8 Tips & Tools for a Better Squarespace Blog
This is part two in an ongoing series about blogging with Squarespace. Read the series here.
We covered templates that are best for bloggers, so let's talk about how to make those templates better. While Squarespace doesn't have the flexibility of Wordpress or the built in audience of Medium, you can still add functionality and build a better Squarespace blog.
Here are some of my favorite tips that are often overlooked by Squarespace bloggers:
#1 Add Add This social shares
This is easy-peasy. Squarespace's built-in sharing is generally kind of, well, lousy. So, let's fix that.
Add This is an easy to use third-party tool that lets you add engaging social sharing that encourages sharing. Simply go to addthis.com and sign up for a free account. Then, add the auto-generated code to the Page Settings area of your blog page. You'll have cool social shares in no time.
I like the shares that float on the side of your blog or the site expanding share buttons, but, take a look and decide what makes the most sense for you. I'm currently using the expanding option on this blog (check out the bottom right-hand corner of the page).
#2 Use the Add This related/popular content widgets.
This is another cool Add This tool that will solve an annoying problem. A couple of the newer templates have auto-generated related posts, but for the most part, you're out of luck if you're using an older template or one not focused on blogging.
This is where, once again, Add This can be super useful. Shellie has used this in a couple of different ways on KidTripster, including in the footer of her blog posts and in the sidebar. You can tinker with the settings, but basically what Add This does is follow the patterns of your traffic and deliver related or popular posts to your visitors. It's simple to set up and for serious bloggers using Squarespace, it can add a functionality that's severely lacking in the system.
#3 Implement RSS to email with MailChimp
If you're not taking advantage of the RSS to email functionality of MailChimp, you need to stop, drop and roll and implement that ASAP. While I do everything in my power to eliminate email, lots of folks love getting posts from their favorite blogs in their email. They can peruse new posts while they're drinking their morning coffee and flipping through email.
But don't stop at just setting up the automated emails (find the instructions here), think about how you can use this tool to better engage your audience. You can select a MailChimp template that, say, has a sidebar space or space in the footer for calls to action, or you can level up and manually send out your blog newsletters with a special message in each edition. (Emily Ley does a great job with this, if you're looking for an example.)
#4 Submit your blog to Apple News.
Apple News isn't super widely read, but it's an easy way to offer an alternative way for folks to subscribe to your blog on their iPhones. Be aware that Apple will remove scripts and ads, so if you're concerned about monetization, it may not be the best fit for you. On the other hand, I do see consistent traffic whenever a new article posts to Apple News, and there are monetization opportunities within Apple News. My recommendation is to try it out, see how it works, and if you like it, stick with it, if you don't delete it. (I'm a big fan of trying things out--there's no harm to it, really.)
#5 Always include a thumbnail image, always.
Not so much a tool, but a "please do this, please" situation, but the thumbnail image in Squarespace plays a number of different roles that are important for social sharing, RSS app previews, using summary blocks and more. I tell my blogging clients that this is an easy thing to add to their workflow, but is useful for loads of reasons. The first thing that I do when I create a blog post is select a thumbnail image to accompany the post--you should too.
I recommend taking some quality photos yourself or investing in some good stock photography. (Stocksy is my favorite, but it's on the pricey end, Adobe Stock is getting better and better; I don't care for iStock's selection, but it is an option--and much of the same inventory is available via Squarespace's image block for $10 each; Unsplash is another option, if you're looking for freebies).
Tip: Level up your photography by creating some nice Pinterest-friendly graphics to go along with the photos, or purchase some excellent pre-made graphics from Creative Market.
#6 Validate your blog with Pinterest and Facebook.
Like thumbnail images, simple validations with Pinterest and Facebook will make your content more share-friendly, and yet a lot of folks overlook this small step (this is one of the steps I take when doing clients' SEO work). On Pinterest you'll simply need to visit this page, pop in a blog post URL and click validate. Facebook works much the same way, visit this page, paste your entire blog's URL and select "scrape new data."
Tip: if your blog's Facebook preview images every look strange, visit the validator and repeat this process.
#7 Use summary blocks to call out connected content.
This is something I do a lot on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves and encourage clients to do on their own blogs. If you are consistently categorizing and tagging your posts, you can pull attractive thumbnail images linking to posts about the same subjects. For example, here's the summary block for the posts in this series:
As I add to this series, the carousel will automatically grow, up to 30 posts. This is a nice substitute for related posts widgets but moreover a good way to help your readers understand how your content is connected.
#8 Have lots of content? Build a custom blog landing page with summary blocks, newsletter integration and more.
This is a way to get creative with your content and showcase it in a different way. If you check out #GirlBoss, for example, that's how they created their homepage. And it brings the content forward is a really compelling way. (I believe Squarespace themselves designed that site.) I'll cover this in-depth in a future post.
Questions? Drop them in the comments! Interested in a one-on-one consultation about your blog? A Skype session is a great way to get started!