Does your Squarespace website need more traffic? Business to Consumer (B2C) companies need a steady stream of visitors who are ready, willing, and able to buy, while Business to Business (B2B) companies need to continuously generate leads for their sales pipelines. If website traffic is the lifeblood of your organization, keep reading to learn more about two primary methods of increasing website traffic: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
SEO & SEM Explained
SEO is the process of fine-tuning your website and other digital content so that it receives organic (free) traffic from all the search engines. But in reality, SEO is about optimizing for Google — with nearly 80% of the total global market share, Google should be the focus of any SEO strategy.
Effective SEO offers several compelling benefits, including increased web traffic, greater visibility, and better rankings — all of which can translate into a stronger bottom line. Because it can theoretically be accomplished without hard costs, SEO can also deliver a higher Return on Investment (ROI) than other marketing initiatives.
When done well, SEO provides an enhanced User Experience (UX), which encourages visitors to stay on the site longer and click through more often.
Getting your Squarespace website on the first Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is critical because only a small percentage of searchers ever make it to the second page. Most searchers look at the first page and if they don't find what they're looking for, they enter a new query.
It's extremely difficult to reach the first SERP in highly competitive industries such as travel through SEO alone. Results for queries like "Paris hotels" or "London flights" will be dominated by companies like Expedia, KAYAK, TripAdvisor, and British Airways.
In circumstances like that, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) — in which you promote your website through paid advertising — can be a more effective way to appear on the first SERP. Also known as Paid Search, SEM includes Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising with Google AdWords and Bing Ads, the two most popular platforms.
PPC ads appear in the sponsored ad section at the top or right sidebar, and as the name implies, you pay every time someone clicks on the link. Advertisers bid on the keywords they believe will bring them qualified traffic and then write copy designed to drive action.
How search engines work
The goal of search engines is to provide web searchers with the best, most relevant information. They do this by sending crawlers or spiders out to comb the web and then catalog what they find, based on popularity and relevance.
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Search engines develop algorithms that use various data points to rank the content they discover. Google's algorithm has an estimated 200 data points, with things like keywords, tags, links, content length, and site performance all taken into account.
In their quest to continuously improve the results they return, Google tweaks their algorithm periodically, so what worked before the last update may not work as well today -- which means it's essential to stay informed about and respond to updates and adjustments.
The fastest, easiest way to optimize your site is to hire a reputable Squarespace SEO company or consultant. Be wary of anyone who promises unrealistic results. Google frowns on shortcuts and if they perceive that your site has manipulated the algorithm unfairly, their punishment can be extremely damaging.
Depending on how complex your site is, optimizing it yourself could also be a realistic option — if you have enough time. Although SEO has changed over the years, the fundamentals are still valid.
Choose & Use keywords wisely
Search engines determine what webpages are about by reading the words they contain, so it's vital that you include the search terms you want to rank for in the copy on the page. If you're unsure which terms to use, do keyword research to discover what terms or search queries customers like yours might use when they search.
To get started, jot down a list of relevant terms that describe your products or services. Enter them as search queries in the most popular search engines to learn which of your competitors are ranking well for those terms. Also, make note of how many paid search ads appear on the page - this will give you a good idea of the value of that keyword.
Use one of the many online keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, to find other related keywords and their relative popularity. Creating buyer personas of your best customers and then trying to predict what they would search for can also be a very effective keyword selection strategy.
There are three primary kinds of queries — I want to do something (like reserve a hotel room), I want to know something (like how many NBA teams there are), or I want to go somewhere (like the DMV website). Consider these queries when formulating your keyword strategy. For example, adding "where is the DMV" to the list of DMV site keywords might be a smart idea.
As a rule, long-tail keywords like "men's-brown-oxford-shoes" will be easier to rank for than shorter terms like "shoes." Long-tail keywords will generate less traffic, but the traffic will be better qualified. It's estimated that 70 percent of searches are long-tail queries.
Years ago, keyword density — the number of times a keyword appeared on a page — was a factor in the algorithm. Unfortunately, this led to the black-hat practice of keyword stuffing. These days, you're better off using your keywords only as often as they naturally appear. Using them gratuitously will do more harm than good.
Your goal should always be to provide the reader with useful information that reads well, adds value, and answers the reader's question or solves her problem, meaning SEO takes a back seat to UX.
However, when all things are equal, it's a good idea to use your primary keyword in the title tag, in the first paragraph of copy, in the alt tag that describes an image, in the URL, and in the meta tag. Use variations of the keyword throughout the body copy, being careful to avoid redundancy.
For best results include your keyword:
- Near the beginning of the title tag (the description that appears at the top of the browser bar). Try to accurately describe what the page is about in fewer than 60 characters.
- In the meta description (the blurb that appears under the title on the SERP). Since the meta description helps the reader decide whether or not to clink on the link, the copy should be compelling. Keep it under 160 characters.
- In the page's URL. Keep it simple, avoid using unusual characters, and separate words with hyphens.
- In any alt tags used to describe photographs or other images.
Build high-quality links back to your site
Links may be less important than they once were, but link-building is still an essential part of SEO. When it comes to links, Google looks at several different things -- the number of other sites that link to yours, the anchor text of those sites, and their quality.
The best links to your site will be from well-established and trusted sites with relevant content. For example, if your business is a bakery, a link from a swimming pool company won't carry much weight.
Link building takes persistence and dedication. It's also risky because if you do it the wrong way, Google can penalize your site.
Today, there are two responsible ways to build links. The first is to create content that is so superior that other sites will be compelled to link to it. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you can pull it off, you'll reap big rewards.
The second method involves reaching out to others and asking them to link back to your content. Some successful tactics include emailing influential bloggers in the field, submitting content to directories, and writing guest posts on others' blogs in return for a link.
If your Squarespace website doesn't include a blog, consider creating one. Google loves fresh content, and a blog gives you the opportunity to create articles on hot topics that are of interest to others.
Whatever your link-building strategy, keep in mind that the search engines get better at detecting unnatural links every day. If you hire a company to do your SEO and SEM, make sure any link building they do is ethical.
Other SEO Considerations
SEO isn't something you can just set and forget — it's a continually evolving process. In order to get satisfactory results, your optimization efforts must be ongoing, and you'll want to update your Squarespace website as things change. Here are a few topics you'll want to stay abreast of moving forward:
- Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2016 to speed up and improve mobile search. The project defined a set of rules for developers that simplifies mobile website design. Because content is cached in the cloud, pages designed using this lighter version of HTML load much faster, provide a better user experience, and tend to achieve better search results and CTRs. And Squarespace offers AMP as an option on all blogs.
- Featured snippets, or rich answers, are the answers to a Google search question that appear in a box at the top of the SERPs. Since a link to the referring website is usually included, becoming a featured snippet can drive a lot of traffic to your site. And for voice searches, Google begins most responses with, "According to < site name >," which can do wonders for your brand and reputation.
To increase the chances of having your content become a featured snippet, identify which long-tail keywords searchers are using, create content that answers a specific question — be sure to include the question in your copy — make the information easy to find and truly helpful, then use schema.org to structure the data. And if desired, you can opt out of featured snippets.
Featured snippet example:
As searcher intent becomes more important, Google will be looking at factors other than keywords, including previous searches, location, apps, and personalized information. This will be especially true for voice search. Understanding searcher intent and how Google is responding to it will position you ahead of your competitors in the future.
- Finally, users today expect an omnichannel approach that provides a consistent experience across channels. Google is rewarding sites that provide a great UX with higher rankings. So make sure your users can interact with you whichever way they prefer.
Decide what's best for you
Before you invest in SEO, figure out whether or not your efforts will be worth your time. When you query your search terms, if the top spots are devoted to companies you can't realistically compete with, website optimization may not get you where you want to go. Choosing niche-targeted, long-tail keywords and testing the water with a PPC campaign might be an approach for you.
If you're going to do SEM yourself, be sure to build in a testing strategy, so you'll be able to determine what worked and what didn't. To make it easy to interpret the results, test only one thing at a time, and continue to optimize your campaigns based on what you learn.
If you decide to hire a search company or consultant, read testimonials carefully, and check their online reputation. Use LinkedIn to get background on company employees, and if you share connections, reach out to them for feedback.
Regardless of whether you focus on SEO or SEM, handle your efforts in-house or outsource them. Your top priority should be providing your site visitors with high-quality, helpful content that positions your business as a trusted resource. In the long run, that's what the search engines will reward moving forward. With the right approach, you can boost traffic to your Squarespace website!
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