Whether you’ve been working with SEO (search engine optimization) for years or you’re just starting out and wondering where to begin, here are five key ways we recommend optimizing your site with the Squarespace platform.
(And, if you’re interested, why Squarespace is our favorite platform to build websites for small businesses, bloggers and freelancers.)
What is SEO & why does it matter?
Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing your content’s visibility in search engine rankings.
For example, you write a blog post about a certain topic. When someone searches Google with keywords regarding that topic, you want your blog post to show up near the top of the list of search results, so they’ll see it, click on it, and be connected with your wonderful post.
(Side note: Though Google is still the crowned king of online search engines, it’s certainly not the only one, and an increasing number of searches are taking place on mobile via voice-activated searching with Siri and Alexa, which use Apple and Amazon search engines respectively.)
The reason SEO is a process is that there are various elements that can be strategically addressed throughout your content creation and promotion that will enhance your visibility to search engines and encourage them to rank you highly.
In general, search engine algorithms look kindly on the following things:
Relevant long-form content
Referring links (the number of links across the web that link to your page)
Mobile responsive design
Page loading speed
Ways to boost your Squarespace website’s SEO
Here are our favorite ways to boost your Squarespace website’s SEO. The same tips apply to other website platforms as well, though the back-end implementation may be a bit different.
Search engines prioritize page titles, blog post titles and the like, so it’s important to write clear and descriptive titles that will help both humans and search engine bots find the content they’re looking for.
(Pro tip: The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is a useful tool for testing out the impact of different headlines on driving traffic and SEO.)
Squarespace page settings allow you to easily update (and differentiate) your SEO titles, navigation titles and page titles. Here’s the difference:
SEO title: indexed by search engines and appears in search results, so this is where you’ll want to add keywords you’d like the search engine to find
Navigation title: links to the page in your navigation menus (so you’ll want to keep it brief, like “About” or “Blog”)
Page title: (available on some templates) this allows you to use a different, usually longer, title at the top of your page than on your navigation menu (for example, “About” on the nav menu could become “About Our Company” on the page title); note that if you don’t customize your SEO title, your page title will appear in search results
There are a couple other elements of page metadata that can impact your search ranking:
Squarespace also includes SEO descriptions (and page descriptions on some templates). These descriptions may appear below your page title in search engine listings—which means prospective readers will likely be using them to determine if they’d like to click on your link.
For each page on your website, write a strategic, keyword-rich SEO description that describes the content on that page. Find these settings in Page > SEO > SEO Description. Find the SEO description for your entire site in Marketing > SEO > Site Meta Description.
To improve how search engines are able to crawl and index your site, use clear, descriptive and clean URLs. This means each page URL should contain relevant keywords for your page/content, be as brief as possible and contain no spelling errors.
In some cases, like with blog post settings, you may want to clean up any unnecessary information to optimize your blog post URLs.
Structure with headings
Just like they do with titles, search engines typically prioritize the headings on your site over its body content. Thus, your headings are important in letting search engines know the major themes of your site, and the specific content of each page.
Use your site’s built-in headings (h1, h2, h3) to structure your content in a hierarchical order (with h1 at the top). And, be mindful of how you write headings: they should be clear and descriptive, with keywords from your post topic.
This is not to say you should simply structure headings for search engines—they also serve an important purpose for guiding readers through your content.
Search engine bots can’t read photos, they can only read text—so adding alt-text captions to your images helps search engines to “see” them and understand their content.
In Squarespace, you can add alt-text to most images, including those in image blocks, galleries and product images. For image blocks, add a caption to the image and select “do not display caption” (though if you want to display the caption, that’s fine too, and it will still be indexed as alt-text). For galleries and products, the alt-text can be added to the “Image Title” field in the image settings. For blog post thumbnails, the blog post title is the default alt-text.
Note that image alt-text is also carried along with the image as the default caption if someone pins an image from your website to Pinterest. (So strategically captioning images with alt-text is an element of your Pinterest SEO too!)
Blogging is great for your SEO in several ways: it adds more relevant content to your site (so you have more opportunities to establish your themes and keywords with search engines); it shows search engines your site is active and regularly updated; and it’s more shareable than the average webpage, so can help spread your content better.
Even if you’re not “a blogger,” we recommend including a blog on your website for these purposes. You don’t have to post daily or write novel-length posts—just regular (weekly-ish) posts can help to improve your SEO.
For new bloggers, we share more tips on setting up your Squarespace blog, writing good blog posts and 5 things to make sure you’re including in each blog post.
Categories & tags
Whether on your blog, products or galleries, Squarespace’s built-in category and tag features can help search engines accurately identify your content, improving its visibility. Improve your SEO by adding relevant category and tag labels to any of your site elements that include this feature: blog posts, products, gallery images, etc.
To make the search engine gods happy, you want to have links pointing to your content. It’s great if these links are coming from large, highly trafficked sources (like if a popular publication links to you), but often that is a bit out of your control. (Well, it’s in your control to write high quality blog content and promote your blog to new audiences, which will improve your chances…but you can’t totally control the number of referring links that will result in.)
So, another way to grow the number of backlinks to your pages is to link to them yourself, as relevant. This also serves the dual purpose of helping your readers better find additional content they’d also be interested in.
When linking to your own content, it’s best to use descriptive words in your anchor text (the highlighted text you’re linking from) that give a sense of the topic you’re linking to. For example, instead of saying “We have a list five things you need on your website here,” it’d be better to say “Here’s our list of five things you need on your website.”
A note on quality content
In addition to these tips for optimizing SEO on a Squarespace website, it’s also important to remember that your content matters in SEO ranking.
The purpose of a search engine algorithm is to provide the most relevant content possible to the person searching for it. So, quality content (whether that’s a blog post, webpage, gallery, whatever) is essential to good SEO strategy.
Yes, there are some sites with poor quality content that have achieved great search engine ranking with other strategies, but long-term that likely won’t work as well—search engines are getting increasingly better at prioritizing quality and relevant content. Your best bet is to focus on producing useful and well-constructed content for your target audience and promoting it with the methods above, using keywords that your target audience would actually use to search for it.
One of the reasons we like Squarespace as a website platform is that it makes SEO very simple for beginners. While the world of SEO is certainly much larger than what we’ve covered here, if you follow the tips mentioned above you’ll be setting yourself up well for SEO success!
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Need an SEO review?
We do website reviews & SEO updates—we’ll take a look through your Squarespace website and let you know how you can improve your site’s SEO, both on the back-end and in your future content.