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Squarespace SEO (2021) — Checklist, 16 Key Steps

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Squarespace SEO (image of the Squarespace logo beside a magnifying glass).

In this Squarespace SEO guide, I provide a simple checklist that you can follow to ensure your Squarespace site ranks highly in search results.

By following the simple steps below, you can give your website the best chance possible of generating more organic traffic — and more enquiries and sales.

Let’s go!


1. Register your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Registering your Squarespace website with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is the first thing you need to do to improve its visibility in search results.

By registering your site with these two services, you are telling the two major search engines that your website exists and are ensuring it gets crawled.

This process is very easy — but if you need help, Squarespace has two resources available that will guide you through the process:

Tip: when you map a domain to a Squarespace site, it can take up to 72 hours to finish connecting and generate an SSL certificate — so it’s best to wait until everything’s working perfectly on that front before registering your site with Google and Bing.

Once you’ve registered your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, it’s important to submit an XML sitemap to both services — this helps them index your site accurately and lets them know which of the pages on your site are the most important.

Helpfully, Squarespace generates a sitemap automatically for you — the URL for this on your Squarespace site is simply www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml — and you just need to give Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools this link.

In both services you do this by going to your site’s dashboard, and then clicking ‘sitemaps.’

Adding a sitemap in Google Search Console
Adding a sitemap in Google Search Console

2. Ensure you’re using SSL

In 2014 Google announced that it wanted to see ‘HTTPS everywhere’, and that secure HTTPS websites (i.e., those using SSL, ‘secure socket layer’) were going to be given preference over non-secure ones in search engine results. 

So it makes sense, where possible, to ensure your Squarespace site is secure — and doing so is very simple.

You just go to Settings > Advanced > SSL and switch SSL on (see screenshot below).

Switching on SSL in Squarespace
Switching on SSL in Squarespace

Note however that if you’re moving to Squarespace from a different platform, and you’re making your site secure for the first time in the process, there may be some more things you need to do to ensure that you don’t damage your existing search ranking.

If you’re migrating to Squarespace and want to use SSL, I would advise that you:

HSTS

If you are enabling SSL on your Squarespace, it’s also worth ticking the accompanying HSTS option too (which you’ll also find in the SSL settings — Settings > Advanced > SSL) .

HSTS basically forces browsers to always load the secure version of your site — in essence, it makes the most of your https status, making it harder for potential attackers to access or impersonate your site.



3. Register your site with Google My Business

Creating a Google My Business profile is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure visibility in local search results.

When you set up your profile, you supply your business address to Google. Google then sends a card to your business address containing a PIN which you use to verify the address.

Once that’s done, within a few days you should see your business included on the map that Google displays when users in your area enter a search for your type of service.

(Google typically highlights 3 businesses in the top results — whether or not yours shows up there will depend on your niche and area — if you don’t make the top 3, your business should be visible when a user clicks on the ‘more places’ link at the bottom.)

Google My Business map results
Google My Business map results

You can check out our top tips on local SEO for more suggestions on how to ensure your site ranks highly in local search results.

Now, let’s take a look at page speed.

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4. Ensure your Squarespace site is loading as fast as it possibly can

Page speed is a signal used by search engines to rank websites, with fast-loading pages given a preference in search results over slower ones

Now, your options with regard to page speed are a bit limited on Squarespace. This is because it’s a ‘hosted solution,’ which means that rather than being able to buy your own hosting, you must use Squarespace’s (which, whilst generally rather good from a speed point of view, doesn’t give you fine grain control over site loading times).

That said, site speed is not exclusively about server speed, and there are quite a few things you can do to make sure your Squarespace pages load as fast as they can:

  • Keep image widths relatively low. Squarespace recommends that images you upload should be between 1500 and 2000 pixels in width — although depending on your Squarespace template and your images, you may be able to get away with lower widths.
  • Use compression tools like Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images before you upload them to Squarespace.
  • In general, use JPGs for photographs and PNG files for screengrabs or diagrams (and when using PNG files, try to use an 8-bit file, as it will be smaller than a 24-bit PNG).
  • Avoid over-use of any external scripts or custom code on your site.
  • Avoid using a large number of web fonts on your site — or even consider using web safe fonts (which load much faster). If you do use web fonts, try keeping to one if possible, and use a Google one rather than Typekit.
  • Use Squarespace’s SSL option — this means that your site will be delivered through the faster HTTP/2 protocol (see above).
  • Always choose the ‘use custom thumbnail’ option when embedding Youtube or Vimeo videos on your site. Otherwise, Squarespace has to load sometimes large pieces of content from these services, even if a visitor to your site doesn’t play a video.
  • Consider displaying your blog posts in ‘AMP’ (Accelerated Mobile Web Pages) format. To switch AMP on in Squarespace, go to Settings > Blogging and then tick the AMP checkbox. When AMP is enabled, it displays extremely fast-loading versions of your blog posts in mobile search results. Note however that if your blog posts feature certain types of Squarespace elements (for example forms or buttons), these will no longer display — accordingly, it’s worth reading the Squarespace support material on AMP before switching it on.
  • Try to reduce your DNS (domain name system) lookup time. DNS lookup time is the process of finding out, via an IP address, where a domain is located. Now, some domain name providers don’t provide particularly fast DNS lookup times. So, if you’re currently using one of the slower providers, there are benefits to be gained by transferring either your domain or nameservers (or both) to another one.
Enabling AMP in Squarespace
Enabling AMP in Squarespace

For more information and tips on improving Squarespace site speed, check out our guide to speeding up a Squarespace site.


5. Do your keyword research!

So far, I’ve broadly explained some of the technical tweaks you can make to your Squarespace site to give it the best chance of performing well in search results.

However, whilst technical improvements can definitely help your content rank more highly, they’re only part of the picture.

Generally speaking, the best way to improve the performance of your Squarespace site (or indeed any site) is to make sure that you are publishing content that people are actually searching for.

To do this, you’ll need to perform keyword research.

Keyword research typically involves finding out three key pieces of information:

  • the keywords that people are using to search for products or content like yours

  • the volume of searches for each of those keywords

  • how difficult it will be to rank for each keyword (this is based on how many existing authoritative sites or pages already perform well in search results for those keywords).

When you have these three pieces of information, you can usually identify the search terms to optimize your content for (or indeed the kind of content you’ll need to create in the first place!).

This is because you have enough data to find a ‘sweet spot’ – search terms that are popular enough to generate a decent amount of traffic, without being so popular that there are already lots of other sites dominating search results for these phrases.

Getting your hands on this data involves using a dedicated keyword research tool like Semrush or Ahrefs; these let you enter in keywords and provide you with all the above stats for each one, along with lots of other useful information (including lists of competing sites that currently rank well for your chosen search terms, suggested alternative keywords and country-specific search results).

Using keyword research tools to improve Squarespace SEO

If you’re serious about keyword research, you’ll need a dedicated tool for the job. We’d recommend taking a look at Semrush for this — the data you can access with it is extensive without being overwhelming.

Normally speaking, you can try Semrush free for seven days — however, for a limited time the company is providing an extended 14 day trial of the tool, which you can access via this link.

(Check out our Semrush review, our Semrush pricing guide, our Ahrefs vs Semrush comparison and our Moz vs Semrush guide for more information about keyword research tools in general).

Once you’ve got your keyword research sorted, it’s time to look at the things you can do to your Squarespace site to make sure that it performs well for your chosen keywords.


6. Increase your ‘dwell time’

Dwell time’ is a phrase used by SEO professionals to refer to the length of time a users spend on a piece of content before they return to search results.

The general consensus is that the longer your dwell time, the more likely your content is to perform well in search results — because this indicates to search engines that it is satisfying user queries.

So, it makes sense to create and populate your Squarespace site in a way that keeps users engaged for as long as possible.

Here’s how:

  • Create great content — whether that means writing fascinating, in-depth blog posts or showcasing amazing product images, give people a a reason to hang about on your site.

  • Use internal linking that encourages people to check out other content on your site (for example, insert ‘You might also like’ calls-to-action which lead to other relevant pages etc.)

  • Use a simple navigation structure that makes it easy for users to get from one part of your site to another.

  • Encourage people to leave and read comments on your blog posts

  • Embed videos on your pages (watching them can take your visitors a while!).

However, don’t just put any old content or ‘fluff’ on a page to keep people on your pages longer: whatever you place on it should be of genuine value to a user.


7. Use simple URLs on your Squarespace site

Using ‘clean’ URLs with a simple structure is encouraged by Google.

Clean URLs are short, simple and intelligible: as an example, if you were selling red guitars, it would be advisable to use a URL of www.yourdomain.com/red-guitars rather than www.yourdomain.com/prd/p223/1456_red_gtr.

You’ll find more information from Google on simple URL structures here, but the key things to remember when creating them are:

  • Always use short URLs that contain relevant keywords.

  • Break up your URLs with punctuation if necessary to make keywords more obvious to both Google and users (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is better than www.yoursite.com/greenshoes).

  • Use hyphens rather than underscores to denote spaces (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is preferred to www.yoursite.com/green_shoes).

In Squarespace, the method for creating URLs differs by the type of content you’re creating.

  • To change a regular page, go to your page and click the cog icon > General. Then, enter your clean URL into the ‘URL slug’ field.

  • To change a blog post URL, locate your post, choose the edit option and then click Settings > Options, Then, enter your clean URL into the ‘Post URL’ page. Note that you will not be able to remove the blog name prefix.

  • To change a store page URL, locate it in Pages and then click on the cog beside it. Then, click the General link, where you’ll be able to enter your URL into the ‘URL slug’ field.

  • To change a product URL, locate it via Commerce > Inventory, and click on it. You should then be able to scroll down to its SEO and URL settings, where an ‘Edit’ button will let you change the URL.

8. Always create a 301 redirect if you change a page’s URL

Search engines effectively treat each link to a page as a vote for it — generally speaking, the more links pointing to a page, the higher it tends to appear in search results (I discuss this in more depth below).

So, if you change the URL of a page, it’s vital that you create a ‘301 redirect’ to it. This lets Google and other search engines know where the new page is located, and preserves the value of any existing ‘votes’ for its authority (it also avoids your site visitors encountering broken links and any ‘page not found’ errors).

To create a 301 redirect in Squarespace,

  1. In the home menu, click Settings > Advanced

  2. Click URL Mappings.

  3. Add your redirect using the following format: /old-URL -> /new-URL 301 (see screengrab below for an example).

Note that in step 3, I’m not including the domain name — i.e., to redirect www.mysite.com/page1 to www.mysite.com/page2 you would enter /page1 -> /page2 301 into the box provided.

Example of a 301 redirect in Squarespace — setting these up is crucial to avoiding broken links when a page URL is changed.

9. Ensure you’re formatting your title tags correctly

One of the most important elements of a web page is its title tag — search engines treat it as a key piece of information when indexing a page, and your title shows up as the largest component of a search result (as well as at the top of browser windows). 

So, you should ensure your page and post title tags are never vague and ideally start with your ‘focus keyword’ — the phrase you want to rank for in search.

As a simple example, if you run Joey’s Music shop, which is located in London and specialises in vintage guitar sales, you are better off using a page title which includes the phrase ‘Vintage Guitars London’ instead of settling for a more conventional (but less SEO-friendly) ‘Joey’s Music Shop’.

A good page title tag for the above would be ‘Vintage Guitars London — Joey’s Music Shop.’

(As discussed above, there are various keyword research tools that can help you find out which phrases are actually searched for by search engine users — big hitters include Semrush and Ahrefs).

The process for adding title tags is slightly different for your home page, regular pages, blog posts and products. Let’s look at each in turn.

Editing the home page title

To edit home page title tags, you need to go to Marketing > SEO. Then, select ‘Home’ and enter a page title into the ‘SEO Title Format’ field.

Editing the home page title in Squarespace
Editing the home page title in Squarespace

Editing a standard page’s title

To add or edit title for a regular page in Squarespace,

  1. Go to the Pages section.

  2. Hover over the relevant page title, and click the cog icon.

  3. Click SEO, and then enter your page title into the ‘SEO Title’ field as per the screenshot below.

  4. Click Save when finished.

Editing page titles in Squarespace
Editing page titles in Squarespace

Editing a blog post’s title

To add a title to a Squarespace blog post,

  1. Click Pages and navigate to your blog and the relevant post.

  2. Hover over your post title and click Settings.

  3. Click the SEO tab.

  4. Enter your page title into the ‘SEO Title’ field as per the screenshot below.

  5. Click Close.
Editing a blog post's title tag in Squarespace
Adding an SEO title to a Squarespace blog post

Editing a product’s title

To edit a product’s title:

  1. Click Commerce > Inventory.

  2. Click on the relevant product.

  3. Scroll down to the ‘SEO and URL’ section

    and click the ‘Edit’ option.

  4. Use the ‘SEO Title’ field to add your title.

  5. Click Apply, then Done.

Editing product title tags in Squarespace
Adding a title to a product in Squarespace using the ‘SEO title’ option.

10. Use headings properly when formatting site content

Ignoring headings is a common mistake made by non-developers who build and update their own websites using tools like Squarespace. Instead of applying headings (H1, H2, H3 etc.) to text, they add bold or capitalised text to break up site content. 

This causes quite a few problems: first, from an aesthetics point of view it usually looks pretty awful.

Second, it makes it harder for visually impaired visitors to your site using screen readers to access your content.

And finally — and of most relevance here — it makes it more difficult for search engines to index your content properly. 

So make sure you read up on headings and how to apply them properly to your copy before you upload content to your site!

Adding headings in Squarespace is very easy: when editing a page, you just highlight a piece of text and then choose your desired heading from the formatting drop down menu.

Adding SEO headings in Squarespace correctly
Adding a heading in Squarespace

The most important heading on your page is usually your ‘Heading 1’ or ‘H1’, as search engines pay particular attention to this when determining what your content is all about. There should only be one H1 per, and it should always include your focus keyword.


11. Add meta descriptions to your pages

Meta descriptions provide short summaries of web pages, and usually appear underneath the clickable links in a search engine results page.

Meta description example
Meta description example

Although Google says that they aren’t a ranking factor, well-written meta descriptions can encourage more clickthroughs to your website — which in turn raises the clickthrough rate (CTR) of a page.

The CTR of a page is considered by SEO experts to be a ranking signal, so adding strong, keyword-rich meta descriptions to your content is very important.

As with page titles, the process for adding meta descriptions varies slightly for your home page, regular pages, blog posts and products.

Home page meta descriptions

To add a meta description to your home page, you’ll need to go to Settings > Marketing > SEO, then populate the ‘SEO site description’ box with your meta description.

Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace
Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace

Regular page mega descriptions

To add a meta description to a regular page:

  1. Go to the Pages section.

  2. Hover over the relevant page title.

  3. Click the cog.

  4. Click SEO.

  5. Enter your meta description into the ‘SEO description’ box.

  6. Click Save.
Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace
Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace

Blog post meta descriptions

To add a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace:

  1. Locate your post.

  2. Hover over the post title and click Settings.

  3. Click the SEO option in the box that appears.

  4. Enter your meta description into the ‘SEO Description’ box.

  5. Click Close.

Adding a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace
How to add a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace

Product meta descriptions

To add a meta description to a Squarespace product,

  1. Click Commerce > Inventory.

  2. Click on the relevant product.

  3. Scroll down to the ‘SEO and URL’ option, then click Edit

    .

  4. Use the ‘SEO description’ field to add your meta description.

  5. Click Apply

    followed by Done.

Editing product meta descriptions
Editing product meta descriptions in Squarespace

12. Add alt text and optimised file names to your images

There are three main reasons for adding ‘alternative text’ to your images:

  • Screen readers use it to provide a description of an image to visually impaired users of your website.

  • Search engines use it to categorise your context.

  • If your image fails to load, a description of it can be displayed.

You should aim to add alt text that works for both screen readers and search engines — a description that that contains your focus keywords but it is still perfectly understandable to anybody who is using a screen reader.

Adding alt text is a rather fiddly process in Squarespace — the method for doing so varies considerably depending on whether you are working with an image on a page, a gallery image, a product image, a cover page image or a thumbnail image.

Below I’ve outlined the process for adding alt text to standard Squarespace images, but for a complete guide to adding it to all the other image types, check out Squarespace’s full guide to alt text.

Adding alt text to image blocks

To add images to ‘normal’ Squarespace images — i.e., those inserted via the Squarepsace ‘image block’ — you need to:

  1. Double click on your image.

  2. Click the Design tab.

  3. Click Inline.

  4. Click the Content tab.

  5. Click Caption > Caption Below
  6. Add a caption below the image (this caption then becomes the alt text).

    If you don’t want to display the caption, you need to select ‘Off’ in the ‘Caption’ setting again.

  7. Click

    on another site element (some text or blank space) to close the image options.

Editing alt text in Squarespace
Editing alt text in Squarespace

In addition to optimizing your alt text, you should also optimize your image file names. This is easily done for regular images — just double click on the image, and enter an appropriate filename in the ‘filename’ box provided.

The filename you use should generally include a word that you are trying to rank for, or text that accurately describes the image.

So for example, if you have a picture of a green car on a page, give it a filename like ‘green-car.jpg’ rather than ‘gcpicture.jpg.’


13. Add rich snippets to your Squarespace site

Rich snippets — pieces of data that can be added to your site to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about — are an important part of how your website behaves in search results (check out this Search Engine Journal article about rich snippets to find out why).

Rich snippets typically feature visual clues about the content of a page or post – for example, star ratings, author, prices and so on – which appear just below the page/post title and before the meta description:

Example of a rich snippet
Example of a rich snippet

They are typically generated through the addition of ‘Schema markup’ – HTML code featuring tags defined by Schema.org (a collaborative project between Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex aimed at helping webmasters provide more accurate information to search engines). You can read more about Schema here.

To add schema markup to a Squarespace site,

  1. Create your Schema markup. If you’re unsure how to do this, you can use a free tool like Merkle’s Schema Markup Generator, which asks you various questions about the page you’re trying to create markup for, and outputs the necessary code.

  2. Test your Schema markup is correct using Google’s Rich Results Test (you can just copy and paste your markup or URL into the tool, which reports on any changes you may need to make to it to ensure that search engines can read it successfully).

  3. Add a code block in Squarespace at the top of the page you want to add markup to.

  4. Paste your markup into your code block and click Apply.

  5. Save your page.

As with other changes you make to your page, you may need to wait a few days — until your content has been recrawled — before you see your rich snippets appear in search results.

(You can sometimes speed this process up a bit by submitting your pages to Search Console for reindexing).


14. Focus on creating great content and building backlinks to it

This goes for all sites, not just Squarespace ones. Sites that feature in-depth, informative posts on topics that people are genuinely interested in tend to perform well in search — and particularly so if there are lots of external links (or ‘backlinks’) pointing to them.

You’ll find some more resources on how to go about creating strong content and building links to it below:

One thing worth remembering is that before you invest time in creating great site content and building backlinks to it, some keyword research is always a good idea.

This helps you get a strong understanding of the niche topics that people are actively searching for, as well as how hard it will be to rank for a particular niche.

Again, keyword research tools like Semrush can help you with this.

The importance of keeping your site content up to date

In addition to creating amazing site content, it’s also really important to keep existing content up to date.

Search engines tend to prefer ‘fresh’ content, so blog posts and pages that haven’t been updated in a while can easily slip down the rankings.

You can use Google Analytics to spot drops in your traffic to particular pages and posts — a lot of the time, these dips can be overcome simply by updating and republishing your content (make sure to keep page and post URLs the same however).


15. Make good use of internal links

As discussed earlier, if a post or page gets a lot of links, this is a signal to Google that it’s a high-value article — and the search engine will rank it accordingly.

This goes for internal links as well as external links, so if there’s a piece of content on your site that you particularly want to achieve a good search ranking for, it’s a good idea to link to it from other pages on your site (particularly those that already rank highly).

Tip: creating internal links using Squarespace summary blocks

Each page of a website typically has a different ‘link value.’ The more links that point to a page, the higher this value is — and the greater the impact of placing an internal link on it will be.

For many businesses, the homepage of a website has the greatest ‘link value,’ as it has the most backlinks pointing to it.

Accordingly, your latest content will get often more link value if you link to them from the homepage, instead of only on a category page. (Additionally, search engines will usually locate new pages or blog posts quicker if they’re linked to from the homepage.)

In Squarespace, you can use summary blocks to insert your latest blog posts automatically on your home page. This ensures that whenever you add a new post to your blog, it will start its life with a higher chance of visibility in search results.


16. Assess the quality of your on-page SEO

Although there are no dedicated Squarespace SEO plugins or built-in SEO checking tools like Yoast available — something that often prompts people to choose WordPress over Squarespace — there are still many third party tools you can use outside of Squarespace to run checks on your SEO efforts.

Hubspot provides a useful list of some of the leading ones here.

And it’s worth noting that Yoast has a ‘real-time content analysis‘ tool that you can use. This allows you to copy and paste your content and your focus keyword into its SEO checker, which then generates a report outlining what you’ve got right and what you need to address.

Tip: For more in-depth advice about monitoring the effectiveness of changes you make to pages on your site, you might want to read this guide to SEO testing.


More Squarespace SEO advice

The above Squarespace SEO tips should definitely help make a difference to the performance of your site in search engine results, but they’re only scratching the surface of SEO! 

If you’re interested in learning more about the whole topic of search engine optimization, or find out more about SEO best practices, then please do subscribe to our mailing list. You’ll then receive our all our exclusive, easy-to-action tips on to improve your search ranking.

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Any thoughts on Squarespace SEO?

We hope you’ve found these Squarespace SEO tips useful — but if you have any questions, please do feel free to leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you some quality SEO help!

Also, if you’ve enjoyed the article we’d be really grateful if you could share it on social media — or, if you run your own blog or site, it’d be great if you could consider linking to it 🙂

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