Squarespace SEO Essentials
We all know how technical and complicated search engine optimization (SEO) can seem for the average business owner.
The reason so many business owners choose Squarespace is because it is relatively uncomplicated to set up and manage. However, having even a basic understanding of effective SEO is important.
Educating yourself and implementing some of the essentials of Squarespace SEO will empower your business goals and promote your business on the web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—all around the world (which is particularly helpful for location independent entrepreneurs like me).
Today I’d like to discuss a few ways that you can make your Squarespace website SEO friendly right after it’s freshly designed and launched.
Optimize your site for search with descriptions
In order for Google to understand what your Squarespace website is about, you will need to optimize it for search with a Search Engine description, page descriptions and meta data.
A search description is the text that appears below a page title/link in search results. Squarespace includes fields for editing your website’s search engine and page descriptions. Your search engine description, which is located in the SEO panel of your site, will not always appear in search results- it depends on what visitors are searching for.
To add a search engine description to your Squarespace site:
In the Home Menu, choose Settings, and then click SEO.
In the Search Engine Description box, enter your description.
Search engines may use your page description in search results if they cannot find more relevant content to a visitor’s search terms. Page descriptions are also built into some Squarespace templates’ designs.
To update a page description on your Squarespace site:
On the Pages panel, locate the page you would like to edit.
Hover over the page title.
Click the gear icon next to the title to open up Page Settings.
Enter your description in the Description box.
Repeat this process for each page on your site.
Making sure your website is secure
All Squarespace domains and third-party domains include free SSL certificates (secure servers) when connected and pointed to Squarespace websites. Google gives brownie points to all secure sites with a “HTTPS” in the domain versus a “HTTP” or “www”. HTTPS has a relatively strong correlation with first page Google search rankings, and Google has announced that SSL-secured websites may receive a minor ranking boost. (Source).
To set up HTTPS on Squarespace, visit settings > website > security & SSL and under ‘security preferences’, select ‘secure (preferred).’
Verifying your site with Google Search Console
Google Search Console (which was previously Google Webmaster Tools) is a free service that helps your website’s overall presence in Google search results. Through this service, you can request that Google index your site, meaning that changes you have made will appear in search results sooner. After connecting Google Search Console, you can check Analytics to see which keywords site visitors are using to find you (more on this later).
Before connecting Google Search Console:
Remove your site-wide password/ page password if either are enabled.
If you have a third-party domain (GoDaddy, etc.), it must be connected properly.
Your site must be on a paid service (this will not work on trial sites).
A Google account is required to sign up.
To connect Google Search Console:
In the Home Menu, click Settings.
Click Connected Accounts.
Click Connect Account.
Click Google Search Console.
Log into the Google account you would like to connect to your site. If you have multiple accounts, ensure you select the correct one.
Google Search Console will verify both the http:// and https:// versions of your domain and add the primary version to Google Search Console. Google Search Console is then able to use this information to assign search traffic to your primary domain.
After your site is verified with Google Search Console (see above), you can check the Google Search Keywords panel to see which search terms drive traffic to your site from Google. Understanding which of these search keywords result in the most clicks to your website can help you focus your content and continue to improve your search term strategies.
The ultimate goal is to provide site visitors with the most relevant content possible. If you are "keyword stuffing", your search descriptions will be un-readable and, therefore, unhelpful to your site visitors. It is important to include keywords in your posts that are relevant to the content you provide, and to ensure that your descriptions are short, relevant, and readable.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile pages (or AMP’s) are lightweight versions of web pages to help them load quicker on a mobile device. Although these pages are not officially considered a ‘ranking signal’, the speed at which your site loads on a mobile device does matter in mobile search results.
By enabling AMP, your website will load faster and, therefore, you will rank higher. Making this change in Squarespace is pretty simple:
To set up AMP, you will need to visit settings > blogging and click ‘AMP enabled’
On that note, Google updated their technology more recently to give mobile-optimized websites a higher priority. Squarespace scanned all of their Squarespace 7 templates using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool, and each template passed with flying colors. As long as you don’t disable your mobile style or overload your website with too much content, your site is ready to be found in mobile searches (no action necessary!).
Length of blog post matters
Providing your readers with valuable, long-form content that relates to your keywords is vital for a successful SEO strategy. Google’s ultimate goal is to help people find relevant content that answers their question and solves their problem. Long-form content is more likely to fully cover a topic than short-form content, and therefore, is more valuable to readers.
Each of your blog posts should be at least 300 words. The more content there is to read on your site, the more Google will have to crawl and find your content. The average Google first page result contains approximately 1,890 words (Source).
Giving your images relevant descriptions can be a huge boost to your SEO ranking! Although the reader won't see the words you use to describe an image, Google DOES take these words into account. So, writing descriptions for all images with search-relevant terms is incredibly beneficial to your SEO ranking.
Alt tags, or the titles you give to your images, need to be keyword-heavy. Images are one of the most important (and under-utilized) ways of telling search engines what your website is all about. Alt tags can boost your search ranking by giving Google's robots additional information when they're crawling your site. You should use strategic keywords that are related to your content, and add dashes in between your words to separate them. For example, an image for this blog post might be titled “squarespace-seo-essentials.jpg".
Give your image a new title by hovering over your image block and clicking edit. Then, enter your title in the filename field. Done!
Along with alt tags, Google also crawls your site for captions. In Squarespace, you can add a caption to all images, even when you don't want them to display. Using helpful terms in the caption that both describe the image and use search keywords is ideal in this scenario. In Squarespace, add captions by simply clicking beneath your image and typing away! Or, in a product or gallery block, click the gear icon and add a caption in the text field. Again, you can choose to hide these captions if you want the SEO boost but don't want them to display on your site.
Image File Sizes
Google uses site speed as a key metric for indexing sites, and slow page load time will negatively affect your search rankings. Therefore, if you have large images that reduce your site speed, you may want to go back and resize some of your larger files. Many web platforms (including Squarespace) automatically resize images for you, so you shouldn't be too concerned with this one. However, if your web platform does not resize images, you can use Free Image Optimizer to quickly optimize images online. Simply upload your file, specify the maximum dimensions you need, and choose from a drop-down list of image quality presets. Click optimize, and you're good to go!
As a general rule for image file sizes, try to keep your image resolution at 72 ppi and no more than 2 MB.
Clean up your website
If you’re anything like me, you’ve more than likely had a few pages (or more…) in the Not-Linked section of your Squarespace website from time to time. While Google does search for sites with a lot of relevant content, it doesn’t like duplicate content or pages that lead to a dead end.
You might be surprised to know that Google indexes all of the content in the Not-Linked section as well, and keeping a lot of clutter in there can negatively affect your ranking.
If you are in need of some organization, consider taking a few of these steps:
Disable pages in the Not-Linked section that you want to keep but are not using. I started doing this with pages where I want to hold on to some of the content, or with pages that I am using to test out custom CSS. You can do this by clicking on the Page Settings Icon next to the page name and uncheck “Enabled”.
Delete pages that you know you won’t need again. You can do this by scrolling to the bottom of the page settings, or by clicking on the page name in the Not-Linked section and then the trash can icon that appears to the right.
The bigger your site, the more likely that you have some URL’s out there that will throw a 404 “Page Not Found” error at your visitors. This could happen for a number of reasons, so consider creating a custom 404 page for site visitors with your contact information and a form.
While there are definitely more advanced SEO features that weren’t covered in this post, these are some of the essential steps you can take to start improving your website search ranking. The bottom line? The more relevant, valuable content that you create for your readers, the better.