Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving your site's ranking in search results.
While the factors search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use to rank sites are kept secret and change frequently, this guide provides an overview of how Squarespace 5 helps your site rank, and gives tips for optimizing your site for search engines.
Note: Before you begin, please note that SEO strategy falls outside of the scope of Squarespace support. Since search engines have complex algorithms that power their technology and everyone’s marketing needs are unique, we’re unable to provide specific SEO advice to our customers.
What Squarespace 5 does for SEO
Here are the SEO-friendly features built in to every Squarespace 5 site:
- XHTML - Squarespace 5 sites use clean, valid XHTML. This helps crawlers scan the content on your site.
- Structure - The pages on Squarespace 5 sites are linked together in a coherent way, creating a solid underlying structure. This helps crawlers move through the pages of your site.
- Embedded RSS - The RSS feeds for Journal pages are embedded in the code of your pages. Sites with RSS are crawled more frequently than static sites.
- Domain mapping - If you're using a custom domain, our squarespace.com domain is completely removed from all code on your site, which indicates that your site is indexed properly at the domain's location.
- Clean titles and URLs - All major pages on your Squarespace 5 site have properly-formatted titles and distinct URLs that are free from special characters.
- Robots.txt file - Squarespace 5 includes a robots.txt file to automatically hide content that shouldn't be indexed, such as searches and send email pages. To see what content is blocked, add /robots.txt after your built-in domain, like this: http://xxx.squarespace.com/robots.txt, where xxx is your account name.
Although Squarespace 5 sites are optimized for search engines, there are some things you can do to help increase the visibility of your site pages.
Step 1 - Open search settings
To adjust the search settings for your site:
- Log into your site
- Open your Website Management bar
- Click Website Settings under Structure.
- Click the Search/Indexing tab.
The steps below can help you optimize the Search/Indexing settings for search engines.
Step 2 - Enable search engine indexing
Enabling search engine indexing allows search engines to catalog your site. Search engine indexing is enabled by default on all Squarespace 5 accounts.
To confirm that it's enabled for your site, ensure Allow External Search Engines to Index Site is checked.
Step 3 - Add a site description
Search engines may use your site description to populate search results. The description text usually displays beneath any search result linking to your site.
In search settings, use the Description field to add your site description.
- Your updated description text won't appear in search results right away. Search engines take some time to re-index your site for new content. To request a re-index, use Google Search Console.
- Your site description won’t always appear in search results—it depends on what visitors are searching for.
- Search engines might use page descriptions in search results if they can’t find more relevant content to a visitor's search terms.
Step 4 - Enable page descriptions (optional)
Page-specific descriptions usually display beneath search results linking to that page, rather than the main site description.
Check Create Page Specific Description Tags to add a description field to each page's configuration menu. Then add a description to each page on your site. Page descriptions can have up to 350 characters.
Step 5 - Optimize title order
Page titles appear in browser tabs and search results, and are indexed by search engines. Page names often contain keywords that can relate to search terms. Structuring your site to prioritize page titles over your site name helps search engines find relevant content.
Check Optimize Title Ordering to place page titles before the site name in the browser address bar, so it appears as:
Page Title - Site Name
Step 6 - Enable search engine archiving (optional)
Check Allow External Search Engines to Archive Site to allow search engines to cache your site.
There's no significant impact on ranking if you choose not to be archived, but we recommend enabling this option. Caching shows you how search engines see your site and when it was last indexed. It can also be useful for users if your site is ever down, or if they're looking for content no longer on your site.
For an example of how caching works, visit Google's documentation.
Step 7 - Ping blog indexers
If you have a blog on your site, open the configuration settings for its Journal Page and check all the Ping boxes in the XML-RPC Ping Options section. This notifies these sites automatically whenever your blog is updated.
Use search tools to maintain updates
Search engines won't notice changes to your site instantaneously. Google and Bing offer search tools to help you manage your site's search presence. Whenever you make major changes to your site, you can request that a search engine re-index your content by using these services.
For help, visit the following guides on our Squarespace 7 help site:
Note: Squarespace 5 doesn't handle code injection the same way as Squarespace 7. To insert your meta tag during the verification process, open the Website Management bar and click Website Settings under Structure. Then go to the Code Injection tab, select Extra Header Code in the Injection Region drop-down, and add your code to the HTML Code field.
Structure content with headings
Search engines typically give headings a higher priority. Clear headings that describe the following content make it easier for search engines to detect the major themes of your site. At the same time, they help visitors scan your page and quickly find the information they're looking for.
Use header sizes to organize the content on your pages. Within the WYSIWYG, click the Format drop-down menu and choose from the Heading list to choose a header size. These styles automatically create header tags in the page’s HTML, so there’s no need to add them manually.
All Squarespace 5 sites include blogging capabilities. Blogging involves updating your site frequently, which helps search engines see it as an active site. Even if you're a business and not a blogger, adding a Journal Page and updating it regularly with relevant content could potentially benefit your SEO while building your brand.
Search engines scan tags to identify what blog posts are about. Adding tags that accurately describe what your blog post is all about can help it appear in search results.
Add your physical location
If you're a business with a physical location, listing your address on your site, such as on a Contact Us page, could potentially help visitors find you in location-based services.
Signing up for Google's My Business service can also help your local search ranking. Visit their FAQ to learn more.
Hiding content from search engines
De-selecting Enable search engine indexing and Enable search engine archiving in search settings can help prevent search engines from seeing your site, but any public page on your site may be seen by search engines. This means that you probably shouldn't post something in an unsecured area of your site if you don't want others to see it.
Visit Password-protecting or hiding pages to learn how to make areas of your site private.
View or replace your robots.txt files
Squarespace 5 includes a robots.txt file to automatically hide content that shouldn't be indexed, such as searches and send email pages.
To see what content is blocked, add /robots.txt after your built-in domain, like this: http://xxx.squarespace.com/robots.txt, where xxx is your account name.
It’s not possible to change this, but you can replace it with your own robots.txt file:
- Name the new file robots.txt.
- Add the file to your site's File Storage.
- Create a 301 redirect, using /robots.txt in the Shortcut URL field and /storage/robots.txt in the Existing URL field.
Squarespace 7 comparison
Squarespace 7 is our newest and most sophisticated platform. We build all known SEO best practices into every Squarespace 7 site, with features such as:
- Automatic tagging
- Automatic redirects
- Built-in mobile optimization
- Site mapping
- Alt text on images
For a list of ways that Squarespace 7 helps with search engine rankings, visit SEO and Squarespace overview on the Squarespace 7 help site. If you're ready to switch, visit Moving from Squarespace 5 to Squarespace 7.
Moving your site
If you move your site to Squarespace 7, or to any third-party platform, it will cause a temporary dip in your site's search ranking.
Our guide on the Squarespace 7 help site shows how to reduce the effect of the migration and potentially help your site's overall performance, with certain best practices such as:
- Keeping your custom domain name
- Matching URL slugs
- Using 301 redirects
- Creating a custom 404 page
- Using Google and/or Bing Webmaster Tools