Improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Squarespace Websites
Squarespace has quickly established itself as the go-to platform for individuals and businesses of all sizes. Our company believes in Squarespace so much that we not only recommend it to all of our clients whether they are comedians, non-profits, or large hotels, but we also built our own site on Squarespace.
One of the powerful elements of all of Squarespace’s templates are the built-in Search Engine Optimization tools. Using these tools and a few other best practices, it is possible to increase your website’s visibility to search engines. What follows is not an exhaustive list of everything that is possible to increase SEO for your website on Squarespace, but rather a few places to get started in your SEO effort. At the end of the article are some additional resources to take your SEO to the next level after performing these foundational tasks.
But first, a word about keywords.
Keywords for Squarespace Websites
When people use search engines, users will submit keywords to find relevant sites. Therefore, it is helpful to consider those keywords and implement them into your website. There are many places in Squarespace to integrate keywords, but you also need to be aware of taking it too far. There once was a time when search engines weren’t so smart, and a good strategy for website owners was to come up with hundreds and hundreds of keywords and paint them all over their website - this is called “keyword stuffing”. “Keyword stuffing” can be off-putting to users of your site, because it is prioritizing how a bot is viewing your website versus a human. For better or for worse (we think for the better), search engines have gotten better at knowing when sites are using way too many keywords, and in fact, might count it against you in search engine results. Squarespace provides a helpful support document for how to define keywords for your website and best practices.
Keywords are important and should be used strategically, but the most important thing you can do for your website is to have good content. Keywords can help optimize but ensuring the content on your site is high quality, relevant, and descriptive of your site’s purpose are all far more important.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s look at some of the first things you can do to start search engine optimization for your Squarespace website.
Ensure SSL is Enabled
In short, SSL is a security technology to establish an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. It is particularly important if people are submitting personal or financial information on your website. Even if you aren’t, it is important to have an SSL certificate installed on your website, because over the past few years search engines take the presence of SSL in consideration and place importance on it. Squarespace provides free SSL by going to SETTINGS then ADVANCED then SSL. You will want to select Secure and HSTS Secure.
Set Up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google and Bing provide search tools that help manage your website’s presence online. These tools perform two main functions. First, search engines periodically scan your website. These tools allow you to request an immediate re-index of your website, when you make significant changes rather than waiting for the next periodic scan. The second benefit of these tools enables you to see what search queries people are are entering that lead to clicks to your website in Squarespace Analytics. Furthermore, for the search keywords you can see what your average position on the results page is. This can help inform what content you create for your website. For instance, if you are a hotel and most people are searching terms related to your restaurant, you might want to consider building out content related to the restaurant to improve the rank you appear on the search results page of Google or Bing.
Optimize Page Settings for URL Slug, Page Title, SEO Title, and SEO Description
Squarespace provides several tools for search engine optimization accessible through the page settings. You access these settings by hovering over a page on the left side and clicking the gear icon. The first tab, Basic, allows you to set the Navigation Title, the URL Slug, and the Page Title. The second tab allows you to set the SEO Title and the SEO Description. The third tab, Social, allows you to set a Social Sharing Image for your website. Each of these elements have dual purposes: they are looked at by search engines and they are visible to users.
Navigation Title: This is what is visible on your website in your navigation menu. This should be concise and helpful for people navigating your website. This is should not be considered in terms of SEO but rather just helpfulness to visitors of your website
URL Slug: This is the actual URL for your webpage. It should be both clear to the user and reflect properly what is on the website for search engines to index. You can incorporate keywords into the URL but you do not want to “keyword stuff” and add too many as it will both make the URL less helpful to users and might be negatively viewed by search engines. For example, if you are a comedian and you have a page on your website for your upcoming tour dates you might want to use the url /comedy-tour-dates but not go overboard and use /stand-up-comedy-funny-tour-dates-live-hilarious-tickets-events.
Page Title: The page title can be different than the Navigation Title and is prioritized by search engines. The page title is also viewable to users in the tab of their web browser. The Page Title is a good location to selectively use keywords without going overboard since it is viewable to website visitors. For instance, if your website is for a hotel which has a boutique shop you might want to have the navigation title be “Shop” but have the page title be “Stylish Boutique Shopping”.
SEO Title: The SEO Title allows you to specify what the title of the link to your website is in search engine results and are indexed by search engines so this is another opportunity to integrate keywords but once again do not “keyword stuff” since these titles are visible to users viewing your site on search engines. If you do not edit this, search engines will show your Page Title. Depending on your specific use case, it might make sense to have these titles different. As a general rule of thumb, we always add a SEO Title even if it is the same as the Page Title.
SEO Description: The SEO description allows to define the body of text shown under the SEO Title and URL in search results. Depending on the search engine, descriptions displayed can be 50 to 300 characters long. This text is both indexed by search engines and viewable to people viewing search results so it should include keywords but also flow naturally and entice users to click through to your website.
Social Sharing Image: Although not directly tied to SEO, adding a social sharing image to your website can help drive traffic to your website. When you share a link on Facebook or Twitter, the social media site will automatically generate a share card that will pull in the SEO title, SEO description and an image. If you do not upload an image to this part of Squarespace, the social platform will pull in your logo which isn’t always ideal. This is an opportunity for you to upload an engaging photo that will entice users to click through to your website.
Optimize Images on Squarespace for Search Engine Optimization
Search engines take into consideration the speed of your website and page load times. One of the most effective ways to improve your website’s load time is to optimize the size of the images on your website. As a general rule that we use, is that banner images should be around 100kb large and all other images should be under 75kb. There are a variety of tools to help this process. The first type of tool is one that will crawl your website to find large images. This is helpful if you have a ton of images and be too time consuming to go through and optimize each image. One of the best tools for this is Screaming Frog. Once you have identified the large images on your website, you will want to make those images smaller while still retaining a high quality. A great tool for doing this is Squoosh. Squoosh allows you to upload an image and change its quality, size, and file format. You can quickly tweak a variety of settings and see the resulting image in real time. This is helpful to tweak as much as you can to get the file size small, while still making sure the image doesn't get too pixelated or low quality.
The second element relating to images and search engines that you will want to consider is alt-tags. Alt text is text behind the scenes in the code associated with an image. Search engines use alt text to help determine the content of a page and understand your site to better present your website in relevant searches. This is a fantastic place to include keywords while also being careful not to “keyword stuff.” Here is a helpful guide to adding alt text to images on your site.
Blogging, Blogging, Blogging
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, content is the single most important thing you can do to improve SEO for your website. Including a blog on your website and frequently updating it is a powerful way to increase SEO and drive traffic to your website. When determining what you should blog about, you can use your keywords as well as review search terms from Google Search Console to guide the creation of your blog content. For our personal site, the large majority of our website traffic is from search and the majority of that search traffic is driven to blog content.
This article has covered the core elements of making your website search engine friendly. In a future article we will discuss what Phase 2 of a SEO program for your website entails. In the meantime, here are some helpful resources for additional search engine optimization items you can work on: