Are you wondering how to rank your Squarespace website in 2019? Need to reach more customers? A lot of details go into ranking a webpage, but SEO is straightforward when you understand the basics of search engine optimization. This Squarespace SEO guide covers the essential steps to get started with your optimization project.
On-Page vs Off-Page SEO
Search engine optimization encompasses two practices: on-page SEO (optimizing your website itself) and off-page SEO (increasing external signals to impact your site’s authority). Both practices can help to gain traffic from search engines, but according to Search Engine Journal:
“Links are important, but the biggest bang for most companies’ SEO bucks is ongoing on-page optimization.”
Even Google tells us that to achieve big SEO results, we can start with small, simple changes to a site — this is Google’s approach to managing their own 7000 websites:
“…there are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your website. Paid media, social posts, and display advertising are just a few. But, when done well, SEO can provide an important — and cost-effective — strategy for organic growth.”
So before you start increasing your site’s authority with links, reviews, citations, and other off-page best practices, use the Squarespace SEO checklist below to make sure your website is search-friendly.
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Is Squarespace SEO Friendly?
Yes! First, let's look at a few SEO benefits that are built into the Squarespace platform:
Sitemaps: Squarespace sites come with an automatic XML sitemap. Your sitemap stays current and includes all your page URLs and image metadata for SEO-friendly indexing. Read what Google says about sitemaps.
SSL Certificates: Squarespace offers free SSL certificates to all customers. Your site visitors get a secure connection on every page of your site. Google rewards you for adopting HTTPS.
Mobile-friendly: All Squarespace themes are responsive. Your content and images are automatically resized to fit different devices and screen widths. A mobile-friendly site is critical for Google.
Clean HTML and URLs: Your HTML markup and URLs are easily indexed.
Did you know? If you are evaluating WordPress versus Squarespace, you will not find a “Yoast for Squarespace” or a SEO plugin for Squarespace.
How to do SEO on Squarespace
Step 1. Do Keyword Research
Before you do anything else, consider your keywords. Keyword or keyphrase research is a valid way to help optimize your site because you will discover related topics and user questions. Modern SEO is more about topic optimization and searcher intent than simple keywords.
Make a list of the keywords you want a topic page to target. If the keywords are extremely similar, then choose one word or phrase to represent similar keywords. Search for your topics on Google and look at your competition to assess the difficulty of ranking. The stronger the competition, the harder it will be for you to rank above them — consider your competition's popularity, authority, backlinks, and social signals.
Be careful not to over-optimize a page, as this might have a negative impact. You might use a keyword in the title tag, once in a header, and a few times in the main content. There isn’t an exact keyword density that you should be using. Our recommendation is to write first, then review your copy for keywords and related terms.
One of the first questions people tend to ask is: “Where do I put keywords on Squarespace?”, but it isn't quite this simple. Sure, there are important places to use keywords (see below), but SEO is not just inserting a list of keywords and calling it a day. What you should ask is: “Does my content satisfy the user’s intent?”.
Related Resource // How to Find Keywords
Step 2. Offer High Quality Content
Search engine algorithms continue to become more sophisticated, so providing quality content is one the most important factors to rank in search. You must provide exceptional, unique content that answers the questions of your potential customers. According to Search Engine Journal:
“The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”
Behind every successful SEO campaign is a solid content strategy emphasizing top-notch content. So, as Google gets better at providing relevant search results, what can you do?
Write content that addresses searcher intent.
Write as naturally possible. Do not overuse one word or phrase in your content — instead, use many phrases and concepts that are associated with your main topic.
Focus on quality over quantity.
Again, when you focus on your readers this will provide search engines with enough information to know what a page is about. The content on your website is a large factor in ranking, so it is critical that you put effort into it.
Did you know? Less is more. If you have many pages of poor quality, you will dilute your overall domain authority. Keep your content rich. When appropriate, combine your content into fewer pages.
Related Resource // How to Write Blogs that Rank
Step 3. Optimize Your Title Tags
Title tags are key for search engines. On Squarespace, your title tag will default to the title of a page (or blog post, product, event, etc.) plus your site title — any of this information can be customized if desired.
Individual titles can be updated and optimized by hovering over a page and clicking the settings icon (see the screenshot above for an example), then just click on the SEO tab to make changes. Our best advice: be clear not cute with titles. You want titles to be keyword rich, but not spammy. The title tag of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page's content.
Keep your titles under 60 characters.
Ensure each page’s title is unique and descriptive.
Remember keywords matter, but avoid titles that are just a list of keywords or repeated variations.
Step 4. Use Keywords in Headings and Meta Descriptions
Using keywords in headings and meta descriptions can be helpful.
For headings, it is common to use the main keyword of the page in the <h1> tag. Organize other content clearly with sub-headings using the <h2> and <h3> tags.
Did you know? When building an index page with different sections, Google says multiple H1 elements on different parts of the page are acceptable if done properly.
You can also use keywords in meta descriptions. Descriptions aren't a ranking factor, but highly relevant meta descriptions can encourage people to visit your site (these are the short summaries of your pages that appear in the search engine results). Again, write naturally as you are hoping to encourage click-throughs from the SERPs. But remember, whether you write descriptions or not, Google will sometimes pull other text from your page to better answer a searcher's query.
How to add meta descriptions to various pages:
Home page: Marketing > SEO > Site Meta Description
Individual pages: Pages > Page Settings > SEO > SEO Description
Blogs, products, or events: Select the blog post (product or event) > Edit > Options > Excerpt
Related Resource // Google's Advice for Page Titles & Snippets
Step 5. Simplify URLs
Google recommends keeping your URL structure as simple as possible. So consider shortening URLs. As an example, a blog post with the title "Learn Dog Walking From A Pro" could be changed to the following URL structure:
Make sure to use hyphens (-) between words for readability. Removing unnecessary words will make a URL shorter and easier to read. It can also make it easier to share the URL on social networks, especially those with a character limit such as Twitter.
Did you know? If you change an existing URL, you are actually moving a web page. Implement URL redirects to prevent broken links.
On Squarespace watch out for meaningless URL slugs — this happens when you save a blog, event, or product before adding a title, so a string of random characters is used for the URL. Verify that the URLs on your site use real words.
Step 6. Improve Your Images
Images are often forgotten in Squarespace SEO, but they are important and should be optimized. A fast-loading image will improve the overall page speed, which is a ranking factor for Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Did you know? You can use online compression tools to reduce images before uploading to your website.
And most search engines have an image search function — images from your website showing up in these results can lead more visitors to your website. Use descriptive words in your image alt text to give search engines more information — for many images, this will be the caption text. Learn more here. As with everything on your site, keep these bits of content readable and relevant.
Related Resource // Squarespace's guide on formatting images for the web
Step 7. Remove Duplicate Content
Most website owners have heard that duplicate content is strongly discouraged and that copying content from another website could result in a penalty. But this rule can also applies to duplicate content found on your own website if you have URLs competing for the same query. For long-term site health, it is important to clean up your content.
Beyond Google Search Console, these SEO tools can help analyze your site and identify duplicate content or other issues:
Step 8. Turn on SSL
Google encourages HTTPS connections everywhere for a more secure web, and it is a positive ranking signal. New Squarespace accounts have SSL turned on by default, but many owners of older Squarespace websites are unaware that Squarespace now offers free SSL certificates.
Did you know? When you make the switch, you will also want to update valuable external links and analytics accounts from HTTP to HTTPS.
Make sure your Google Analytics account is tracking the correct property
Submit the HTTPS versions of your site to Search Console
Update any social media accounts
Related Resource // SSL and Squarespace: Everything your small business needs to know
Step 9. Link Internally
Look for internal linking opportunities. Relevant pages or blog posts can be linked to within your content (not just from your main navigation menu). Help your site visitors find the information they want.
Step 10. List Your Location
If you are a brick-and-mortar business, your physical address should be displayed on your site. See this article for more details specific to local SEO for small businesses. Make it easy for your customers to find you. Almost every business should display a Contact page.
Related Resource // Optimizing A Contact Page
Step 11. Add Schema Markup
Schema markup — also called “structured data” — is a special type of information you can place in your site’s code to help obtain rich snippets in search results.
Rich snippets (not to be confused with featured snippets) are little bits of extra information telling searchers more about your content. For example, on recipes you can display ratings, calories, or prep time. Or on events you might include the dates of upcoming shows.
Using schema markup on your site will not directly impact rankings, but rather the rich results can help you stand out from other listings, which can help increase your click through rate (CTR). If your content would benefit from rich snippets, check out these resources from Google:
Step 12. Consider Hreflang
Do you have a multilingual website? If you hope to target content to different languages or regions, implement hreflang tags on your site.
Step 13. Optimize for Mobile & Voice Search
Acknowledge that mobile search and voice search are here to stay and pay attention to capturing this traffic. Take another look at your content to keep the context of your site relevant to users — talk and think like your intended audience.
If your site is already well optimized for search engines, then you should be optimized for mobile devices. But because page speed is even more important for mobile users than desktop users, use Google’s mobile speed test to check your site.
Voice searches tend to contain more words and also may be more targeted. For example, if a shoe company previously optimized for ‘white sneakers’, now they may want to consider long tail queries such as, “where are the cheapest white sneakers?” Again, your SEO efforts need to shift focus towards user intent: answer people’s questions and solve people’s problems.
Step 14. Create a Custom 404 Page
A 404 code is a signal that says an original page is missing — also known as a broken link.
As your website grows, broken links are almost inevitable. Mistakes happen. At some point, a site visitor will mistype a URL or click a link that you forgot to change. What do your site visitors see if they visit a bad link? See for yourself by trying to visit a URL that you know doesn’t exist on your website (example: www.yourdomain.com/xyz).
Did you know? You can change the default 404 page on your Squarespace site.
One common misconception regarding 404s is that it is best practice to simply redirect to the Home page, but this is not preferred because it can can make for a poor user experience. Why? Site visitors may not realize the page they were trying to find doesn't exist which can cause confusion or frustration.
How does a good 404 experience help SEO? One reason is that the length of time site visitors stay on your website is noted by search engines, so always do your best to help your users explore your site and find the content they need. This email series has more information on how to create this page.
Step 15. Turn on AMP
If you have a blog, consider enabling AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google prioritizes AMP results in mobile searches because the content loads faster which improves overall user experience.
While AMP may not yet be a ranking factor, the improved user experience can lead to a lower bounce rate, and the priority placement in search results can lead to more clickthroughs, both of which affect SEO.
Before you jump in and toggle on AMP, get clear on how the AMP version of your blog posts will appear to users because it is different from the regular styling of your website. AMP formatting strips down a page’s HTML to the essentials. On Squarespace, this means that block types won’t appear on AMP posts (examples include summary blocks and calendars).
For a preview of what your blogs would look like with AMP turned on, simply add "?format=amp" to the end of a post URL. This can be done on either a desktop or a mobile device.
If AMP is the right choice for your site: visit Settings > Blogging > scroll down and click Use AMP > click Save
Step 16. Submit Your Sitemap and Content Changes
Did you know? Your built-in Squarespace XML sitemap can be found here: www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
When you create new content or make updates, it can take a while for search engines to notice changes made to your site. But by using the free search tools offered by Google and Bing, you will speed up the re-indexing process.
For step-by-step instructions on how to add your website to Google Search Console, request this free email series.
Step 17. Learn How to Structure Your Content
Learn more about how to write blog posts that rank. Follow best practices for content structure to engage readers and keep them on your site.
If your page is well-structured and ranks, then you might snag a featured snippet. A featured snippet is the answer box displayed above the organic search results. These answers are taken directly from articles and blogs. Unlike rich snippets, there is no special code to use to gain a featured snippet.
Step 18. Check your Favicon
Your favicon is the small icon that represents your brand that is typically seen in a browser's address bar, in a bookmark list, etc. Google’s latest mobile search design shows favicons in search results. If a favicon goes against Google’s guidelines, then in mobile search results it will be reset to a default icon.
The most common issue we’ve seen is when the uploaded favicon file is not a proper size — it should be a multiple of 48px square: 48x48px, 96x96px, and so on. Make sure the image looks good at a smaller scale because Google resizes it to 16x16px.
This will not directly impact rankings, but it could impact click through rates (CTR) on mobile devices.
Follow Best Practices for SEO on Squarespace
These Squarespace SEO tips give you a great start for auditing your website. All-in-all, it boils down to the fact that you need a well-constructed, secure website that loads quickly, it should have quality content, and it should quickly tell people about your business. Follow proven SEO practices and you’ll do fine.
In addition to optimizing your site, next you’ll want to promote your content to increase traffic to your website — for starters, use social media and your email list. And you need to consider what is required to convert visitors once they land on your site (i.e. conversion rate optimization, CRO).
Want more SEO help? Other resources:
Small Business Content Marketing — Common sense advice on how to market your business online.
Google's SEO Starter Guide — Learn how to build a search-engine-friendly website directly from Google.
Squarespace SEO Checklist — For years, Squarespace’s knowledge base only said “SEO strategy falls outside of the scope of Squarespace support,” but in late 2018 they posted this checklist. It is a high-level compilation of the action items discussed above and you can use it to make sure you have everything covered.
And last but not least, remember SEO takes time — as the Google Webmaster video above points out, it can take anywhere from 4 months to a year to implement improvements and see the resulting benefits — so get started soon!
Want more help with Squarespace SEO?
Many people learn better by watching versus reading. We offer SEO consultations and personalized training sessions via screen share. During a consult, we can make suggested SEO updates to your site as we talk.
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