Creating a blog or a website is no small feat—it takes design savvy, quippy copy, and extensive content to become a reality. So wouldn’t it be disappointing if after all that hard work, no one saw the fruits of your labor? It can take a lot of work and money to successfully promote your website or blog via social media, email, or advertisements. What if there was a free way to drive traffic to your website with minimal effort, even when you’re sleeping?
It sounds too good to be true, but SEO can be a huge, seamless traffic driver if you take advantage of it. Our website platform of choice, Squarespace, automatically does SEO work for you—like clean indexing, automatic tagging, Google rich image search, and more. And lucky for you, you don’t have to understand any of those concepts, because it’s all pre-built within the Squarespace templates. But there are a few strategic things you should be aware of in order to make the most of SEO. Before you launch your site, review our checklist, which will help you get the SEO basics on lock:
1. Understand SEO
In short, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Essentially, SEO optimizes your website to be found in search engine results. For example, if your website promotes your dog-walking business located in Boston, you’ll want to show up in results when people search Google (or another search engine) for queries like “best dog walkers in Boston” or “Boston dog walking services.”
There is a lot of digital competition out there, so you have to make sure your website shows up as early in the search results as possible. Try to think back to the last time you ever clicked on page seven of Google search results. Oh wait, that never happened! A whopping 92 percent of searchers choose to work with businesses they found on the first page of local search results, which means you need to use SEO to make sure you end up on that first page.
2. Set up your website to automatically do some of the work for you
There are a ton of components that can affect your SEO, and starting from scratch would be a daunting prospect. Squarespace covers a lot of the more technical aspects of SEO that would be tricky for the average user to manage, like automatically creating “lightweight” versions of your web pages to load faster on mobile. (I definitely would not want to be dealing with that myself!).
Each Squarespace website generates and links a proper site map, which helps with indexing your website. Your website will also automatically come with free SSL certificates, which signals to search engines that your website is legit and not spammy. You’ll notice sites with these certificates have a lock symbol in the upper left corner next to the URL (theeverygirl.com has one!). These are just two of many SEO-friendly features Squarespace offers, but they give you an idea of what type of help you should be receiving from the website builder you utilize.
3. Do keyword research
Start by compiling a general list of search terms and keywords that make sense for your business. What would you search for if you were looking for someone like you? If you’re a graphic designer in Chicago, the terms might be “graphic designer Chicago,” “local graphic designer Chicago,” “brand designer Illinois,” etc. Try searching for different terms and see what results you get. Keep a running list in one place, like a Google Doc or note, and refer back to it frequently. Break down your keywords by pages on your site. If you have a shop, what are you selling? What keywords relate to your products? If you have a blog, what are you frequently writing about?
Once you have your keywords set, start utilizing them in page titles, body copy, and meta tags. More on that below!
4. Title pages properly
Your page titles appear on your website, but also factor into your search results and affect how your pages appear when shared on social media and in browser tabs. Here’s where you’ll want to pull out some of those keywords and insert them strategically where appropriate.
For example, if you have an online shop, the page might be titled “Shop” in your navigation menu, but you’ll want to be more specific in your page title to help search engines find your page. If you’re selling portraits and art prints try making the title “Shop Custom Portraits & Art Prints” for better SEO results. In Squarespace, you can easily change your page titles for SEO without affecting the navigation title or page URL.
5. Add SEO and meta descriptions
Every page on your website should have a unique SEO description (also known as meta descriptions) to ensure it is properly categorized. You don’t need to overthink this step; the text can be a quick 50 to 300 characters and simply has to describe the content that appears on the page. This description is what will appear as a preview on a search engine (below the title of the page) and Google specifically cuts off the text at 160 characters, so keep key information at the beginning of your description. You’ll also want to make sure this copy has one or a few of your keywords in it and encourages users to click through to the actual web page. You can learn more about how to write and add killer SEO descriptions to your website here.
6. Don’t forget photos
Search engines like Google don’t just “crawl” your website copy for keywords, they also look at your images. When you add a photo to your website, you should make sure you have accurate photo names, alt text (text that appears if the photo doesn’t load or if the site is being viewed accessibly), and captions that allow a search engine to properly rank your photos. Accuracy is key here, so make sure you’re describing your photo correctly. For example, you might have a product photo in your shop of a ceramic bowl. The alt text should read something like “ceramic bowl glazed in blue” and include any details you think are relevant to the image. There are some key rules for properly optimizing photos for search engines, so review these helpful tips before you get started.
7. Add internal and external links throughout your site copy
You can help boost your SEO results by using links—both to your own internal site pages and blog posts and to external web pages. Try to include a few links within every page and blog post on your site. If you have a blog, make sure to get a link into your post introductions, preferably within the first sentence or two.
8. Track your results
In order to make sure your SEO efforts are on the right track, you need to learn how to measure your success. Setting up a Google Analytics account will allow you to see how much traffic you’re receiving from Google Search (and other traffic sources), how many users click on your links after seeing them in search, and what keywords are helping users find you. Learn how to track the results of your SEO efforts so you can know where to make improvements. Squarespace even has a built-in Google Analytics integration to make tracking your progress easier!
This post was in partnership with Squarespace, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.