It’s that thing we all refer to, some people sort of know what it’s all about, but most have a difficult time understanding or articulating. I’ll start with a little explanation!
In its most basic terms, SEO stands for search engine optimization. When someone speaks about SEO, usually they are referring to Google, though some people still use Bing and Yahoo for their online searches.
Google’s mission is to make the internet world more accessible – to provide people with the best answers to the things they are searching for online. Optimizing a website for search engines simply means building, creating, and updating the site in strategic ways to help Google rank the site in a higher position, and therefore put your content in front of the people who are searching for it.
It’s important to know that SEO is also an ever-changing world! Google is consistently updating the ways in which it crawls and ranks websites, to make it more difficult for people to scam the system.
For instance, not too long ago, SEO used to be all about keyword stuffing. As you might know, when you’re creating a website (or having a wonderful designermasterfully build it), you always want to keep in mind who you’re creating it for (that imaginary ideal client!). More specifically, you want to think about what that ideal person might be searching for, and how we can answer their questions with site content. Keywords definitely are important here! They’re basically words or short phrases that tie to a topic/location/vocation/anything: i.e: website designer, Vancouver, artist, creative, DIY design.
It’s important to have your keywords strategically placed throughout your website (in your h1, h2 titles, in your site tags, etc.), but you want to make sure that you’re not overdoing it, or stuffing them awkwardly and inauthentically in every possible place on your website pages.
The term for this bad-practice is “key-word stuffing.”
“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.
Examples of keyword stuffing include:
Google is smart, and understands that keyword-stuffing is not authentic and just an attempt to manipulate the search engines to raise your ranking! In fact, it will hurt your ranking.
There are many things you can do to design and upkeep your site to help with SEO. I will most definitely do an entire other post on this down the road. It’s for sure a long-game strategy and something you want to make sure is set up really well from the beginning of your website’s internet life!
But for, For now, I want to focus on three quick and easy things that you can do TODAY to help with SEO for your Squarespace website. They don’t require any or very much design knowledge and can definitely help with your search engine rankings!
This is the VERY first thing I do when I start designing for my clients. You want to make sure that the photo file sizes are not too large, because this will slow down your page load time. Slow pages are bad for a few (related) reasons:
Make sure your photos are as small and optimized as possible, to keep the site loading quickly! Here are a few helpful tips for optimizing photos for your site:
Homework: Find the places on your site where you think you have large photo files. For instance, photo banners on the top of your pages. Switch out the large files with smaller, more optimized files!
As you’re making updates to your site, you’ll want to be actively keeping an eye open for broken links, or, links that are no longer attached to one of your website pages.
It’s really easy to create broken links without even realizing it!
For example, I’m currently building a new portfolio for my site, to include some recent projects I’ve been working on. This means, I’ll likely have a new URL for the new portfolio page. When I’m ready to make the new portfolio page live, I’ll archive or get rid of the current portfolio page – but that URL will still exist! I will need to comb through my entire website, find those old links, and replace them with the new link.
If I don’t make these replacements, then if someone were to click on the old portfolio link, it would lead them to an error page. Google doesn’t like error pages! One of the reasons for this is, just like with slow-loading pages, error pages aren’t very fun for the user. If I’m browsing a website and stumble across a broken link, I tend two feel two things:
If you frustrate your site visitors, they may quickly leave your website and not come back. Again, not great for your rankings because Google gives preference to websites that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. Quick click-aways aren’t awesome.
Homework: Have a thorough look through your website and test all of your text, button, and image links. Make sure they’re up-to-date and that none of them are broken.
The buddy system! This one is my favourite and a super effective way to boost SEO! One of the things that the Google-machine loves is referred to as back-linking. In a nutshell, this means that other credible websites (the higher-traffic site, the better) contain links to YOUR site. Google sees it like a reference – if a credible website like The New York Times has an article that links to your website, Google’s like “whoa they’re legit,” which help with your ranking.
Now, obviously it may be challenging to get The New York Times to link to your site or your blog. No worries. This is where the buddy system comes in handy!
If you are someone consistently creating content on your website, like my blog for example, you can partner-up with a few other bloggers in your industry and do an exchange! You write a post for them, they post it on their site and link it back to your site. They write a post for you, you post it on your site and link it back to their site. Not only is this great for SEO, it’s also handy for getting your message and your offerings in front of a different audience.
Side note – I’m actually going to be doing this next week! Stay tuned for a post from the amazing Kim Forrester Photography.
Homework: Find a buddy to partner with for a back-link exchange. Ideally, look for someone in a complimentary industry, but maybe with a slightly different audience. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, you could partner with a wedding planner. If you’re a piano teacher, you could partner with a guitar teacher. If you’re an actor, you might partner with a makeup artist. If you’re a website copywriter, you might partner with a website designer.
Once you find your buddy and suggest this mutually beneficial friendship, then you can dive into what you’ll write about for each other’s sites or blogs!
Tip: If you don’t have a blog on your website, you can still find ways to buddy-up with others! For instance, you could make a page on your site of ‘recommended vendors’ or ‘friends in the community’ where you simply list the other creatives or businesses and link to their websites. Of course, you can request they do the same for you!
And that’s it. Three quick and easy things you can do right now to help with your Squarespace website’s SEO. Like I said, SEO is a long-term game and these are not going to be immediate, fix-all solutions! They’re just a few quick things that will do way more good than harm and will help put you on the right track for making sure your content is optimized for search engines.
I will wrap up by saying that as a brand & website designer, it’s my job to make sure alllll the good SEO things are in place for you from the very beginning. Apply to work together!