SEO for Squarespace: How to Optimise Your Website
Tips for bossing your Squarespace website's SEO!
First of all let me preface this by saying YES, it is possible to rank well with a Squarespace website! I've gone into more detail about Squarespace's capabilities in comparison to other website building platforms in my 'Why Squarespace?' page, but just so you know, it is 100% possible to optimise and rank highly on Google with a Squarespace-built site #justsayin.
Whilst Squarespace deals fantastically with the built-in, technical side of search engine optimisation, there are a few things that are left for you to do in order to really make a difference to your website.
Plan your keyword/phrase strategy
Before you can start optimising your site, you obviously want to know WHAT your optimising for. Why are you doing this and what are your goals for ranking? Which keywords and phrases do you want to be found for?
Articulate Marketing have a great guide on how to create a keyword/keyphrase strategy, using tools to research the best keywords for your business. Once you have a list of things you want to be found for in Google, then you can start working out how to incorporate this into your company's description.
Create your search engine description
Using your keywords and phrases, you then need to come up with a meta description for your website. This is the little snippet of information that appears underneath your site title and url in Google, and it is recommended to be between 100 to 300 characters. It's a good plan to get your main keywords/keyphrase in at the start of the description, but make sure it reads well to a human being and make sense as this is also important to Google (it's smart enough to know if you're keyword stuffing).
To add this to your Squarespace website, simply head to Settings, scroll down to the Website section and select SEO, and paste in your meta description.
Tweak your page title formats
You'll see also on the SEO section of your Settings, there are options for you to change the page title formats. This defines how your pages appear in search engines and also in the tabs at the top of your browser, and again this is an element that Google reads when indexing your website, so it's important to structure this in a neat way using your focus keywords.
In Squarespace, the default is usually '[page name] - [site name]', but you change this to whatever you like. I personally like using '|' instead of the '-' because it looks neater, and I add my focus keyword to the end as well.
Craft your page descriptions
When Google indexes your website, it's not just your home page that shows up in search results, and yet the search engine description mentioned above only applies to your home page when it shows up in listings. For other pages on your website, Google will automatically display the first 300 characters from the text on that page as the search engine description... which most of the time, either may not make sense (if it's laid out in different headings/captions etc.) or hasn't been specifically optimised.
Squarespace lets you add your own optimised descriptions for each page so that you have more control over your appearance on Google, and it also means you can use your keyword strategy to show Google that each of your individual pages are worth ranking for those keywords and phrases.
To do this, go to the Pages section, hover over the page you want to change the meta description of, and click the little settings cog wheel. This will then open a pop-up that allows you to change the page title, how it appears in your website navigation, and add a description. This is where you can add your meta description.
Check your URLs
Having a well structured website with URLs that make sense and are a reasonable length, including your keywords where relevant, is another way to show Google that you're worth ranking for certain topics. If you scroll down on that same Page Settings pop-up mentioned above, you can edit the page urls yourself. This is important because sometimes when you create duplicate pages or pages with the same names in Squarespace, it automatically names the URL '/page-name-1' - adding a number onto the end, so it's good to go in and remove these.
For blogging, Squarespace (annoyingly!) automatically sets up your blog to publish posts with a URL format that includes the year, month and day the post was published. This makes your URLs unnecessarily long and not as good for SEO. To change this, go to Settings > Blogging, and under the 'Post URL Format' section, get rid of everything except '%t' (meaning 'post title).
It is good practice to have URLs that don't contain any filler words or unnecessary characters, which often happens when you are creating blog posts, events or products in Squarespace. For example, for this blog I'm writing now, Squarespace automatically created its URL as the below:
However, I manually went in and changed this to something much shorter, which only uses meaningful words and no pointless filler words that make the whole URL longer and less SEO friendly. NOTE: Only do this before you have published your posts/events/products on Squarespace, otherwise you will need to set up some redirects for your old links.
Optimise any image files you upload
There are 3 important things you should do to any images/graphics you upload to your website:
1. Resize the files
Google favours speedy websites over ones that load slowly, and one of the main things that can slow your website down is having large image files trying to load each time someone clicks on a new page. For best performance, image files should be less than 1,000KB (under 500KB is optimal!) and 72dpi resolution. This resizing should be done in an image editing programme (rather than Squarespace's native image editor) so that you don't lose quality.
2. Rename the files
The actual name of your image files is read by Google and is therefore a contributor to your ranking. So instead of having your images come straight off your camera named 'DS001789.jpg', rename your files with something that accurately describes them, and if that includes one of your keywords or phrases, even better! For example, 'squarespace-seo-image-editing-1.jpg'.
You can easily bulk rename files by highlighting all the files you want to rename, right clicking, select 'Rename X items...' and fill in the format you'd like.
3. Add an Alt Tag once uploaded
Once you've uploaded your image to Squarespace, make sure you add an 'alt tag' to the file. This is important for accessibility reasons (this is what screen readers will read aloud) and again is also read by Google too, so make sure it is descriptive and relevant. Squarespace calls the alt tag 'File Name' when you upload an image, just in case you get confused!
Use headings correctly (eg. H1, h2, h3)
As mentioned before, Google favours well structured websites that it can see are clearly laid out, and one of the ways to clearly structure your website is by using the correct headings throughout your text (eg. Heading One, Heading Two, Heading Three). Headings are used like markers for Google, creating pointers of what information is most important.
I have used different headings throughout this blog post, for example, to create markers for Google but most importantly to keep my information clear and well organised so that it is easier and more pleasant for my readers than just going through big blocks of text.
So there you have it - several ways you can harness Squarespace's built-in tools to optimise your website for search engines. These tips are specifically for Squarespace, and of course there are in fact many other factors that contribute to your ranking and many more activities you can undertake to nurture your rankings (such as blogging/creating fresh content on your website, getting high quality links and mentions from relevant websites, using video within your site and various PR activities as well).