10 Easy-To-Action Squarespace SEO Tips
Squarespace is set up with SEO in mind — much more than plugin-hungry Wordpress — and it does most of the work for you. In fact, Squarespace sites are pretty easy to boost up Google's rankings, as long as you follow these SEO tips every time.
Before I launch into the tips, here's a brief intro to SEO, including keyword advice. If I'm teaching you to suck eggs, skip to my 10 best tips for Squarespace SEO.
20 years ago, SEO was about adding the right keywords to your website. Nowadays it's about demonstrating (in language Google understands) that your website is the best source of information in your subject area.
Over the last 10 or 15 years, search engines have got better and better at matching real people with the websites they want.
Ask yourself what you expect when you search Google. Most probably:
- Relevance (to your search phrase)
- Usefulness (for example, the answer to your question or the thing you want to buy)
- Usability (a website that works on your device)
To climb those rankings, you've got to be exactly the website your customers or audience are looking for.
From Google's point of view this translates to a clear identity, lots and lots of regularly updated, relevant content, plenty of links from other trustworthy sites (known as backlinks) and enough traffic to signal genuine interest from real humans, which you can drive to your site from social media and email.
Blogging and social media marketing takes effort and time — or money and time if you get someone else to do it for you. But you can set the foundations of strong SEO yourself by giving your website a solid, consistent identity.
Who are you? (...or how to choose keywords)
Consider the words and short phrases that describe what you provide. What will your customers type into Google to find someone like you? Be specific. Is there an aspect of your work that you particularly excel at or enjoy? Make a list of possible keywords and phrases by typing a search term into Google. Include your location if you provide a service locally. As you type you'll be offered further search phrase ideas. Towards the bottom of the results page you'll be offered search alternatives to try.
Selecting keywords isn't easy, but ‘what you do and where you do it' is a good place to start.
If you haven't yet purchased a domain yet, consider these possibilities:
- Use your clearest keyword or phrase in your domain name. For example, ‘dobsonsplumbing' is clearer and more helpful than ‘dobsons'.
- Register your domain for years in advance if you can. This is thought to help with search ranking because so many websites are short-lived. A serious business guards its domain with a long-term let.
- Choose a country-level domain (i.e., .co.uk in the UK). This is thought to help you rank in your country but penalise you globally. If you're only targeting an audience in your own country, keep it country level.
My 10 best Squarespace SEO tips...
1. Add keywords to your website name
When your site appears in search results, Google probably displays the name of your business as the main heading (Google yourself to find out).
Savvy sites add keywords to their website name to help Google understand who they are, and to attract more attention in search results. Squarespace makes this easy...
Go to Settings – SEO and change the ‘Homepage Title Format' to look like this:
- "A description of your business" | %s
‘%s' is the name of your business, so your website name should look like this in search results:
- Garforth Tree Surgeons | Mills and Son
- Heating Engineers Penge | Dobsons
Not only will this give you a remarkable kick up the rankings for that specific phrase (depending on who you're competing with), your site name will attract more attention in search results too.
2. Complete the site and search engine description info
While you're in Settings - SEO, add a short description of what you do to ‘Search Engine Description.'
This is a chance to sell your business before customers reach your website and achieve better ‘click-through' from search engine results. Tell them what makes you so special. This description also influences who Google thinks you are — as long as it is consistent with other content on your website — so it can be incredibly powerful.
Add a similar (but not the same) description to Settings – Basic Information – Site Description.
3. Use Your keywords in page titles and descriptions
Page titles and descriptions live in the Settings box for each page (access Settings by clicking the cog next to the name of the page).
- Each page title should be fairly standard and easy to understand at a glance (About, Services, Blog, Portfolio, for example).
- Each page description should be a readable summary that is specific to the page and full of keywords.
It's tempting to use the same description on every page, or to add a simple list of relevant keywords. If you do that you'll get busted by Google, and your customers will spot it when your page descriptions show up in search results. Instead, write a couple of meaningful sentences about what's on the page.
4. Use keywords in Page URLs
For your non-blog pages, consider tweaking the URL in the page Settings so each one includes an important keyword phrase. In this example, ‘tree surgeon' has been added to each URL:
If you post blog articles to your website, rewrite each post URL in the Edit Post - Options dialog box before you set it live. Include keywords, but don't let your URLs get too long. And make sure the same keywords are used in the heading and in the first few words in the post.
5. Use keywords in H1 tags and the top 100 (or so) words of page content
Google checks content in H1 tags and near the top of each page for keywords. If you don't like the style of the heading 1 on your website, change it in the Style Editor rather than using H2 or H3.
The rule here is to work keywords into your titles and content naturally. If you're writing about what you do, this shouldn't be too difficult. If it is difficult, ask yourself whether you're writing the content most relevant to your business and your audience.
6. Put keywords in image alt text where possible (and put them in the filename too)
It's not clear how important keywords in image metadata is to SEO these days, but I'm of a mind that every little helps.
Before you upload an image, change its filename to something descriptive, separating the words with hyphens. Image captions (in image blocks) are converted to ‘alt text', so fill in the caption even when you don't intend to display it.
Here's more from Squarespace about adding alt-text to your images.
7. Switch to HTTPS
HTTPS is a more secure web protocol than HTTP. Using it reassures Google and your audience that you're a reliable, professional business. (Squarespace sites will likely become HTTPS by default later in 2017 as browsers begin to discourage users from accessing HTTP websites).
Go to Settings - Security and SSL and select ‘secure'. If you see an error message (like I did the first time I tried to do this) contact Squarespace for help.
8. Register with Google My Business
Another way to prove to Google that you're a legitimate business is to register with Google My Business. This allows you to verify your business information by requesting a code on a postcard from Google. It also allows you to feature on a map of similar services to yours in search results.
Remember to hide any pages you don't want Google to see.
Make sure you fill in your address both on your contact page (or in the footer on every page) and in the back end, in Settings - Business Information. This is worth doing even if you don't provide services from your business address. Trust me.
9. Verify your website and send a sitemap to Google
The more you flag your website to Google the better. Google Search Console allows you to verify your website then check that Google can see all the pages on your site. You can also submit a sitemap (located at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) to show Google how to display your website in search results.
Google will crawl your site maybe once a month if you're just a tiny local website, but you can also request a crawl via the search console. Do this when you go live and whenever you make big changes to your website.
Here's more from Squarespace about using the search console to verify your website.
10. And the rest...
Here's a selection of simple tips and rules of thumb you can implement on your Squarespace website to help build strong SEO foundations:
- Go niche! If you are a small property consultant looking for search ranking, forget general keyword phrases like "property consult bristol." Large organisations cornered these phrases many years ago and pour huge amounts of money into guarding their rankings. Instead, think of a particular niche that a smaller number of people will search for (for example, "family relocations to Bristol"). The people who find you will be more likely to engage with your business because you are closer to them and their individual circumstances.
- Add new pages (blog posts!) and update your existing posts and pages frequently. Keeping older pages up to date helps them build their search rank steadily over time.
- Link to other relevant and trusted sites from your website. Cite your sources and link back to them.
- Tag your blog posts with relevant keywords.
- Provide value and unique insights to your customers. Longer articles perform better in search results than they used to because they signal rich content.
- Use bullets and numbers to break up your content.
- Add multimedia. Google loves videos.
- Link your website to your social media pages and post to them regularly.
- Install Google Analytics.
A Squarespace website designer based in Oxford, UK, I'm on a mission to turn uninspiring, unloved websites into interesting, relevant experiences that show instantly what you offer and why people need you in their lives. More info.