Squarespace and SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) seems to be one of the most divisive Squarespace subjects out there.

I offer both WordPress and Squarespace sites because both have different approaches that suit my clients so I get to hear comparisons a lot! Almost everyone can agree that Squarespace is an easy-to-use content management system with beautiful templates. But Squarespace can’t seem to shake off the reputation it has for poor SEO even though it’s been around for at least 10 years and builds SEO into its platform.

My conclusion is this. If you want detailed, micro level control over your site SEO then Squarespace may not be for you. By this I mean that you have time to spend daily or weekly researching key words to keep your site as close to the number 1 Google spot.

If you’re a regular business owner who is happy to let the site do the job and use good principles, then I suggest that Squarespace should be considered. If you’ve got a good idea of key terms and how to tailor your words and images for best results, then consider both platforms on their other merits and see which ones suits you best.

It’s also possible to get SEO completely wrong on WordPress!

So, if you’re feeling ready for a good read, let’s run through Squarespace and SEO. Get the kettle on and find a comfy chair…

SEO basics

I highly recommend Andrew Optimsey for a long read on SEO but let’s just take a moment to determined SEO. It can be summarised as the process of improving your site’s ranking in search results. There are three main areas to focus on and they are:

  • Content

  • Links

  • Crawlability (a new word for our times!)

Let’s run through these three areas and see how Squarespace delivers.

Content

Creating content that is useful and engaging has a massive influence on your site. Let’s see what Google says…

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factor. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content
— Google SEO Starter

So get blogging. But don’t just blog about random things, that’s what your personal Facebook feed is for! Think about what you’re typing, what words you're using and how often. If your site is inactive, others can’t find it and Google won’t crawl it. This leads into…

Making friends with links

Be good with your links. Inbound links (that’s to say links on another site that point to yours) are one of the most powerful ways of getting your website ranked higher in search engines. Getting them is really hard. If you’re not blogging then there’s no chance of being linked as you’re not caring and sharing. The most obvious way is guest posting and features on high quality sites (do be mindful of who you’re writing for and if they are managing their site well).

So you’ve secured a dream guest blog post with an awesome site and you’re ready to write. Now what?

Crawling

Not the thing you do when you’re home from the pub, it’s that thing search engines do. Google and other engines must crawl (find), index (sort it out), and rank your site for users to find when they use keywords that match your website. If your site is nicely organising and you’ve submitted to Google etc. then the rest is up to you. Google has “spiders” or “bots” that crawl the internet (it’s very Game of Thrones) looking for new pages and ranks those pages based on several factors.

This sounds all very well and good (and all the above can apply to WordPress, Wix and Weebly) but what about Squarespace specifics?

Squarespace SEO vitals

Page Titles

Google SEO recommends that we ‘create unique, accurate page titles’. This is because a page title tells the user what they’re looking at. Create a unique title for each page on your site. If your site appears in a search result page on Google, the contents of the page title will usually appear in the first line of the Google results.

On Squarespace you can create a page title by editing your Page Settings. When you’ve created a new page, hover over the name of the page in the left-hand menu and click on the gears icon. The pop up box is where you can complete your Page Title. This also appears in the top of the browser window.

Perfect! Google will love us.

URL formatting

Google would like us to improve the structure of your URLs. What this means is that it loves a nice, concise title. It helps those demanding spiders because they can crawl through the content easier. It also means you’re trusted as people prefer a short url to link too. To do this in Squarespace you can hover over the name of the page, click on the gear icon and change the URL Slug in the pop up.

One area that I confess I missed, was the URL slug on the blog posts. Squarespace automatically generates a URL for each new blog post, but these they can be long and weird. To change it, navigate to the blog post and click Edit. Then select Options. The Post URL will be the first thing at the top. You can use hyphens between each word to keep the URL looking as clean as possible.

Description Meta Tag

Google reminds us that we must make use of the “description” meta tag. In human language this is the page meta tag that gives search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page title may be a few words or a phrase, a page’s description ‘meta tag’ might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. In this sentence you can use key words but do make sure it’s a proper sentence. This is because Google might use them as ‘snippets’ for your pages when they appear in search results.

Handily we can do this with Squarespace because there is a page Description which you can edit in Page Settings.

Navigation of your site

Google very sensibly says that our site should be easier to navigate. When I work with clients, I’ll site map first. This is often very old school post-it notes or drawn onto paper to plot a journey using good UX (user experience). It’s so tempting to dive in and build loads of pages but thinking about your client and what they want helps conversion, retention and search engines because they will understand what content the webmaster (that’s you) believe to be important.

The site owner must always submit an XML Sitemap to Google to help with their crawling process. An XML Sitemap is a list of pages on a particular website. This list notifies Google of all pages on a website, including any links or URLs that may have been undetected by a periodic crawling process.

We can do this in Squarespace because the site map is generated from your website simply by adding /sitemap.xml to your website url. It’s completely automatic and updates every 24 hours. You can connect your sitemap to the Google Search Console to further make sure Google crawls your website.

Optimising your images

Google’s advice is to optimise images. Just like print, the web also has a code of practice. Search engines use alt text. This is alternate text. It is an attribute added to an image tag in HTML. It appears inside the image container when the image can not be displayed. It helps search engines understand what an image is about. Unlike your best friend, bots can’t admire your snaps. So they need a method of doing this and that’s why alt text matters. Squarespace solves this by giving you the change to adjust a caption on upload (or leave it unedited to show the source file name). The platform will automatically generate alt text.

Anchors

Google advised us to write better anchor text. An Anchor is the clickable text below a link. Instead of saying “You can look at this SEO site here”, explain what the site is. Build trust with your users through clarity. So try, “This great site by Andrew Optimsey is really good for SEO, you can click on Optimisey.com here.”

Your user will be happy as they’ll know where they’re going and search engines will love us because it helps users. Squarespace helps us by allowing links to internal pages, external pages and documents in the text by using the link button. It’s good practice to check the ‘Open In a New Window’ for all external pages.

Heading weights

Google likes us to use our headings appropriately. If a newspaper was set in one weight, we’d struggle to know what to read first and the same is true of websites. They give a page and a design, structure. It’s a visual cue for users to look at text using hierarchy. Heading tags typically make text larger than body or normal text on a page. Squarespace gives each template up to 3 heading options. Select the text you’d like to change and choose from the options to change it. It’s good for SEO and design.

Beware Spammers on comments.

If you have a site with comments, do use the tools provided by Squarespace to remove spam. This means it complies with Google’s advice to be wary of rel=”nofollow” for links. Blogs can attract some uncomfortable comments with links to nowhere or untrustworthy sites. Nofollowing these unendorsed, user-added links ensures that you’re not leaving your website open to other spammer site. Squarespace offers several ways to manage this. You can set up moderated comments in the site set up. You can also Delete or Delete & Report Spam when you’re reviewing comments right on the blog post.

Robots

It’s getting a bit like Doctor Who isn’t it? Google doesn’t mean cybermen thankfully when it says make use of robots.txt. What this means is that you may want to tell Google that you don’t want some of your site crawled. For example, that page you keep fiddling about with that’s not yet finished and you probably ought to get back to… yes, that one. To stop Google having to read through it and judge you badly for not finishing it, go to the Your Site Map help file and you can clearly see that they helpfully don’t submit any disabled pages, pages with passwords, and the individual URls of pages within an Index Page. But also bear in mind that if you have a disabled or non-linked page you want to show, pop it to the linked menu and link it correctly in your site.

Mobile websites

Google needs to know about mobile sites. This is because they aren’t the same as a desktop view and they are managed differently. All Squarespace sites have a mobile view with mobile responsiveness. You can also click on AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to optimise the site for mobiles using a stripped down view. This also improves site speed.

Did that help?

If you found that helpful and you’d like to know more about Squarespace then check out what it’s like design a website with Hello Lovely by reading my helpful hints. How does your SEO and Squarespace measure up?

Image credit: Unsplash, Nik Shuliahin