As someone in the SEO (search engine optimization) space who has built several websites, I’ve been often asked by acquaintances as well as clients about whether Squarespace is good for SEO. I will be discussing speed in relation to Squarespace SEO and whether Squarespace is truly better than WordPress for SEO. I also include a speed comparison of two popular blogs on Squarespace and WordPress in terms of site speed.
Both Squarespace and WordPress are a type of CMS (content management systems). This means that both Squarespace and WordPress provide a way for users to format their content for publication on the Internet using a certain interface. I try not to be biased as I believe that Squarespace can be a great option for some, but as someone working in the SEO field, I do not believe that Squarespace is always the best option for every client.
I should note that in discussing WordPress, I am referring to self-hosted WordPress. This means that you have your own server and domain with WordPress uploaded onto the server, so most tasks will be done through WordPress. You generally will need to pay for this task and this is best if you intend to have a commercial website/blog eventually.
For a beginner’s WordPress plan, I recommend Siteground for hosting, which I personally use. I paid about $70 to set-up this website and host it for a year while taking advantage of their newbie specials. Hosting costs will go up after a year, however you can judge in a year if you want to continue with the website.
Is Squarespace actually good for SEO?
Squarespace is a great out-of-the-box solution for entrepreneurs looking for a quick way to have a beautiful and easy-to-use website that is well integrated with sales. It’s drag-and-drop, so changing things is easy and perfect for non-technical people who want to have a website created in minutes. You can have a beautiful website that looks quite professional in about an hour.
One of the major points that many argue in regards to Squarespace is that it’s good for SEO, but let’s unpack that. Squarespace has built-in SEO features. You can custom
As someone who works in the SEO field, I can say the ability to edit your title, meta description, and
Somewhere where Squarespace falls short is website speed. Recent updates of the Google algorithm have put more of an emphasis on how quickly your pages load on mobile and desktop. Google is often favoring websites that are faster and with authority, so you want to ensure that your website is competitive. This is not to say that you can’t have a ranking website on Squarespace, but you will need to have more clout (or authority) in order to rank.
On Squarespace, you can easily upload smaller versions of images automatically, however you cannot do lazy loading (e.g. parts of the website load, including images, as you scroll down). This minimizes loading time as not everyone will scroll down to the bottom. Let’s imagine that if you only read 20% of a webpage using your mobile data that takes 20MB of data, you don’t want to use 100MB of data to load the whole thing if you’re going to click off after reading a small portion.
There are some smaller steps that you can do in terms of helping your loading speed by minimizing images on the first screen, ensuring that your images are the size that they need to be, stripping out extra metadata [e.g. date
You can tweak your website to be more efficient as soon as you create a page, but you can’t change the back-end of Squarespace, which limits your attempts at improving your website speed. Some designers on Squarespace will say that they know the SEO side of Squarespace, however, a new layout is unlikely to fix the issues that are part of the core appeal of Squarespace: not touching your back-end. You need to fill out your SEO snippets and optimize your pages for SEO, which is pretty similar across CMS platforms.
I will do a comparison of two popular blogs that are similar in terms of content in terms of website speed and traffic estimates to show the comparison of SEO for Squarespace and SEO for WordPress.
…Is WordPress better for SEO?
As someone in SEO, I have to say yes as it provides more options in terms of tweaking the back-end. Still, you can have a horribly slow website due to your theme slowing down your WordPress website or massive images. However, you can hire a developer to dig into the back-end with some small changes (implemented in a couple of hours) to substantially speed up your website.
Of course, you can download Yoast, a popular SEO tool, which will enable you to do many of the same tasks that you can do on Squarespace with a few clicks. As with Squarespace, you need to add your own SEO-optimized titles, snippets, and URL slugs as WordPress
One downside of WordPress is that it’s not as intuitive to learn to use. I held off on using WordPress for a long-term as it just seemed too complicated with too many options. I’ve felt that the Gutenberg update has been a blessing as it’s much more similar to Squarespace and Wix now in terms of formatting posts, but you still need to learn the back-end and it can be frustrating tweaking the appearance of your website at times. The plug-ins are helpful, but can often overwhelm a new user. I found Youtube to be handy and I’ve since converted to WordPress. Finding the right theme for your website can be hard.
Squarespace v. WordPress Website Speed Comparison
I’ve selected a popular Squarespace-based blog with lots of beautiful images on the website to analyze for website speed in comparison to a similar WordPress-based blog for comparison. Their homepages are similar in terms of layout. I will not reveal these websites and I tried to make it a fair comparison in terms of traffic (250,000+ page views monthly), so neither may not the fastest website out there. Both website owners are full-time and earn enough to live off their blog income.
We can see that both websites really do poorly on mobile, but they both rank well due to long-form top-ranking posts specifically about a topic. They both do a great job of mastering their various niches and this expertise has been reflected in terms of their backlinks to this content. (I write about niche-building here.)
The majority of organic searches are done on a mobile device at this time and you must look at your website regularly on a mobile device as most people will click off your website if they must wait more than 5 seconds for a website to load.
The WordPress website is also quite image-heavy. More than five seconds are lost to image-loading the images on the pages, which could be fixed with a few tweaks with WordPress. Similarly, things that could be loaded later are loaded up-front via a caching policy. The WordPress website fairs a bit better on mobile, but could fare significantly better with more work.
Squarespace does a better job on Desktop in terms of minimizing data,
More than 3 seconds are lost to waiting for the images to load on a slower connection. Image compression and resizing is something that could be done prior to uploading images onto Squarespace, but it requires a little extra effort.
On desktop, the WordPress website is much more efficient in terms of loading. A bit of image compression could be done via a plug-in, but the website chose not to do these tasks. Despite having ads, the website is significantly faster in terms of appearing to a user.
Overall, the comparison shows that the WordPress website fares better in terms of website speed and further Google penalties in terms of page speed are likely to impact the Squarespace more. Until Squarespace more effectively allows for certain speed features, I’d say that both CMS platforms are similar in terms of features, but WordPress offers far more flexibility in terms of further tweaking the website back-end.
For beginners, Squarespace is a great (but pricey!) option that allows for SEO, but as your website grows, it might be worthwhile to speed-up your website. I think that WordPress can be cheaper long-term,
No matter which platform you use, you should learn more about how SEO works. As a Squarespace user, you can already implement some small tweaks to improve your website loading speed, researching the right keywords, and by learning to write more effective SEO titles/snippets. Don’t give up! You can still benefit from organic traffic with some work. Simply by publishing your website on WordPress or Squarespace, your website is not optimized for SEO without some effort on either platform. Work on creating high-quality content that caters to your target audience and learning to better optimize your pages/posts for SEO.