You may have heard that Squarespace is “bad for SEO,” but is there any truth to that?
For those who aren’t familiar with Squarespace, it is a website creation tool that is designed to make beautiful looking websites very simple to do, for those without any special design skills or experience.
This post isn’t a review or an endorsement of Squarespace, but rather an attempt to show that you absolutely can do well in the search engines with a Squarespace site and show you exactly how you can do it.
Shall we begin?
Squarespace SEO: The Reality
When I think of search engine optimization (SEO) I think in the context of organic, search engine traffic. In other words, how well is my site doing in the search engines as far as ranking for the keywords I want to rank for, etc.
In simple terms, optimizing your website for the search engines is about doing 2 things:
First, you need to do a good job of on-page SEO and create content that is relevant and high quality. Second, you need to do good “off-page” SEO by doing things like getting high quality websites to link back to you.
This process helps search engines understand what your site is about, know that it is high quality content, and demonstrates that other authoritative sites vouch for you by linking back to you.
While that is a high level overview of SEO, the question is “can one do those things while using Squarespace?”
For the answer, I think we should explore 2 things:
1. What do experts and people who know way more than me think about it?
2. What kind of proof is there for Squarespace sites doing well in search?
For the first one, Squarespace gets a pretty big endorsement from the Wizard of Moz himself, Rand Fishkin. He said the following in a discussion thread:
Since Rand has forgotten more about SEO than I’ll ever know, I take his word pretty seriously. Why would he take the time to comment on a discussion about Squarespace SEO unless he felt strongly about it.
More important than what Rand Fishkin or anybody else has to say are the actual results.
I read with great interest a post from Elle and Company Design about their experience with Squarespace. They talked about some of the basics of SEO, but then shared their own traffic numbers, showing that they had grown by over 500% in a 4 month period using Squarespace. Here is the image they used to show the traffic trend:
They concluded by saying “It’s a fair assessment that Squarespace’s SEO capabilities have not slowed down Elle and Company’s traffic.”
I think that’s very fair to say.
SEO Isn’t A Magic Pill
Giving just one example of a company who is using Squarespace and seeing organic traffic skyrocket helps prove just one small thing:
You can do well in the search engines with a Squarespace website.
Notice that I didn’t say “you will do well” or even “most people do well.” However, having a Squarespace site that ranks well in Google is certainly possible. The key thing to understand is that there is no “magic pill” when it comes to SEO.
Nobody can just sprinkle some SEO dust on your website and make you rank well in Google.
So if your website isn’t very good on WordPress, moving it to Squarespace isn’t going to suddenly open the traffic floodgates. The opposite is also true. If you have a Squarespace site that gets no search engine traffic, simply moving it over to WordPress isn’t going to fix the problem – even if WordPress is “better for SEO.”
No, it takes some work and some know how – no matter which website builder or content management platform you are using.
Here’s how you can do effective SEO with Squarespace:
Cover Your Bases
Remember that Google ranks specific pages, and not websites.
I’ve used the example before about a personal baseball website of mine to demonstrate this point. I could have the greatest baseball website in the world, but if I don’t have a page that is on the topic of Fenway Park, then I’m not going to rank well for searches people do about that stadium.
Instead, sites that have a page devoted to the ins and outs of Fenway Park will be ranking for that term because their page is a better match than anything I have to offer, even if my site overall is much better.
I think it’s important to understand this basic point so you can apply it to your own business.
While it would be great to have your home page ranking well for all the different search terms you covet, it makes a lot of sense to use your blog and other pages on your site to focus on specific keywords that you’d also like to rank for. (More on this later).
In Squarespace, you can easily make sure that each page is targeted and focused on whatever keyword you are trying to rank for by clicking on “settings” to reveal the page configuration:
The page title and page description are critical parts of on-page SEO.
The page title should be about 55 characters in length, which is about all that will be displayed in Google before it is cut off. Likewise your description shouldn’t exceed 160 characters as it will be cut off after that in Google.
Also further down on the page configuration for Squarespace is the ability to change the URL slug of your page:
This can also be useful for both SEO and for your human visitors. For instance, if you are a wedding photographer in Miami and put together a page about the most scenic wedding venues in the area, your Squarespace configuration might look like this:
Then my URL slug would just be “Miami-wedding-venues” to make things simple.
Therefore, instead of a URL that looks like “www.miamiphoto.com/the-15-most-beautiful-wedding-venues-in-miami”
I can just have “www.miamiphoto.com/miami-wedding-venues”
Much simpler, right?
So assuming that this page is designed to rank for the keyword “Miami Wedding Venues” or “Wedding Venues in Miami,” I’m off to a pretty good start.
I’ve used that keyword in my page title, page description, and as a bonus I’ve got it as part of my URL. Best of all, my title and description are very natural and pleasing to a human visitor – not some keyword-stuffed nonsense like this:
See the difference?
Making sure that every page you build has a well thought out title, description, and URL will put you ahead of the game. Once you’ve done that, make sure that as you add images to your posts or pages, that you use Alt text to further demonstrate what your page is about to the search engines.
Click here to learn more about Alt text in Squarespace.
Now that we’ve talked about how you can set up your Squarespace SEO on a page by page basis, you may be wondering how you can know what to target with your content.
I used “Miami wedding venues” as an example keyword to focus on, but how do you know which keywords are best for your business?
The Importance of Keywords
Keywords matter whether you are using Squarespace, WordPress, or any other website builder.
A “keyword” simply means something that gets searched in Google (or another search engine). Keyword research is the process of finding out what people in your industry are searching for, and analyzing the competition so you can know which keywords you should be targeting.
If you don’t know which keywords to target, you’ll be limited with the kind of SEO you can do in Squarespace.
After all, how will you know what your page titles, descriptions, and content should be optimized for?
Blindly guessing isn’t a smart strategy.
It’s better to know how often a given phrase like “Miami wedding venues” is searched in a month, and perhaps more importantly to understand how fierce the competition is in the top 10 results of Google for that search term.
After all, if you are targeting things that are too generic and too competitive then your on-page SEO likely won’t matter much.
My suggestion is that you look for keywords in your industry that get decent search volume, and also have relatively low competition. By targeting these long tail keywords, you’ll have a better chance to rank well in Google because you are laser focused on something that you can realistically compete for.
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SEO For Squarespace Blog Posts
At the time of this writing, Squarespace doesn’t do as good of a job on opening up your SEO options on blog posts.
Specifically, there is no meta description field that you can type in yourself. The image below comes from HubSpot who said the following about meta descriptions: “In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a meta description is the snippet of information below the link of a search result. Its purpose is to describe the contents of the page to the searcher. The end goal is to convince and persuade the searcher to click through to your website. Any words that match the search term are bolded in the description.
The image below shows you the basic anatomy of a search result, including where the meta description fits in.”
The point of HubSpot’s article, which I completely agree with, is that when you can specify a meta description you are really getting an opportunity to “sell” the searcher on your site. In other words, besides ranking in the search engines you also want them to click on your page when they see it in Google. So a compelling description can help make that happen.
What happens when you don’t specify a meta description? Again, Hubspot did a good job explaining this: “Should you fail to put in a meta description for the pages you want to rank for, Google will display a snippet of text from the first paragraph of your page. If there’s a search keyword in that text, it’ll be bolded. Why is this bad? Well, it means you’ll miss out on being able to sell to your prospective buyers. Now what salesperson would miss out on that opportunity?”
It’s pretty common to have access to the meta description field on blog posts in Squarespace competitors like Weebly and obviously WordPress, so maybe they’ll add it at some point. For now, I don’t think it’s a deal breaker for most people but something to be aware of if you are still making a decision on where to build your website. By the way, if you’re still deciding between platforms, we have you covered – we have comparison posts about Wix vs Weebly, Weebly vs Squarespace, and Weebly vs WordPress.
So what SEO can you do on Squarespace blog posts?
Even though you don’t have a meta description field to work with, you do have control over other important factors. Obviously, you can set the post title – which should absolutely include your keyword (assuming you are focused on a specific keyword with your post). In the image below, I’ve set my blog post title to “How To Build A Shelf – DIY Project.”
Next, you can click on “options” in the top-right corner and have control over your URL. Notice below how the standard URL came out when I didn’t specify anything. Ugly, right?
You should take a moment and change that URL to be more search engine and human friendly. If you’re doing a keyword focused post, see if you can use the keyword or at least part of the keyword in your URL – this helps indicate what your blog post is about.
Doesn’t a URL ending in “how-to-build-a-shelf” carry more meaning to you and to Google than one ending in “2335k6bgzi1qfhnpd6xfs2rfg7mlfn”?
I’d also add the excerpt, which is what someone would see on your main blog page before clicking on “Read More” to see your full post. Finally, I’d always specify a thumbnail image so my blog post looks its best.
Here’s what I’m left with after making these quick changes:
Is Squarespace the best platform for SEO?
However, there is quite a bit you can do as we’ve covered above. Also, focusing on the right long tail keywords has nothing to do with Squarespace and is half the battle. You could do the best on-page SEO in the world, but if you are targeting keywords that are way too competitive you probably won’t rank well for those terms either way.
So you absolutely can use Squarespace to implement a long tail keyword traffic strategy and do just fine.
My final point is this; if you love Squarespace and find it easy to work with and it is working well for your business – then stick with it. Go back and make sure you are “covering the bases” that I listed above, and make that part of your process moving forward.
Make sure you weigh the cost of your time and effort for moving your website to a different platform against the benefits of moving. As mentioned, following the right content strategy for your Squarespace site will leave you in a strong position, and ahead of many of your competitors.
Best of luck!
If you’re a Squarespace user and have any Squarespace SEO Tips to share, please do so below!