On-page SEO checklist for Squarespace
Below, you'll find the complete on-page SEO checklist for Squarespace. We'll go over the extras you need to take care of when posting to ensure you're optimizing each page properly.
Squarespace SEO - What's included, and what's not
If you are just getting started with your Squarespace site, and are moving over from a CMS like WordPress for instance, you'll notice that things are a bit different in the backend. No extra plugins, no Yoast, nothin'! Not to worry. Your Squarespace site is "pre-optimized for SEO", so to speak. Here is a full list of everything that's included in your Squarespace website's SEO (and what isn't!)
In a nutshell, Squarespace has structured its templates to be optimized for SEO. However, many people make the mistake of thinking that – well, it's already "pre-optimized" so I don't have to do much else, right? Wrong. Squarespace explicitly calls out that they do not offer SEO strategy or support because each website and business is unique, and each requires its own custom SEO strategy. Your website SEO strategy should be done wayyyy before you do any writing or posting on your website. How to create your SEO strategy is another post for another day, but here's the gist.
Basics of An SEO Strategy
SEO strategy is no simple feat, but here are the very rough, basic steps.
1) Identify your target audience.
2) Determine what questions they're asking and what their problems are.
3) Make a content plan: how will you answer your target audience's questions and solve their problems?
4) Make sure your topics are planned out using the keywords you want to target.
All of your posts should clearly focus on a single topic, which would include your target keyword or keywords. Your target keywords should be placed in the key elements of your page structure, but without "keyword stuffing." If you write content that truly answers people's questions, then you don't have to worry about purposefully stuffing those keywords in there. It should come naturally if you have a solid strategy in place beforehand!
There is obviously much more to this, which will come in a later post. You can check out Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO in the meantime.
In the last post, I used an example of a machine built to answer questions. Its answers will only be as good as the information it has (aka, what you give it.) If you feed it a bunch of information without structuring that information in an easily-digestible way, it won't know how to respond to questions. Well, your website is this machine, and people are using Google to ask it questions. Who are these people? What questions are they asking? How will you respond? This is the strategy part. Next, how will your machine give the correct information to Google to make sure the right people see it?
Once you: know who you're targeting, have done the research to know what they are searching, and have a content plan on how to answer those questions... you're ready to start writing and doing your on-page SEO.
On-page SEO checklist for Squarespace
This is a checklist you can use each time you write a post to make sure you're doing the basics of on-page SEO optimization. Once you have your topics and target keywords, get to writing.
1. Headings - target keyword in headings
Use headings to tell Google what your page is about. Making text H1, H2 or H3 tells google your pages' hierarchy of importance.
You want one H1 and at least one H2 on each page/post. Although there is some debate about whether you should use more than one H1, the H1 title at the top of the page tells users and search engines what your page is about, so it's best not to confuse them by putting headings in H1 that don't describe the topic of the page.
Include your target keyword in your headings (2-3 headings is a good rule of thumb.)
Make sure you insert an H1 if the template doesn't include one already, you can check this by reading the HTML/CSS by right-clicking on the title, clicking inspect element, then finding the highlighted code (Ctrl-F/Cmd+F) that shows you whether the code is formatted as a title or as an H1.
2. Titles and descriptions - add a keyword, make unique, watch your URL's
Squarespace automatically pulls your title and excerpt into the search engine result.
Make sure that your title (under 60 characters) and excerpt (of between 100 - 200 characters) include your target keywords (but avoid keyword stuffing). You can access your excerpt by clicking the gear on page settings, then going to options, try to make your excerpt include the search query you are targeting.
Squarespace also auto-generates the page URL depending on the title. Make sure your title isn't too long (you want the URL under 120 characters.) If you change your blog or page title, make sure you change the URL to match the new title (again, under page settings > options.)
Finally, ensure that you don't have any duplicate titles or descriptions and make sure you drop your target keyword in the first 100 words of your post.
3. Length of content - 2200 words - paragraphs <150 words & LSI
Search engines need to be able to read enough content to get an idea of what you're talking about so make it easy for them with good headings and
Make sure your content isn't what Google calls "thin content". If there isn't enough content, Google doesn't know what the content is about (and they won't be able to rank content for the terms you're targeting. Adding more text allows Google to see what your content is about and determine if you're answering the questions people are asking. Anything less than 300 words is considered thin content and is nearly impossible to rank.
The average web page that ranks on page 1 of Google contains 2200 words, research suggests users often skim content so make sure your headings are tailored to this and optimized for search engines. Yoast recommends keeping paragraphs under 150 words for readability purposes, however, if you're under or over this - don't worry! The goal is to simply provide answers to people's questions. If you get a bit lengthy in a paragraph, it's not the end of the world! Bonus tip: use LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords, essentially synonyms of your target keyword. Google's algorithm uses these to help determine content quality and relevance to the search term.
4. Images - <1,500 px wide, compressed to ~150KB if possible, JPG format, alt-tags
Images are usually the main culprit when it comes to slow load times, leading to lower rankings. Optimizing website speed by uploading images that are large enough to have a nice resolution but small enough to keep load times reasonable is key.
Images in headers should be 1,500px wide, images on actual pages or posts themselves can be smaller depending on the design.
PNG's are higher-quality and larger in size. JPG's are recommended as they are smaller file sizes.
Compress images - compressing reduces file size. To crop, resize, compress, or convert file type for images, use this tool > Iloveimg.com
Squarespace automatically adds alt-tags to your images (so Google can read what your images are about), but the caveat here is that you need to change the title to something that is descriptive of the image itself. A good rule of thumb is to make your image title match the page heading it relates to. Try to include your keyword in at least one image title. Format: image-title.jpg
5. Linking - one internal & one external
Have at least one internal and one external link on each page or post. Open external links in a new window and keep internal links in the same window. The best way to include internal links is to keep in mind what you want your user to do at the end of reading the article. Insert your call to action here with a link or button.
6. Categories and tags
Add your categories and tags to the bottom of your blog posts. Categories are crucial when it comes to search because Google reads your website structure to get a general sense of what your website is about. If you have 20 blog posts on "commercial architecture" and 40 on "residential architecture" this is much better than 20 blogs about "residential" and "commercial" - be descriptive in choosing your categories to make sure they match user intent when searching.
Other items to check for before you hit publish
Change the author under Settings > Options.
Add a thumbnail image under Settings > Options (this is the image that shows up when your content is previewed in other parts of your site or when shared on social media.
Double-check which categories you have selected to ensure the blog post shows up on the correct part of your website if you're using summary blocks to pull in blog feeds.
Quick tips to make all your pages rank higher
Make sure your site has an SSL certificate, Google rewards you for this! Squarespace includes these by default but check you've got HSTS switched on in your settings to force browsers to always load the secure version of your site.
Register your site with Google Search Console and give them a xml sitemap to boost your rankings. Squarespace creates these automatically and you can view it by adding /sitemap.xml to the end of your domain.
Register with Google Business.
Create a custom 404 page. It is inevitable people will enter in your web address wrong at some point, so make sure they're greeted with a professional 404 page that reflects your business.
There you have it, your on-page SEO checklist for Squarespace. Good luck and happy writing!
Do you need a solid SEO strategy? Get in touch. (See what I did there?) ;)