Is Squarespace SEO Really Good? Yes! But... Squarespace SEO Series #2
I can hear the skepticism in your voice. This is one of the most common questions I come across regarding the Squarespace platform, or any website builder that isn’t Wordpress. I’ve actually been verbally “attacked” and mocked as a website designer because I prefer to use Squarespace over other platforms (Ahem...take note other website designers and website developers...my recommendation? Don’t do this. So not cool.).
SEO usually isn’t the first thing to come up when people are waxing poetic about Squarespace. Is it any good, or is something users tolerate because its modern, professional design and easy-to-use features are so strong? There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there about Squarespace and its SEO capabilities. Most people agree that it has a sleek design, scalability, and user-friendly content management system but for some reason Squarespace can’t shake the disbelief that many people have about its SEO capabilities.
The truth is Squarespace actually does offer almost everything you need to do well in search engine results.
I obviously prefer Squarespace because I design websites on the platform professionally, but I’m not going to say that Squarespace doesn’t have any problems with SEO because it does. I highly recommend you read Mark Kuzmack’s blog post about Squarespace SEO problems. It highlights some important things to consider about the platform.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SEO FOR ANY WEBSITE PLATFORM
I was going to write this blog post touting the many pros of Squarespace’s SEO but in reality, SEO boils down to a few key concepts regardless of what platform you use and how you implement it.
Yes, Squarespace can and does quality SEO. You can read more about Squarespace’s features here. Does it all work seamlessly and without any effort on your part? Of course not. Nothing worthwhile is ever that easy. While the Squarespace platform definitely has a few bugs to work out for SEO...here’s the real deal about SEO in general...
Everyone is interested in improving their visibility on the web. Many are looking for shortcuts. The fact of the matter is that SEO is more of a long game and anyone promising quick results should be greeted with a high level of skepticism.
TWO KEY SEO COMPONENTS
Unless your marketing budget is astronomical, you probably won’t find Google’s list of 200 ranking factors that useful. There’s a reason for that. Google doesn’t want companies to be able to game the system. That’s why it keeps adding different ranking factors to its algorithms. That’s why it relies on semantic search to go beyond keywords.
It’s important to mention two aspects of SEO that are important across any blogging and website platform.
Content is King
First, when others refer to search engine optimization, they are really referring to capturing search engine traffic. If the SEO question can be boiled down to the issue of traffic, then the most important aspect of gaining traffic is content.
Content is the biggest influencer for search engine optimization. Google reiterates this in every piece of material they have produced on SEO (just read page 14 of their starter guide). And it’s not just content, but quality content that uses keywords and is frequently updated.
The second most important aspect of SEO is website architecture. Website architecture refers to a holistic approach to website design that considers technical, aesthetic, and functional criteria at the back-end and sitemap level.
For example, did you know that 40% of visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load? Or that 46% of mobile users have a hard time reading web pages on their phones? The best websites take these pain points into account and design accordingly.
Website architecture breaks down into 4 categories:
Organization. The way a site is organized matters a great deal to Google. Everything from site speed (loading times) to site layout (pages and subpages) matters for SEO.
Visual Design. Ever hear of mobile responsive? Mobile usage has exceeded desktop computers and is only going to get bigger. It’s why single page, scrolling websites are becoming popular, and multi-page websites are going the way of the dinosaur.
HTML. HTML is what a browser, like Google Chrome, uses to read your website. Think of it as the web version of scaffolding on which Google’s search engine spiders crawl. Poor HTML practices mean that Google’s spiders won’t know how to properly index your webpages or rank them in search.
Ultimately, it's all about driving traffic to your site.
SO, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO IMPROVE GOOGLE RANKINGS?
Patience is your friend. I’m not kidding…
Here’s the short answer: It depends.
Not what you wanted to hear, huh? Unfortunately, I won’t be giving you a specific timeframe for SEO results because that’s impossible. Nor will I be sharing some secret formula to answer this question because one simply doesn’t exist.
During a Google Webmaster Central Office Hours Hangout last March 2018, the question of how long it takes to see ranking improvement came up (surprise, surprise). John Mueller, a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, underscored that it takes some time. In short, because the search engine’s algorithm has to carry out a re-evaluation of your entire site after changes have been implemented.
Due to the number of factors in play, rapid changes in the search engines results pages (SERPs) should not be expected. Mueller also confirmed that even if you make drastic changes to your website’s design and functionality, it could still take a couple of months or even a year to have an impact. He also cautioned that you should not just sit and wait for results after you upgrade your site. It’s better to keep working on your website with continuous improvement being the ultimate goal.
A study by Ahrefs turned up some interesting information, in terms of how long it takes to rank on Google.
Among the main takeaways:
On average, a page that ranked in the top 10 was over 2 years old. Moreover, the average age of pages that ranked first was nearly 3 years old.
Among the pages that ranked in the top 10, only 22 percent of them were less than 1-year-old.
Of all pages in the study, only about 6 percent appeared in the top 10 search engine results for at least one keyword within one year.
Zooming into the top 6 percent pages, most of them were able to get to the top 10 from nowhere in 2 to 6 months.
So, based on their findings, about 94 percent of the pages in the study never made it to the top 10 search engine rankings within a year.
HOW TO RANK HIGHER ON GOOGLE
As you can see, to reach the top 10 SERPs in less than 1 year, takes lots of hard work, skill, and sometimes luck. Getting back to Squarespace SEO which was my initial point of writing this blog post. It’s a process and takes time.
With Squarespace, a majority of the backend architectural work has already been done for you. You don’t have to worry about getting an SSL certificate, generating a sitemap, implementing a CDN, or dealing with robots.txt file, among other technical tasks.
Are your eyes crossed yet?
No worries! Squarespace has that stuff taken care of. Social media integration is super easy and intuitive. Sites are mobile responsive out of the box, though sometimes you need to use CSS (code) to fine tune it for mobile or tablets. Squarespace really shines because they take away the need to worry about these things. However, doing SEO for Squarespace does require attention to detail.
Make sure to utilize any number of well-written SEO guides out there and follow their recommendations closely. My next post in the SEO series will have 10 tips to improve your Squarespace SEO.
Until then...what are your thoughts and questions about Squarespace SEO? Sign-up below to get your free ultimate Squarespace SEO Checklist!