You may have heard that website builders aren’t great for SEO. This hasn’t been the case for years. There are millions of sites made on website builders, and they’re doing fine. More than fine, in fact.
Anyone can build a website and climb the rankings. The real trick is choosing the right builder for what you want to achieve.
Squarespace is a bit of a dark horse as far as website builders go. It’s not the most popular, but it has a dedicated user base that (rightly) swears by its sleek design and scalability.
SEO usually isn’t the first thing to come up when people are waxing lyrical about Squarespace. Is it any good, or is it something users tolerate because its design and scalability features are so strong?
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Squarespace SEO is an excellent option if you’re already familiar with SEO best practice.
We’ve gone through and tested Squarespace’s SEO features, seeing how it compares with competitors like Wix, Shopify, and WordPress. As is the case with most top website builders, the question isn’t whether it’s the best, but whether it’s the best for you.
We’ve summed up our findings as pros and cons below, with a more thorough breakdown beneath. By the end of this piece, you’ll know if Squarespace is the best option for you, and get some tips on how to use it to rank well too.
Squarespace isn’t famous for its SEO because SEO is not its best feature. It isn’t the most intuitive interface, but Squarespace actually does offer everything you need to do well in search engine results. You’ll need to do some coding for the more advanced techniques, but all the functionality is there.
- Clean, structured interface. Pages and posts each have their own configuration boxes where you enter meta titles and descriptions. It’s a simple feature, but its simplicity is what makes the basic SEO a breeze. None of the core features require coding knowledge.
- Social media integration. Social media integration on Squarespace is seamless and stylish. Search engines take note of shares and engagement, plus it’s a great way of unifying your brand.
- User control. Squarespace lets you add code yourself, which is sometimes the only way to apply advanced techniques. This isn’t a pro for everyone, but in the hyper-competitive world of SEO it can be the difference between top spot and page two on Google.
- Template behaviour. Some Squarespace templates have an odd habit of displaying SEO information on the site. There are workarounds for this, but it’s a bizarre quirk to manage and distracts from the substance of what you’re doing.
- Not for SEO beginners. If you’re comfortable with code and advanced SEO, Squarespace can do just about anything you want. If you’re not, providers like Wix or even WordPress are a better fit.
|Feature||What is it?||Is it included?|
|Meta title||Tells search engines and users what the page is about.||Yes… Every page and post has a configuration section where you can write the title.|
|Meta description||A chance to expand on the content in the title, summarizing what users can expect and why they should click on your page.||Yes… You can write meta descriptions in page configuration.|
|Custom URLs||Allows you to make urls that reflect your content, rather than a random jumble of numbers and letters. example.com/article/squarespace-seo-guide is much more informative than example.com/hds73tgha||Yes… Squarespace generates URLs based on the page title. If you want to change it, that’s also in the page configuration section.|
|Headings||Headings and subheadings which show search engines (and readers) how you’ve structured your content. H1s are the most important, h2 the next, and so on.||Kinda… It’s a strange quirk of Squarespace that it only has h1s, h2s, and h3s. Most builders have six. You can still structure your content in a way search engines will understand, but not nearly as thoroughly.|
|Image alt text||Google is smart, but it’s not (yet) smart enough to know for sure what an image is showing or why it’s relevant. Alt text is text you manually put in to describe each image on your site.||Yes… All images can be given alt text, although it’s not always terribly easy. Squarespace provide a good guide for it, though.|
|Good speed & uptime||Sites are quick to load and are reliably ‘live’ more than 99% of the time.||Yes… Squarespace infrastructure is excellent for speed and uptime. No platform can guarantee 100% uptime, but they get as close as anyone.|
|Mobile friendly||Sites are easy to use on mobile and easily crawled (understood) by search engines.||Yes… All templates are required to have a mobile version.|
|301 redirects||If you change a page’s URL from X to Y, 301 redirects mean people will be directed to the new page even if they use the old address.||Yes… Simply use ‘URL Mappings’ in the Advanced section of your site setting.|
|SSL encryption (HTTPS)||SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes a secure, encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Search engines are beginning to punish sites without SSL, so this is essential. Plus it’s just good practice.||Yes… Free SSL certificates are offered to all Squarespace domains.|
|Sitemap||A complete list of pages on your site which tells search engines how it’s structured. Try adding ‘/sitemap.xml’ to the end of a site’s URL to see for yourself!||Yes… All Squarespace sites come with a sitemap which updates automatically as you add and remove pages.|
|Google Analytics||A freemium Google tool which allows you to view data about your site, from page-specific traffic to user demographics.||Yes… Go to ‘External Services’ in Advanced setting, enter your Google Analytics account number, and you’re good to go.|
|Google Search Console||A free Google tool which shows how your site is performing in search results.||Yes… Simply set up a Search Console account and follow its steps to connect with Google Analytics. Squarespace updated their verification process to be one-click in May 2018.|
|Social media integration||Built-in functionality for users to share your content on social media.||Yes… Over 30 social media networks can connect to your Squarespace site, appearing as icons.|
|Search engine instructions||Sometimes a site needs to ‘speak’ to search engines, asking them not to index certain pages.||Kinda… Custom instructions for search engines are possible, but they require a ‘Code Injection.’ That’s Squarespace speak for ‘code it yourself, sunshine.’|
|Canonical tags||If you have multiple versions of the same page, canonical tags allow you to choose which one search engines should focus on. This stops them from competing with each other.||Kinda… Squarespace puts canonical tags on pages automatically. If you ever want to edit them, though, you’re out of luck.|
|Structured data||A way of giving search engines more information about your pages. You know the star ratings you see on search results? That’s structured data. And that’s just one type of thousands. Search engines love structured data because it helps match users with relevant information.||Kinda… Squarespace implements some types of schema automatically. Further structured data is possible, but you’ll need to do it yourself via ‘Code Injection.’ If you’re not comfortable with code, there are better services than Squarespace for this.|
No two website builders are the same. Each has its own strengths, its own curious ways of behaving. Squarespace is a smug, elegant, intellectual sort of builder, and that plays out in its SEO features. Here are our top tips for getting Squarespace above your rivals in search results.
- Make your alt text count. Squarespace is big on appearances, which usually means lots of images. Alt text is an excellent way of telling search engines what you’re all about. Adding them on Squarespace can be a pain, but it’s well worth it.
- Take advantage of the social media integration. The social media integration on Squarespace is seamless, and it looks great too. Connect your accounts to your site and get users flowing (and sharing).
- The ‘Not Linked’ feature is your friend. Squarespace has a handy feature that lists any pages that aren’t linked to anywhere on your site. This is usually used for storing in-progress pages, but it’s also an excellent way of catching any orphan content. Search engines like sites that are easy to navigate, so ‘not linked’ pages are a big no no. Keep an eye on your list of not linked pages to make sure everything stays accessible.
- Connect to Google Analytics. This is true for every website builder, but it’s so important that we mention it for each of them. Google Analytics provides fantastic insights on user traffic and where you can improve – and it’s free!
- Keep up to date with new features. Website builders are constantly evolving, and Squarespace prides itself on being at the cutting edge. Keep an eye on the latest updates. You might find something useful.
- Tag and categorize. Search engines like information. The more they know about your site, the better they can serve their users. On Squarespace, pages, posts, and even products can be tagged and categorized.
- Find the right template. Not all Squarespace templates are created equal. Visual eccentricities mean some lend themselves to good SEO much better than others. Take your time, find one that balances your design needs with smooth search engine performance.
Squarespace enjoyed flaunting its most famous partners during the Super Bowl, but Keanu Reeves and John Malkovich aren’t the best case studies for SEO. Instead, here are some examples of ‘normal’ sites topping the rankings with Squarespace.
The Dieline. This women-focused digital media company only formed in 2005 and already has millions of organic visitors every month. Growth like that wouldn’t be possible if Squarespace couldn’t handle SEO.
Freeman’s Restaurant. Competition between restaurants in New York City is high, but Freeman’s more than holds its own. It tops the rankings for its own name, which is a good start, but it also pops up for doozies like ‘best brunch lower east side’ and ‘hipster restaurants nyc.’ That’s hundreds of potential customers a month right there.
You’ll notice these examples look fabulous. There doesn’t have to be a choice between an attractive site and an SEO-friendly site. You can have both.
Interested in learning more about Squarespace success stories? You can check out some of their higher profile partners on their customer page. Take some of the examples with a grain of salt, of course. Not everyone has the benefit of being a household name.
Squarespace has limitations, but most of its SEO features are clean and easy to use. You’ll need to be familiar with code to implement advanced techniques. If that’s a problem for you, you’re better off with a service like Wix or Weebly.
If you’re comfortable with a bit of coding and value control over your site, Squarespace is a superb outlet for creative ventures, small businesses, and portfolios. For large-scale ecommerce, it may be worth looking to Shopify.
Tempted? Squarespace offers a free 2-week trial, more than enough time to test its SEO game and see if it’s right for you. Worst case scenario you’ll get some beautiful design ideas.