4 Myths and Realities About Squarespace SEO

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.

Complex SEO tactics such as URL canonicalization are automatically implemented on Squarespace.

Complex SEO tactics such as URL canonicalization are automatically implemented on Squarespace.

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.

Important fields such as page title tags can be maintained at a sitewide and page-specific level.

Important fields such as page title tags can be maintained at a sitewide and page-specific level.

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.

Squarespace comes complete with 24/7 tech support.

Squarespace comes complete with 24/7 tech support.

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:

SEO industry hero Rand Fishkin endorses Squarespace.

SEO industry hero Rand Fishkin endorses Squarespace.

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:

This website has attracted over 100,000 visits through search engine traffic, including over 7,500 just last month alone. 

This website has attracted over 100,000 visits through search engine traffic, including over 7,500 just last month alone. 

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. 

Squarespace SEO Secrets You Should Know

Squarespace SEO SecretsI'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. 

SEO is like digging a holeYou 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:

  1. Accessibility - Can search engines find and properly crawl your website?
  2. Content - Are your key search phrases effectively positioned in your content?
  3. 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.
  • Squarespace is Indexed Fast(Click to see an article that was indexed in less than a minute.)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 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.Squarespace Title OrderingAdjust search engine settings in your Website Settings.
  • 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 301 redirectsSetting up SEO-friendly 301 redirects is a cinch on Squarespace.

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.