What Squarespace Users (Bloggers Especially!) Should Know About Internal Site Search

Curious about what happens when someone searches inside your Squarespace site? Let's take a look at the limits & best practices for blogs, shops & more.

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Do you have a content-focused Squarespace website? Perhaps a blog is a bit piece of your site? Or you’ve compiled a large archive of resources for potential customers? Perhaps you own a restaurant that has a number of menus and you want to make sure people can find the information they need about your offerings? Or maybe you have an online store that’s grown more than you expected?

Then your visitors probably rely on Squarespace’s internal site search to find what they need–and it’s time for you to think about what you can do to make this a better experience for them!

Internal site search is one of Squarespace’s big weak points. I say this as a Squarespace Specialist who works on the platform every day, has launched hundreds of sites on the platform and taught many people to use the system. The reality is that it’s a piece that needs more attention from the platform because folks like me can’t access the part of the system that controls site search.

Now, before I move on, I want to be clear: I’m NOT talking about search engine optimization or what Google sees on your website. I’m talking about when visitors to your site use a search box to look for a topic on your site. Got it? I know that’s a bit confusing because it doesn’t seem like they should be two different things, but they are. The internet is weird, I know.

What Squarespace indexes on your site.

One of the sneaky things about Squarespace’s site search is that it doesn’t index everything. That’s right–only certain content will be revealed when you search a website. Here’s what is indexed.

Blog Pages

  • The blog’s Page title and description as set in Blog Page Settings
  • Each post’s title, author, excerpt, and location
  • Text, Markdown, and Code Blocks
  • Image Block descriptions
  • Quote Block text
  • Audio Block title
  • Map Block address
  • Amazon Item Block title
  • Tags and categories

Regular Pages

  • Page title and description as set in Page settings
  • Text, Markdown, and Code Blocks
  • Image Block descriptions
  • Quote Block text
  • Audio Block title
  • Map Block address
  • Amazon Item Block title

Gallery Pages

  • Page title and description as set in Gallery settings
  • Each image’s title, author, and description
  • Each image’s tags and categories
  • Each image’s file name
  • Events Pages

Events Pages

  • Page title and description as set in Events settings
  • Each event’s title, author, text in the Excerpt, and location
  • Text, Markdown, and Code Blocks
  • Image Block descriptions
  • Quote Block text
  • Audio Block title
  • Map Block address
  • Amazon Item Block title
  • Tags and Categories

Products Pages

  • Page title and description as set in the Product settings
  • Each product’s title and text in the product item’s settings
  • Tags and categories

Album Pages

  • Track title

Now this seems like a comprehensive list, right? And it is… Kind of. But if we dig a little more deeply, we’ll find that there are some missing items.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, you can see that we’re missing the menu block as searchable, the index pages aren’t searchable as units, file upload content isn’t searchable, that in Audio Blocks only the track title is searchable, the additional information section of product listings, and so on and so forth. There are lots of little content pieces that may not be scooped up by Squarespace’s internal site search.

(By the way, if your site uses the menu block–and many do–I would recommend contacting Squarespace support at support@squarespace.com and telling them that you need that block to be indexed. They do listen to customer feedback and I believe that most customers using that block don’t realize its limitations. Let them know this matters to you.)

Then you add in the wrinkle that this is also inconsistent. I’ve had a few of these pull in site search results even when they’re not supposed to be.

You should also know a few more things about Squarespace’s internal site search.

It doesn’t like Boolean operators. What that means is that if you search “cat videos and dog videos” you’ll probably get terrible results or no results at all. While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s something to remember. If you have a content-heavy site like a blog with hundreds of posts, it’s probably worthwhile to create a “How to Search This Site” page explaining how to search.

The weighting of results is inconsistent.

You can search the same terms back to back and the system will give you differently-ordered results. Which can be annoying. I’ve found that at times very random results will pull in Squarespace internal site search. (I believe this can be somewhat negated by careful image descriptions, categories and tags, however.)

Even if you don’t have a search bar on your site, your site has search built in!

No matter what template you use (not every template has a natural place for a search bar), you have a search page at the yoururl.com/search. This can be really handy to link to. (You can also use Font Awesome to add a search indicator to the navigation bar if your template doesn’t have one.)

You can check on what people are searching for in your Analytics panel.

Most people just look at search engine data, but Squarespace also provides you with info about what people are searching for when they’re on your site. Take a look at that information–it may give you some ideas about what you need to tweak. If people are searching for the same thing over and over again, that’s a clue that you may need to tweak your content.

What can Squarespace site owners do to make site search better?

Since we can’t reach into the Squarespace system and make search behave the way we want, there are a few steps I recommend taking to improve your site search results. And–bonus!–these are all things that will help your search engine optimization as well.

For blogs: Categorize and tag all your blog posts. If you haven’t done this now, make it a project to go back through your posts, which a plan in hand, and get them organized. Map out your main categories and the create a system for tagging. When I was actively blogging about books, my tags always included the following: author, genre, publisher, setting, recommendation level (ie, highly recommended). Some of these were for my own purposes so I could easily find my own content, but there was a system and it made for far better internal site results.

Don’t hide critical content in PDFs. I tell clients this all the time, but it’s still a common practice and sometimes PDFs are helpful, for example with a spec sheet or rate information. However, make sure that content introduces these documents. So, that means introducing your downloadable document with internal search-friendly phrasing like, “Interested in learning more about our rates and fees? Download this document to learn more.” 

Make sure every page and index has a clear, logical and short description. Click on the gear icon next to each page’s name in the backend of your site. Think of this text as a tweet. That’s the length you’re shooting for. Keep in mind that if you’re using the Bedford/Hayden template family, this will change the descriptions on your banners, so you’ll want to do this in your page title instead. (Ugly workaround, I know.)

Name your images, name your images, name your images. This is not only good for internal site search, it helps with Google image search AND it helps people using screen readers access your content. Accessibility is important, you guys. Here’s the guide from Squarespace–it’s very handy.

Use the search block to isolate search by collection. The default search is for the entire site. However, that’s not always the best option. You can insert a search block in, for example, the sidebar of your blog and tell it to only search the blog. This way, it won’t pull random uses of terms from other pages. Here are the instructions on how to set this up. 

If you’re using the menu block, think about your copy too. Because Squarespace has inexplicably blocked the menu block from search, you’ll want to compensate for this if you’re using the menu block. My strategy for this is to use some introductory verbiage that describes the content contained in the menu in general terms. You may also be well served by working these terms into other pages and sections where the menu is linked. While not a perfect solution, it’s a decent workaround until this issue is fixed on Squarespace’s end.

For stores: Make sure you’re using your description field appropriate (and categories/tags too). The description and title fields are super important for internal site search, so make good use of them. If your product has a cute name that’s not going to be automatically what someone would search for, make sure you use the description area to use plain language to help searchers find what they need.

Have questions about Squarespace’s internal site search? Drop a note in the comments or on Facebook and I’ll do my best to answer!

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