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Adding keywords for SEO

While Squarespace has many built-in features that optimize your site for search engines, the words you use on your site make a big difference in how easily people are able to find you. To rank well in search results, it's important to include keywords (text) on your site that matches the search terms people use to find sites like yours.

This guide explores best practices and offers tips for creating a keyword strategy.

Note: Before you begin, please note that SEO strategy falls outside of the scope of Squarespace support. Because search engines have complex, frequently changing technology, and everyone's marketing needs are unique, we're unable to provide specific SEO advice to our customers.

Why keywords matter

The internet is a marketplace. Whether or not you sell items, your site is competing with every other website for search engine attention.

Adding keywords to your site helps search engines match your site to specific search terms. And using those keywords strategically helps search engines see your site as relevant to the people looking for those search terms.

Search engines can have a significant impact on your site traffic. For example, around 50% of the traffic for support.squarespace.com comes from organic search.

Types of keywords

Keywords fall into two categories:

  • Head - Shorter keywords with a larger search volume, such as photographer, shoes, and ceramics. These target a wide audience, and are usually more difficult to rank for.
  • Long-tail - These are more descriptive, multi-word search terms, like engagement photography nyc, red women's shoes, and glazed ceramic vases. These target more specific search queries, and may be easier to rank for.

Step 1 - Brainstorm a list

To start, create a list of keywords people might be searching for to find sites like yours. Don't hold back at this stage; you'll refine the list in the next step.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Target audience - Think about the type of person you want to attract to your site. What do they want? What problems do they have? It might help to ask other people, like friends or coworkers, what they would enter in search engines if looking for your content or services.
  • Your product - List each of your products or services, and add multiple words that describe it. Even if you don't sell items, your product is whatever someone receives by visiting your site, like information about parrots.
  • Your brand - List words that describe what your site and brand is about, like your company name, your industry, and your specialities.
  • Competitors - Take a look at your competitors' websites. What words do they use? What words do they avoid? What words do you search for when looking for their sites?
  • Synonyms - Think of different ways of saying any of the keywords on your list. For example, 4th of July, Fourth of July, July 4th, July 4, and July Fourth are all different keywords.
  • Related words - Type the words you've come up with in Google, and see what related searches it suggests. Add these to the list if they relate to your site.

If your site is already established, use these built-in tools to see the keywords your visitors already use:

Step 2 - Refine the list

Use the list that you created in Step 1 to figure out which keywords to prioritize. In most cases, you're looking for keywords that are:

  • Broad enough that people will actually search for them.
  • Specific enough that you could potentially rank in the first page of results.
  • Relevant to your site and can be used to create valuable content and a great visitor experience.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Difficulty - A keyword's "difficulty" is a combination of how broad it is, how often people search for it, and how many other websites are trying to rank for it. While you may want to try for a couple of difficult keywords, it's smart to mix in keywords that are easier to rank for as well. A good place to start is the Google Ads Keyword Planner.
  • Relevance - Avoid keywords that don't relate to your site or have very low search volume.
  • Current keywords - If your site is already established, you may want to keep keywords that are already performing well. You can see these in the Google Search Keywords and Other Search Keywords panels.
  • Your company name - If your company doesn't rank well when you search for it by name, you may need to make that keyword a priority.
Tip: If you aren't sure how many keywords to focus on, a list of three head and seven long-tail keywords is a good place to start.

Step 3 - Add keywords to your site

Search engines look at where keywords appear on your site, and they prioritize some areas over others. Here are good places to add your keywords, in order of importance:

Tip: Add keywords in a clear, natural way that makes sense to humans. "Keyword stuffing" is off-putting to visitors and may count against you in search engine results. See our best practices for more help.

These areas don't affect search engine ranking, but do help in other ways:

  • Search engine and page descriptions - Add compelling keywords to the description meta text that may appear below the site title in search results.
  • Tags - Tags help visitors navigate and find things on your site.
Tip: Google bolds the searched-for keywords in the description that shows in search results, to encourage the searcher to click through to your website.

Step 4 - Track results

It may take time for these changes to your site to have an effect on your search engine ranking.

  • How often search engines index your site is outside our control, but you can request an index with Google and Bing to help these search engines find your new content.
  • After the new content is indexed, it still may take a while for your ranking to change. The ranking is based on many factors, and keywords is just one part of it.

Here are some ways to see whether your keyword strategy is having an impact over time:

  • Your site's analytics tools - Visit your site's Google Search Keywords panel and other analytics panels, such as Other Search Keywords, Activity Log, and Traffic, to track the impact to your site traffic and search engine ranking.
  • Google Analytics - Use our integration with Google Analytics for more visitor tracking and reporting.
  • Search engine rankings - In a private or incognito browser, add your keyword to search engines like Google and Bing to see your ranking (placement in the list of results) and how it changes over time.

Your keyword strategy should be an ongoing and ever-evolving project. As time passes, continue to check your rankings, replace low-performing keywords, update your content, and track your competitors and visitor activity to ensure your site stays relevant.

Tip: Keyword strategy is just one part of SEO. Review our other tips for increasing your site’s visibility to search engines.

Keywords best practices

If you're going to take just one thing away from this guide, make it this: Write for humans, not robots.

The goal of a search engine is to connect people with sites they find relevant and compelling. The methods search engines use grow increasingly more sophisticated, and are designed to mimic human behavior. By writing clear, coherent text that visitors find useful and easy to navigate, you're also optimizing your site for search engine robots.

Don't "keyword stuff"

In the past, search engines' emphasis on keywords led people to overload their site with them, sometimes called "keyword stuffing."  One example of keyword stuffing would be an image name like wedding-photographer-wedding-nyc-wedding-photographer-weddings.

Not only is this off-putting to visitors, but search engines have become more sophisticated, and now may penalize your site for this. Rather than using large numbers of keywords in a nonsensical manner, focus on a few essential keywords and integrate them in clear, human-readable text.

Check your keyword density

One way to ensure you're not keyword stuffing is to evaluate your "keyword density," which is the percentage of times that the keyword appears on a page.

For example, if your page has 200 words, and the keyword is used 20 times, that's a keyword density of 10%.

A good keyword density is 2% - 3%. This helps search engines understand what your page is about without looking spammy.

Keep in mind that while density is one factor, you still need to add the keywords in strategic places and a natural way.

Add keywords in titles and names

For site and SEO and page titles:

Tip: Use characters like - or | to separate phrases or keywords: Excelsior Designs | Digital Branding Agency

For page slugs and image file names:

  • Be descriptive and specific. For example, handmade-ceramics-NYC is better than pageid10 or IMG_01.
  • Where it makes sense, incorporate the page's focus keyword.
  • Only use letters, numbers, underscores, and hyphens.
  • Separate words with hyphens.

Structure your pages

Visitors are likely to skim your site to find what they're looking for, rather than reading all the text on the page. Structure your pages in a way that helps visitors and search engines navigate your content and find what they're looking for quickly.

Headings help visitors and search engines navigate your content and find what they're looking for quickly. As a general rule:

  • Structure your pages so that Heading 1 headings are at the top and the heading sizes descend as you scroll down the page.
  • Headings and subheads should be unique. Don't use the exact same text for multiple headings.
  • Keep headings short and to the point.

For body text:

  • Try to include the target keyword at the beginning of the first sentence on the page.
  • Repeat keywords throughout the body text a few times if it makes sense to do so.
  • You can mix up the order of the words. For example, if you're trying to rank for "building design," the phrase "design a building" would count towards your keyword density.
  • Include clarifying words and synonyms for your keywords. If you're writing compelling text, this usually happens naturally.
  • Check for broken links.
  • When adding links to your own content, ensure the text you're linking from is relevant. For example, linking the words "v-neck t-shirts" is better than "click here."
Tip: For more help, watch our Writing for the web video.

Focus on one keyword per page

To demonstrate relevance to search engines, try focusing on one keyword per page. For example, if one of your keywords was baby parrots, you could use that keyword in the SEO title, page slug, heading text, body text, and image file names on one page.

Add alt text to images

Search engines use alt text to identify the content of a page. It also makes your site more accessible for people who use assistive screen readers and browsers with images disabled. 

Follow our image best practices and alt text best practices to ensure your site is optimized for visitors and search engines.

 

Tip: For Google Image search results, Google prefers .jpg over .png or .gif file types.

Observe similar sites

Even if you're not competing for profit or business, if you'd like to be found by new people, you're competing for attention and space with websites that offer similar content to yours. Examples include other bakeries in your city, nonprofit organizations serving the same communities, or bloggers who also review natural beauty products.

Keep tabs on your top-ranking competitors and think about what parts of their content strategy might be useful for your site. Here are some things to look for:

  • Number of words on the page
  • Content quality
  • How often they're publishing new content
  • How headings are structured
  • Number of tags and categories
  • Type of content, such as images, video, and audio files
  • Social media integrations

Creating content from keywords

If you don't have anywhere on your site that directly relates to a keyword or phrase you want to rank for, you can use it as inspiration for adding more content.

To get started, think about the keyword, and consider:

  • What is a person searching for that phrase trying to achieve?
  • What could you provide on your site that would interest them?
  • How can you link from the new content to other areas of your site?
  • What content about this already exists on other sites, and how could you approach the topic differently or better?
Tip: One way to incorporate keywords in new content is to add a blog and focus each new post on a single topic. Blogging regularly can also help search engines see your site as active.

When will I see results?

It may take time for these changes to your site to have an effect on your search engine ranking. Keyword optimization is a long-term, ongoing process, and ranking depends on many factors, including how visitors interact with your site.

For best results:

The role of paid search

Paid search is when you create ads that appear in search results. In Google, for example, these appear at the top of search results for specific keywords, with a label to show that it's an ad.

Although these can certainly drive traffic to your site, they don't contribute to your site's SEO. Even if you're doing a paid search campaign, it's a good idea to optimize your site so your organic ranking performs well.

Tip: If you're interested in paid search, see if your site is eligible for a Google Ads credit.
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Adding keywords for SEO