A friend of mine who builds Squarespace websites wrote to me recently, concerned that his client's search engine optimization (SEO) consultant was trying to persuade the client to change content management systems from Squarespace to Wordpress because "performing SEO work on [Squarespace] could come with some limitations."
As someone who both loves Squarespace websites and also who knows a thing or two about SEO, it frustrates me to see mis-information like this swirling around the web. In reality, Squarespace supports the ability to attract search engine traffic incredibly well, and even includes features most Wordpress developers don't know about or often just plain get wrong.
Today we're bringing to light four myths about Squarespace's SEO capabilities, and the underlying realities you need to know before someone persuades you to switch for no good reason.
Myth #1: You Can't Access Squarespace's System
The first myth presented by the "SEO expert" was that Squarespace prevents SEO success due to its proprietary code base:
"Squarespace has a lot of tools in place that give us access to optimizing your site, however, it is a proprietary CMS so we don't have access to some key code based items. SEO service providers need access to some parts of that HTML in order to write appropriate tags and information so that search engines are able to understand it.
While Squarespace has made a great effort to give as much access as possible to relevant SEO items, and gives more access than most proprietary systems, there are still some shortcomings - such as the XML sitemap, alt tags for images, categories being hidden - that we will be unable to resolve or work around due to the nature of the CMS."
Reality #1: Squarespace's Proprietary System Facilitates SEO
While it's true that Squarespace's code base is proprietary, that doesn't present any major barriers to generating search engine traffic. Squarespace facilitates all the major SEO tasks, and in certain cases, such as with the automatically-updated XML sitemaps, newly integrated Google Authorship markup, and even URL canonicalization standard with every site, Squarespace's proprietary system actually facilitates more search engine optimization success.
Sure, Squarespace doesn't let you do everything an SEO would want to tackle straight out of the box, such as hiding blog categories, but the Squarespace developer platform provides complete code control. Advanced Squarespace designers should be able to tackle even the most sophisticated SEO requests.
Myth #2: Squarespace Limits Where You can Edit
The next Squarespace SEO myth is also often accompanied by encouragement to change platforms to Wordpress for best results:
"Performing SEO work on this system could come with some limitations, and it's only fair to let you know that up front. I am not saying that you NEED to switch CMS, but as we work with the system, we may find there are additional items that hinder our ability to perform the best SEO for you."
Reality #2: Squarespace Takes Care of SEO or Lets You Do It Yourself
There are a handful of critical elements needed for SEO on-page success, including your page's meta title and description tags, image alt tags, and including important phrases within the content of your site.
In addition, there are some architectural factors, such as the page's URL, canonicalization meta tags, Google authorship, and XML sitemaps, that contribute to a website's SEO success.
Squarespace either addresses all of these factors automatically, let's you adjust them manually, or a combination of both. There's not an important tag or setting that can't be changed to promote SEO success.
Myth #3: Wordpress is Dramatically Cheaper than Squarespace
Every website investment will consist of your hosting (i.e., where the files that make up your website actually exist on the web), and content management (i.e., the tools required to build your website). The next myth is related to price:
"I don't know what you pay per month to host through Squarespace, but independent hosting can offer you a great deal of savings, and the Wordpress CMS is free. The only real cost involved with going to Wordpress is the design and implementation phase."
Reality #3: Squarespace's Premium Services are Cost Effective
Squarespace's pricing ranges from $8 - 20 per month depending on features and your billing terms. Compare this to a free Wordpress install and a no-frills hosting account at $5 per month and you're looking at a cost savings at $3 - 15 per month by going with Wordpress over Squarespace.
But don't assume you'll get the same level of service. $5/month hosting won't stand up to huge spikes in traffic, while Reddit or even Hurricane Sandy couldn't bring down Squarespace websites. And every Squarespace account also comes with 24/7 tech support, built-in mobile-friendly responsive design templates, and intuitive editing and design tools.
Yes, you may pay a few bucks more for a Squarespace website, but consider what you're getting for the extra investment.
Myth #4: Serious SEO Professionals Only Use Wordpress
This next myth comes from the Squarespace designer himself as he lamented to me about his client's wavering faith in Squarespace's ability to meet his SEO objectives:
"After speaking with several SEO consultants and all saying the same thing (i.e., 'move your site to Wordpress for optimal benefit'), the client's confidence in the Squarespace platform has eroded."
Reality #4: SEO is About Your CMS and Your Content
Many of the SEOs you'll talk to will recommend Wordpress because it's a system they're familiar with. Wordpress is the majority player in the CMS marketplace, and so it's only natural that there will be more SEOs in support of it over Squarespace. But that doesn't make one better than the other.
Ultimately, your success with SEO is based on a combination of factors, including the on-page and architectural tactics governed by your content management system, as well as facets that are independent of your CMS, including your content creation and outreach strategy and your ability to attract social media engagement and links from across the web.
Some of the best SEOs in the world cite Squarespace as a fantastic platform for organic search traffic, including SEO tool company CEO, Rand Fishkin, whose SEOmoz is among the most trusted of all resources in the SEO industry:
And if that isn't compelling enough, this website is built on Squarespace, and our organic traffic has been increasingly steadily each and every year I've owned and operated it:
What You Should Consider Before Working With SEOs
A great SEO will be able to work with clients to create the best plan to support the client's business, not just the SEO's ability to easily implement the plan. Your primary consideration when building a website should be the content management system that helps you best meet the objectives you laid out for your website in the first place.
Squarespace and Wordpress both support SEO efforts incredibly well, and neither present any major limitations that should dissuade you from choosing either platform.
If your SEO is struggling with the Squarespace platform, consider having them provide their recommendations to your website designer so someone familiar with the platform can implement them, or even have your design give your SEO a tour of Squarespace so the SEO can more comfortably implement their strategy.
But if a Wordpress lover insists that you switch from Squarespace, send them to leave a comment here on this article, and I'll be happy to engage in a conversation to help you understand your options.