10 Easy-To-Action Squarespace SEO Tips
Last updated: 25th March, 2019
You can set solid SEO foundations on your Squarespace website by using keywords consistently in all the right places, making every page as uncomplicated as possible, and keeping images as small as you can. Here are my 10 tips for Squarespace SEO, updated for 2019.
Much has changed over the last two years, with Google's algorithm now prioritizing the mobile version over the desktop version of your site for indexing and ranking. Not only do sites have to be keyword optimized, they also have to be fast to load and easy to see and use on a small screen.
The fact is, many of these scary sounding ‘issues’ result from features that make your site more user friendly in other ways. Don’t place too much importance on them. There are a few things you can do to speed up your Squarespace site and I’ll talk you through them in tip 8.
Before I launch into the tips, here's a bit more information about SEO, including keyword advice. If I'm teaching you to suck eggs, skip to my 10 best tips for Squarespace SEO.
How has SEO changed in 2019?
20 years ago, SEO was about adding the right keywords to your website over and over again. Nowadays it means:
Demonstrating that your website is the best source of information in your subject area in the descriptions you use, the content you choose, and the frequency with which you update your content.
Providing a fast-loading, mobile-optimized website.
The goal of a search engine such as Google will always be to match real people with the websites they want. This means your site has to be:
Relevant (to the search phrase)
Useful (for example, it provides the right answer to the question or allows the user to buy the thing they are looking for)
Usable (on all devices, primarily mobile)
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. Increasingly it also means a fast, mobile-optimized website.
Be clear on this: there are no shortcuts to SEO, no secret pieces of code known only to experts that will take your site from page 5 to page 1. SEO is work.
Who are you? (...or how to choose a keyword phrase for your site)
Before you begin to work through these tips, choose a keyword phrase, three or four words that describe what you do and where you do it (if location is relevant).
What will your customers type into Google to find someone like you? Be specific. If you excel in a particular small area of what you do or you work with a specific customer type, use that. Most of us do more than one thing, or know multiple ways to describe what we do. There are many tools and articles full of advice out there to help you choose the right keywords. My best advice is to read all the keyword advice you can then choose one keyword phrase that describes you business and stick to it. Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your monitor. Use it whenever anyone asks what you do for a living.
‘What you do and where you do it' is a great place to start.
My 10 best Squarespace SEO tips...
1. Optimize your domain name
If you haven’t yet purchased a domain, consider these possibilities:
Use words that describe what you do in your domain name. For example, ‘dobsons-plumbing' 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 it will penalize you globally.
2. Add your keyword phrase to your website name and search engine description
In the Squarespace editor, go to Marketing – SEO and fill in your business name (don’t add keywords yet - that comes later). Write a site meta description that contains the short keyword phrase that describes your business:
Now edit how your website name appears in search results by scrolling down and clicking Advanced in the SEO pane.
In the SEO Advanced pane, change the ‘Homepage Title Format' to look like this:
"Your Keyword Phrase" | %s
‘%s' is the name of your business, so your website name will look like this in search results:
Garforth Tree Surgeon | Mills and Son
Penge Heating Engineers | Dobsons
Not only does this little trick give you a remarkable kick up the rankings when people type that specific phrase into Google, it makes your site stand out better in search results too.
3. Complete the SEO tab for every page
Squarespace added some additional SEO features in early 2019 to help you describe your site to Google.
To find these settings, clicking the cog next to the name of the page in the Pages pane.
Each of your page titles 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. The window helpfully provides a character limit so you don’t get carried away.
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, take the time to write a couple of meaningful sentences about what's on the page, including your keyword phrase wherever it fits.
4. Use keywords in Page URLs
This one is tough to manage if you already have a functioning website with traffic coming in to existing links, but it works well on new sites…
The URL of a Squarespace page can be anything you like, so add an important keyword phrase to each one, as in this example:
If you post blog articles to your website, optimize each post URL in the Edit Post - Options dialog box before you set it live. Include keywords relevant to the post, but don't let your URLs get too long. And make sure the same keywords are used in the title 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
Make sure to use your keyword phrase in the H1 heading and first 100 words of each page. If your H1 style doesn’t look right, change your H1 style in the Style Editor rather than using H2 or H3. If that’s not an option, use a Markdown block and use CSS to format your H1 style to your liking.
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.
The keywords in content rule also works for blog posts, but with one difference: Each blog post should have a keyword phrase of its own, such as a question people often ask Google or a list of ways to achieve a goal. This keyword phrase helps Google work out what the blog post is all about.
6. Put keywords in image alt text where possible (and put them in the filename too)
Before you upload an image to Squarespace, 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 the full story from Squarespace on adding alt-text to your images.
7. Engage with Google as much as possible
The more Google knows about your website, the better. It’s worth taking the time to engage with every Google tool you can, both to gather insights about your website’s performance and to help Google understand exactly what kind of business you are.
Google My Business
Creating a Google My Business profile is a great way to prove you are a legitimate business and give Google a huge amount more information about what you do. You can add images and posts about what you’ve been up to, to flesh out your online footprint. I post about finished sites and updated blog posts and just about anything that might be relevant to someone who needs a Squarespace website.
When you set up your Google My Business profile, Google will ask you to verify your business information by sending a postcard with a code to your business address. When you receive the card and send the code back to Google you’ll begin to appear on the map when someone searches for what you do in your area.
At the same time, make sure you add the same address to 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.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
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.
Google tools are sadly lacking in user friendliness, but don’t give up. It is worth the effort, believe me.
8. Keep your page sizes small
Since my business website was added to mobile-first indexing, traffic to my blog has dropped by around 40%. Some of this drop is related to out-of-date posts which I’m now updating, but there’s no denying Squarespace sites have been penalized for slower loading times over the past year or so.
Pages are downloaded via multiple calls, little by little, to improve the user experience for visitors on a slow connection, but Google prefers a smoother experience with fewer calls. I can’t honestly say I know (or that anyone knows) how the Google algorithm balances so many good and bad factors against each other to produce a search rank. All we can hope is that Squarespace themselves are working harder than anyone to speed up page loading times behind the scenes.
In the meantime, you can help the situation by using the smallest images possible and reducing the number of images and features on each page. Squarespace has some suggestions for image editing software to reduce the size of images here. The suggested maximum page size is 5MB. You can check and troubleshoot page size using these page size tips from Squarespace.
The large banner images I’ve used so many times on client sites over the years may no longer be the right way to go. A simple message on a plain background will load faster and get your message across just as quickly.
It’s also rumoured that using as few fonts as possible can reduce page loading times. Try to use either Google fonts or Typekit fonts, not a mixture of the two.
9. Optimize for mobile in every way you can
Mobile screens are small and Google wants fast, so always develop for mobile. This means:
Keeping content and features to a minimum on every page.
Designing for a tall, thin screen not a short wide one. Narrow your browser window frequently during development so you can see how your site looks on a phone or tablet.
Keeping AMP switched on. AMP stands for “accelerated mobile pages” and is on by default in Squarespace.
As hard as I try, I can’t find which ‘clickable elements are too close together’ and what ‘content is wider than the screen’ despite multiple warnings from Google Search Console, but a quick call to Squarespace told me not to worry…
10. Blog, blog and blog some more
Add new pages (blog posts!) regularly. Blog once a week if you can, but don't be hard on yourself if you struggle to do it that frequently.
Choose the bigger questions your audience asks and research stats and quotes from other experts in the field. A great blog post provides everything someone might ever want to know about a subject in one place. Think research paper or investigative journalism piece rather than specific knowledge or advice that only you have.
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 posts.
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 images, bullets and numbers to break up your content.
Done all that and still need help?
Following these tips will give you the basics of good SEO, but getting to the top of Google search rankings can still be tough. If you're in a particularly saturated market you'll find it hard to push your way up the rankings without some serious time and investment. You'll need a lot of relevant content on your site and a serious amount of digital marketing activity to boost your traffic and get noticed by Google.
I recommend talking to a dedicated SEO specialist or growth hacker, and be prepared to pay a lot of money for something that will bring a lot of value to your business.
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.