Our Top Squarespace SEO Tips: How To Rank On Google Every Time
Struggling with SEO? We’re sharing our top Squarespace SEO tips for success which will help you navigate the scary, yet the achievable world of SEO for yourself, and rank on page 1 of Google using a Squarespace website.
Search Engine Optimisation. Gulp.
We're not going to lie, SEO is a seriously overwhelming part of any business or blog, and unfortunately, without a proper understanding of the rules and strategies to help you rank, you're just not going to be found on Google. How do we know this? Because we found out the hard way.
Back in 2015 when we started our blog, we had the arrogance to think that we could just write content and readers would flock to our website. Spoiler alert, that didn't happen.
It wasn't until we switched from WordPress to Squarespace in late 2017 that things really started to change for us. Instead of relying on the Yoast plugin (which incidentally, is pretty good if you know how to use it!), we delved deep into understanding the ins and outs of SEO - learning the nitty-gritty details that eventually catapulted our blog and business into another stratosphere.
The Squarespace SEO strategies we implemented paid off, and we saw a 200% increase in our traffic in 2019 alone. Our revenues grew even larger, and we started winning awards for our work. All on Squarespace, a platform that many consider bad for SEO.
In this post, we're sharing our top Squarespace SEO tips for success, the ones that catapulted our business from close to failure, to award-winning. These SEO tips will help you navigate the scary, yet the achievable world of SEO for yourself, and rank on page 1 of Google using a Squarespace website.
9 HELPFUL SQUARESPACE SEO TIPS
FIRSTLY, WHAT IS SEO & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
If you're anything like us a few years ago, the term SEO is both foreign and frightening. It sounds daunting, like some whacky mathematical equation that you just know you won't understand. Thankfully, it's not.
Search Engine Optimisation is basically a set of rules and principles designed to make your website more attractive to a search engine. This could include content, onsite SEO, keywords, coding, linking etc. - all key indicators to tell the search engine that your content is both relevant and helpful to the user’s search query.
Therefore, SEO is super important if you want your audience, customers or clients to find you, and to brand build awareness and authority in your niche.
Search engines use complex algorithms to provide the most relevant (and best) results possible to their users search query, so what you're trying to do is provide the best content so the search engine pays attention to your brand.
Search engines work by:
Crawling: Using bots to search the internet for relevant content, looking over the code/content for each URL they find
Indexing: The process of understanding, storing and organising content found during the crawling process. Once indexed, the page may be displayed in relevant search queries
Ranking: Provide content that best answers a search query, the results ordered by most relevant to least relevant (these results are known as search engine results pages (SERPs))
Ultimately, you're trying to build authority in an area or niche, by providing the best content and user experience possible, so your blog, business or brand ranks on page one of SERPs.
IS SQUARESPACE BAD FOR SEO?
Short answer, nope, not even close. In fact, through SEO we drive 90% of our 190,000 monthly page views.
Long answer - it's complicated, but no matter what CMS platform you use, there's no guarantee for success. Squarespace is no worse for SEO than WordPress, and vice versa.
As we mentioned above, SEO is a set of rules and principles designed to make your website more attractive to a search engine, which can include content, onsite SEO, keywords, coding, linking etc. It's following these principles that matter, not necessarily the CMS (okay, we understand some CMS platforms are poor for SEO, but Squarespace and WordPress are not) you're using.
In fact, in many ways Squarespace is actually better than WordPress for SEO:
Squarespace provides automatic SSL certificates to all customers, meaning your website will be safe and secure for every visitor. Google actively rewards websites adopting HTTPS, and are safe and secure.
Another security feature of Squarespace is the lack of plug-in infrastructure. Most people might baulk at this, but the lack of plugins is super helpful for security as there are no extra vulnerabilities - few logins, fewer accounts, fewer updates = less chance of compromised security.
WordPress on the other hand is still living in 2010 when it comes to security, through plugin, platform, PHP and hosting vulnerabilities. In fact, in 2018 90% of hacked CMS-powered websites were hosted by WordPress. That's super scary.
All Squarespace themes are optimised for mobile, meaning your content and images are automatically resized to fit different devices and screens. They also look absolutely beautiful!
This is important as Google prioritises mobile-optimised sites in search.
While most WordPress themes in this day and age are mobile responsive, some aren't, or look absolutely horrible. And if they're not, it requires another plugin (and potential vulnerabilities), or a lot of coding.
All Squarespace websites come with an automatic XML sitemap (a file that provides all information about the pages, videos, and other files on your website, and the relationships between them), which stays current and includes all your URLs and image metadata for SEO-friendly indexing.
Additionally, Squarespace uses clean HTML and URL structures, which are easily indexed by search engines.
EASE OF USE
Okay, bear with us on this one.
By using a platform that's intuitive to use, it allows more time for creativity and producing exceptional content to achieve your goals and answer user intent. By not having to focus on other areas of a CMS, such as coding, Squarespace allows you to do what you do, exceptionally well. For people like us, who run a travel and photography blog, that's super important.
OUR SQUARESPACE SEO TIPS
NAIL THE BASICS OF SQUARESPACE SEO
One of the main benefits of Squarespace is that a lot of the basics of SEO are taken care of when you purchase your website - including the sitemap and mobile optimised sites, so you really don't need to worry about too much.
However, there are a few basic Squarespace SEO tips we recommend you focus on before setting your site live.
Turn on SSL (HTTPS) | Secure your website in the SSL panel
Add a site description | Add a short site description (between 50 - 300 characters) to your SEO site description, that succinctly defines what your website is about. Remember to include keywords within your niche, such as 'travel blog', 'Melbourne restaurants', 'Budapest tour' etc.
Add SEO descriptions to each page | Squarespace allows you to add a unique SEO description (50-300 characters) to each page on your website. This should be succinct and describe the content of that page. You should also do this for each individual blog post or product
Page and title formats | You can control how your page titles appear in browser tabs, social shares and SERPs. Update this to fit your brand
Chose your blog URL format | This is super important for bloggers like us, We recommend the simplest format: %t - post title
Connect your social media accounts | It's super easy to link your social accounts through Squarespace, which then allows you to push content as soon as you publish
For businesses, we recommend also doing the following:
Add your location | Create at 'contact us' page with your address and map to help you show up in local searches
Publish your location online | Create and manage online listings for your business's physical location, serviced areas, and hours of operation. If you already have a Google My Business listing, connect it to your site and manage your information through Squarespace (source - Squarespace)
FIND YOUR NICHE
If you're a business owner or blogger, chances are you've found your niche already. If you're just starting out, it's super important to find your niche.
What is a niche exactly? It's a topic you/your business is an expert in, and wish to create content around. It's important to not go too broad (like we did initially with travel!), as the market for generic niches is already very saturated. Instead, niche down even further.
For example, if you're a coffee connoisseur living in Prague, consider creating a blog on the best coffee in Prague, with reviews on each coffee house in the city. People will come to your site and channels because you are the expert.
For us, niche verticals including travel (with a focus on specific destinations), responsible travel, travel photography and travel blogging. For others, it might be landscape architecture, camera lenses, or indoor plants.
Whatever your niche is, it's important to create a suite of content within that niche to build authority on the topic. Basically, you'll want to become the expert in your niche so that search engines will reward you, and your audience will value you.
So how do you know what content to create in your niche? Keyword research!
DO YOUR (KEYWORD) RESEARCH
Ranking on page 1 (preferably results in 1-3!) of Google will drive page views, advertising and affiliate income, and build brand awareness for your business, so finding the right keyword/s to target is fundamental to a strong SEO strategy.
But what are keywords, exactly?
They're the search terms or phrases people use to find content on search engines. Things like "what is the capital of Hungary?", or "best vegan recipes" are examples of keywords.
If keyword research isn't part of your SEO strategy, you're doing it wrong. In fact, we're of the opinion that keyword research is the number one SEO tactic you should be utilising.
By implementing keyword research you'll:
See what users are actually searching for
Understand how users are searching for it (keyword variations)
Discover keyword goldmines that you can rank for
Let search engines know you've written good content answering user intent
There is a range of free and paid-for keyword research tools that will assist your Squarespace SEO strategy.
Our favourites include:
Keysearch | Hands down the most valuable keyword research tool. An all-round SEO tool that helps you find keywords, competition analysis, check backlinks, track keywords, as well as Youtube keyword research. It's affordable, extensive and easy to use. Buy here
Google Keyword Planner | A free resource within the Google Adwords account, which can be helpful to search for search volume, keyword data, CPC data (which can help you figure out what keywords are most valuable and most competitive), and keyword ideas
Ubersuggest | A paid-for keyword research tool from SEO guru Neil Patel that allows you to analyse keyword data and find related keywords. Not a huge fan, but it does the job. Allows for three free searches per day
Keyword Explorer | Moz (the guys who define your DA & PA!) have a free keyword tool that shows who is ranking in SERPs, see what keywords you’re ranking for, and compare your rankings directly with your competitors
Answer the Public | We heard of this on a podcast five years ago and still use it to this day. Type in any phrase/question/comparison/keyword to the search function and receive a whole myriad of detailed and abstract keywords (long-tail keywords mostly) related to your phrase/keyword. The free version is limited
Doing keyword research and writing exceptional content doesn't necessarily guarantee SEO success - there are other factors that contribute to SERPs such as authority, relevance, niche etc.
One metric to help you understand your website and page authority is Moz Domain Authority (DA). Moz uses 40+ metrics to provide an idea of your websites rankability in SERPs, based on authority in your niche, the quality of inbound links etc.
While this metric isn't definitive, nor affiliated with Google in any way, your DA number is a good way to understand your authority, and what keywords you may be able to target.
You can search your Moz DA here.
DA is generally affected by website age - the older, more established a website is, the more authority it's believed to have, and therefore a higher score is attributed.
For example, if your DA is higher than 40+, you'll likely have a good chance to rank for competitive keywords against larger, well-established sites.
Ranking for competitive keywords generally = more traffic.
If your DA is below 20, you'll likely have to be more strategic with your keyword research, and target more long-tail or less competitive keywords until your authority grows over time. That being said, niche websites can rank for competitive keywords with low DA's, as Google may see them as the overall authority in this niche.
Don't focus too much on your DA - it's a metric, not an answer to success. Focus on providing exceptional content that ranks well on Google, build quality links to your content, and your authority (and ultimately, DA) will rise rapidly.
OFFER HIGH QUALITY, SEO-RICH CONTENT THAT ANSWERS USER INTENT
One of the key learnings over our SEO journey has been discovering what in-depth, quality, SEO-rich content can do for our business. Gone are the days of not ranking for the content we've spent hours researching and producing. Now, we rank on page 1 for almost every post we write.
As we mentioned above, search engines are looking for the best and most relevant content to answer user intent. Therefore, you need to write the best and most relevant content to answer user intent. Google even has an acronym for it - E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
This is done by finding the keywords you want to target in your niche, then writing the best piece of content to answer that search query.
Things to consider when writing quality, SEO-rich content:
Answer user intent (what does the reader want from this post)
Be an expert on the topic or niche
Use targeted keywords or keyword phrases regularly
Be detailed and succinct
Don't copy others
Be better than others (no mistakes!)
For example, writing a post on 'best cameras for travel in 2021' should include more than just your personal opinion on your favourite camera (although you should still include this), it should analyse a range of different camera options based on different criteria, as well as answering secondary questions like 'how to choose the best travel camera', 'best travel camera features', 'compact vs full-frame travel camera's, ‘best travel camera price' etc.
Then, you'll need to produce a range of content that supports the 'travel camera' or 'best camera' niche, to build authority on the topic. These could include 'best travel camera lenses', 'how to take better travel photos', 'best full-frame travel cameras'... you get the drift. Build that authority and write exceptional content and Google will start to love you.
Content that is authoritative will generally be well researched and thorough, so generally between 1000 - 3000+ words depending on the topic. Although word count isn't a ranking factor for search engines, in-depth content is. More thorough content means more chances to answer user intent and weave in keyword variations.
Just don't over-write.
Unfortunately, writing for SEO often leads to list-based articles with zero creativity or emotion at the top of SERPs. Many think there has to be a trade-off between ranking on Google and providing creative, well-written content, buuuut it is possible.
In fact, that's what separates good SEO from great SEO - creativity, great writing skills, use of multimedia (images, gifs, video), telling stories with emotion, while also answering user intent.
OPTIMISE YOUR ON-SITE SEO (KEYWORDS IN HEADINGS, META-DESCRIPTIONS AND URL'S)
So you've written the best content ever on your specific topic or niche - what next? Optimising on-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to the process of optimising each web page in order to rank higher in SERPs. How you manage your on-page SEO and structure your content will go a long way to determining how you rank on SERPs. You could write the best piece of content, but if it isn't structured properly, search engines won't be able to rank it properly.
Below is a simplified overview of what you need to do to every post on your website to improve your on-page Squarespace SEO.
Use headings strategically | Title headings (H1), and subheadings (H2, H3, H4, H5 etc.) are numbered to indicate their relative importance to search engines. Headings should exist in a hierarchical way and flow in a rational way (ie. H1 - best cameras for travel in 2021, H2 Best mirrorless travel cameras for travel, H2 Best crop sensor cameras for travel, H3 Mirrorless vs Crop Sensor cameras). Place your keywords (short or long-tail) in your headings throughout your content
Add meta description | A meta description should succinctly summarise the contents of your page or post to drive click-throughs, using your desired keyword. The meta description generally shows up below your post in SERPs
Add the keyword to your URL | It’s best to have URLs that reflect the content of the post or page. ie. www.blog/best-travel-cameras
Keywords throughout your content | Add your targeted keyword and related keywords naturally throughout your content (don't overdo it - it's horrible for the user). Remember to include it in the first 100 words of your content
Image alt-text | Use beautiful images throughout your content (more on that below), but remember to add image alt-text to describe the image, using your target keywords
Internal and external links | Internal and external linking provides search engines with a chance to crawl your content and the content you link to. It's super important to link to your own related content (this builds authority!), but also to high authority external sites, especially if quoting or citing information as a reference
All of the above might sound a little intimidating to someone new to SEO, especially on Squarespace where the Yoast SEO plugin isn't available. However, once you understand how to structure your content for SEO, you should have no problems.
Thankfully, managing on-site SEO is extremely easy using Squarespace. The SEO tab will allow you to add a page title, SEO title (for search engines specifically), meta description and URL slug, all in one easy area (it's basically the Yoast plugin without the traffic lights).
Managing headings is also easy in Squarespace - just use the text function and toggle between H1, H2, H3 or body text where applicable when building out your blog post or web page.
Don't forget to focus on user experience - the header structure needs to be a priority and not an afterthought. It should make sense and be aesthetic, as well as being good for Squarespace SEO.
SQUARESPACE SEO TIP | One way we've found it easy to organise our blog posts with the right title heading structure is to create a template with the page structure built out. That way, we know where our headers are for each post.
BUILD INBOUND AND INTERNAL LINKS
One of the most fundamental parts of SEO is link building, both inbound and internal. Links help search engines determine how well a page should be ranked in results, and to discover new websites.
Without a strong inbound link profile, and a robust internal linking structure, your site isn't going to be considered of value to search engines.
Building high authority inbound links to your website not only suggests to Google your site is authority itself, but also will improve your rankings on SERPs. While a robust internal linking structure
If you're anything like us, you'll receive 10+ emails a day from SEO outreach agencies trying to either buy or place links on your website. This is the reason why.
Now, we absolutely don't suggest you agree to any of these link building request emails - they're usually spammy and off-topic. But by writing the best content on your topic or niche, the website will (or should if they're not hyper-competitive) link to your content, just as you will link to someone else's content where relevant.
Over time, acquiring links to your website will build your authority.
There are a few ways to build links to your website:
Write really really good content so others link to it
Guest posting on higher authority websites (or if you're a journalist, pitching to a publication)
Build relationships with others in your niche
Ask for backlinks (within your niche, of course)
Internal links are the easiest to manage, as they are links to your own content. Obviously, when you're just starting out, this might be hard to achieve as you won't have a suite of content for your niche.
However, over time, it's extremely important to build your internal link structure to indicate your hierarchy of content to search engines, and allow readers to find your related content.
Internal linking improves session duration and bounce rate, both important factors in SEO success, while also spreading page authority (PA, similar to DA, but for pages) throughout your site.
Squarespace's internal linking mechanism can be a little annoying at times, however, you just need to find the URL of what you wish to link to, and paste it into the popup.
Outbound links are links to content external to your own. They're not as important as inbound or internal links per se - it's more about supporting the industry that supports you (at least, that's how we see it!), while also providing value for your readers.
If you find a piece of content that has provided value to you, and believe it will also provide value to your readers, link to it. This could be linking to a quote, a news article, or something that supports your argument, information etc.
SQUARESPACE SEO TIP | Remember to check links regularly - broken links can be harmful to SEO
UPDATE YOUR CONTENT REGULARLY
An often overlooked in the SEO game is updating existing content.
Regardless of SEO, you should be updating old blog content regularly to improve the user experience for your readers (no one likes a dead link or a recommendation to a closed business), however, from an SEO perspective, updating old content can result in huge ranking increases.
Why? Because Google loves 'refreshed' content as it indicates your site is still relevant and providing value.
Therefore, we recommend updating your existing content regularly (at least once a year) by:
Adding new, relevant content or information
Remove old or outdated links
Adding/updating relevant keywords
Doing a thorough SEO analysis (update images, improve on-page SEO, headings etc.)
If you're not sure what content to update, use Google Search Console or Analytics to see how your posts are ranking on SERPs, and if there are any long hanging fruit (ie. posts that are older than one year old and rank just off page 1, or posts that have recently dropped in rankings) and start optimising them.
By doing this, you'll hopefully see a rapid increase in rankings and traffic.
DON'T FORGET USER EXPERIENCE
One of the reasons we switched from WordPress to Squarespace was to improve the look and feel of our website and brand. Squarespace websites look incredible but are also so intuitive and easy to navigate. In short, they just look good and work well.
So while that part of user experience is taken care of with Squarespace, there are a number of Google-led user experience factors to consider so your website ranks well in SERPs.
These are called core web vitals (read more about them here), and they include things like:
Loading times (page speed)
Mobile optimisation (Squarespace has this taken care of)
The most important of these 'vitals' is page speed, which can severely impact your SEO if not managed properly. Unfortunately, this is the one area in which Squarespace falls down against WordPress, as Squarespace's complex CMS renders sites a little slower.
Unfortunately, there's not a huge amount you can do to improve page speed, however, two easy wins include:
Keep image sizes as small as possible (within reason of course - if you're a travel and photography blog like ours, your content is going to be heavily image-based). We recommend anything under 300kb to maintain quality or keep your page size under 5MB.
We recommend deleting any unwanted fonts as they take time to load. The fewer the fonts, the quicker the site.
SQUARESPACE SEO TIP | Don't overload your website with large images, and multiple fonts
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