In the past, I’ve mentioned my reasonings for choosing Squarespace and why I recommend this website builder to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Today I’d like to talk about a topic I frequently get asked about and that’s search engine optimization (SEO). More specifically, how you can make your Squarespace website SEO friendly right after it’s freshly designed and launched.
Within each of my web design packages, I provide three optimization services for my clients: Squarespace on-page, Google, and Bing. After the design is finished and approved, I begin the optimization process by checking off a list of items geared to prepare the site for the web and search.
When it comes to on-page optimization for Squarespace websites, I recommend following these best practices:
Squarespace On-Page Optimizations
Set Title Tags
Title tags show up in the tabs of your window browser and describe the content of that specific page. They're one of the most important on-page SEO elements that also appear on the search engine result pages (SERPs), and through external sites, like social media networks.
Title Tag How-to
Check out Squarespace's default title tag formatting by accessing your main menu bar, Settings, Marketing, then SEO. Here's a snapshot of what mine looks like:
To customize your title tags for each page, click on the gear symbol and put whatever you'd like into the Page Title box.
Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Under 55 Characters for 95% visibility.
For additional best practices and a pretty cool emulator tool, visit this guide from Moz.
Utilize Your Meta Description Tags
Meta description tags are like page advertisements on the SERPs. They have no impact on rankings, but they entice readers to click on your page if it's one of the first ten to show up for a certain phrase or keyword.
Meta Description Tag How-to
On the right of each page, click on the gear to change how the description reads.
Something catchy with the use of a few keywords.
155 characters or less.
Add Image Alt Tags
Do you have a lot of photos on your website? Utilize those babies by applying an alt tag on each. They help identify the content of an image for bots (since they can only read text), assist screen reader users, and provide primo keyword application opportunities that improve your SEO as well.
Image Alt Tag How-to
Since there are a multitude of ways that you can add images to your site, I suggest visiting Squarespace's alt tag guide before optimizing your images.
I use many image blocks for Sarasure, so I find myself either adding (and hiding) the name in the caption or simply changing the file name. Both are easily converted into alt tags thanks to Squarespace.
Describe the image in detail with a clever use of your keywords. Just don't go overboard, because that's considered "keyword stuffing." If you need more examples, here's what Google has to say.
Organize Your Content
Establish page hierarchy by applying various header formats to your content. They help divide information up into bite-sized pieces for simple page skimming which becomes great for SEO. Also known as <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc. tags, Squarespace automatically formats these within the code so you don't have to. This is another way to add in a couple of searchable keywords.
Tags and Categories
Whilst blogging, use tags and categories to help search engines identify what your post is about. It'll also make your life easier if you should choose to have a blog archive later on.
Helpful Resource: Check out Squarespace's help guide for more in-depth tips on how you can increase your SEO visibility.
Now that we've got on-page optimization squared away, here's a couple more things I recommend for optimal exposure on Google and Bing:
Optimizing for Google
- First, create a Google account that will be associated with your site (if you haven't already).
- Log into to your account and submit your URL to Google.
- Create a Google Analytics account and fill out the form to obtain your tracking ID.
What is Google Analytics?
A tool connected to your Google account that allows you to view and measure your website traffic. Best part is that it's free!
- Using your tracking ID, sync your Google Analytics account to your Squarespace website.
- Next, add your website to Google Search Console.
What is Google Search Console?
Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, this is another free, online service that allows you to check the index and search status of your website.
- Log back into your Squarespace account and verify your website using the code Google provides you.
- Then watch out for a message that looks like this:
Follow each step using the links from this message. If you're a one-woman band, like myself, you can skip step number four.
For those of you that need extra guidance, here's a breakdown on how I set-up Sarasure:
Adding Multiple URL Versions on Google
- First, I clicked the red "Add Property" button and typed in www.sarasure.com.
- Then I verified my site through Squarespace using the HTML tag option.
- Tip: Squarespace has an awesome step-by-step guide on this through their help menu.
- Once that was approved, I simply repeated the first two steps to add sarasure.com.
Setting Your Preferred URL
Now that I had two URLs added to my Google Search Console, I chose my preferred version (sarasure.com) by doing two things:
- On the home menu through my Squarespace account, I clicked Settings, then Domains to set my primary domain to sarasure.com. Then, I made sure the Use WWW Prefix box was left unchecked. (If you need additional help, refer to Squarespace's guide to setting a primary domain.)
- On the Google Search Console, I referred back to my message, clicked on the "set preferred version" link, and selected sarasure.com.
Keep in mind that this step is based on personal preference and shouldn't negatively effect your SEO in any way. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to keep everything consistent and organized for Google when their bots crawl and index your site.
Selecting A Country to Target
This step is relatively simple to follow once you click on the link provided in the message. Since Sarasure is a company located in America, I selected the United States through the dropdown options. Easy, peasy.
Submitting Your Sitemap to Google
- To submit your sitemap, go to the Google Search Console and click on your preferred website.
- On the left-hand side click Crawl, then Sitemaps. Next, click on the red "Add/Test Sitemap" button.
- Type your sitemap url into the box provided, click "Submit Sitemap," and wait a few days for Google to process your file.
What's a sitemap?
A file that lists your web pages, records and measures meta data, and essentially tells search engine crawlers how to intelligently decipher your site content by the way it's organized.
Where to find your sitemap:
Thankfully, Squarespace makes it super easy to remember your sitemap name. If you have a custom domain, it's simply http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or http://sitename.squarespace.com/sitemap.xml if you don't.
For more information about your sitemap, head on over to Squarespace's help page.
If you'd like to learn more about the Google Search Console, the last link in your message will take you to a help center. I personally enjoyed learning about this through this Beginner's Guide via Moz Blog.
Note: Google takes some time to crawl and index your website, so be prepared to wait a couple of weeks before your website name shows up in the search results.*
*Disclaimer: Although I have had SEO experience in the past, I do not pretend to be an expert on this topic and do not offer extensive SEO services to my clients. However, due to the ever-changing nature of Google's Algorithms and abundance of SEO marketing scams, I strongly urge you to reconsider ranking obsession. If you find that you're not ranking for a certain term or keyword, there could be a large variety of reasons why and I have found that the lack of quality content is the single most important factor. My advice is simple: write about what you know and try to make it as helpful as possible. Steer clear from language that people will not understand, write original content, and don't repeatedly try to sell yourself to your audience. Nobody likes that.
Optimizing for Bing
Why do we need to optimize for Bing I hear you wonder? According to CNN Money, 1 in 5 people still use Bing, so I try not exclude anyone based on their search engine preferences.
If you'd like to rank for both, here are some steps:
- Begin by submitting your URL to Bing.
- Then, create a Bing account that'll be associated with your site.
- Sign into Bing Webmaster Tools and submit your site and sitemap by clicking the "Add a Site" link to the left.
- For Sarasure, I just added the non-www url because Bing only requires your primary domain.
- Bing may take a while to process your url and sitemap addition. (Mine took a couple of days.)
- Once your website URL and sitemap have been added, you'll need to verify your website through Squarespace.
One Last Optimizing Tip
Keep Your Information Consistent
Have you ever Googled a business in search of their location or hours of operation and found that their information was completely scattered and outdated? How frustrating! Let's make it easier on your clientele (and Google) by following these tips:
- In the Squarespace Main Menu, go to Settings, Business Information and then fill out your name, location, hours of operation, email, phone number, etc.
- Google your business name (or name of your site) and update whatever pops up with the exact same information, grammar not excluded.
- Update your social media accounts with the same proper information (this includes your Google My Business page).
- Don't have a Google My Business? Make a page to improve your local search visibility. (Online only businesses should create a brand page.) Since Google is the king of all the search engines, I like to participate in all of their endeavors, like Google+, for example.
Remember: Once you have something to update, make sure you update everything else. If you get in the practice of doing this, you'll be off to a great start.
Just like that, you've optimized your website and are ready to take the world by storm!
Do you have any other Squarespace SEO tips to share? I'd love to hear how others are navigating the mysterious and ever complicated waters of website optimization.