have to say though, and I am not shy of saying this, the indictment lies a little more on the Gutenberg teams’s side of things for many reasons. Some mistakes have been made on the way:

      • Forcing the block editor as default too soon and, having to install the Classic Editor plugin, or some other method to disable Gutenberg was cumbersome. In fact a simple line of code kills the block editor if that is what you want.

      • Setting up the new editor, then quickly moving onto FSE, before addressing some quirks and use cases where the block editor doesn’t cut it, a bit shady in my opinion. Data entry, as a purely custom field experience with templates on the front end comes to mind.

      •  In relation to the above, where the Classic Editor is touted to be removed soon, where is the block editor UI version of WooCommerce Products in the backend? Strange when WooCommerce is an Automattic plugin? As it is clients with eCommerce sites are presented with a mixed UI environment because of this.

      • Lastly, the block editor should have bee provisioned with a restricted set of blocks for typography and layout/structure, as in sections/containers, rows and columns. Third parties should not be allowed to produce any other versions of these and instead an API should have been created to allow third party plugins and page builders to override these blocks to add their own bells and whistles and fancy UI. Turn off the plugin/page builder or switch to another and at least the content and layout would be left in a reasonable state. Instead we have way too many variations on a theme with a smorgasbord of block offerings.

      Taking all off the above, if tackled, I would say that all page builders would be crazy not to re-invent themselves with a block based foundation.

      As it is, I reckon that many of the smart vendors of page builders will do this anyway. They haven’t gone away you know.

    • Okay, I read more carefully and see that WordPress coined it. I assumed it was a term in use for years by multiple website builders because it is so generic. I don’t think Elementor needs to be doing this. Call it “Elementor 360” or something more brandable. I don’t think “Full site editing” is a very good marketing term.

      At the same time, it’s hard not to feel like this article is at least somewhat of a hit piece on Elementor. I love WP Tavern and appreciate our “Benevolent Dictator” but sometimes I feel like I’m reading state-controlled media, you know. More disclosures might be appropriate.

  6. I am baffled by the response of some of WP community/Gutenberg people about this.. Elementor built a commercial product that offers Full Site Editing.. they have done so for about a year now.. A lot of people have been frustrated by WordPress and getting their site up and running. It’s valid criticism and they marketing team offers a solution via Elementor, and creates ads that highlight the advantages of using Elementor compared to standard WordPress?

    To then attack that approach and say stuff like:
    “Instead of supporting, it is undermining the project,” Pauli-Haack said.”

    Immature and uncalled for.

    • Maybe WordPress ought to file a trademark application. Is the term too generic?

      From a quote in the article: “WordPress is also an easy target because the Foundation certainly doesn’t have any money to throw at the problem to bid higher on the keywords.”

      That’d be waste, no doubt. But it seems to me if Matt wants to protect WordPress, he gets it done. I doubt money is much of a problem when something is as important as this article implies.

      How important is this, really?

  7. Quote: “…as Gutenberg’s full site editing capabilities will inevitably ring the death knell for page builders that don’t build on top of the core standard.”

    A quick look says: 5+ million installations of “Classic Editor” plugin, 600.000+ installations of “Disable Gutenberg” and an additional variety of other plugins could end up at around 6 million installations that disabled Gutenberg at the moment.

    And then I see 5+ million installations of Elementor.

    So, I highly doubt that a “death bell” is ringing anywhere.

    We will see what the future brings. Maybe Gutenberg will be at some point where the good page builders are right now. But for now? Sorry Gutenberg.

    The story itself? I would call it WordPress gossip, but okay, we are at a tavern here. 😉

  8. There seems to be a lot of Elementor bashing going around lately, especially from people who use other builders. When they had the bugs in v3.0 it was justified (they owned up to it though). But this statement is simply incorrect, see the same blog you referenced to from almost a year ago: https://elementor.com/blog/introducing-full-site-editing/

    “full site editing” is something you do. Trademarking it would be like trademarking “web design”. Come to think of it.. 😀

    • The statement is fully correct. I had a lengthy discussion with the team, and the term never came up. If they used it before then, I was unaware of it. It was clear they were going with different terminology at launch and in our talks. And, maybe they were using different terminology in different places at the time.

      None of this is a judgment on what they’re doing.

      But, we should also not pretend that “full site editing” in the context of WordPress doesn’t specifically refer to a set of features that have been under works for a while longer as part of the Gutenberg project. Context matters. In this context, it is not a generic term. Overlooking this would be a disservice to our readers. It’s not really bashing a company to call specific practices into question (I’m sure there are specific cases, of course). Having the discussion helps the community and its businesses further build an ethical framework under which to operate.

      Maybe most do not see anything wrong. If that is the case, perhaps other businesses will follow suit (I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened).

  9. This reminds me of the first Browser War from 1995 to 2001. Microsoft, perennially behind the eight ball, figured out that the only way for them to assert greater dominance with an inferior product was to bundle IE 4 with Windows and make it the default browser. In just about a year it overtook Netscape Navigator / Communicator as the browser with the biggest market share and gradually ended up destroying Netscape altogether.

    Replace Microsoft with WP, IE with Gutenberg and Netscape with page builders such as Elementor or Beaver, and you have an almost identical situation. In fact the original releases of Gutenberg were so unstable and underpowered, that the powers that be were emphatic in stating that Gutenberg was not a page builder.

    It is amusing that now that Gutenberg has added some page-builder features, the same powers that be are throwing a hissy fit about another page builder advertising features and branding that it has used for a year.

    The only difference that I see between the first Browser War and the ongoing Builder War is the ubiquity of Google (and its ad platform). It is this ubiquity that has helped millions of people reject Gutenberg by using Disable Gutenberg or Classic Editor, and switch to page builders that they like.

    Elementor simply seems to have simply hijacked a common-use term that WP was trying to latch on to, similar to the marketing tactic used by Fry’s: “Your best buys are always at Fry’s”! For the uninitiated, Best Buy and Fry’s are both electronics superstores.

    The higher ups at WP need to grow up and focus on making Gutenberg better, and they need to do it fast instead of carrying out hatchet jobs such as this against people who have been running circles around them for a feature that carries no trademark. There will probably come a time in the future when Elementor and other page builders will get eliminated, but that time is not definitely not coming in 2021.

  10. “Why I think it’s shady in regards to WordPress? It’s the searcher’s intent diverted, in a misleading way.”

    An apt description the Automattic product called “WordPress.com” and its use of the WordPress trademark.

  11. Read the article twice and, sorry to say, still not sure what is so upsetting to many …

    “Full site editing”? Is that not the case? Can you not create header/footer/page/post/woocommerce etc templates using Elementor? Of course you can.
    Case closed?… No?… Why?… Because it makes some at Post Status upset? Sorry again, but who cares?
    One may like or dislike Elementor, but they did nothing wrong in that advertisement. No misrepresentation, no false advertising.

    Oh. Wait… Has Elementor also used the phrase “WordPress frustrationless “?
    How dare they…!!
    Because ‘naked’ WordPress is surely free of any frustrations, limitations, awkward ways of adding/changing templates, posting pages and posts, right? How can anyone imply that for an average business owner, publisher or an artist – building a decent 3-5 page brochure site is nothing less than a pure joy and a straight forward process, correct??

    This conversation is a non-starter. Build something better than Elementor and ‘hijack’ their keywords all you want. Or actually try Elementor’s offer. You may love it and never look back!!

  12. Elementor is trash.

    I was using it for several years. But now it’s becoming bloated and the service is becoming disrespectful to the users.

    Just don’t buy it. Use Astra + Gutenberg + Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg, or GeneratePress + Gutenberg + GenerateBlock.

    They are the future.

  13. “biting the hand that feeds you”
    Two years ago my agency was going to move to drupal, after being in wordpress for almost a decade, and in joomla before that.
    Wordpress simply did not have dynamic content abilities, and for visual editing we had to resort to divi or themeforest proprietary themes (avada, enfold, the 7,…), all of which had issues when trying to use dynamic content plugins like ACF or Toolset, either bootstrap compatibility or some javascript tangling.
    Customers were demanding dynamic content and the highest paid projects all involved dynamic content editing and more freedom in building content templates, moving from the vanilla premade templates everyone uses.
    Gutenberg plans were messy and more of a vanity fair for some people involved and we were wasting time and losing projects.
    Drupal, or another CMS, was the way to go. Goodbye WordPress.

    Enters Elementor Pro dynamic content and full site editing (or whatever the people from gutenberg want to call it). Suddenly using wordpress (with elementor pro) was up to par with drupal cck, with a much better UI/UX and useful responsive design features.
    So we stuck to wordpress and used elementor pro in all projects.
    Then came motion effects, table of contents, conditionals and a lot more things, either directly from elementor pro or from it’s plugin ecosystem, and wordpress got richer and more able to tackle any kind of project.

    Zoom into 2021. If you look at gutenberg, it’s still a mess: blocks plugins that don’t work well with each other, no motion effects, no core responsive editing, no consistent AMP support, continuous discussions about things that should be a no brainer and still a vanity fair for some. On top of that, a continuous going back and forth in ideas and features. It’s still more of developers playground, but by no means a way of developing sustainable business on top of it.
    Hopefully the block based themes can go another way and overcome this.

    And yes, elementor (and divi) overlooked the pagespeed issues (render blocking) that core web vitals enforces and that, more than gutenberg user experience, may cause their downfall.

    But when people here talk about five million elementor installs, remember that they represent five million sites that remained in the wordpress ecosystem, rather than going to some other CMS like drupal or wix or shopify.
    So mumbling about elementor using this or that statement in ads is more like biting the hand that feeds you than any kind of real justice.
    Just my five cents…..


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