SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s basically the catch-all name for all the actions, strategies, and tactics used to help search engines find and rank your website among others in the same category. The end goal of optimizing your website is that it will rank as high as possible in the Google (and other search engines) search so that more people will see it, visit it, and become your customers/readers/clients.
SEO isn’t an exact science. There are tons of factors that contribute to where your site ends up in the search results, some are within your control and some are not. Each search engine also uses it’s own set of rules known as an algorithm to decide how it ranks websites, and this algorithm is kept a secret to prevent people from gaming the system.
There are several best practices that can be used when you’re building your site to help it appear in the search results though. Squarespace already implements a lot of those on every site, like automatically creating a sitemap and making sure every template has great mobile optimization built in. Good SEO starts with good content though, so first and foremost make sure your site’s content is relevant, full of the words you want people to be able to find you from, and easy to navigate.
Let’s talk about some other things you can do to help improve search engine’s ability to rank your site.
There are a few ways you can make sure your images are enhancing your site instead of hurting it.
First, check your image size and resolution before you upload it. Especially if you’re a photographer or have a picture heavy website. If your pages are full of large, high resolution images they’re going to load slower, and slow loading pages can cause people to navigate away as well as hurting your search engine ranking.
I recommend using images that are no more than 2500px wide if they’re going to be the full width of the page. They can be even smaller than that if they aren’t going to cover the full width of the page. You can resize images using a program like Photoshop or a website like PicMonkey or PicResize. You’ll find links to these in the resources Module of this course. You can also edit them using Squarespace’s using the built in photo editor by opening the Image Block editor and clicking Edit below the photo, or hovering over the photo in the Gallery Block editor and clicking the pencil icon; however if you’re adding a lot of photos the built in editor is probably going to be time consuming.
The second thing you can do is make sure the image name is relevant to the site instead of just a random string of numbers and letters. For example, when I finish a website and am ready to add it to my portfolio I’ll use a browser plugin to take a screenshot of the full page. The plugin saves the image with a filename consisting of a big long string of random letters and numbers. Before uploading it to my site I’ll change it to something like “realestatedevelopmentwebsite.jpg”. This serves the purpose of giving search engines another keyword to find when they crawl the site, and if someone happens to look at the filename of your picture it doesn’t look nearly as random. It’s mostly for the SEO benefits though.
Using Titles and Headings wisely
Search engines prioritize your site title, pages titles, blog post titles, and headings they find inside your pages. These are great places to make sure your keywords show up, but they’re also seen by your site visitors so you’ll also want to make sure they make sense and read well.
You can edit your default site-wide title formats by going to Settings from the Home menu and clicking SEO. Here you can also add a description for search engines to pick up. To set how titles are displayed around the site you can either manually type in the boxes or use the variables shown. The variables will pull information from other sources, like the title you’ve given a blog post or page, and are generally the best choice here. You can click the question mark beside the boxes to better understand the variables.
Using headings when you’re writing content for pages and posts is important too, and it goes back to that hierarchy thing we talked about in the first Module too. When you’re writing copy on a page or a post you’ll want to make sure you structure and break it up by adding Heading 1 and Heading 2 tags. You do this by highlighting a short portion of text, usually a word or sentence describing the next chunk of text or maybe a quote, and clicking the dropdown in the text editor bar with Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and Quote in it. Search engines give priority to these, so make sure you’re using keywords but that they also read well with the rest of the page.
Re-verifying your site with search engines
One of the biggest requests I hear from past clients is for me to change the description, site title, or something else that shows up with their search result on Google. They’ve usually tried to make the change themselves already and haven’t seen immediate results and assume that I know a secret way to make it happen. The answer to that is I do, and I don’t.
Think of search engines as an extremely understaffed government agency. Okay, maybe don’t do that. But do try to keep in mind how vast the internet is.
You can manage your presence on search engines to an extent though by verifying your site after you make any big changes. Basically you’re just letting the search engine know you’d like it to come take another look. You’ll find links in the Resources Module for for how to do that.
Keep a blog
When your site is updated frequently it has several benefits. It keeps your site visitors coming back, it adds more and more relevant keywords to your copy, it shows search engines you’re an active website, and your use of tags and categories adds even more keywords. As an added benefit, when your blog posts are shared and linked to it helps more people see your website and tells search engines that you must be doing something right because people are linking to you.
Blogging is probably one of the best ways to rank higher in search results, but it does take a consistent effort; the whole point is to regularly update the site with good content and provide value to your readers.
Squarespace has a pretty rich traffic analytics Module built right in. The exact metrics available to you vary depending on which plan you have, but each one is meant to give you a good picture of how your site is performing and where your traffic is coming from. You can click on Analytics from the Home menu to see a list of the different panels available to you.
Squarespace comes with some really helpful analytics built right in, but you can go a step further and connect your site to Google Analytics in just a few steps.
If you don’t already have a Google Analytics account you’ll need to set that up before you can connect it to your website. You can do that by going to analytics.google.com and signing up. You’ll be asked for some basic information to create an account, then you’ll be able to set up what they call a “property” by adding your website URL. It’s a good idea to wait until your website is connected to its domain and published before starting this process.
During the Google Analytics setup you’ll get a tracking code that you’ll want to copy so you can add it in your Squarespace settings. The tracking code will be a string like “UA-000000-1”. Once you’ve copied that code you can return to your Squarespace site and navigate to Settings, then Advanced, then External Services. Here you’ll see text boxes for your tracking code as well as your Amazon Associates ID if you have one. Paste your tracking code here and click Save.
You’ll need to log back into your account at analytics.google.com to view your site stats once they start showing up, which could take up to 24 hours after you connect it.