Is Squarespace good for SEO?
Each week I have questions land in my inbox about Squarespace and search engine optimization.
Potential clients and DIYers alike want to know that if they use Squarespace, will their site show up in search results. They've perhaps been told by "marketing experts" that they must use a certain platform or tool to rank well in Google. Squarespace, on the other hand, is rather vague on the matter:
While this is a true statement—there is no need to plugins and such to implement best practices in Squarespace—it's often interpreted by DIYers and non-technical designers as Squarespace is inherently good for search engines. As a Squarespace Specialist, I've worked on the platform for longer than just about anyone, and I've seen Squarespace sites that destroy the competition in search and sites that are effectively invisible.
So, it's a bit more complicated than the Squarespace platform being good or bad for search engine optimization, right?
What's truly critical is that you effectively and strategically use the tools available to you, while also crafting an intelligent content marketing program that will sustain you through the trends and changes of the fickleness of search engines. I've discussed this previously here, and in my newsletter (subscribe here), but there are many relatively simple DIY and pro options for implementing proper search engine optimization in Squarespace. You want to ensure that you're targeting the right keywords by conducting competitor research and you will need to ensure you're using the built-in components of Squarespace to pull those keywords into the page title, page URL and Heading 1.
Where Squarespace SEO gets tricky is that there aren't the helpers that, say, Wordpress plugins provide to give you cues about character count, keywords and the like. I've used Squarespace for many, many years, but I used Wordpress before that and I still miss the little nags that plugins like Yoast provide. The one built-in SEO prompt in Squarespace is one that I personally don't use on my own Squarespace properties, the SEO description. In my experience, this results in some odd Google previews, and site auditing tools see it as a duplicate page description. So, instead, I place my descriptions in my pages. This is definitely a your mileage may vary situation, however.
The other thing that Squarespace users should be aware of is how tag/category links are indexed by Google. You see, they're not indexed as "Pillar Pages" like we'd like. So you'll need a plan for maximizing those categories and tags in your site's structure. There are several ways to tackle this, and Squarespace summary blocks can be your friends in this case.
My thinking is that your first step should be integrating well researched keywords into your Squarespace website using best practices. But after that, what do you do? Well, in my mind, that's when the fun begins!
Next, to optimize your Squarespace website, start thinking about targeting your content.
This is where Squarespace can really shine in terms of search engine optimization. I have loads of criticisms of Squarespace, namely their pace of development, and limitations if you want to be very sophisticated on the development side, but it is a breeze to add content to your site. And, over and over I tell my design and strategy clients that regularly-updated, targeted content is crucial if you're wanting to be found by the right audience.
What's the right audience you might ask?
That is people who actually may become customers or readers or whatever you're wanting people to do. For example, I have an old blog post that's wildly popular, it's a top ranking post in Google and it gets loads of hits every day, lots of eyeballs on it. However, despite that it's done well for me on paper, it's never lead to single inquiry and has only resulted in may be five email list subscribers. So, while I'm happy that it's a post that serving people well, and it's answering a question people have, in terms of my business objectives, it's an un-targeted post that's doing little more than maybe getting the SMCO name in front of a bunch of people who'll never be our audience. This type of content is fine, contrary to what a lot of marketers will tell you, there's value in creating a resource just because it's a nice thing to do. But you want to balance that with content that will work for you.
This post is a great example! While, this serves as a nice resource (because it's something I can send people when they email me with this very question and it something people investigating their options will look for), it also targets keywords that I know are a "pain point" for my audience of established businesses and organizations who want to take steps to grow their own audiences. You can do this with topic cluster pages on your site and blog posts and start interconnecting all that content to build authority on topics you're targeting.
And you know what this search engine optimization has absolutely nothing to do with? The platform.
You can do this on Squarespace, Wordpress, or a plain HTML page. For real.
So, to answer that question from the beginning of the post, is Squarespace good for SEO? It all depends on what you do with your Squarespace website.
If you simply build the site and walk away and guess at your keywords, the cynics are right, Squarespace will be not great for you in terms of search performance, but it's likely no other platform will be either. I've seen loads of Wordpress websites with SEO plugins installed and they haven't been used correctly or even not at all.
If you craft a well-researched website that targets your ideal audience and commit to a content marketing strategy. Then Squarespace may be just the ticket.