Guide to Using Squarespace for SEO

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SEO

The popularity of Squarespace is not easy to ignore and it owns a large portion of the Software as a Service (SaaS) market. It has a great reputation for offering website building solutions to businesses. However, what the website builder offers in versatility for building websites, it lacks some of the intuitiveness necessary to be effective at addressing a Squarespace website’s SEO from all directions. 

This guide will hopefully help you get the most of the SEO tools that are built-in and some suggestions on how to circumnavigate some of these short-comings.

Tools for Doing SEO on Squarespace

The built-in tools for Squarespace do work, they are just fairly limited in facing SEO from all aspects of the algorithm of the major search engines. Truth be told, most of the impact on SEO occurs outside of the tools directly labeled as an SEO feature. But this does allow you to edit the metadata throughout the website. Also, it must be noted that any change made on a website for the purposes of search engine rankings will not be detected immediately. Sometimes it can take a lot of patience to wait for Google to index any updated content information on a website.

Here are all of the SEO tools available on Squarespace and how to use them.

Site-Wide SEO

Here is an area where your efforts provide SEO benefits to the whole domain by setting the format of how page titles display in the search engine result pages and setting the site’s description. These settings impact your rankings by telling both the search engine and visitors what to expect from your website. This functionality also indicates what the general theme is, and gives the visitor an idea of whether they will find what they are looking for. 

To adjust these settings, follow these instructions:

  1. Log into your Squarespace Admin
  2. Click on “Marketing” in the sidebar menu
  3. Click on “SEO”

From top to bottom you will see some quick links to Squarespace’s SEO Checklist and the Google Search Keywords tab (which only presents data if your website is connected to the Google Search Console). Below that, you can set options for the title appearance in search engines for your homepage (Home), subpages (Pages), and blog posts (Items).

You can adjust how the title looks by inputting the order of titles using the %s (Site Title), %p (Page Title) and %i (Item Title) inputs, mixed in with characters.

By default, Squarespace offers a hyphen between the inputs, however, I recommend the “|” character instead of by holding shift and tapping the “\” key. This allows for slightly more space to display in the search engine listing title and delivers a higher chance of click-through.

You can also set the Site Description here, which is used as the meta-description for the homepage. You want to set a site description that hits between 130 and 160 characters and includes preferably one, but can include multiple keywords you wish to rank for over the whole domain. 

Magnifying glss over hashtag

It should be noted that the Site Description does not have a direct impact on SEO, but if the description is appealing and causes your listing to get clicks, that matters to the search engines. In fact, Google gives a lot of flexibility here. It may determine on its own that the description you provide is not the best option and will draw text from elsewhere on the page. If it does this, that is a good indication that you need to update your site description in the future.

Page-Level SEO

Your homepage is not always going to be the leading way somebody will arrive on your website. Every page has the potential to offer the information a visitor is immediately looking for. Because of this, it is best practice to pay attention to the SEO options for each page. Note: The page selected as the homepage draws from the Site-Wide SEO settings.

Follow these instructions to edit the metadata of the page:

  1. Click on Pages” in the sidebar menu
  2. Hover the cursor over the page you would like to edit and click on the gear icon
  3. Select “SEO” from the sidebar of the pop-up menu

Here you can set the page title. My suggestion is also what is probably intuitive: label the page with the suggested topic. Keep it clear and concise, and it will likely match a high-ranking keyword you want the page to rank for.

You can also add a description for the page. This has similar properties to the site description, it is best to stick between 130 to 150 characters and use one or two keywords, preferably a natural integration of the words used in the title as well (without forcing it).

You also have the option to toggle whether the site is even indexed. This adds a “noindex” reference tag to the page’s metadata signaling to the search engines that the page was not intended to be found through search. There are a few reasons to do this, including if the page was only meant to be accessed by other means (a paid campaign ad for example) or if the page is intended as a follow up for filling out a form.

Blog Posts & Item SEO

Blog posts and similar page types are known as “Items” in Squarespace. They have very similar options to the page but you access them in a different way. 

Here are the instructions:

  1. Click on Pages” in the sidebar menu
  2. Click on “Blog”
  3. Hover the cursor over the blog post you wish to edit and click on “Edit” option
  4. Click on the “SEO” tab

From here, the suggested edits are the same as the page. Most importantly, if the title of the blog post is longer than 60 characters, shortening it in the metadata is the most valuable thing to do here.

Other Important Tips for Squarespace & SEO

As I mentioned earlier, the tools above are good for editing the metadata for the various parts of your website. But there is certainly more you can do on your website to help your ranking in search engine result pages. Here are some important tips.

Write Quality Content

The most valuable way to improve your ranking is to make sure the content on your pages are robust and easy-to-read. This includes making sure different portions of content are topped with properly formatted headings and ensuring the most important keywords you wish to rank for are included near the top of the document (in a way that is understandable for the reader). Thus also includes making sure optimized alt-text is added to images via the image file name. This will help search engines and the visitor understand and decide if your content is the most relevant to the query.

Enable the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

You may have noticed that some websites use “http” at the beginning of their URL while others use “https”. That extra character can make a significant difference in whether search engines will rank your website or not. Google actually prefers https because it means the domain has an intentional layer of security to the user experience and is guaranteed to provide the best information protection. You can allow this by enabling SSL in Squarespace.

This process actually has 2 parts. First, you must edit your DNS settings either in Squarespace if the domain is hosted there, or within the hosting service of a third-party provider such as GoDaddy or BlueHost. Squarespace provides clear instructions for this process. 

The second part of the process involves changing settings within Squarespace by following the following instructions:

  1. From the Admin Panel, select “Settings” in the sidebar
  2. Click on “Advanced”
  3. Click on “SSL”
  4. Select “Secure”

What enabling SSL actually does is protect both implicit and explicit information provided by visitors by encrypting it through its security layers. This means that any analytics or personal information provided by the user from cookies or filling out forms can only be accessed by the owners of the website and possibly the search engine (if the visitor gives permission to have a cookie applied to their visit).

Provide a Clear URL Structure

Google prefers an easy-to-navigate website and rewards pages with simple URLs. In Squarespace, this is an easy step to miss because new pages are created directly under the site root by default, and the solution for this is not straightforward in my opinion. The best way to handle this is to take a few moments outside of the admin panel and think carefully about the purpose of each page of your site. If the website is not large, this should not be difficult. List out the pages on a piece of paper, a word document or however you prefer and consider what each page is about. Is a page about a specific service you offer? Is it a contact page? Label each page as such and you will begin to see that some of them can be grouped together. If they cannot be grouped together anywhere, leave them alone.

For example, imagine you are a nonprofit animal shelter. On your Squarespace website, you have the following pages:

  • Homepage
  • About Us
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Labrador Retrievers for Adoption
  • Calicos for Adoption
  • Yorkshire Terriers for Adoption
  • Contact Us
Providing an appropriate site structure can help prospective adopters find the dog they want easily.

These pages are all on the same level on the website, and also seem a bit disorganized. But when you group the pages, you might end up with a structure like this:

  • Homepage
  • Contact Us
  • Dogs
    • Labrador Retrievers for Adoption
    • Yorkshire Terriers for Adoption
  • Cats
    • Calicos for Adoption
  • About Us

This is a logical grouping of the pages.

The second and third parts of this process are more technical in nature, but not difficult. First, If you open up the settings for each page and select the “General” tab, you have the option to edit the URL slug. For each page, list out each level leading up to the page with slashes and make sure any space between words is replaced with a hyphen. For example, the Labrador Retrievers page would have a URL slug as follows:

/dogs/labrador-retreivers

Notice I left out the “for adoption” portion of the slug. Changing this is optional, but shorter URLs are generally more user-friendly.

The third step of this process is to create URL redirects from the former URL to the new one. This is very important if you want the SEO success of a page with a previous URL to be passed on to the new one. This also allows anybody that has a page bookmarked or any links to the site to be automatically sent to the updated page.

Follow these instructions to set up a URL Redirect:

  1. Click on “Settings” in the sidebar panel
  2. Click on “Advanced”
  3. Click on “URL Mappings”
  4. In the coding area, input the previous URL slug
  5. Add an arrow using the “-” and the “>” keys
  6. Input the new URL slug
  7. Add the number 301 (to identify the type of redirect you want) at the end
  8. Hit enter
  9. Repeat process with the other URL slugs to be redirected

Performing this process will also update the sitemap which instructs search engines what pages to sort through during the next index.

Conclusion

While everything listed above will be helpful for SEO rankings, Squarespace is still quite limited to these basic features. This is why an experienced SEO expert would be a wise investment in increasing your search engine rankings.