10 Top Tips: Squarespace and SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is the activity associated with improving your website's rankings in search engine results. Primarily, of course, this means Google. Those websites that have the best SEO will appear closest to the top of "organic" search results—those that appear immediately after the ads.
Most of my clients talk about SEO, and many admit they know little about it, only that they want to be "at the top of Google". Whilst neither I—nor anyone else, not even the pros!—can promise you top spot on Google, there's plenty you can do to help your website perform well in terms of SEO, and Squarespace websites make it even easier.
Here are my 10 Top Tips for solid SEO in Squarespace:
1. Squarespace does some of it for you
As an all-in-one package, Squarespace has a lot of the important aspects of SEO covered already. Sitemaps, SSL certificates, responsive layouts, clean code, header tags and clear URLs are all standard features of Squarespace sites. You don't even have to understand the terminology; just that Squarespace deals with these important factors "out-of-the-box".
2. Set individual page titles
Every page on your website should have a unique title. This title is visible to the visitor in most browsers (at the top of the tab or window), and is used by search engines to categorise the page. Remember, page titles should:
- Be simple and readable. Both Google and your visitors will benefit from this.
- Describe the page. For example, a Contact page should include the word "contact".
- Be no more than 55 characters long. This way, the whole title will appear in a search result.
- Include keywords without repetition. Characters are at a premium, so don't repeat yourself.
3. Set individual page descriptions
Squarespace allows you to set an overall Search Engine Description by going to Settings > SEO. It is important to do this, describing your whole website in a couple of sentences, but it is also important to set unique descriptions for each of your pages. Remember, much like the page titles, page descriptions should:
- Be simple and readable. Don't just cram descriptions with keywords.
- Describe the page. Summarising the content of the page in a couple of sentences is the best approach.
- Be no more than 155 characters long. This allows it to be displayed fully in the search result.
- Include keywords without repetition. Try not to repeat keywords included in the page title.
4. Add a location for your organisation
If your organisation has a physical location, then adding this location to your Squarespace site and Google will help with SEO. Remember to:
- Add your address to Squarespace. Go to Setting > Business Information. Add your opening hours too, especially if your business relies on people visiting your premises!
- Add your address to the footer. Some Squarespace templates do this automatically from the address you add to the Business Information setting. However, if not, add a Text block to your site's footer and add your address manually.
- Add a Map block to your Contact page. This will automatically link out to Google Maps so that your visitors can easily get directions.
- Sign up for Google My Business. You can find more information on this here; it literally puts you on the map!
5. Add "alt" text to all images on your site
There are a couple of reasons to do this: (1) it's good practice, and helps people using screen readers to access your site properly; and (2) it helps with SEO! Alternative text, or "alt" text, describes the image on the screen in words. See this example code:
<img src="/an-image-of-a-cat.png" alt="A cat sat on a mat" />
- Keep your "alt" text accurate and relevant. Describe the image and nothing more.
- Keep your "alt" text concise. Just a few words is fine; there's no need for masses of detail.
- Leave out "An image of...". This makes the "alt" text longer unnecessarily... it's obviously an image!
6. Add tags and categories to blog posts, et al.
Search engines including Google look for tags and categories in "collections" on your Squarespace site to identify and classify the content of those pages (or "posts"). Collections include: blogs; products; image galleries; events; and album tracks. Remember to:
- Categorise every post. Define only a few category titles, and only use one or two per post.
- Think of categories like overall subject titles: "Team", "Update", "News", "New Product", etc.
- Tag every post. Use as many tags as you want per post, and try to hit the keywords.
- Think of tags like hashtags: "awesome", "holiday", "new release", "sale", "discount", etc.
7. Start (or continue!) blogging
I know: it's easier-said-than-done, especially if you're just starting out and/or don't have a dedicated marketing team! But this really does help with SEO, and all Squarespace sites include the features required to blog quickly and easily. By regularly writing a blog—as often as possible—about subjects relevant to your target audience/market, you automatically keep your site refreshed and up-to-date, whilst driving more traffic. Remember to:
- Blog as frequently as you can. Coming up with a schedule of what to write about and when can help.
- Write about subjects that are relevant to you market. This helps to drive the right traffic to your site.
- Categorise and tag your posts. See Point 6 above!
- Not worry about length... Short posts are fine, and you can even simply link to external content (re-blog) if you find something of interest somewhere else on the Internet.
Not sure what to write about? Try using Answer the Public.
8. Improve your links
The Internet is all about links. Making sure you have good links, both to and from your website, will help greatly with your SEO. As above, make sure you build links with other websites that are relevant to your target audience/market. Remember to:
- Post on social media. Cross promotion on sites and profiles that you control is easy to do.
- When you blog, share this on social media too. Luckily, Squarespace can link with your social media accounts and effectively do this automatically. Read more here.
- Check that your outbound links work. Broken links can work against you, so check that they go to the right place.
- Create a custom 404 page. Making sure this error page matches your site's overall look will help if visitors land on a page that has been moved or no longer exists.
If you are transferring your website into Squarespace, you should also read this Support article about 301 redirects.
9. Register your website with search engines
After you website has gone live—hopefully with all of the above points covered!—you should register it with the search engines themselves. This registration and verification process will ensure that your site gets crawled and starts showing up on search results. Even if you already have a website and you're transferring to Squarespace, it is still a good idea to go through this process after the new site has gone live. Remember to:
- Register with, and verify your site through, the Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Verify both the HTTPS and HTTP versions of your site, and set the preferred version to HTTPS.
- Request indexing as part of the process, which will initiate a crawl of your site.
10. Review and revise
The above points are a great starting point for your website's SEO. However, the Internet never stands still, and the best websites are those that are regularly maintained, reviewed and updated. Fortunately, of course, Squarespace makes this very easy too. Remember to:
- Check your website's analytics regularly. Whether you use the built-in analytics or Google Analytics, make sure you check your referral sources, your overall traffic month-by-month, and your most popular content, then adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, if a particular blog posts is getting a lot of hits, cover similar subjects again.
- Keep blogging! As well as adding products, adding to galleries, and adding events, this will help to keep your site fresh and interesting to your target audience/market. If you have time, activate comments to engage and communicate with your audience.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools. Google's suite of tools, especially the Search Console, can help you detect issues with your site, give you guidance on how to improve visibility and ranks, and much more. Again, review your strategy in line with your findings.
I will be writing about this ongoing review topic in more detail in a future post.