How to Speed Up a Squarespace Site — The Essential Checklist

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How to speed up a Squarespace site (image of a ticking clock and the Squarespace logo)

In this post, I’m going to show you how to speed up a Squarespace site. Read on for 9 simple steps you can take to make your site load faster and improve its performance in search results.


If you’ve been reading about SEO lately, you’ve probably learnt that fast-loading sites are given preference over slower ones, and are prioritised accordingly in search results.

And if you’re a Squarespace user, you might be thinking that your options are limited on this front.

Yes, because Squarespace is a ‘hosted solution,’ you get limited control over code and templates — and none over hosting.

But there are still a LOT of things you can do to speed up your Squarespace site, and in this post, we give you a checklist of the key steps you can take to ensure that you have the fastest Squarespace website on the block.

Before you get stuck in with our tips though, you need to take a close look at the existing performance of your site as far as site speed goes.

Let’s take a look at how to do that.


Before starting, check your existing site loading time

To evaluate how fast your Squarespace site is currently loading, you’ll need to run it through a speed checking tool.

There are two reasons for doing this.

First, speed checking tools give you a precise loading time for your site — down to the millisecond — and highlight very specific areas where you can make improvements.

You may find out, for example, that a particular script you’re using is taking ages to load, or that your images are too big — and can tweak your site accordingly.

Second, by using a speed checking tool before making any speed improvements to your site, you get a benchmark figure that you can refer to at the end of the process. This lets you evaluate how successful your efforts have been, and see if there’s any further room for improvement.

Now, you might be tempted to use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for this job, but Squarespace advises users not to use it, saying:

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a tool for developers who code their sites from scratch and can return false negatives for Squarespace sites which are built on a custom CMS.”

Squarespace’s support team

I’m a bit skeptical of this to be honest — Google uses the technology behind PageSpeed Insights as part of its ranking process, and the overall score it generates is relevant to users of any platform.

That said, I generally recommend using Pingdom Tools over PageSpeed Insights for speed tests on Squarespace sites, because it gives you more ‘actionable’ information about the bottlenecks on them.

Enter your Squarespace’s site’s URL into Pingdom Tools and it will give you a breakdown of exactly how long each script or piece of content is taking to load.

You can use these insights to identify areas of improvement in addition to working through the recommendations below.

(It’s worth noting that Pingdom will flag up some aspects of your Squarespace site that can’t really be changed — like the wait time for SSL, for example, or how long it takes Squarespace to load images hosted on its own servers. But overall, it’s very useful for identifying slow-loading content or fonts, or spotting a slow DNS lookup time…more on all that below!).

Now, let’s take a look at the exact steps you’ll need to take to speed up your Squarespace site.


1. Use Squarespace 7.1 rather than 7.0

I’ve found that in general, Squarespace 7.1 is faster than 7.0.

And, based on what Squarespace’s software engineers have been telling Squarespace designers (via its “Circle” forum), a lot of technical improvements are currently being made to Squarespace 7.1 to speed the platform up (with a view to ensuring that Squarespace sites become compliant with Google’s new Core Web Vitals standards).

Importantly, Squarespace has announced (again, via its ‘Circle’ forum for designers) that these improvements won’t be made to the older 7.0 templates.

Squarespace 7.1 template
A Squarespace 7.1 template, ‘Devoe.’ This version of the platform is currently being improved from a speed perspective; the older 7.0 version is not.

So, particularly if you have a small Squarespace site, and you want continue using the platform — but in a speedier way! — it definitely makes sense to switch to version 7.1 of Squarespace.

You can tell which version of Squarespace your site uses by going to the ‘Help’ section of the Squarespace dashboard. This information will be shown underneath the main help options provided.

Finding out which version of Squarespace you're using
Finding out which version of Squarespace you’re using

One thing: before you move everything over to Squarespace 7.1, do a quick test to ensure that you definitely will end up with a faster site once you’ve moved all your content across from version 7.0.

To do this, just create a test Squarespace 7.1 site, replicate a few pages of your old site on it, and then run these Squarespace URLs through Pagespeed Insights and Pingdom Tools to see the speed difference (you will need to pay for an annual Squarespace plan to carry out this test, but a 14-day refund policy applies).

If these tests show improvements, a move to Squarespace 7.1 may well make sense for you.

(In the long run, with Squarespace’s planned improvements, it definitely should.)

Remember: migrate carefully!

When you migrate a site from one CMS to another, it has to be done carefully — or you can take a hit in search results (especially if you do things like change your URLs or forget to create redirects properly).

Moz has a good guide to avoiding the pitfalls involved in site migrations here.

And, before migrating everything from Squarespace 7.0 to version 7.1, you might also want to consider whether this is the right option for you.

Athough a lot of improvements are being made to Squarespace right now, there are currently faster platforms available (like Shopify or WordPress) — and they might be worth giving some consideration to.


2. Switch on SSL

Want a quick speed win? Ensure you’re using Squarespace’s SSL option — this means that your site will be delivered through the faster HTTP/2 protocol.

(Switch on the accompanying HSTS option too, as this can improve security and SEO too.)

You can enable SSL and HSTS in really easily in Squarespace by going to Settings > Advanced > SSL.

Enabling SSL in Squarespace
Enabling SSL in Squarespace

(Note that it can take up to 72 hours for these changes to take effect).


3. Reduce your image sizes

Another easy way to reduce the loading time for your Squarespace site is to keep your image file sizes as small as possible.

You’ll need to strike a balance between file size and image quality (i.e., try to keep the file small without avoid everything becoming pixelated or grainy) — but if you can get this balance right, you’ll enjoy considerably faster loading times.

Here’s some key things you can do to keep image sizes low:

  • Keep picture width low. Squarespace recommends an image width of between 1500 and 2000 pixels, although depending on your template and your images, you might be able to get away with a smaller width. The lower the better, so long as images still look okay.

  • Use a free tool such as Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images before you upload them to Squarespace.

  • Use JPGs for displaying photos rather than PNGs.

  • When you have to use PNGs (for example to display screenshots or diagrams), save them as 8 bit files rather than 24 bit ones.

Stock photography tip

If you purchase any Getty stock photography from Squarespace, or insert any of the free Unsplash photos provided, you may find that the resulting images are a bit larger than you might like.

So you could consider downloading them (from the page you’ve inserted them on), following the above suggestions to reduce their file size, and then re-uploading them when done.


4. Keep scripts to a minimum

It can be difficult to avoid using third party scripts on a Squarespace site.

Tools like Addthis and Sumo, tracking code for online advertising, or bespoke Squarespace plugins can add valuable functionality to your website.

But the trouble is, they can also slow your Squarespace site down considerably.

So it’s worth doing an audit of the scripts you’re currently using — and getting rid of any script that’s not adding value. The less third-party scripts on your Squarespace site, the better.

Now, let’s take a look at fonts.

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5. Be smart with web fonts

Web fonts can make a website look really slick, but they can take a long time to load.

You can speed things up by using web-safe typefaces (Arial, Times, Georgia and so on).

But if you have to use web fonts (and let’s face it, most of us do):

  • consider using a Google Font rather than a Typekit one, as case studies indicate that the former load faster (Squarespace’s web font library consists of both Google and Typekit fonts).

  • only use one web font if possible — the more you use, the slower your site will load.

You can choose which fonts to use in Squarespace by going to the Design section.

If you’re using the latest version of the platform, Squarespace 7.1, you’ll then need to click the ‘Fonts’ option, where you’ll be able to set the fonts globally for your site.

If you’re using Squarespace 7.0, you’ll then need to click ‘Site Styles’. Then, go through every style element involving text — headers, body copy, blog titles and so on — to ensure that only the relevant typeface is used on the site.


6. Use the custom thumbnail option for any video embeds

If you’re embedding any videos on your Squarespace site, always choose the ‘use custom thumbnail’ option.

Otherwise, Squarespace has to look up and load content from video services like Youtube or Vimeo, even if a visitor to your site doesn’t play a video. This can result in quite large files having to be downloaded unnecessarily, slowing things down.

(It can also result in third-party cookies being run on your site, which not only slow things down further, but can cause headaches from a GDPR perspective. See our Squarespace GDPR guide for more information on this topic).

Speed up your Squarespace site by always choosing the ‘custom thumbnail’ option for video embeds.
Speed up your Squarespace site by always choosing the ‘custom thumbnail’ option for video embeds.

7. Consider using AMP on your Squarespace blog posts

Switching ‘AMP’ (Accelerated Mobile Web Pages) on can bring drastic speed improvements to your Squarespace blog posts.

When enabled, this displays extremely fast-loading versions of your posts on mobile devices (so long as they are accessed via a Google search result). You can find out more about AMP here, but it basically works by stripping out non-essential code from a web page and using smart caching to load pages really quickly.

To switch AMP on in Squarespace, go to Settings > Blogging and then tick the AMP checkbox.

enable-amp-squarespace.jpg

Note however that AMP format disables quite a few standard Squarespace blocks, including code blocks and form blocks, so this one won’t be for everyone (particularly site owners that use code blocks to embed adverts on their posts).

Accordingly, it’s worth reading the Squarespace support material on AMP carefully before switching it on.


8. Consider using AJAX loading

If you are a Squarespace 7.0 user, you may be able to make use of Ajax loading to speed things up a bit.

Ajax loading means that your site will only load the content that’s visible (rather than ALL the content on the page). For example, if a user visits a gallery page, only the visible images will load — for example, the ones above the fold. Any other pictures will load in line with the user’s scrolling, i.e., as they come into view.

Ajax loading is supported in the following Squarespace 7.0 template families:

  • Brine
  • Farrow
  • Skye (blog landing page only)
  • Tremont
  • York

To enable Ajax Loading, you go to Design > Site Styles and tick the ‘Enable Ajax Loading’ box.

Enabling Ajax loading in Squarespace
Enabling Ajax loading in Squarespace

The only thing to watch out for here is that using Ajax loading on Squarespace can interfere with how third-party scripts function.

So, if your site is particularly reliant on third-party code that you’ve added, you may need to tread carefully here — check any scripts you’ve added are still working properly after enabling Ajax loading.


9. Reduce your DNS lookup time by using a faster provider

NOTE: this step involves some more technical work than the above suggestions, and if implemented incorrectly can cause problems for your site. Proceed with caution or involve somebody with the relevant technical skills to help you.

The final step you can take to speed up your Squarespace site is to reduce your DNS (Domain Name System) lookup time.

For a technical explanation of DNS lookup time, I’d suggest reading this excellent Cloudflare resource on DNS, but the layman’s explanation is this: it’s basically how long it takes your browser to find out where on the web your domain is located.

The DNS lookup has to be performed before anything from your site can be loaded, so you want it to take as short a time as possible.

Now, some domain name providers — including well-known companies like Godaddy — don’t provide particularly fast DNS lookup times, as this chart from DNSPerf.com makes clear.

So, if you’ve registered a domain with a sluggish DNS provider, you could consider either

  • transferring your domain to a company offering faster DNS times

  • switching your nameservers to those of a faster DNS provider

All this involves a bit of configuration, but if you have the know-how (or the support of somebody who does), it’s worth investing a bit of time in this.

We recently moved some domains used for Squarespace sites over to Cloudflare, and saw some significant reductions in DNS lookup times. For information on how to do this, you can refer to the Cloudflare section on the Squarespace support site, or Cloudflare’s documentation (scroll down to the ‘miscellaneous vendors’ section and click on the Squarespace link).


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But there are LOTS of other ways that you can improve your Squarespace site’s performance in Google rankings. To get access to all our latest SEO resources, just join our community for free below — we’ll send you all our latest tips and tricks for improving your rankings.

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Related reading

Squarespace resources from Style Factory

SEO resources from Style Factory

Comments (11)

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Thanks this is really useful I have been trying lots of different things to reduce our sites file size and improve speed

Hey, which one is easier to do?

transferring your domain to a company offering faster DNS times
switching your nameservers to those of a faster DNS provider

If I choose second option, is there any guide for this?

Hello, I would on balance say the second option is easier to do (but the first is probably the better option as everything ends up in one place). In terms of a guide, the exact process would depend on the providers I’m afraid. But usually it is just a case of entering a couple of new nameservers into two or three fields – not very complicated. Hope this helps, Chris

Great article Chris! Would transferring your domain name to Squarespace help with speed? Or does that still mean there is a look-up happening ? I’m wondering if Squarespace use a provider for their domain hosting?

Thanks Carolyn! Last time I checked Squarespace used Tucows for their domain registration service. There’s no evidence that I can find that suggests that Tucows is particularly speedy on the DNS lookup front, so I don’t think there’s an advantage to be gained by registering a domain with Squarepsace, no. And it’s safer to keep your domain separate to your hosting setup, because that way if something catastrophic were to happen to your site, you would still have the option of pointing your domain elsewhere.

Hello I’m Aaron from www.theunsportsmen.com – Great read, I got a 77 overall on Pigdom, but any idea on how to fix "add expires header" and "Reduce DNS look up"

I think I’m slowly sinking in to madness. I did the Squarespace Adobe typekit font connection and I’m getting 25% of my page requests as fonts.

Hi Aaron – thanks for the kind words about the post. See tip number 7 regarding DNS lookup time. I’d chat to Squarespace Support regarding expire headers – to the best of my knowledge there’s no easy fix for that. One thing that might also help a bit with regard to speeding up image loading though is to enable Ajax loading – see https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000253288 (note that it doesn’t always play nice with third-party scripts though, so watch out for that if you’ve added any).

Thanks Christy, glad you found it useful. Just proceed with caution with that one as implementing it incorrectly can cause downtime. But if you get it right, you get a nice (albeit small) speed improvement 🙂