I've been getting a lot of questions lately about Squarespace and SEO. Is Squarespace search engine friendly? Is Squarespace good for SEO? Can I rank my Squarespace website in the search engines? In a nutshell, yes, yes and yes. For a more detailed look into Squarespace SEO secrets for your site, read on.
As a professional SEO, I'll be the first to admit that search engine optimization is like digging a never-ending hole. You're simply never done optimizing because nothing is perfect. At some point, it takes more and more work to produce smaller and smaller results.
It's important to know when you've hit the proverbial 80/20 with any particular tactic, goal or content. It can be tricky finding that balance between producing content, and simply producing and fiddling with a much smaller quantity of said content.
You want a web publishing platform that is SEO-friendly. But you also need to be able to publish quickly without jumping through extra hoops.
Keep in mind this balance between creation and optimization as we continue looking into Squarespace's SEO.
Basic SEO Fundamentals
SEO primarily comes down to three things:
- Accessibility - Can search engines find and properly crawl your website?
- Content - Are your key search phrases effectively positioned in your content?
- Links - How many and what kind of websites are linking to your content?
There are countless SEO tactics on the books, but these are the three main buckets. Knowing how to make a few changes here and there to your Squarespace controls in these areas can have a dramatic positive effect on your SEO traffic.
Squarespace and Search Engine Accessibility
Having an accessible website is critical for good SEO. If search engines can't crawl, interpret and index your site, how are they supposed to know what to display in the search results? Squarespace's careful attention to the design of its web publishing platform is evident in several accessibility aspects:
- HTML and CSS. Unlike some platforms that heavily utilize iframes or Flash, Squarespace is built on a solid HTML and CSS platform. Search engines have little trouble reading the main content on your site because it's on a lightweight XHTML structure.
- Super fast indexing. Maybe it's Google's Caffeine update. Maybe it's Squarespace. But articles on this site are often in Google's index within 15 minutes of posting. What's not to love about lightning-fast indexing?
- XML sitemaps. XML sitemaps help Google find all the content on your site. It's easy to create an XML sitemap and upload it to your Squarespace site.
- Code minimalists. You want a site that is put together simply by a thoughtful minimalist combination of HTML and CSS. Squarespace does this for you, giving search engines more content and less code to read while they're crawling your site. Also, this allows your pages to load quickly, which is important to both search engines and your visitors.
- Robots.txt. Squarespace does a pretty good job of populating your Robots.txt file, which determines which pages on your site search engines shouldn't crawl (Tip: See your robots.txt file by visiting http://YOURACCOUNT.squarespace.com/robots.txt). While I wish Squarespace would let me edit my own Robots.txt file, I think they took a decent stab at creating one for me.
Creating SEO Content With Squarespace
It's my humble opinion that optimizing the on-page factors of your content is the easiest part of SEO because it's the part over which you have the most direct control.
- Page-level titles and descriptions. With Squarespace, you can change the page titles and descriptions on each page of your website (with a few minor exceptions like tags and categories pages). Having unique titles and compelling descriptions are important for SEO.
- Optimize Title Ordering. If you do one thing after reading this post, please optimize your Squarespace page title ordering. Doing this puts your site title after your page title within your page's title tag. To do this, go to Website Management -> Website Settings -> Search/Indexing within your admin controls. You'll find the Optimize Title Ordering option here. In fact, you might as well check everything under the Search Engine Parameters section, just to be safe.
- A few page title exceptions. A few page types like folders and a galleries will automatically use your page header as your page title. Personally, I wish I could decouple this to tweak my headline and my page title independently on all page types. A little more forethought to create a page title that doubles as an effective headline can easily overcome this small Squarespace design nuance.
- Keyword-rich content. You're pretty much free to use keywords everywhere you typically are told to put them for positive SEO results: the title, throughout your page content, within anchor text of links, alt tags for images, you name it. Squarespace promotes great on-page SEO.
- A reminder for images. Squarespace has a great image importer within its WYSIWYG controls but the one thing it lacks is a place to edit your image alt tags. It's a good idea to switch to HTML mode before publishing your content to manually add your alt tags as a work-around.
Getting Links to Your Squarespace Site
Link building is the elusive third aspect of SEO. Creating high quality links to your site is the only way to rank well for a search terms with any sort of competition. The thing about link building is that it almost never involves your website platform. Link building relies on a carefully planned internal and external linking strategy.
The only exception to this rule that I can think of is when it comes to 301 redirects, which allow you to signal to search engines when content has moved on your site. Squarespace has a nice SEO 301 redirect utility that does what is necessary to support changes to your site's architecture.
Squarespace SEO: Your Thoughts
Overall, Squarespace has been excellent for Big Picture Web's SEO. What do you think of Squarespace's SEO capabilities? Does your site rank well or is your search engine traffic coming in at a trickle? Is there a tactic that works for you that I haven't listed here? By all means, share your perspective in the comments below.