Squarespace vs Wordpress (2018) - Which is the Best Website Builder?
 Squarespace vs Wordpress (images of the Squarespace and Wordpress logos side by side)

In this Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison, we look at two of the world's leading web building platforms in depth.

We provide an overview of what both tools do, explore their key features and outline the reasons why you might choose one over the other for a website design project.

By the end of the article, you should have a much clearer idea of which platform is best suited to your business.


What is Squarespace?

Squarespace is a ‘software as a service’ (‘SaaS’) website builder - you pay a monthly fee to use it, but everything you need to build and maintain your site is provided as part of that: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce, support and (depending on your requirements) a domain.

There are two versions of Squarespace: first, there's the 'standard' version, which is designed to be used by people without web development skills. The vast majority of Squarespace customers use this version.

There is also a developer’s version which allows access to and manipulation of the source code. This permits the addition of greater functionality to Squarespace sites and the creation of bespoke templates. As the name suggests, it's really suitable for experienced developers however.


What is Wordpress?

There are also two different versions of Wordpress available:

Let's take a look at each.

Hosted Wordpress

Hosted Wordpress - available at wordpress.com - is, like Squarespace, a software as a service (SaaS) tool. As with Squarespace you pay a monthly fee and you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a website.

It’s slightly less of an ‘all in one’ solution than Squarespace however, as users need to use third party tools like Ecwid or Shopify to add e-commerce features, and using the most attractive themes involves an additional fee.

On the flip side, this arguably makes it a more flexible tool than Squarespace, because you can integrate it with more apps, or buy more templates for it.

Self-hosted Wordpress

Self-hosted Wordpress is a piece of software (downloadable from wordpress.org) that you install on your own web server. It’s open-source, meaning that the code behind it is freely available and may be modified easily.

In practice this means that sites built with Wordpress can be customised to the nth degree - it’s an extremely flexible tool that, in the hands of the right developer, or through the installation of a suitable plugin, can be adapted to meet the requirements of nearly any website design project.

You can install Wordpress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain registration charges and occasionally plugin or development costs to consider. We’ll discuss all this in more depth later on in the review.


So which versions of Squarespace and Wordpress is this review comparing?

This Squarespace vs Wordpress comparison is going to focus on the versions of the platforms that most people use: the standard version of Squarespace, and the self-hosted version of Wordpress.

Squarespace are a bit vague on user numbers, but their website states that there are 'millions' of paying Squarespace customers; and depending on who you believe on the internet, there are between 60m and 75m sites built using self-hosted Wordpress. 


Who are Squarespace and Wordpress aimed at?

It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace’s core audience is comprised of users without web development skills. The key idea behind Squarespace is that anyone can use the platform to make their own website, without needing to code at all. 

This leads to a ‘walled garden’ approach, where everything is very tightly locked down in order to:

  • create a user-friendly interface 
  • avoid scenarios where Squarespace users manage to ‘break’ an aspect of their site
  • preserve the quality of the templates.

Like Squarespace, Wordpress can also cater for users without web development skills - it is certainly possible to create and maintain a Wordpress site without resorting to coding. I’d argue however that in many cases, more configuration of Wordpress is needed before you can publish a website; and that setting up a Wordpress site involves a steeper learning curve.

Due to its open-source nature, Wordpress is also geared towards another audience: users who wish to use the platform to create an extensively-customised website with significantly more functionality that is available from Squarespace.


How much do Squarespace and Wordpress cost to use?

Squarespace costs

It’s fairly easy to understand the costs involved with Squarespace: there are four monthly plans available:

  • Websites Personal - $16 per month 
  • Websites Business - $26 per month
  • Commerce Basic - $30 per month 
  • Commerce Advanced - $46 per month

These plans work out a bit cheaper if you pay on an annual basis ($12, $18, $26 and $40 per month respectively).

The main differences between the Squarespace plans involve the number of pages you can create; transaction fees; integration with Xero; and e-commerce features.

The 'Personal' plan is quite restrictive and is not really suited to business applications at all - this is because it doesn't facilitate e-commerce and restricts the number of integrations with third-party apps you can use. It doesn't even allow you to add custom code to your site, meaning you can't even add a mailing list form to it. So, I generally advise my clients to avoid it.

As you might expect, the more expensive Squarespace plans come with more features, particularly where e-commerce is concerned. I'll highlight key ones below but for a more in-depth overview of the differences between each Squarespace pricing plan, please see our full Squarespace review.

If you pay annually for your Squarespace plan, you’ll get a free custom domain too - but you should note that not all domain extensions are catered for.

Wordpress costs

“Hey, Wordpress is free” I hear you cry. Well no, not exactly, because to get it working properly you need to pay for other stuff.

There are five things that will generally affect your costs: 

  • hosting (server space on which to install Wordpress and store your site)
  • themes (the design for your site)
  • e-commerce integration (addition of tools that will let you sell products online)
  • plugins (apps that can be added to your site to add more functionality)
  • whether or not a developer is involved in your site build.

The one thing you'll always have to pay for hosting: without it you have nowhere to install Wordpress. There are a wide range of options available on this front, but the key choice you’ll have to make is whether you’d like to use a ‘shared hosting’ company (cheap but slower) or a provider such as WP Engine that specialises exclusively in Wordpress hosting (faster, more secure - but more expensive). For a small to medium-sized project you’re typically looking at costs of between $4 (shared hosting) and $30 (managed WP hosting) a month.

With regard to the other factors, you can technically get away with using a free template, e-commerce integration, and plugins - but realistically, to get higher quality results it’s usually worth investing in your site.

Below you’ll find some figures which demonstrate some costs you might expect if you were building your site yourself:

  • Annual hosting, using managed Wordpress hosting from WP Engine as an example: $348 (recurring cost)
  • Premium theme: $175
  • Annual cost for e-commerce integration (using Ecwid as an example): $180 (recurring cost)
  • 4 paid-for plugins: $100

If you were to use a developer to help you configure, build and maintain your site, you’d have significantly higher costs (but in all likelihood would be getting a better product).

In terms of how these sorts of costs compare to using Squarespace, depending on what sort of plan you’re on, you’re looking at an annual cost of between $144 and $480. This means that using Squarespace can actually work out cheaper than using Wordpress, despite it being a paid-for option and Wordpress being an open source one. 

Pricing, however, should not be the only thing you consider in the Wordpress vs Squarespace debate. Let's take look at features...


While you're here...

We now offer both Squarespace web development and Wordpress web development services, providing custom coding that can significantly improve the look, feel and functionality and reliability of your website. In particular, you might be interested in our new Squarespace Setup packages - these make getting a Squarespace site off the ground really easy.


Interface / ease-of-use

The Squarespace drag and drop interface, whilst occasionally a little bit buggy, is extremely intuitive; and its style editor makes it pretty straightforward to change basic template design elements - font colours, heading sizes and so on. You just point at the design elements you want to change, and click some controls to change them. (Frustratingly, the extent to which you can tweak a template's design very much depends on the template you pick, however).

Once a Wordpress site is set up, it's by no means difficult to maintain either. Depending on what hosting provider you plump for, setup and configuration can be a bit fiddly, but once you’re up and running you’ll find that the Wordpress content management system (CMS) is easy-to-use and very responsive. 

The main difference between the Squarespace and Wordpress approaches to content management is, in my view, to do with on-page editing.

With Squarespace, you can just go to the page you’d like to tweak and click on a bit of content to edit it: you’ll then see your edits in context on the page, as you make them.

In Wordpress however - out of the box at least - you have to edit the page in the back end and preview / publish it before you see your changes. But as with much else in Wordpress, if you're prepared to put a little bit of time and research into configuration, it's possible to tweak things to suit your workflow: there are quite a lot of front end ‘visual editor’ plugins / tools available that you can make use of to add a more 'Squarespacey' approach to content management. 

On balance I’d say that most website editing newbies will feel more at home more quickly with Squarespace, but the Wordpress CMS is extremely usable too.


Templates

Quantity and quality

Squarespace templates are undeniably pretty, outclassing in my those available from competing hosted website builded platforms like Jimdo or Wix. There is also a reasonably large number of them to choose from - 92 in total.

However, this number pales in comparison to the vast number of templates available for Wordpress - although it’s hard to put a precise figure on the number of Wordpress themes in existence, we can confidently talk about thousands, both free and paid-for. (You can buy templates from dedicated template stores like Template Monster or Theme Fuse).

It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace templates are a little bit easier to customise, due to the 'point, click and change' interface, but tweaking a (well-constructed) Wordpress template shouldn't involve that much of a learning curve either.

For me Wordpress is ultimately hands-down winner in a template shoot-out: the sheer quantity of themes available ensures most users will have plenty of high quality options to choose from. However, you should always aim to get your Wordpress template from a reputable source - some can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of your site. This is not something you really need to worry about at all with Squarespace templates.

Performance on mobile

All Squarespace templates are responsive, meaning that they will all adjust themselves automatically so that they are sized correctly for any device. In this day and age, it isn't at all hard to locate a responsive Wordpress template, but you will need to double check its suitability across devices before installing it.

One thing I really like about Squarespace's presentation of content on mobile devices is that it's dead easy to show your content in AMP ('Accelerated Mobile Pages') format.

AMP is a Google-backed project which drastically speeds up the loading of your pages on mobile devices by stripping out certain bits of code; using it means

  • more people will access your content (web users routinely abandon slow loading pages on mobile)
  • you may experience a slight bump in search results (Google sometimes puts AMP content in a carousel above other search results).

Turning on AMP in Squarespace is simply a matter of ticking a box in your site settings; currently you can only present blog posts in AMP format, but it's a good start.

It's perfectly possible to use AMP on Wordpress too - and, significantly, you can use it across all page types, not just blog posts (which is technically better than the Squarespace AMP offering). Again, it involves more configuration and installation of plugins - but the functionality you get is better.

Example of a Squarespace template, 'Bedford'


Content management and blogging

When it comes to content management, I’d argue that Wordpress beats Squarespace fairly comprehensively. There are four main reasons for this.

First, and most importantly in my view, Wordpress comes with content versioning - every single version of a page or post can be stored on the system and you can roll back to any of them at any point. Squarespace, presumably in a bid to save on hosting costs / resources, does not permit you to do this. It doesn't even facilitate an autosave feature, which is another serious omission.

Secondly, you can toggle between HTML and WYSIWYG when editing your content in Wordpress; although you can add ‘code blocks’ in Squarespace, you are not given direct access to the main HTML behind your pages and posts.

Thirdly, Wordpress gives you a proper media library that you can use to store, access and edit your images and documents. Squarespace’s offering in this regard is extremely basic - for example, if you want to insert an image that you've already uploaded to another page somewhere else on your site, you have to re-upload it!

The Wordpress media library (click to enlarge).

Finally, Wordpress allows you to use categories and tags more flexibly than Squarespace (you can also create your own custom content types in Wordpress). This allows you to present your site content in more relevant ways to users, who can also filter it more easily to meet their requirements.

An example of this in action might be this: say you run a car review website. With Wordpress, you could use parent categories, categories, tags and custom content types to offer readers the option to browse reviews by car make, model, trim and rating. With Squarespace you’d be limited to offering reviews by category and tag - meaning users could only browse by make and model.

That said, there are a couple of aspects of the Squarespace CMS which I find extremely strong.

First, the drag and drop approach to content management - it’s a doddle to move content and images around the page in Squarespace. Unless you've sorted out some sort of Wordpress visual editor, you'll find Squarespace's 'layout engine' a much more flexible way to move content around the page.

Secondly, you can do quite a lot with any content in Squarespace that you add using ‘summary blocks.’ For example, you can create a summary block containing thumbnail images and extracts from your blog, and drop them into any section of your site. Or add a slideshow of pictures which have been tagged in a certain way. This is fantastic for anyone wishing to create a magazine-style layout for their site.

The whole 'summary block' approach is possible in Wordpress too, of course, but as with much else, it requires some configuration first.


Flexibility

Flexibility is where Wordpress really kicks Squarespace’s ass.

Although Squarespace does come with a lot of useful features out of the box, it is a very ‘locked-down’, walled-garden system. By contrast, you can use Wordpress to pretty much create any sort of site you like. 

There are two ways to go about this: either by installing some plugins to your site or commissioning a developer to code something for you. 

With regard to plugins, there are thousands of plugins available which can be used to add functionality to your Wordpress site. Whether you’d like to add e-commerce, display a sophisticated photo gallery, capture data or show customer reviews, you’ll find that there is an enormous range of plugins available to help you. They are usually fairly easily installed and updated.

If you can’t find a plugin that meets your requirements, or wish to create a truly bespoke website, then you can always commission a Wordpress developer to help you (given the popularity of Wordpress as a platform, there are plenty of them about). A Wordpress developer can help you craft a truly unique site that involves your own template and functionality rather than those of a third party.

Plugins don’t exist in Squarespace per se, but there are certain built-in integrations you can use (for quite a few well-known services including XeroMailchimp, Dropbox and G Suite). You can use these so long as you are not on the cheapest Squarespace plan.

Alternatively, you can add code blocks to extend Squarespace functionality a bit - doing so allows you to add ‘widgets’ which can make your site do more stuff, but it’s a bit more of a faff. Of course, you could always commission a Squarespace developer to extend the functionality of your site.

To be fair to Squarespace, you could argue that the visual aspects of the sites you create with it are more immediately flexible than is the case in Wordpress. You can tweak site visuals in Squarespace easily in most templates, and edit the layout of pages easily. Where Squarespace struggles to compete with Wordpress in the flexibility stakes is in the areas of bespoke functionality and, as discussed below, site architecture.


Suitability for large or complex sites

If you're planning to build a very large or complex website, then Squarespace is usually best avoided. This is because it doesn't facilitate deep website hierarchies - the platform limits you to two levels of navigation.

In fact, you could argue that Squarespace only permits one level of navigation. This is because if you create a section on your site containing sub-pages (for, example a section called 'Our Services' containing two sub-pages, 'Gardening' and 'Tree Surgery'), Squarespace will not allow users to visit the parent page - i.e., your visitors will not be able to access the 'Our Services' page...just one of the sub pages below the heading. So basically with Squarespace you can only create extremely 'flat' websites.

Now in some ways, a flat structure for your site is a good idea, because in many ways it makes the site a lot easier to use and its content considerably more discoverable.

But for some businesses, particularly large organisations, or those offering a very wide variety of services and resources, a deep hierarchy does become a key requirement for a website build. Because this is a difficult thing to achieve in Squarespace, I'd recommend using Wordpress over it for any website requiring several layers of navigation. You will however need to ensure that you select a Wordpress template that facilitates multiple levels of navigation or a Wordpress developer who can create one for you.


E-commerce

Squarespace comes with a very nifty e-commerce system built in. It’s great for a lot of applications, but it does have its limitations: the number of payment gateways you can use is limited to Stripe (which is not usable by merchants in certain countries) and Paypal, and it doesn’t come with the sort of advanced online retailing or e-commerce reporting functionality that you’d get with dedicated e-commerce solutions like Shopify or Bigcommerce.

A key thing to be very aware of with Squarespace’s e-commerce functionality is that it doesn’t allow you to export your products. So if you build an online store in Squarespace and, a couple of years later, have a need to migrate hundreds of your products over to a different platform, you may have a bit of a problem and will need to resource to a potentially fiddly workaround (for example, this Squarespace product exporting Chrome extension or the use of a script).

Wordpress doesn’t have an e-commerce tool built in, but thanks to the wide range of plugins available for it, it’s really straightforward to add comprehensive online retailing functionality to a Wordpress site. Popular choices include Woocommerce, Ecwid and Shopp.

To be fair, you can also use code blocks in Squarespace to integrate some e-commerce services, but with Wordpress, you'll be able to integrate third-party e-commerce apps more tightly or seamlessly. With a bit of effort, of course - so Squarespace's out-of-the box approach will suit a lot of users wishing to get a simple online store off the ground quickly.


Data capture and forms

On the surface, Squarespace is great at allowing you to capture data - it allows you to add very attractive forms to your site very easily.

However, it restricts where you can send that data - you can email it to yourself, add it to a Google Sheet or send it to Mailchimp. 

 Forms are easy to create in Squarespace, but they only send data to Mailchimp, Google Sheets, or an email address. Wordpress allows you to integrate any e-marketing tool.

Forms are easy to create in Squarespace, but they only send data to Mailchimp, Google Sheets, or an email address. Wordpress allows you to integrate any e-marketing tool.

Admittedly the Google Sheet and Mailchimp integrations are very useful, given the popularity of these two tools - but I’d much prefer it if you could send the data to a wider range of e-marketing tools. Thousands of potential Squarespace users make use of the likes of Getresponse, Aweber, Campaign Monitor and so on - and although you can use Squarespace’s code blocks to integrate those services, it's  just not as straightforward as the Mailchimp / Google Sheets integration. It also takes a bit of messing about with CSS to make the resulting forms look as pretty.

Wordpress, by contrast, allows you to integrate all of these services easily - you’ll need a plugin like the fabulous Gravity Forms to help you but once you’ve set it up, you’ll benefit from a rock solid integration with all the major e-marketing solutions and additional functionality (confirmation emails, file uploads, entry limits, hidden fields) that you won’t be able to avail of using the built-in Squarespace form builder.

The other thing I don't love about forms in Squarespace is that you can't just create one form and insert it on any page you like - generally speaking, you have to create a new form each time (I say 'generally speaking' because some Squarespace templates facilitate basic sidebars, which you can configure to include a particular form).

As with much else in Squarespace and Wordpress, it's easier to get going with data capture in Squarespace, but the data capture options available to you are more extensive in Wordpress.


SEO in Wordpress vs Squarespace

Wordpress is the hands-down winner in the search engine optimisation department - it blows Squarespace out of the SEO water in quite a few ways.

First, in Wordpress, alt tags and meta data are referred to by their proper names - this is not the case with Squarespace, where you’re dealing with ‘captions’, ‘descriptions’ and ‘extracts’ which, depending on the template, may actually end up visible on the page (a very strange scenario which probably encourages people to make use of alt tags and meta data with visual impact rather than SEO in mind).

Second, Wordpress allows you to make use of a wide range of sophisticated SEO plugins - for example, Yoast - which assess the quality of your on-page SEO efforts and automatically suggest improvements. There’s no equivalent functionality in Squarespace.

Third, you can't add rich snippets easily in Squarespace. Rich snippets are bits of data which enhance your search results by (1) displaying contextual information such as ratings, pricing and reviewer to search results (see example below) and (2) by letting search engines get a more detailed idea of what your page or post is about. There is a workaround you can use to add these to Squarespace sites - using Google's Data Highlighter tool - but it's a bit messy.

 Example of rich snippets in action - besides a text description, users can also see a star rating, number of reviews and price range information about this London restaurant

Example of rich snippets in action - besides a text description, users can also see a star rating, number of reviews and price range information about this London restaurant

By contrast adding rich snippets in Wordpress is a very straightforward affair - there are many plugins available which allow you to simply add the relevant data to your web pages with a minimum of fuss. 

Finally, there's page speed to consider: Google looks at how quickly your page loads when deciding where to put it in search. Using Wordpress gives you greater control over this, because you can choose your hosting (the faster the better!) and tweak your code so that it meets the recommendations laid out by Google via their 'PageSpeed' tools. If you're on Squarespace, you're stuck with their shared hosting and there is less you can do from a code tweaking point of view.

All that said, it's not an entirely awful picture with regard to Squarespace and SEO.

Squarespace sites do quite a few things that Google definitely likes: they generate a sitemap.xml file; use clean HTML markup; and are mobile friendly. You can definitely optimise a Squarespace site for search, it’s just harder to do than with Wordpress, it's an odd process and you’ll have less tools available to help you.

TIP: For more information on how to optimise a Squarespace site correctly for search, you might like to check out our Squarespace SEO article. Both Wordpress and Squarespace users will also find our 'Super Simple SEO' e-book useful.

Using the Yoast plugin for Wordpress is an excellent way to optimise your site for search: you won't find anything like this in Squarespace (click to enlarge).


Site maintenance

One thing Squarespace users don’t really have to worry about is site maintenance. All the technical aspects of running a website (software updates, hosting, server configuration etc.) are taken care of by the company. 

With Wordpress, it’s a different kettle of fish: you are in charge of ensuring that you’re using the most up-to-date version of Wordpress, that your server’s been configured correctly, that your plugins and themes are all up to date etc. Although some of this can be handled automatically, it’s still something you need to keep an eye on - if you end up with an out of date version of Wordpress or a plugin, your site is much more vulnerable to being hacked.

Which brings us neatly on to…


Security

Because Squarespace is a hosted solution, the bulk of the responsibility for security lies with the company who make it: it’s chiefly their responsibility to ensure that their system doesn’t get compromised, your site doesn't get hacked and that backups of your content are made.

However, because Squarespace now hosts over one million websites on its servers, it has in recent years become a high-profile target for distributed denial of service (DoS) attacks - bringing down Squarespace brings down a very large number of sites.

As a result, there have been outages and downtime for Squarespace users for precisely this reason in the past. You might find your Wordpress site less vulnerable to this sort of thing, depending on who you host it with (some of the the larger hosting companies are also targets for DoS attacks).

With Wordpress, if you’re not commissioning a developer or agency to maintain your site, then the ultimate responsibility for security belongs to the end user: you! It’s your responsibility to ensure that your version of Wordpress is up to date, along with any plugins or themes you might be using. Failure to keep on top of this aspect of site maintenance can make a Wordpress site very vulnerable to being hacked.

You’ve also got to be aware that some Wordpress themes and plugins can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of the site, so you need to be very careful about which ones you install. And finally, you've got to ensure that you're regularly backing up your site (various plugins are available to help automate this process for you).

In short, I think it’s fair to say that Squarespace sites are ultimately less vulnerable than Wordpress ones, simply because there’s much less scope for users to neglect security on their site or add dodgy code to it. And if something does go wrong, then Squarespace's team have a responsibility to help resolve the problem.

Finally, a quick note about SSL: a free SSL certificate is provided with all Squarespace sites - meaning that your visitors are browsing your site on a secure connection. You can of course install SSL certificates on Wordpress sites too - but again, it's your responsibility to sort that out.


Control of your content

Something which is often overlooked in Wordpress vs Squarespace comparisons is control of content.

If you use Wordpress, what you put on your site is, generally speaking, entirely up to you. If you use Squarespace, you’ll need to be aware that Squarespace can remove it if it conflicts with their acceptable use policies.

Admittedly, a company that you've paid to host your Wordpress site could similarly take your site down if it didn’t like what you were publishing - but in that scenario, you would have more options: you could move to a more liberal hosting provider, for example.

Crucially, it’s much easier to get content out of Wordpress than it is using Squarespace. There are a lot of tools available to Wordpress users to help them export and back up every single piece of content. In Squarespace, you are limited to exporting your site to an XML file, and only certain types of content can be exported. 

Wordpress ultimately gives users far more control over their content than Squarespace, and depending on the nature and size of your site, this factor should not be overlooked.


Multilingual sites

Many businesses require multiple versions of their website - in different languages, or for different territories (or both).

Wordpress is a much better solution than Squarespace for this sort of thing - you can use either the Wordpress Multilingual plugin or the Wordpress Multisite option to create multiple versions of a website in multiple languages.

There are a couple of workarounds you can use to get Squarespace sites to display in multiple languages, but they are clunky and don’t come remotely close to providing the multilingual / multisite functionality you can achieve with Wordpress.


Mobile apps

Squarespace

If you're a fan of using smartphone apps to manage your website on the go, then you'll appreciate the fact that Squarespace offers quite a few options in this regard.

There are five apps available to manage aspects of your Squarespace site:

  • Blog
  • Analytics
  • Portfolio
  • Commerce
  • Note

All of the above five apps are available for both iOS and Android.

 Squarespace's 'Blog' app as seen on mobile and tablet.

Squarespace's 'Blog' app as seen on mobile and tablet.

In terms of what they do:

  • 'Blog', as you'd expect, allows you to publish content to your blog from your smartphone (and manage existing posts).
  • 'Analytics' provides you with access to the Squarespace reporting interface (which whilst not as comprehensive as Google Analytics is well-laid out and easy to use).
  • 'Portfolio' allows you to download the content of your Squarespace galleries to your phone so that you can show your work to people when you're without wifi.
  • 'Commerce' allows you to manage certain aspects of your online store from your smartphone.
  • 'Note' is a note-taking app which allows you to publish content to a variety of well-known cloud services including Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive. (It's got a slightly odd interface but it's actually quite a useful app in its own right, and you don't actually need a Squarespace account to use it.)

Wordpress

With Wordpress, it's more a case of using one mobile app rather than 5 - you can install the suitably titled 'Wordpress' app on your phone (both iOS and Android versions are available) and perform key site management tasks on it. These include:

  • creating and editing pages / posts
  • uploading media
  • moderating comments
  • view stats

Which approach is best - i.e., several dedicated apps versus one will probably boil down to personal preference. 

 The Wordpress mobile app.

The Wordpress mobile app.


Support

Support is an area where Squarespace arguably beats Wordpress, particularly if you are building your site yourself.

When you buy a Squarespace account, you get support included with it (live chat or email). This means if something serious goes wrong with your site, there is somebody to turn to.

(This is a particularly important thing to bear in mind if you're building a site for somebody else - when you hand a Squarespace site over to a client, so long as you've set things up correctly, you shouldn't have to worry about providing ongoing support to your client - that's Squarespace's job).

It’s a different scenario with Wordpress: if you’re building your website yourself with the platform and run into difficulties, it's not obvious where to turn to. You may find yourself sourcing help from a variety of locations: for example, the Wordpress forums, a hosting company, a plugin provider, a mate who knows a thing or two about Wordpress…

To get around this problem properly, you ideally need to work with a developer or agency specialising in Wordpress development and take out a support contract with them.

On the plus side, this this can give you a personal level of support that you are unlikely to ever receive from Squarespace (face-to-face meetings, phone calls etc). The flip side is that it can be costly.

On balance I would say that if you are building a site for yourself or a client, then there is usually an advantage in using Squarespace (at least from a costs perspective). 


Squarespace vs Wordpress: the conclusions

Most developers and webmasters would be comfortable in saying that Wordpress is a vastly more powerful and flexible tool than Squarespace, and I’d agree with them.

However, that’s not to say that Wordpress is the right choice for all users. 

I would argue that in many ways Squarespace meets the needs of individuals and small businesses better than Wordpress, because

(1) it’s easier to set up a Squarespace site than a Wordpress one and
(2) once your site is set up you don’t have to worry about maintenance or security issues - other than remembering to update your site with interesting content periodically, using Squarespace is a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario.

Squarespace is a great solution for the likes of photographers, bands and small business owners, who just want a simple website quickly and with a minimum of fuss (and down the line, if your needs do become more sophisticated, you could consider hiring a Squarespace developer to enhance your site through custom coding).

However, if you have advanced e-commerce or blogging requirements, or envisage a scenario where you are operating a business in multiple locations, I’d be inclined to go with Wordpress - for the simple reason that you can pretty much build anything with it and make use of a vast number of plugins and themes.

Wordpress is also a much more scalable solution, thanks to the multilingual and multisite options that are available. A Squarespace site is fine for a business that knows it's only ever going to operate in one location and in one language - but if your plan is to grow that business and open premises in a variety of locations, then Wordpress is an option that is much better suited for the long-term.

If you are going down the Wordpress route, I would suggest that rather than try to use it on the cheap - by doing everything yourself - it makes more sense to work with an experienced developer or agency, and to keep them involved in maintaining your site on an ongoing basis. Not only will you get a more polished, bespoke website, you’ll also get more peace of mind, as you won’t have to worry about security or maintenance. You will need to budget properly for this, but if you work with the right individual or team you’ll get a good product.

One way of deciding on Squarespace vs Wordpress for a website build is by asking yourself 3 questions:

(1) "Do I have a large budget?"
(2) "Do I have time?"
(3) "Do I have complex requirements for my site?"

If your budget is tight, you could consider building a Squarespace site yourself, or - do forgive a plug here - availing of one of our Squarespace Setup packages. By contrast, if you are not particularly limited by budget, I'd be inclined to go with Wordpress, but hiring a developer to build and support your site.

If you are short on time and technical skills, and building your website yourself, I'd be inclined to plump for Squarespace over Wordpress. 

And finally if you have complex requirements for your site you will probably need to use Wordpress, as it's a significantly more flexible platform from a functionality point of view.

Below you'll find a summary of some of the key reasons why you might use either Squarespace or Wordpress over the other. 

Reasons to use Squarespace over Wordpress

  • Squarespace is easier to set up and use than Wordpress - you shouldn’t face much of a learning curve.
  • A lot of features which you have to source separately in Wordpress are available ‘out of the box’ if you’re using Squarespace - e-commerce, data capture forms, themes etc.
  • Hosting and domain names are included with the product (note that domain names are available on annual plans only); with Wordpress, you have to sort these out separately.
  • With Squarespace you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of maintaining your site; if you use Wordpress, you need to keep on top of this or your site will become vulnerable to being hacked.
  • Squarespace is largely responsible for the security of your website - if you use Wordpress, security depends on how diligent you are in updating your software and theme.
  • 24/7 support is available for Squarespace (email and live chat). By contrast, whether or not you can avail of support for a Wordpress site depends largely on whether you have commissioned a developer.
  • Squarespace is arguably a better option than Wordpress for users who require an elegant but simple website delivered quickly.

You can sign up for a free Squarespace trial here, or for more information about the product check out our detailed Squarespace review. If you need help with a Squarespace project, you can check out our Squarespace Setup packages here.

Reasons to use Wordpress over Squarespace

  • You can build any type of site with Wordpress; it’s a much more flexible platform than Squarespace. 
  • A significantly wider range of templates is available in Wordpress than in Squarespace.
  • Wordpress comes with a more sophisticated content management system which, unlike Squarespace, facilitates content versioning.
  • You can use Wordpress to create sites with deep levels of navigation - this is not really the case with Squarespace (without custom coding anyway),
  • A vast range of plugins - paid-for and free - is available to help you add functionality to your Wordpress website. Although you can add functionality to Squarespace sites via widgets and code blocks, you can’t use plugins.
  • You have a greater range of options when it comes to e-commerce in Squarespace than in Wordpress.
  • Data capture options are more extensive in Wordpress than in Squarespace (so long as the correct forms plugin is used).
  • Wordpress sites can be optimised for search engines much more easily and comprehensively than Squarespace ones.
  • You can add rich snippets much more easily to Wordpress sites.
  • On a Wordpress site, you have more control over your content - with Squarespace, you’ll have to adhere to an ‘acceptable use’ policy and you may have trouble exporting some of your site content (especially where e-commerce-related content is concerned).
  • Wordpress is a much better option than Squarespace for creating multilingual or ‘multisite’ projects.

You can download Wordpress for free here, or if your interested in getting some help with a Wordpress project, you can check out our Wordpress development section here.


Alternatives to Squarespace and Wordpress

Of course, Squarespace and Wordpress are not the only options when it comes to building a website: there are a large number of alternative solutions available. 

On the self-hosted front, the best-known alternatives are probably Joomla and Drupal: very flexible platforms that host millions of websitse. 

With regard to hosted web builders, you might want to check out Wix, Jimdo or Weebly (or indeed hosted Wordpress).

These are probably more geared towards ‘general use' websites rather than e-commerce sites; so if you’re interested in building an online store then it’s worth investigating Bigcommerce or Shopify - two very-well known hosted solutions that don’t have a terribly steep learning curve. 

(Check out our Bigcommerce review, our Shopify review and our discussion on Shopify fees for more information on these two products).


Got any thoughts on Squarespace vs Wordpress?

Have you any thoughts on Squarespace vs Wordpress? Do let us know in the comments section below (note: if you're reading this on a mobile device, you may be viewing a faster-loading 'AMP' version which doesn't include the comments section - if so, you can view the full version of this post here).

And if you liked this article, do feel free to share it!


How to make an online store - a guide to getting started with e-commerce
How to make an online store - picture of a computer and a shopping cart

In this article, I discuss how you can make an online store - and more importantly, how you can drive traffic to it and generate sales. 

You're probably reading this post because you're looking for some e-commerce software to help you get an online store up and running.

Finding this software is the relatively easy bit (we have some suggestions below); but getting your store to make money is the tricky part. So in this post, we look at all the things you need to do not just to get an online store live, but attract traffic – and thus sales – too. 

But first: let's take a look at how you go about choosing what to sell.


1. Pick the right product to sell

This sounds so obvious that it’s barely worth saying, but picking the ‘right’ product to sell is absolutely essential to the success of your store.

However, by ‘right’ I’m not talking about quality – you should obviously avoid selling tat – I’m talking about the ‘uniqueness’ of your product.

This is because when you set up an online store, you are competing with a large number of hugely popular sites selling everything under the sun: just think of the Amazons and the Ebays of this world to get a flavour of the level of competition.

Generally, you are going to have a tough time shifting products if you are simply selling stuff that is already widely available on those kinds of sites.

To run a successful online store, what you ideally need to do is ‘find your niche’ – identify (or make!) a product that is not being sold by every online retailer going, but for which there is enough demand to sustain an online business.

For example, instead of selling a guitar that is commonly available on Amazon, you might consider selling an instrument that is hard to find online, but for which you know there is strong demand.


2. Use keyword research to help you find your niche

To help you find the niche discussed above, you are going to need to do some research. The simplest way of identifying a niche is to 1) use a keyword research tool (like Moz Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs or SERPs to find niche markets and 2) perform online searches to see how many retailers are operating in those markets.

Keyword research tools allow you to find out how many searches per month are performed for various keywords. For example, it might tell you that there are 246,000 searches per month for the search term ‘buy guitar’ and only 1,600 for ‘buy ukulele’.

This might make you think “whoa, there’s a much bigger market for guitars, I’m going to sell guitars” but stop right there: think of the number of guitar stores you will be competing with. The numbers that the keyword tool has just given us tell us that ukuleles are definitely much more of a niche product, but one with a decent enough number of people interested in buying them (nearly 20,000 a year worldwide, enough to arguably sustain an online ukulele-selling business) .

The question is whether there are already a lot of retailers selling this niche product: people might have beaten you to this niche already. To find out, you now need to look at 'keyword difficulty' - this is a score given (in one format or another) by keyword research tools. The higher the keyword difficulty score, the harder it will be to rank for searches for that product name.

It's also a good idea to perform some of searches in Google to see how many stores specialising in selling ukuleles online are already out there. If you find that there are already loads of hugely popular online ukulele stores in existence, it might be time to think about selling a different product. But if there’s clearly only one or two online stores flogging ukuleles…well, maybe it’s time to think about going into the ukulele-selling business.

This is quite a basic example; you can go much further with niches. You may find during your research that there are quite a lot of ukulele sellers out there, but not many soprano ukulele sellers (but still enough demand to justify the setting up of an online store selling soprano ukuleles)…you get the idea.

The trick is generally to find products for which there is a reasonably strong level of demand but with relatively few online stores selling them (or, ideally, none at all!).


3. Source your stock

There are two main options available to you when it comes to sourcing stock: purchasing it from a supplier and reselling it, or dropshipping.

The advantage of the first option - buying it from a supplier you know - is that you can view the quality of stock first-hand, ensure it is produced ethically and build up a good relationship with your supplier. (In fact, if you're making your own products, you are in effect the supplier!). The disadvantage is that you will need some cash handy to invest in purchasing stock which you may never end up selling (or, if you're manufacturing it yourself, you'll need to invest to produce it).

The second option is to dropship. Dropshipping is a fulfillment method where you don't keep what you're selling in stock (you take the order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your client - your store is in effect a middle man of sorts). The main advantage of this method of sourcing stock is that no upfront investment is required; the downside is that dropshipping is quite a competitive area and you will end up selling products that are also marketed by many competing merchants.

Most of the major e-commerce platforms (which we'll talk about in a bit more depth below) offer add-ons / integrations which allow you to locate and dropship goods produced from a wide range of suppliers. Popular apps include Oberlo for Shopify and Alibaba for Bigcommerce.

If you're interested in dropshipping, you may find Shopify's free webinar on the topic useful.


4. Create your online store

Once you’ve identified your niche product and market, and know where you're sourcing your stock from, it’s time to think about getting your online store off the ground.

You could hire an agency or freelancer to design your store for you, but if you go down that route, make sure that they implement a solution that lets you manage your store without them after it’s live – i.e., they need to provide you with access to a ‘content management system’ (CMS) that lets you edit your site easily and add/remove products. This means that after your store goes live, you won't have to pay a webmaster or developer to do it every time.

(That said, if you are short on time, or bad with computers, it may make sense to hire a professional to do this work on your behalf.)

Example of a Shopify theme

Another option is to use an online store builder and just create your online store yourself – you may find this more cost-effective, but you will have to tread carefully.

There are lots of e-commerce solutions to choose from – popular ones include Shopify, Bigcommerce, Squarespace and Volusion

Of the ones I have road tested to date, I have found Shopify and Bigcommerce to be the most straightforward for users without a lot of experience of building websites – they are definitely the most user-friendly of the bunch. Squarespace is also quite easy to use, but it lacks some of the more advanced e-commerce features that come with Shopify and Bigcommerce.

The good news is that all these solutions offer free trials and support to help you get going – just follow the links below:

If you already have a website (for example, a Wordpress site) and want to add an online store to it, tools such as Ecwid will come in handy – it allows you to plug a ‘widget’ into your site (or anywhere else you can insert some HTML code – for example, a Facebook page or blog) and users will see a fully-functional online store at that location.


5. Optimise your site for search

Once you’ve found your niche market and designed your online store to cater for it, it is now crucial to optimise it correctly for search.

You can use keyword research tools again to find out exactly what kind of searches are performed for your type of product, and ensure that your site contains all these keywords in all the right places – page titles, product descriptions, headings, meta data and URLs.

Most of the solutions mentioned above – Shopify,  Bigcommerce and Volusion in particular – give you a lot of control over SEO. If you plump for one of those products, make use of this functionality!

You'll find more detailed information on how to make a site visible in Google here, or you can download our 'Super Simple SEO' e-book here.


6. Blog

A hugely important part of attracting traffic to an online store is to blog regularly about topics related to what you are selling.

For example, on your ukulele site, you could blog about playing techniques, or your favourite type of ukulele strings, or that bit in Some Like It Hot where Marilyn Monroe plays a ukulele on a train.

This type of activity is basically known as ‘inbound marketing’ and if you don’t engage in it, you are potentially missing out on a huge number of sales.

By posting high-quality, keyword-rich blog posts related to your area of business, you are doing two things: one, maximising the chances of your site appearing in relevant search results, and two, showing you are an authority on the area of business you are operating in (potential ukulele buyers will have greater confidence in ukulele vendors who clearly have a passion for, and understanding of, all things ukulele).

Returning to particular store builders for a moment, it's worth pointing out a key reason why I'm keen on Shopify and Bigcommerce solutions for building e-commerce sites: both products come with blogging functionality built in (which, for the reasons outlined above, is very important for building an audience for your store). You can add blogs to a Volusion site too but it involves setting up subdomains and is a bit of a fiddly process.


7. Advertise online

If you have the budget, it's definitely worth running some online ads to promote your online store's products. A good starting point for this is Google Adwords and Facebook ads.

Google Adwords

Using Google Adwords involves identifying (and paying for) relevant search phrases that will display adverts for your store/products alongside ‘organic’ Google search results.

In my experience, Adwords campaigns generally work well when you are selling relatively expensive products. For example, you might be able to live with an Adwords ‘cost per acquisition’ of £50 (i.e., where you spend £50 on ads to generate one sale) to sell one product if that product – let’s say a TV – retails at £1000, but if you are spending £50 on ads to sell one CD that retails at £10…well, a different approach might be needed.

It’s a question of looking at your margins, trying out different keyword strategies and so on to ensure that the cost of advertising doesn't eat into your profit too much. But used well, Adwords can help you sell a lot of products; and If you're interested in learning more about using them, you could do worse than checking out Neil Patel's 'Google Adwords Made Simple' guide.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads work in a different way to Adwords: rather than paying to display your ads to people who are entering keywords into a search engine, you are paying to display your ads to people who have told Facebook what they are interested in.

For example, using Facebook ads you could advertise Beatles T-shirts to people who like the Beatles; VW keyrings to people who drive Volkswagens and so on. 

Facebook ads are extremely powerful and let you target (and re-target) audiences to the nth degree - as such, it's worth getting a full understanding of how they work before you start spending money on them. Facebook's own guide to advertising on their platform is a good starting point. 


Any thoughts?

Any thoughts on how to set up an online store?

If you've set up your own online store, or have any queries about doing so, we'd love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Note that if you're viewing this article on a mobile phone, you may be seeing the AMP version (which loads faster but doesn't display comments). You can click here to view the regular version, which does allow you to post comments.



10 apps that can transform your business
 Computer with the number 10 displayed on it. Accompanies article about 10 apps that can improve your business

If you're thinking of starting a business, or improving an existing one, you're going to need the right tools for the job.

In this post we look at 10 types of app that can make your workflow more efficient and lead to increase business growth.


1. A productivity suite

Before you can do anything remotely exciting in your business, you’re going to need some apps that can take care of the boring (but very important) things: a reliable email account, file storage and productivity tools.

The industry leading productivity suites which provide all the above are Office 365 and G Suite (formerly Google Apps) - and it's quite hard to choose between them.

As such you might like to read our Office 365 vs G Suite review. This explains the core differences between the two productivity suites, as well as outlining what alternatives are available.


2. A website / e-commerce platform

It goes without saying that you'll need a website for your business. But with many website building platforms available, it's important to make the right decision regarding which one to go for.

If you're not intending to sell services goods online (i.e., your website is more of a portfolio or 'brochure' site with business ultimately taking place offline) then Squarespace is often a good bet for startups, because it's easy to set up a site with it, the templates are strong, and you get access to support. Wordpress is another great option - and one that will give you more control over the aesthetics and functionality of your site - but there is a bit more of a learning curve involved.

If you’re selling products and services online, more thought is required. Although it's tempting to just embed a Paypal button on a web page to handle online transactions, there are much more sophisticated options available to you.

Ultimately, if you're serious about e-commerce, you’re going to need a platform you can use to to build a fully functional store: one that can adequately cater for things like product variants, shipping, tax rates and abandoned carts.

If you're starting from scratch and don't already have a website, then it's worth taking a look at tools like Bigcommerce, Shopify or Squarespace.

If you've already got a website you might find that Ecwid is a good solution for you (it's a 'widget' that's designed to add e-commerce functionality to an existing site).


3. Email marketing

A large mailing list is VITAL to the growth and long-term success of a business. Not only does email marketing provide a great ROI, but it's a great way to share content widely (something which can build great brand awareness and even improve SEO).

Many new business owners think that a mailing list is simply a bunch of email addresses stored in an Excel spreadsheet that get emailed via Outlook from time to time.

Taking this approach is a big mistake. Dedicated email marketing tools allow you to capture email addresses via your website, host a large mailing list online, send beautiful HTML e-newsletters, automate communications and track results easily.

There are many great apps available - our favourites are probably Getresponse (which we use for Style Factory e-newsletters) and Mailchimp. For more information about your options in this area, you can check out our email marketing tool comparisons here.


4. Growth hacking tools

Once you've got your website live and your email marketing app sorted, the next thing you'll need to do is grow the number of people visiting your site and joining your mailing list.

Now, there are a multitude of tools to help you do this. For example, you'll find apps that let you run A/B tests on your site pages to find out which is most likely to convert a visitor to a subscriber; tools that let you create video recordings of your visitors' behaviour on your site and analyse it; and 'welcome mats' which encourage mailing list subscription before any other action is taken on your site.

You'll find an exhaustive list of growth-hacking apps over on the Kissmetrics site, but for me, there are two particular aspects of growth hacking to zoom in on and prioritise when starting a new business: social sharing, and lead generation. You basically want to make it as easy as possible for somebody to share your content or subscribe to receive more of it. 

Tools like Sumo can really help you here, providing everything from sharing buttons to live chat to data capture 'welcome mats.' You can get a free trial of Sumo here

Other similar services worth investigating include Addthis and Sharethis


5. CRM

CRM stands for ‘customer relationship management’, and these days the acronym is usually used to refer to cloud-based software that allows you to keep track of and manage the business relationships between your organisation and your leads and clients.

Typically, a CRM app will allow you to

  • capture, organise and analyse leads
  • track communication with leads and clients
  • allocate tasks to your team
  • manage your ‘sales pipeline’ (i.e., identify leads and track how the process of converting them to a client is going)
  • manage customer enquiries via a support ticketing system

Now, as with email marketing, many new business owners rely on Excel to handle all this sort of stuff - which, as with mailing list management, is a bad move when there are so many more sophisticated options available to you.

At the cheaper end of the CRM spectrum you'll find products like Capsule or Nimble; but you can pay big bucks for more sophisticated tools like Salesforce. Which product is right for you will really depend on the nature and complexity of your business, but either way, finding the right CRM tool will usually be vital to ensuring that it grows successfully.


6. Cloud based accounting

Cloud-based accounting apps are increasingly popular and worthy of serious consideration over traditional spreadsheet usage.

A cloud-based accounting solution is connected to your bank account, meaning that all your transactions are imported into your accounting software in real time (i.e., no more copying and pasting transactions from your online bank account into a spreadsheet).

Not only that, but these apps you to raise branded invoices and produce detailed reports at the click of a button. They can give you access to in-depth analysis of your company finances, and make preparing a tax return significantly easier.

Because of these advantages, if you use a bookkeeper, it often makes sense to hire one that works 'in the cloud'.

Industry leading cloud-based accounting apps include Xero and Quickbooks.


7. A notebook

An oft-overlooked aspect of running a business is the amount of note-taking it involves. From capturing brainwaves to taking minutes to jotting down a phone number of a potentially useful contact, you will find yourself taking a host of notes in your business life.

So, it makes sense to take them in the best possible way - and in my view, that's digitally, using a dedicated notekeeping app.

There are a plethora of notekeeping apps out there to choose from – but Evernote’s got to be one of the best.

It allows you to place text, images, files and research all in one digital workspace which you can then share with friends, colleagues and family. You can access Evernote across all your devices, meaning your notes are always with you. 

If you use a productivity suite like G Suite or Office 365 however, you may find that their 'Keep' and 'OneNote' products meet your needs perfectly well.


8. A to-do list

To-lists have been part of running a business since the year dot. They're a surprisingly vital part of running and growing a business: without them, nothing gets done.

As with much else in the business world, they've now moved online. And again, there are loads of options available.

Todoist is a simple but effective app for managing, as the name suggests, your to-do list. It works across devices and is available as Chrome extension too, meaning your uncompleted tasks are always following you around (perhaps I’m not selling this as well as I should). Nifty features include being able to turn emails into tasks and categorise tasks by project.

Wunderlist is another good option - for a few more, check out The Guardian's guide to to-do lists...


9. A scanner

Because so much of our working lives now involve storing documents in the cloud, having a scanner has become more important than ever. And the good news is that you no longer need a dedicated device for this: you can use your phone.

Scannable is a must-have app for anybody who needs to scan or photocopy stuff. You just hover your phone above a document and it gets scanned quickly onto your device. You can then email it, save it to Evernote or plonk it in a cloud storage system like Dropbox or Google Drive. 

Dropbox now has its own scanning app too, which allows you to quickly get your stuff onto Dropbox.

Particularly if you need to get documents onto an accounting or CRM tool app quickly


10. A social media manager

Most businesses end up struggling to manage several social media profiles at once. It can be tricky to keep on top of them all or analyse what’s working and what’s not across all your channels.

This is where an all-in-one social media management tool like Hootsuite is invaluable. You can use tools like Hootsuite to manage all your social media accounts in one place; schedule messages across your profiles; measure your social media campaign performance and assign tasks to your team messages to ensure that all messages generated by your social media activity get answered.

All this improves your social media comms, or frees up time to do other important stuff!

Alternatives to Hootsuite include Sendible and Buffer.


We hope you've enjoyed this article - do feel free to add your thoughts on it using the comments section below (note: if you're reading this post on a mobile device, you may be viewing the 'AMP' version which disables comments. Clicking here will take you to the normal version, where you can add your comment).


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10 Simple Ways to Increase Traffic to your Blog Posts
 A typewriter (image accompanying our post on how to increase traffic to your blog posts)

In this article we look at ten ways you can increase traffic to your blog. Some involve simple tweaks, others require a more fundamental look at how you approach blogging. 

Before we delve into specifics though, let's start with an important question: why blog?


Why blog?

There are two main reasons.

First, blogging can be a lot of fun. It allows you to express yourself and share your wholesome / interesting / controversial (delete as appropriate) views with a potentially wide audience.

Second: done well, blogging has the potential to dramatically increase the number of people eyeballing your site. According to inbound marketing experts Hubspot, businesses that blog regularly tend to attract 55% more traffic than those that don’t (it's usually the best way to go about creating an inbound marketing campaign). 

If you write well and are blogging about a subject in which there is a sizeable interest, you can end up with a large amount of traffic on your website. And we all know what lots of traffic to a website means: increased sales opportunities and revenue.

But how do you go about creating a successful blog?


1. Find the right writer! (Hint: that might not be you)

At the heart of any successful blog is really strong content – and that content is going to be much stronger if the person writing it is both knowledgeable and passionate about what they are writing about.

Posts that are written from the heart – and not by a content farm – are far more likely to be the posts that interest people and crucially, get shared.

BUT: it might be the case that you personally are not the best person to write the posts for your site. Perhaps you're not a great writer; perhaps you don't have time to devote to blogging. If either of those statements sounds like it might apply to you, consider finding a writer who is capable of creating great posts and putting in the hours to do so.

Whoever ends up writing the posts on your website, their personality has to shine through. Readers identify with writers because there is much to like (or even dislike) about their personality, mouthiness or tone of voice.

If a reader likes YOU as a writer – and not just the quality of the content you are producing – you are far more likely to attract a dedicated following.

So make sure your personality comes across in your posts; this helps you form a rapport with your readers, who may be more inclined as a result to come back to your blog simply because they like you as an individual.


2. Use keyword research to identify good topics to blog about

It's dead easy to sit down and write blog posts which cover, in considerable depth, topics that nobody is particularly interested in.

Similarly, it's easy to write a blog post covering an area that people are really interested in, but to give it a title containing keywords that nobody ever searches for. 

Keyword research is your friend here: you can use a wide range of tools including Ahrefs, Semrush, Serpstat and Google Keyword Planner to discover the number of monthly searches for particular keywords, and find out how difficult it would be to rank for particular search phrases.

For a very detailed look at how to go about keyword research, you could do worse than check out Ahref's 'how to do keyword research' guide.

Once you've done your keyword research, you should ensure that they feature in all the right places in your post - its title, headers and body copy.


3. Focus on producing long-form content

Studies show that long-form content performs better in search results than short or 'thin' posts.  Producing long-from content on a blog basically means that you need to write posts that go into HUGE depth on a particular topic.

There are a couple of reasons for this - first, longer posts will naturally be more keyword-rich and therefore more likely to crop up as results for 'long tail' keyword searches.

Secondly, the in-depth nature of a long post is more likely to satisfy readers who come across it. The post will be more likely to answer your visitor's query, or solve their problem. As a result, the post is more likely to get shared on social media or generate backlinks to it on other sites - with positive implications for traffic.


4. Keep your content fresh by updating existing posts

If you do any online research into blogging or SEO, you'll come across loads of articles which stress how important it is to create 'fresh' content in order to generate good search results and traffic to your site.

However, I'd caution against interpreting this as an instruction to constantly produce new posts. With my own content, I've found it much more useful to focus on quality over quantity; and rather than blogging just for the sake of it, I prefer to invest my time in keeping my existing content as strong (and as long!) as possible by continuously reviewing older posts and enhancing them with the most up-to-date information that I can. 

Not only does this send the 'freshness' signals to Google that the search engine's algorithms reportedly approve of, but it typically increases the length of posts and helps provide the 'long-form' content which tend to perform better in search results..


5. Accompany your blog with strong images

It’s important to use really good images in any blog posts you publish.

There are three main reasons for this: firstly, it helps readers get a sense of what you are writing about (this is particularly important if you are exploring difficult concepts – visual aids can really help simplify matters).

Secondly, the main picture accompanying your post will show up whenever your visitors share one of your posts on social media, and if it is a dull picture, it’s far less likely to generate clickthroughs to your site.

Thirdly, as with text, they can be optimised to help your content appear in search results. By adding suitable keywords to the 'alternative text', file names and captions for the images in your post, you can help search engines gain a better understanding of what your post is about (and by extension, help the post appear in relevant search results).


6. Optimise your blog posts

There are a series of technical steps - known as 'on page SEO' which you should take to give your blog posts the best chance of performing well in search.

You should always:

  • create blog post titles which reflect your keyword research, and accurately describe what you are writing about
  • include keywords in each post’s URL that reflect the content
  • use keyword-rich headers to break up content
  • use keyword rich alt text and file names for your images.

For a few more tips on this area, check out our article on how to make your content visible in Google search results or download our SEO e-book.

There are also a few 'technical SEO' steps you can take. Google prefers content that loads really quickly - a few things that can help in this area include:

  • ensuring all image files are as small as possible (without being pixelated)
  • avoiding use of unnecessary scripts on the page
  • using a CSS stylesheet rather than loads of inline CSS
  • registering your site with Google Search Console

7. Capture email addresses

Once you’ve attracted a visitor to your blog, you should ideally capture their email address. This allows you to notify visitors via e-newsletter of new blog posts, which can result in more traffic and shares.

To do this, you need to ensure that there is a data capture form on your blog post, not just on a 'sign up to our mailing list' page on your site. You can do this using a sidebar, pop-up box or a simple text call-to-action to encourage people to join your mailing list.* 

If you use an email marketing tool (like Getresponse, Aweber, Mailchimp or Mad Mimi) you can use your RSS feed to power your e-newsletters, meaning that every time you add a new blog post your subscribers will automatically receive an e-newsletter with a notification about the new content.

* Be careful with pop-ups (or 'interstitials' as Google likes to call them). They can dramatically increase the number of leads you generate, but they can also have a negative impact on search traffic, particularly if over-used on mobile versions of your site. Read more about Google's approach to pop-ups here.


8. Encourage social sharing

Actively encourage your readers to share your blog posts.

If they follow these encouragements, not only should you see a rise in traffic to your posts, but you may also be sending subtle ‘signals’ to search engines regarding the popularity and quality of your posts (the jury is out on whether social sharing has a direct impact on search results, but there does seem to be a correlation of sorts).

Using a tool like Sumo – which allows you to add a truckload of clever social sharing icons to various parts of your website, as well as data capture forms - can help in this regard.


9. Encourage comments and user engagement

Encourage people (yes, even trolls!) to add their own views at the bottom of your posts. There are three reasons why this is beneficial:

  1. It creates more keyword-rich content on your website
  2. It can help encourage return visits to your blog, as discussions take hold on your comments section
  3. Some SEO experts believe that Google treats posts which generate a lot of community discussion preferentially to those without any comments.

10. Build backlinks to your posts

At the simplest level, there are two key ingredients to ensuring a blog post ranks in search:

First, your post has to be contain quality content.

Second, it has to have a lot of backlinks - links from other sites - pointing to it.

We've covered the 'quality content' bit earlier: you basically need to focus on producing long-form posts which cover the topic you're writing about in huge depth.

Getting backlinks is arguably a harder task, as it involves reaching out to other bloggers and asking them to include a link to your content on their posts. This is a time consuming affair, but it's absolutely essential, and if you take a thorough approach to it, it can prove very fruitful.

You'll find a really helpful list of link building suggestions over on the Backlinko website.

One thing: never buy links from spammy SEO services! This can actively damage your site's position in search, and is technically in breach of Google's terms and conditions.


Any thoughts on blogging?

We hope you've enjoyed our tips on how to increase traffic to your blog. If you have any suggestions or queries relating to blogging, we'd love to hear them - feel free to add a comment below.

(Note: if you're reading this on a mobile device, you may be reading the faster-loading 'AMP' version which doesn't feature comments. You can add comments on the regular version of this article by clicking here).


Further reading on SEO / traffic-increasing strategies

You may find a couple of our other traffic-generation posts helpful:

Squarespace SEO - 12 tips on how to make a Squarespace site rank in Google
 Squarespace SEO - image of a magnifying glass and the Squarespace logo

In this post we look at Squarespace SEO and provide simple tips on how to use the platform in a way that increases your site’s chances of ranking highly in search. For best SEO results on a Squarespace site, we recommend that you download our SEO e-book as well as following the tips below.


Squarespace is a great platform in many ways - its templates are gorgeous, its content management system (CMS) is easy to use, and it provides a strong and comprehensive set of features, including e-commerce functionality. 

However, when it comes to the SEO department, Squarespace occasionally comes in for a bit of criticism - not because a page or post on a Squarespace site can’t rank highly in search, but because certain aspects of optimising it to do so are not particularly straightforward. 

There are three main reasons for this: 

  • The Squarespace CMS doesn’t really use industry standard terms for some of the elements of pages which you need to optimise.
  • Editing these elements, once you find them, can be a bit of a fiddly process.
  • There are no built-in tools or plugins available to help you assess how well you’ve optimised a page for search.

The good news however is that despite these issues, Squarespace does a lot right when it comes to SEO, and it is perfectly possible to optimise a Squarespace page effectively for search and to achieve a high ranking for it. 

Below you’ll find our checklist of key things you need to do to maximise the chances of your Squarespace site appearing in search. Some tasks on the checklist apply to optimising any site, but we’ve aimed to provide advice that is as specific to Squarespace SEO as possible.


1. Create a ‘SSL’ version of your site if possible

In 2014 Google announced that they wanted to see ‘HTTPS everywhere’, and that a secure HTTPS websites (i.e., using SSL, ‘secure socket layer’) was going to be given preference over non-secure ones in search results. 

SSL as a ranking factor was initially described by Google as ‘a very lightweight signal’, but the indications are that it is becoming more significant (and, SEO aside, browsers increasingly don’t like non-secure sites). 

So it makes sense, where possible, to ensure your Squarespace site is secure - and thankfully, ensuring your site is secure is very straightforward in Squarespace. You just go to Settings > SSL and Security and switch SSL on. But before you do this, there are a couple of important things to consider.

 Switching on SSL in Squarespace

Switching on SSL in Squarespace

SSL for Squarespace sites on new domains

If you are building a new Squarespace site on a brand new domain, then switching on SSL is a no-brainer. 

Not only will doing so ensure you are meeting Google’s expectations around SSL, but because Squarespace uses HTTP/2 for its secure sites, your site is likely to load faster too - this is something else which Google approves of and is considered another positive ranking signal. 

Switching your non-secure site to secure in Squarespace

If you have an existing non-secure site that you wish to make secure, you need to tread carefully before hitting the SSL button. This is because creating a ‘https’ version of your existing ‘http’ one can actually hurt you in search if you don’t ensure that every old http:// link redirects permanently to its https:// equivalent, or if you don’t register the new https:// versions in Google Search console (more on search console in a moment). 

As far as I understand it, the good news is that when you switch SSL on in Squarespace, it automatically create 301 permanent redirects from all your non-secure URLs to your new secure ones. This means that if you have an existing Squarespace site and just want to make it secure, it should generally just involve ticking a box, and after that, registering the https:// versions of your site in Google Search Console (Squarespace recommend leaving it 72 hours before you do this). 

However, if you're moving to Squarespace from a different platform, and you're making your site secure for the first time in the process, there may be some more things you need to do to ensure you don't take a hit in search - as such I would advise that you:

Ultimately, so long as you configure things correctly, I would argue that making your Squarespace site secure is generally a good move from an SEO perspective. Just be careful!

HSTS

If you are enabling SSL on your Squarespace, it’s also worth ticking the accompanying HSTS option too (without getting overly technical, this basically forces browsers to only ever load a secure version of your site - it makes the most of your https status basically). Again, check with Squarespace's support team if you have any concerns around this.


2. Register your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Registering a website with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is something all site owners should do, regardless of the solution they’re using to build it. By registering your site with these two services, you are telling the two major search engines that your website exists and are ensuring it gets crawled. 

One thing you should remember with Google Search Console is that you should register both the www and non-www version of your domain (i.e., www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com), and, if you’ve got a secure and non-secure version of your website, the http:// and https:// versions of each.

Registering a Squarespace site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is very easy - but for more information please see the below resources:


3. Submit a site map to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Once you’ve registered your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, it’s important to submit an XML sitemap to both services - this helps these services index your site accurately and more quickly. 

Helpfully, Squarespace generates a sitemap automatically for you - the URL for this on your Squarespace site is simply www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml - and you simply need to give Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools this link. In both services you do this by going to your site’s dashboard, and then clicking ‘sitemaps.’


4. Ensure your Squarespace site is loading as fast as it can

Page speed is a signal used by search engines to rank websites, with fast-loading sites given a preference over slower ones

Now, your options with regard to page speed are a bit limited on Squarespace - because rather than being able to buy your own hosting and code your own superfast template, you are stuck with Squarespace’s servers and their templates (which, whilst generally acceptable from a speed point of view, don’t provide the fastest experience on the block).

That said, there are some things you can do to make sure your Squarespace pages load as fast as they can:

  • Use compression tools like Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images you’re uploading to Squarespace.
  • Keep use of any external scripts or custom code on your site to a minimum.
  • Avoid using a large number of web fonts on your site - Squarespace suggests keeping it to two -  or even consider using web safe fonts (which load faster).
  • Use Squarespace’s SSL option if possible - this means that your site will be delivered through the faster HTTP/2 protocol (see above for more information on SSL - and some pitfalls to avoid).
  • Switch ‘AMP’ (Accelerated Mobile Web Pages) on - when enabled, this displays extremely fast-loading versions of your blog posts in mobile search result. These versions of your posts can be prioritised by Google in results (they’re more likely to appear in its ‘Top Stories’ section) and because they load so quickly on mobile devices, they’re more likely to be read (thus increasing the dwell time on your posts, a positive ranking signal).

    Switching AMP on in Squarespace is very easy - just go to Settings > Blogging and then tick the AMP checkbox - but there are a couple of things which you may need to tweak on your posts before you do so, and as such it's worth reading the Squarespace support material on AMP before doing so.
 Enabling AMP in Squarespace

Enabling AMP in Squarespace


5. Ensure you’re formatting your page titles correctly

One of the most important elements of a web page is its title - search engines treat it as a key piece of information when indexing a page, and your title itself shows up as the largest component of a search result (as well as at the top of browser windows). 

You should ensure your page and post titles are never vague and ideally start with your ‘focus keyword’ - the phrase you want to rank for in search.

As a simple example, if you run Joey’s Music shop, which is located in London and specialises in vintage guitar sales, you are better off using a page title which includes the phrase ‘Vintage Guitars London’ instead of settling for a more conventional (but less SEO friendly) ‘Joey’s Music Shop’.

A good page title for the above would be ‘Vintage Guitars London - Joey’s Music Shop.’ (Note: there are various keyword research tools that can help you find out which phrases are actually searched for on search engines - you can read about a few of these tools here).

To add or edit a page title in Squarespace, simply go to the Pages section, hover over the relevant page, and click the cog icon that appears. The page settings dialog box will appear - simply enter your page title into the appropriately named ‘page title’ field.

 Editing page titles in Squarespace

Editing page titles in Squarespace


6. Use headings properly

Ignoring headings is a common mistake made by non-developers who build and update their own websites using tools like Squarespace. Instead of applying headings (H1, H2, H3 etc.) to their text, they add bold or capitalised text to break up their content. 

This causes quite a few problems: first, from a aesthetics point of view it usually looks pretty awful. Second, it makes it harder for visually impaired visitors to your site using screen readers to access your content. And finally, it makes it more difficult for search engines to index your content properly. 

So make sure you read up on headings and how to apply them properly to your text before you upload content to your Squarespace site! In terms of adding them in Squarespace, it’s very easy: when editing a page, you just highlight a piece of text and then choose your desired heading from the formatting drop down menu.

Adding a heading in Squarespace


7. Add meta descriptions to your pages

Meta descriptions provide short summaries of web pages, and usually appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page.

Although Google says that they aren’t a ranking factor, a well-written meta description can encourage more clickthroughs to your website - which raises the clickthrough rate (CTR) of a page. The CTR of a page IS considered a ranking signal by Google, so getting meta descriptions right is very important.

In Squarespace, the way meta descriptions work is a bit confusing - because there’s three different places to enter them, and the term ‘meta description’ is not used in any of those places! 

To add a meta description to your home page, you’ll need to go to Settings > SEO, then populate the ‘search engine description’ field with your meta description.

 Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace

Adding a home page meta description in Squarespace

To add a meta description to a static page, you’ll need to go to Pages, hover over the relevant page, click the cog and then enter your meta description into the ‘description’ box.

 Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace

Adding a meta description to a static page in Squarespace

To add a meta description to a blog post, you’ll need to go to your post, then click ‘Edit’ followed by ‘Settings’. Once there, you need to write your meta description in the ‘excerpt’ box.

 Adding a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace

Adding a meta description to a blog post in Squarespace

There is a general problem with the way Squarespace handles all the above: depending on the template you’re using, these descriptions may appear not just in search results but on your site too (for example, at the top of a page or in a summary block containing a list of your blog posts). 

This isn’t ideal really, because a well-written meta description may not lend itself to being displayed on your site - the purpose of a meta description is to encourage clickthroughs to content; it shouldn’t really be part of the content itself. 

Squarespace's slightly weird approach to meta descriptions is a frustrating feature of a generally excellent CMS, and hopefully the company will tweak things so that we end up with properly labeled, dedicated meta description fields that only display content in search engine result pages (SERPs) and not on websites themselves. For now, we’ll have to work with the various ‘descriptions’ and ‘excerpts’ as best we can, knowing that they may end up on actual pages of our site, as well as in SERPs.


8. Add alt text and optimised file names to your images

Adding alt text in Squarespace

There are three main reasons for adding ‘alternative text’ to your images:

  • Screen readers use it to provide a description of an image to visually impaired users of your website.
  • Search engines use it to categorise your context.
  • If your image fails to load, a description of it can be displayed.

You should aim to add alt text that works for both screen readers and search engines - a description that that contains your focus keywords but it is still perfectly understandable to anybody who is using a screen reader to access your content.

Adding alt text is a particularly fiddly affair in Squarespace - the method for doing so varies considerably depending on whether you are working with an image on a page, a gallery image, a product image, a cover page image or a thumbnail image. (There doesn’t seem to be an option to add alt text for a banner image - although I think the file name serves as one).

I suspect that most users will want to add alt text to images that are inserted on pages - to do this, you need to 

  • Add your image
  • Hover over the image and click ‘Edit’
  • Click ‘Design’ tab
  • Click ‘Inline’
  • Ensure that the ‘Caption Below’ is selected
  • Add a caption (which then becomes the alt text).

If you don’t want to display the caption, you need to then set the caption option to ‘Do not display caption.’ If you want to use a different image layout (for example ‘poster’ or ‘card’) you’ll need to ensure you’ve followed the above steps before using your preferred layout...or you won’t have any alt text accompanying it. 

 In Squarespace, image captions double up as alt text, which makes things unnecessarily confusing from an SEO perspective.

In Squarespace, image captions double up as alt text, which makes things unnecessarily confusing from an SEO perspective.

As you can probably tell by now, all this is a very convoluted way to add alt text to your images, and why Squarespace don’t provide a simple ‘alt text’ box is beyond me. I guess when they conceived the platform they wanted to avoid making the options seem too ‘techy’ - but at the end of the day anybody serious about building a successful website will need to add and optimise alt text for search, and although you do so using the above process, it's unnecessarily complicated and a hindrance to SEO.

Because the method for adding alt text in Squarespace varies by page, product and image type, I’d recommend having a very careful read of their help page specifically on alternative text.

Optimising image file names in Squarespace

Search engines also look at file names when indexing and categorising the content of pages - and as such it certainly doesn’t hurt to optimise your image files. For example, in an article about London featuring an image of Big Ben, it would be preferable to use a file name of ‘big-ben.jpg’ rather than ‘DSC125212.jpg.’

This is thankfully quite straightforward in Squarespace - you just hover over your image, click ‘Edit’ and you can enter a desired file name in the ‘Filename’ box.


9. Use a simple URL structure

Using ‘clean’ URLs with a simple structure is encouraged by Google. Clean URLs are short, simple and intelligible: as an example, if you were selling red guitars, it would be advisable to use a URL of www.yourdomain.com/red-guitars rather than www.yourdomain.com/prd/p223.php?ref=1456_red_gtr

Squarespace generates clean URLs for you automatically - certainly for static pages - but when it comes to certain types of blog posts, you might want to consider editing the post format so that you don’t include date information in it. Including date information can make the URL unnecessarily long and, particularly if you intend on updating your blog post in future, irrelevant. (That said, if you’re publishing news articles which are related to specific points in time, it does make sense to keep them in).

It's easy to change a blog post slug in Squarespace - you just go to the post, click Edit and then navigate to to the Options tab:

 Editing a blog post's URL in Squarespace

Editing a blog post's URL in Squarespace

To save you a bit of time with this, and to keep your blog post consistent, you can set global settings for blog posts in Squarespace by going to Settings > Blogging and then editing the 'post URL format' so that it only contains the title (%t in the below example).

 Editing the post URL format in Squarespace

Editing the post URL format in Squarespace

You’ll find more information from Google on simple URL structures here, but the key takeaways are:

  • Always use short URLs that contain relevant keywords
  • Break up your URLs with punctutation if necessary to make keywords more obvious to both Google and users (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is better than www.yoursite.com/greenshoes)
  • Use hyphens rather than underscores to denote spaces (i.e., www.yoursite.com/green-shoes is preferred to www.yoursite.com/green_shoes)

10. Add rich snippets to your Squarespace site

Rich snippets - data that can be added to your site to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about - are an important part of how your website behaves in search results (check out this Search Engine Journal article about rich snippets to find out why).

Rich snippets typically feature visual clues about the content of a page or post - for example, star ratings, author, prices and so on - which appear just below the page/post title and before the meta description:

 Example of a rich snippet

Example of a rich snippet

They are typically generated through the addition of 'Schema Markup' - HTML code featuring tags defined by Schema.org (a collaborative project between Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex aimed at helping webmasters provide more accurate information to search engines).

I've tried unsuccessfully in the past to use code blocks to add Schema.org data to Squarespace sites - after not having much joy, I contacted Squarespace's support team for advice. Their solution was to use Google's Open Data Highlighter instead. This allows you to load up a page, highlight information on it, and send Google the necessary markup. 

It only works if Google has a crawled your site and has a cached copy of the page you want to mark up - as such you may need to wait a few days until your content has been crawled and tags can be added.


11. Focus on creating great content and building backlinks to it

This goes for all sites, not just Squarespace ones. Sites that feature in-depth, informative posts on topics that people are genuinely interested in tend to perform well in search - and particularly so if there are lots of external links (or ‘backlinks’) pointing to them.

You’ll find some more resources on how to go about creating strong content and building links to it below:

One thing worth remembering is that before you invest time in writing great content and building backlinks to it, some keyword research is always a good idea. This helps you get a strong understanding of the niche topics that people are actively searching for, as well as how hard it will be to rank for a particular niche.

You can find out more about keyword research here.


12. Assess the quality of your on-page SEO

One particular advantage of using Wordpress over Squarespace is that you can add plugins to help you with your SEO efforts. The best-known of these is arguably Yoast, which aids you in real time as you optimise your page and gives you a report on how successful you’ve ultimately been in doing so.

Although you can’t add plugins to Squarespace - and there’s no built in equivalent to Yoast - there are still many third party tools you can use outside of Squarespace to run checks on your SEO efforts. Hubspot provides a useful list of some of the leading ones here.


More ways to improve your Squarespace site's visibility in search results 

 My new e-book on SEO, 'Super Simple SEO: How to make Google love your website'

My new e-book on SEO, 'Super Simple SEO: How to make Google love your website'

The above tips should definitely help make a difference to the performance of your Squarespace site in search results, but they're only scratching the surface of SEO! 

If you're interested in finding out more about the whole topic of search engine optimization, and want to make significant improvements to your site's performance in Google, then you might like to download our new 'Super Simple SEO' book.

Super Simple SEO: How to make Google LOVE your website is written for readers who are new to the world of search engine optimization (SEO). 

Written in a friendly, jargon-free way, it takes you through the key concepts of SEO, provides you with actionable steps to improve your search ranking, and gives you a series of SEO 'cheatsheets' that make it much easier to implement vital changes to your website and backlink building tactics.

Download the SEO e-book here.

Finally, if you'd like some more advice on how to improve your site's general visibility in search, make sure you join our mailing list (we send out regular tips on SEO and inbound marketing).


Any thoughts on Squarespace SEO?

We hope you’ve found these Squarespace SEO tips useful - do feel free to add your own in the comments section below (note: mobile users reading an AMP version of this article may need to view the full version of this post to add a comment). Also, if you’ve enjoyed the article we’d be really grateful if you could share it on social media - or if you run your own blog or site, it’d be great if you could consider linking to it :)

If you need help with a Squarespace project, you can find out about our Squarespace web design services here.