Squarespace SEO - what's included & what they don't tell you
Squarespace is a content management system that comes "pre-optimized" for SEO, so to speak.
"As the host for millions of websites for over a decade, we’ve implemented various strategies to help your site appear in search engine results. Squarespace has the technical side covered for you—there's no need to search for plugins or get under the hood." - Squarespace
That does NOT mean that your website has perfect SEO and you don't have to do anything else to optimize it.
In fact, you can do quite a bit to backtrack the pre-built optimizations in Squarepace. But we'll get into that later and I will explain how you can optimize your website furthermore as well as how to avoid "un-optimizing" (yes, I just made that up) your website.
SEO optimizations included in all Squarespace templates
The following are included in all Squarespace templates. Careful, because each come with a grain of salt...
XML sitemap - this is convenient because typically you have to use a sitemap generator which gives you a file that has to be uploaded to the root file of your website (sounds technical, right?) If you visit yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml you can check it out. This is what Google reads to index your website.
What is NOT done for you here is telling Google to crawl your website. You need to do so by adding your XML sitemap to Google Search Console. Google will eventually crawl your website, but it's best to signal to Google to crawl the website by adding the map to Google Search Console.
SSL certificates - See the little padlock in the search bar? That's a secure website. Websites that are not secure can be penalized by Google. You don't need to do anything else here; they take care of it for you.
Clean HTML markup - it's important to include headings in your content so Google can see the hierarchy of information on the page. Squarespace makes it easy to add these headings (no need to code.)
A brief summary - you need to be adding H1's (Heading 1) and H2's (heading 2) to each page and blog post of your website. These headings should include your target keyword (and so should your content.) More on that below (and later on in our specific post about on-page SEO optimizations.)
Automatic tagging - Google reads image titles to see what content you have on your page. These are alt-tags. Squarespace automatically adds alt-tags to your images.
The caveat - when you upload an image, your file name should always reflect what the image is about. Images with file names "screen-shot-1324.png" is bad news bears. Title your images to match the content of the image, and if possible, include a keyword here and there. More on image best practices later.
Clean URLS - Squarespace produces clean, easy to read URL structures automatically. The cleaner the structure, the easier for Google to figure out what your page is about and whether or not it answers a question someone is asking.
Automatic redirects - If you have multiple domains, Squarespace will redirect users and search engines to a primary domain and use rel="canonical" to fix these references.
Something to keep in mind is that this does not apply when the URL extension changes. For example, on your old website, your contact page ended in /contact-us. Your new website ends in /contact. If someone clicks on a link from around the web that went to /contact-us, they'll get a broken page. You will want to use the advanced URL mapping option and set up 301 redirects.
Search engine page descriptions & meta-tags - this one is a wonder. Squarespace will automatically generate SEO titles and meta-descriptions for each page and post. This what people see on Google search. It will use the excerpt you wrote and pull that into the meta-description (aka, snippet.) At times, what you want to appear on search engine results is different than the excerpt. You can always change it. You can also set your overall site title and description easily. The great thing is that once you write your page title, Squarespace makes that the Heading 1 (H1) - depending on the template. It's best practice to make sure your title is set as an H1. Squarespace will use your heading to create the page URL, matching the title to the URL (good SEO practice.)
AMP - Squarespace automatically creates light versions of your web pages so they load more quickly on mobile devices (Accelerated Mobile Pages.) Mobile is KEY to SEO these days, so a fast-loading site on mobile is very important.
Built-in mobile optimization - aside from AMP, all Squarespace templates are responsive - meaning that the content is fluid and resizes depending on the user's screen size. They have optimized their themes to load as quickly as possible.
Although they are pre-optimized, overloading your website with too many images, animations, large file sizes of any kind can do some serious damage to load-times. Make sure you upload images properly.
SEO analytics - included in all templates, you can get a quick glance at which keywords drive organic to your site.
Again, there is a caveat. This will not show you all keywords as most are hidden. You can use tools like Neil Patel's SEO analyzer to get a better idea of your overall SEO performance.
Structured data - they structure your data so Google knows what is a blog post, what is an event, what is a page, etc. Clean data = better scanning.
Squarespace - a great SEO solution?
At the end of the day, Squarespace provides beautiful website templates whose structure is set up for good SEO. But they make it very clear that SEO strategy is outside of the services offered as each client is different and each strategy is unique.
The structure is there. However, the work to optimize your website for SEO is juts beginning. Think of your website as a machine built to answer questions. How can it answer those questions in the best possible way? What questions is it interested in answering? And how can you give your machine the data it needs to give those answers to people? More on that in our on-page SEO optimization guide for Squarespace.