What is SEO?
If you've been online in business for a while, you've probably heard the term SEO (or search engine optimization). Basically, SEO is how search engines such as Google find and rank your website when people search through them.
If you've searched for something on Google (I'm sure you have), you type in words for phrases that you think will help you find what you're looking for. Google's job is to give you the most accurate results so that you find the answer you're looking for in the first few websites you visit.
For example, if you were to search for a lemon bar recipe, you except to find a variety of recipes pop up. You certainly don't expect to see a website about how many lemons are grown each year and you'd be really confused if a website was telling you all about the benefits of yoga.
That's why SEO is so important - it helps Google give you the best results - and they reward you for doing it right by ranking you higher on their listings.
SQUARESPACE AND SEO
One reason so many people have stayed away from Squarespace websites is because they aren't sure how SEO works with Squarespace. Since it's a template and you don't have access to all the back-end code, you can't add SEO in the ways that website developers are used to (coding it by hand).
However, there are lots of things you can do to make your Squarespace website SEO friendly and rank higher in the Google search results - without having to dig into a lot of code.
You can learn more about how Squarespace is making SEO easy here.
Page Creation and SEO
If you're designing and developing a website from scratch, you would create each page individually and include information like keywords, page names, and descriptions for each. But with Squarespace, you have an easy-to-use interface that allows you to make those changes without knowing code.
When you first create a page (or edit it), you'll see that you can customize the Navigation Title (what shows up on your navigation bar) and Page Title (what shows up when you search) separately. This makes it really easy to give Google lots of information about your page without creating a really long title in your navigation bar.
For example, my Navigation Title is "Home," which is standard and short for people moving around my website, but my Page Title is "Lemon and the Sea Home" which makes it easier for search engines to find my website and tells searchers what they will find on the page. I could also make my Page Title something like "Lemon and the Sea Graphic Design Richmond VA" for even more information.
You can also customize your Page URL so that it matched the Navigation Title or uses some of your keywords. Squarespace automatically defaults the URL to the Navigation Title, but you can change it (just remember to update anything linking to that page).
At the very least, your URL should include some keywords or a basic navigation name instead of a string of numbers and letters that mean nothing to Google.
Page Description or Meta Tag
Squarespace also makes it easy to include a page description for each page you create. You can do this by typing a description of your page into the Description section of your page.
However, depending on your template, this description may appear on your header image, so if you want to have a description without having it display or if you want to include more information that is on your header, you can add it yourself with a little code.
Simply go to the Advanced tab of your page settings and insert the following code, and update the description text:
<meta name=“description”content=“INSERT YOUR PAGE DESCRIPTION HERE” </meta>
Creating content with SEO in mind
Google has learned that the most important part of SEO is the actual website content. That means that all the content you're creating for your website is important - even if you don't have lots of website visitors yet. (This is also why so many people talk about the importance of blogging.)
Find your keywords and keyword phrases and use them
The first step to creating content that helps your SEO is to find keywords and keyword phrases that fit your products or services. These are the words and phrases that people will type into a search engine to find the answers that you're providing.
For example, my keywords may include Squarespace designer, Squarespace website, brand design, and graphic design. These are the terms that closely describe what it is that I do. From there, my keywords phrases may be Richmond brand and website designer, brand and website design, website design for creative entrepreneurs, and Squarespace design tutorials. These are the phrases that people are going to type in when looking for answers.
Once you know your keywords and keywords phrases, you want to use them throughout your website. The more often a word or phrase appears, the more Google will take notice.
Don't try to trick Google
Just remember that Google is smart and will punish your website if you try to trick it into ranking you higher. Google knows that people value high-quality content, which means it looks for information that is useful, not just packed with keywords.
Basically, don't try to trick Google by typing your keywords over and over in a text color that won't show up or by adding phrases where they don't naturally fit.
Squarespace, Blogging, and SEO
One of the best ways to create quality content and build SEO is to blog. Since you're probably going to be blogging about topics relevant to your product or service, you get to create useful content and use your keywords to help search engines find you.
Squarespace makes it easy to create SEO-friendly blog posts by allowing you to customize your post title, URL (under the Options tab), and post excerpt.
Squarespace also makes it easy for you to add Categories and Tags to each post so you can tell Google and your website visitors what each post is about and make it easier for them to search for posts in certain categories or about certain topics that interest them.
Creating SEO-Friendly Images
When creating and uploading images to Squarespace, there are a few ways you can make them SEO-friendly.
Start by giving your image a file name that uses keywords. For blog posts, I like to use the post title as my image name.
When you upload your image, make sure to update the Filename to include a description of the post or page. Not only will this give you some additional SEO, it will also be the description that displays when someone pins your image to Pinterest.
Finally, add a caption to your image. That gives you even more SEO content and you can hide it by changing the drop-down menu to Do Not Display caption.
take advantage of squarespace's seo options
First, make sure to connect your website to Google Analytics and submit a sitemap to Google. Squarespace makes both of these steps easy and you can follow their tutorials for step-by-step instructions.
Next, make sure that you include your business name, address, phone number, and other relevant information in the Business Information section (Settings > Business Information). Google rewards you for inclduing this information and it can automatically display it in the search engine results, making it even easier for people to get in contact with you.
You can also easily add a website description (Settings > Basic Information), which is a short description of your website .
Squarespace also makes it easy to add a search engine description separately from the other descriptions (Settings > SEO). This is the description that will show up under your website name on Google. In this section, you can also change how you page titles are formatted for Google. (I added "Branding and Website Design for Creative Entrepreneurs" after my website title for some added SEO and to make it clear what I do when someone finds my website through a search engine.
Other tips and tricks
Finally, remember to create a custom 404 (or redirect page) for when someone navigates to a page that doesn't exist. That way, you can direct them to other options instead of just giving a generic "page not found."
Start by creating a page that you want people to go to automatically when one of your pages can't be found. I used my Home page and simply added a "Sorry we can't find the page you're looking for, but here are some other options you might be interested in" blurb.
Then set that page as your 404 page by going to Settings > Advanced > 404 Error / Page Not Found and using the drop-down menu to choose the page you created.
Now that you know how to take advantage of Squarespace's SEO settings, be sure to make these updates and continue building great content as you grow your business!
Lemon and the Sea is a branding and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creatives who enjoy being involved in every step of the process to help them update their brand and website so that it better reflects who they are and what they do. From logo and collateral design to Squarespace websites, I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into their what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a brand that represents them.