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A Review of Squarespace SEO: Pros, Cons and Expert Tips
Is Squarespace SEO Friendly?
Our clients often ask if Squarespace is good for search engine optimization (SEO) before making the commitment to choosing a platform or migrating an existing website. As web designers who started out hand-coding entire websites, we wanted to write an objective review—but in general, our answer is yes. While Squarespace has some specific limitations, we find that in the greater scheme of things Squarespace won’t prevent any business from growing their rankings on any scale. Basic SEO essentials are still key: creating original content relevant to your target audience, focusing on appropriate keywords, and building a network of high quality inbound links to your website.
In our experience, any Squarespace template can be used effectively for those serious about SEO, but some templates have benefits over others. This guide to provide the essentials a beginner needs to know to set a solid foundation for SEO on Squarespace 7 and avoid common mistakes.
Squarespace SEO Pros
Squarespace claims that their templates are fully search engine optimized by default, and that’s generally true. Here are some key advantages of Squarespace for SEO:
All written content in your website is accessible to search engines: any text on a page that’s live including text blocks, page descriptions, image descriptions and file names, blog excerpts, etc. Virtually anywhere you enter text can be an opportunity to generate rankings.
Easy to add content: with Squarespace graphical user interface, there’s no HTML or CSS to write so you can just focus on writing your content. Squarespace has fields where you simply enter the text to populate image <alt> and <title> tags, meta descriptions, and page titles.
Completely mobile compatible and responsive templates: this helps your search rankings, as Google looks for website that are mobile friendly.
High quality templates: lack of bugs, good quality control on templates
Fast loading: with features such as automatic photo resizing for faster load times.
No added costs or plugins are needed for implementing SEO.
URLs for your pages are automatically generated from your page titles—often a convenient advantage giving you descriptive Universal Resource Locators (URLs) that are simple and easy to read (you can also overwrite them with custom URLs if needed).
Tags and categories are available for gallery images and blog posts, creating additional opportunities to use keywords and conveniently organize your content.
Built in search metrics: Squarespace offers search metrics that are reliable, visual and easy to read.
Easy to integrate with common analytic tools: tools such as Google Search Console, Google analytics, Bing Webmaster tools, and more are easy to add to a Squarespace site.
Squarespace SEO Cons
Limitations in where you can place text blocks: this is a prominent issue with many templates on Squarespace that use only a gallery as their homepage or index page. In general, gallery pages, product pages, or blogs may not have any default options to add additional sections for text at will.
That said, here are a few tips to work around these limitations:
- Add your own meta descriptions: while you may not be able to add text blocks to certain index or gallery pages, make sure to add meta descriptions that will be displayed by search engines and count toward your SEO.
- Limitations in assigning URLs: when you use certain features of Squarespace such as blogs or e-commerce, you’ll find that sometimes parts of the URL will be automatically generated and there’s no way to completely customize it. This can be a problem with migrating a site from another platform into Squarespace. When preserving SEO from an old website, it’s ideal to have your new URLs match the original URLs, but that may not always be possible. In one case, we had to import a Wordpress blog into a Squarespace site that had original URLs in the format http://productsofdesign.sva.edu/thesis3 but the Squarespace blog URLs had the format http://productsofdesign.sva.edu/blog/thesis3. In this case, the simplest solution was to create a 301 redirect for each URL that didn’t match. This approach will preserve most of your previous SEO rank.
Common SEO Mistakes and Pitfalls in Squarespace
Don’t Use the Search Engine Description Setting!
There is a setting in Squarespace in Settings > Website > Marketing > SEO > Search Engine Description that is an outdated feature which we anticipate Squarespace will remove in a future update, but in the meantime, don’t use it! This is the most common mistake that we see users making, and it can be a doozy. The SEO description inserts itself into any page that doesn’t have it’s own individual meta description. With Google’s latest updates, duplicate meta descriptions can count heavily against you in SEO. There’s no advantage in using this feature and we’ve seen a number of duplicate meta descriptions created unintentionally this way.
The Site Description is Safe to Use
The description in Settings > Website > Basic Information > Site Description is safe to use. This is only relevant in certain templates (Aviator, Aubrey, Encore and Native) and is not displayed or used by search engine in other templates.
Take Care Duplicating Pages
When developing new content for Squarespace, it’s often easier to duplicate a page to work on in the Not Linked section until you’re ready to publish it. However, just because it’s not linked doesn’t mean it won’t get indexed by search engines! If your site is live, search engine can crawl all the pages enabled on your Squarespace account, so if you’re going to be developing new content over time, disable those pages in the page settings when possible so that it doesn’t get indexed unintentionally. What you want to avoid here is duplicate content, large amounts of very similar content, or thin content.
If your content that’s under development has to be enabled, say for previewing purposes, but isn’t ready for the public yet, the following code in the page settings Page Header Code Injection section will prevent search engines from indexing the page: <meta name="robots" content="nofollow" />.
In general, we conclude that Squarespace offers solid SEO functionality, and more minor concerns about Squarespace’s SEO shouldn't be a deterrent for anyone if Squarespace’s templates can accommodate your design ideas and other necessary features. Squarespace’s powerful platform and well designed templates allows users to create a professional website efficiently and reliably, allowing users to focus on developing content.
Written July 10, 2016
Kallistic is a New York City based boutique design firm specializing in web development on the Squarespace platform. Our team’s experience in design, development and marketing helps you work smarter, not harder.