17 SEO Mistakes Squarespace Designers Make (and how to avoid them)

This is essentially a “Squarespace SEO Checklist” that I’ve compiled over the years, optimizing sites for myself and other clients. I’m not an SEO expert, but I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and exploring the limits of this platform. Don’t feel bad if you’ve made these mistakes - I’ve made them all so you don’t have to.

Note: This article only covers on-page SEO which is one part of the overall search puzzle. If you’re looking to see significant improvements in your ranking, you’ll need to tailor content to what people are looking for, satisfy them.

Need help? You can learn more you can signup for one of my upcoming SEO workshops here.

That said, let’s jump in.

  1. Using the Search Engine Description

This is one of the easiest mistakes to make - it’s the first SEO setting in the admin panel, why wouldn’t you fill it out?

2 reasons not to use this search description

  1. It becomes the default meta description for every page on your site which Google advises against. This means you’ll end up with duplicate meta descriptions where you don’t want them. And while this wont affect rankings directly, it will affect click through rates - which has a direct impact on your traffic.

  2. Your Facebook shares will all have the same description. This means if you or anyone else ends up sharing your content on Facebook, instead of seeing relevant description, they’ll get this catchall instead.

    For further reading: https://www.silvabokis.com/squarespace-tips/why-i-removed-my-squarespace-seo-description-and-why-you-should-too

Best practice: Every page on your site should have a unique meta description.

To get a quick look at what Google has indexed and what your search results look like, search site:yoursite.com

“So how do I add meta description tags in Squarespace?”

For regular pages you’ll go to Page Settings > Description

 Adding meta description to a regular page

For blog posts you’ll got to the options tab within a blog post and create an excerpt

 Applying meta descriptions to a blog post

For product pages your product description works as the meta description.

 Applying meta descriptions to products

2. Not using keywords in the homepage title

I see this one all the time and it’s especially relevant to local and professional service businesses.

Your homepage title tag is the primary indicator of what your website / business is all about.

It’s what people see when they Google your brand.

Squarespace uses your SiteTitle as the default, but you should always use a descriptive and location based keyword when applicable.

Homepage title tags.png

3. Not doing any keyword research prelaunch

If you’re building a website for a client, do them a favor and check out the keywords they want to rank for.

  • What are the search volumes?

  • What do the top 10 search results look like? (articles, product pages, homepages, review posts, etc.)

  • Is this keyword worth targeting?

Chances are they don’t know the search volume for their chosen keywords and could possibly be choosing the wrong keywords altogether.

Including keyword research into the design process early on, serves both the client and the design because you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you’re optimizing for, and how to best structure the site for optimal SEO.

Here’s an example where the keyword we thought was most relevant only averages 20 searches a month, whereas a related (and more descriptive term) averages 3,600 searches a month.

Keyword Search Volume.png

Pro Tip: Verify your site with Google Search Console to learn which keywords are driving the most traffic to your existing site.

4. Not using an SEO friendly template

“But Ras, I thought all Squarespace templates were SEO friendly?”

Not exactly.

If you’ve tried updating your meta descriptions on the Bedford template you know what I mean.

Certain templates use the meta description in the page layout, like in the header banner - which may or may not be what you want.

Here’s a list of the offending templates below.

If you use any of these you’ll have to use some custom CSS to hide the description from showing up on your template.

Template Meta Description location
Adirondack Appears below the banner image (excluding Blog, Gallery, and Album pages) when Show Page Titles & Descriptions is checked in the Style Editor.
Avenue Appears on Gallery Pages when accessed via the Index Page.
Bedford family
Anya, Bedford, Bryant, Hayden
Overlays banner images on Regular Pages. Supports special styling options.

Tip: Slideshow banners use image descriptions as the overlay text instead.
Five Overlays banner when Banner Content is set to Page Title Description in the Style Editor(excluding Album pages).

Doesn't display on smartphones.
Flatiron Appears on Gallery Pages, and on Regular pages accessed via the Index Page.
Momentum Appears at the top of Regular, Products, Blog, Events, and pages within the Index Page.
Montauk family
Julia, Kent, Montauk, Om
Overlays banner images. On Gallery Pages, description appears on the page.

Descriptions on banners don't display on smartphones.
Pacific family
Charlotte, Fulton, Horizon, Naomi, Pacific
Overlays banner image for pages outside the Index Page.
Tremont family
Camino, Carson, Henson, Tremont
Appears in the page overlay on all pages.
Source: https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/206016198-Adding-search-engine-and-page-description

5. Not using URL redirects when migrating or doing a redesign

There are cases where people lose their rankings moving to Squarespace, not because it’s bad for SEO but because the URLs from the old site don’t get mapped correctly.

If you’re moving from another platform like Wordpress or Shopify where your URL structure is different - this is a must.

It’s also relevant whenever you update slugs.

Here’s how to use it use it.

 Setup custom redirects

6. Not updating URL slugs

It’s easy to create new or duplicate pages and forget to change the URL slugs.

remane-url-slugs.png

You can easily avoid this mistake by including a URL check in your preLaunch checklist.

As far as best practices go - simple URLs help google and the user understand what the page is about.

To simplify your blog post URL’s go to Settings > Blogging > Post URL format (remove %y/%m/%d/ and keep %t).

Blog urls.png

7. Thin content

For each page on your site a user should be able to answer the questions

  • What is this?  

  • Who is this for?

  • What am I supposed to do here?

If you can’t answer those questions you don’t have enough descriptive content.

Pro Tip: If you’re using the Brine template, you can make use of the intro section in the page layout for your blog and product collections. This will allow you to add a relevant H1 heading and content to the page.

Brine template Intro section.gif

8. Using text in images

Designers will sometimes add text to images in layouts to avoid any complicated CSS.

I’ve noticed it in certain Design Kits and it poses an SEO problem because Google can’t crawl text in images.

“Beyond the SEO benefit, it makes the page WAY more accessible for people who disabilities and those using screen readers.”

- Brendan Hufford

Here’s a video case study on how this can negatively affect your SEO.

9. Not setting conversion goals

There’s a saying, “what get’s measured, get’s managed” and the best way to manage an SEO campaign is to have measurable conversion goals and metrics.

How to Set Up Conversion Goals

10. Not using schema markup

This is a rich snippet generated based on schema markup.

 Review rich snippets - using wiremo widget

This is especially useful if you have any of the following content types.

  • Articles

  • Local businesses

  • Restaurants

  • Book Reviews

  • Movies

  • Software Applications

  • Events

  • Products

To add this kind of markup there are schema generators that can generate the code for you or you can hire a developer to optimize your code with the right tags.

I currently use Wiremo for product reviews and it automatically generates the review schema. It’s also another way of getting user generated content.

Further reading: https://www.marksmen.studio/blog/fix-issues-squarespace-schema-markup

11. Not using image alt text

The whole point of alt text is to help crawlers understand what your images are about.

This is an easy way to tie in keyword phrases and descriptions that support your main topic.

Here’s a tweet from Google’s John Muller on the topic.

How to implement?

Follow Squarespace’s guide here tagging for images and galleries:

Tip: To get maximum benefit make your image filenames descriptive as well.

12. Not using meta robot tags

Naturally there are going to be pages on you don’t want to index.

Maybe they’re still in development or not intended to be found via search.

In these cases you’ll want to use the meta robot tags below in your page header settings.

<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">

13. Blogging without a strategy

Most SEO advice says, blog, blog, blog, with little guidance on what to create and how that content will translate traffic to sales.

Here’s a video I did on few simple content strategies you can use to grow your rankings, increase your authority and earn more sales.

14. Disabling blog comments

Google has an algorithm called RankBrain that factors in the time someone spends on your site after clicking through from Google.

The idea is, the longer they spend on the site, the better.

Blog comments are an easy way to increase that dwell time and get people to come back and engage.

15. Not creating a useful 404 page

I’ve been guilty of this for years.

In the event a visitor stumbled on a broken page, your 404 page is an opportunity to help point them in another direction. Here’s a few good examples.

Follow these steps to make your own.

Custom-404-page.png

16. Not making your site SSL secure

I’m always stumbling on unsecured Squarespace sites.

In 2014 Google made HTTPS a ranking signal, so it wise to turn it on.

Here’s how turn it on - Settings > Security & SSL

 SSL certificates affect rankings, slightly, says Google

17. Ignoring Local SEO

46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information.

This is a huge opportunity if you serve local customers and clients.

Here’s how to capitalize,

  1. Set your business location and contact in the Business information panel.

  2. Claim Your Google My Business Page

  3. Get local reviews using Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.

Want to learn more?

Join the Squarespace SEO Roundtable - a Private Facebook Group for all things Squarespace SEO

Did you find this useful?

If so, leave a comment below and share any takeaways.

The biggest mistake is thinking this is where your SEO stops. To improve rankings you’ll need to promote your content and get reputable sources to link back to your site. This takes time and works best as a part of a holistic marketing strategy.

SEO, OptimizeRas OMARI