You’ve laid out your site pages, chosen a template, added your content, made it look good, and paid attention to the details. It’s time to launch your new site!
There are three basic steps to launching a Squarespace site - check your settings, upgrade to a paid plan from your trial, and connect your domain. We’ll walk through each of those in this lesson, and when we’re done your site will be live and ready for visitors, which we’ll talk about in the next lesson!
Step 1: Check your settings
Use the list below as a guide to look over your site one last time before you declare it good to go and share it with the world.
- Proofread your content one last time.
- Make sure your page names and URLs are correct by going to the page settings for each page.
- Make sure you’ve gone to Connected Accounts and added your social media accounts.
- Check that all your site links work, including to your social media accounts.
- Add a site description for SEO (We’ll talk about that in the next lesson)
- Turn on your Pinterest Pin It buttons by going to Settings, Marketing, Pin It Buttons.
- Make sure any forms you added are going to the correct email address by checking the Storage tab on each form editor.
- Make sure you’ve changed your footer text from the standard “Powered by Squarespace”.
- Run a test transaction on your shop.
Step 2: Upgrade your account
Unless you’ve already upgraded your trial account you should have a banner across the bottom of your site letting you know how long you have left in your trial and giving you the option to upgrade. Click the Upgrade Now button, or click on Settings, Billing & Account, and then Billing to Upgrade your plan.
You’ll have a choice between the Personal and Business plans, depending on how many pages you have and what other features you need. The business plan allows more pages and has a little bit smaller transaction fee on payments, so you’ll have to decide which plan is better for you just starting out. You also have the choice of a Commerce plan if your shop is larger and you need more tools, but most likely you won’t need that at this point.
Click Select on the plan you choose and you’ll be taken to a payment screen where you can decide whether to pay monthly or yearly. Yearly is a way better deal if you can afford it, it has a pretty hefty discount and a free domain name comes with it, which you’ll need here shortly if you don’t already have one.
Fill out your payment information and click Subscribe to finish the purchase. Your site is technically live now - people could see it if they knew the address. But the temporary address Squarespace gives you is really just for administrative use, you’ll want to connect a domain name so that your site is easy to share and find.
Step 3: Connecting your domain
A domain is the URL or address people will use to find your website. You can look at it like Squarespace is a parking lot where your car (your website) is parked, and the domain name is like the address to that parking spot.
Squarespace comes with a built in domain name that looks something like yoursite.squarespace.com, which is definitely not the most professional looking URL. Having a custom domain makes your site feel infinitely more professional and easier for your visitors to remember.
You may already own a domain that you bought through GoDaddy, Google, NameCheap or somewhere else. If you don’t you can buy a domain straight from Squarespace, and if you upgraded to an annual plan it’s included in that for the first year. Setting up your domain will be different depending on where you bought it.
If you’re buying a domain through Squarespace or connecting a domain that you purchased at Google or GoDaddy you may only have a few buttons to push, or you may need to copy and paste some DNS Settings if you end up needing to set it up manually. If you aren’t comfortable with the DNS Settings you might ask someone to help you go through the steps or contact your domain provider.
Buying a domain through Squarespace
To purchase a domain through Squarespace (or redeem your free domain if you’re on an annual plan) you’ll go to Settings, then Domains, or just Domains from the Home menu, depending on your plan. You can also press ? on the keyboard while you have the site open and search your settings for Domains.
Click on Get a Domain and then enter the domain name you’d like to buy and press Enter or click Search. A list of different options will populate under the search box, with a column letting you know which ones are Taken, which ones are Free to you, and which ones have a cost associated with them. It’s important to do this step after you’ve already upgraded if you’re planning to pay annually, because a trial Squarespace account can still view and buy domains, but they won’t show up as Free until you upgrade.
Click on the domain(s) you want to add and either search again or scroll down and click Proceed to Checkout. You’ll need to fill in your contact information because it’s required, but Squarespace includes built-in privacy on your registration, which is nice if you don’t like phone calls from telemarketers every 20 minutes.
Go through the rest of the checkout process, making sure you review all your info and check your domain for spelling, then finalize your purchase. If you have a free domain you may still see your credit card information during the checkout, but as long as your domain says Free your card won’t be charged.
Make sure to watch your email now, because Squarespace is going to send you an email to verify your domain name. You’ll have to click a link in the email within two weeks or your domain will be suspended.
That’s it! You have a domain name and within a few hours you should be able to share it with the world! Sometimes it takes up to 72 hours for a domain to start working, but usually it happens in an hour or so from the time you click the verify your site.
Using a domain you already own
There are a couple more steps to connecting a domain you already own, but it’s still pretty easy.
You’ll start by going to Settings and Domains, then clicking Use a Domain I Own. You have two options on this page: Transfer your domain to Squarespace to manage it here, or leave it where you purchased it and just point it to your website. There are a few benefits to transferring your domain to Squarespace:
- You can manage your domain and website at the same place
- They include free SSL security certificates for domains they manage
- They include Whois Privacy free, which can save you a few dollars a month
Whichever option you choose your domain will still point to your website, which is the end goal. We’ll go over Transferring your domain first.
Transferring your domain to Squarespace
First, let’s make sure you’re eligible for transferring by typing your domain name into the box and clicking Continue. You’ll see a warning if your domain isn’t eligible for transfer, which could mean that it was registered in the past 60 days or is on a list of premium domains that can cost lots of money.
If your domain is eligible you’ll want to go log into your domain provider now and find their instructions on unlocking your domain. It may take them a day or two to provide this information so you need to start this part as soon as you can.
It might be just as easy to Google “How to unlock ______ domain”, with the blank being your provider (GoDaddy, Google, Bluehost, etc). You’ll need to unlock your domain and get an authorization code, as well as disable any Whois privacy you have enabled. If that all sounds insanely complicated don’t worry, most likely your provider has a help file that walks you through it. It can be slightly different depending on where you bought your domain, so there’s not one universal guide here. I’ve linked Squarespace’s knowledge base articles on transferring domains from some of the most popular providers in the resources Module.
Once you’ve unlocked your domain and found your authorization code you’ll come back to Squarespace and continue the transfer by entering your domain name on the Use a Domain I Own page and clicking Continue. On the next page you’ll see two options that will have either a green checkmark or a red exclamation point (if there’s a problem). If you run into a red exclamation point and you’ve done everything mentioned so far you’ll need to contact your domain provider and ask them to help you with whichever step is failing.
If both options have green checkmarks hit Continue here.
On the Transfer DNS Settings screen you’ll leave all the toggles switched to On, unless someone who knows exactly what they’re doing has told you otherwise, and click continue.
The next screen will have contact information Squarespace has pulled from your current domain provider. Make sure everything looks right here and hit Continue again.
If you’ve already upgraded your account you should be ready to confirm the transfer, pay for another year of your domain if you aren’t eligible for a free year, and click Transfer.
Make sure you watch your email for a Transfer Request email from Squarespace. You’ll need to follow the steps there and enter the authorization code you got from your provider within five days or the domain transfer will cancel.
Now we wait. It can take anywhere from 1 to 15 days for a domain to fully transfer, depending on how fast your provider releases it. You can check it’s progress by going to Settings and then Domains anytime. When the domain is transferred it will show up there with a green label. If it hasn’t fully transferred after 15 days you should contact your provider.
Connecting your domain
If you don’t want to transfer your domain or aren’t eligible to you can leave it registered where it is and point it at your website. The main differences here are you won’t be able to manage your domain through the Squarespace dashboard, and if you have an email address associated with your domain it will still function.
There are links in the Resources Module for Squarespace’s guides to connecting domains from some of the more popular domain providers, but we’ll go through the basics here. Use the guides if you run into an issue.
First you’ll go to Settings from the home menu, then click Domains and click Use a Domain I Own. On the next page, instead of entering your domain in the textbox you’re going to click the smaller link underneath that says “I want to connect a domain instead”. Enter the full domain name, including the .com, .net, or .whatever and click Continue.
Select your domain provider from the dropdown menu. This is the place you bought your domain name from. If you don’t see your provider listed just click Other, you can still connect your domain if it’s not here. Click Connect Domain.
Some domain providers, like Google and GoDaddy, are easier to connect to your account than others. If a popup window appears asking you to log into your domain provider do that now, then click Accept or Authorize to allow Squarespace to connect with your provider’s account. That may be all that’s needed, because Squarespace can go in and change the settings it needs to change. You’ll see a message saying the connection was successful if that’s the case, and you’ll be able to check the connection progress on your Domains screen in Squarespace.
If you aren’t that lucky instead of a popup window you’ll see a message that your connection is in progress, click Okay below that and you’ll see a page labeled DNS settings. You’ll want to keep this open in one tab and log into your domain provider in another, because you’ll be copying and pasting this information.
Once you’ve logged into your provider you’ll need to find where you can manage your DNS settings. This might be called Domain Manager, DNS Manager, Zone File Settings, or something like that. If you’re not sure where to go you can Google “How to change DNS in GoDaddy” or whichever provider you’re using.
Once you’ve found the DNS settings on your domain provider you’ll need to come back over to the Squarespace DNS Settings page and copy the string of numbers and letters that are in the first cell of the table there. You’re going to add something called a CNAME record. I’ll use BlueHost as an example here, but you can check the resources Module for the Squarespace guide for your specific provider.
In BlueHost you would navigate to Domain Manager, then select the domain you want to connect to your website. Click on the Manage DNS Records link and you’ll be taken to a page where you can Add a DNS Record. Paste the random string of letters and numbers you copied earlier into the Host Record box, leave the TTL box alone, change to Type to CNAME, and in the Points To box copy and paste the “verify.squarespace.com” from the Required Data column of the Squarespace DNS Settings table. Click Add Record and you’ve just added your first DNS Record. Congratulations!
You’re going to repeat this process for the rest of the Squarespace DNS Settings table, copying the value from the first column into Host, leaving TTL alone each time, changing the Type to whatever is listed in the second column, and copying and pasting the third column into Points To.
One thing you’ll need to pay attention to is the existing records in your domain provider account. You might already have some A records or CNAME records. If you already have a row in the CNAME records that begins with “www” in the Host column you’ll want to edit that so that the Points To matches “ext-cust.squarespace.com” without the quotation marks instead of adding a new record. Don’t edit any other records in the CNAME table though, these are for your mail and other important things.
If you already have A records that start with @ in the host column you’ll want to edit those as well so that the Points To columns point to what’s shown in your Squarespace DNS Settings table. If you have any A records that have nothing listed in the Host column you can delete those. If the host column says Mail or Email you’ll want to leave those alone.
Once you’ve added all the records you can come back to the Squarespace DNS Settings panel and click Refresh. This may look wonky for up to 24 hours while all this information processes, but once it does the Current Data column should be green and the domain should appear on your Domains panel with a Connected label.
You’re done! Now when you visit your domain your new website should show up. If you have any issues, or see a message that your domain can’t be verified, you’ll want to check your DNS Settings or contact your provider.