The truth about Squarespace

Written by:  Justin Barrett, Owner/Web Developer, JBTheory, LLC

If you’re in any way familiar with the world wide interwebs, you’ve probably heard of Squarespace.  They’re a web design company that offers their users a “drag and drop” interface to develop their website.

One of the most striking things about this platform, anyone has to admit, is the gorgeous designs anyone with knowledge of a basic word processor can achieve is nothing short of great.  Obviously with everything on the internet, there are good and bad examples of the tool being used, but overwhelmingly whether it’s a business or an individual, Squarespace has a design to make it happen.

Unfortunately, design is basically the end of the good.  The price is low, so that’s something, but let’s put that on a table and come back to it.

First, I have to ask the three questions I ask every client, “Why do you want a website?”, “What do you want it to do for you?”, and “What is your goal for having a website?”

Clients typically come wanting a website for 1 of 3 reasons; either to drive up sales for their business, or to market themselves or their business online, or to provide a web-based way to accomplish some sort of goal like managing registration for an event.  All of these things can be accomplished, to some degree, with Squarespace, visually at least.

Now, if you’re a user of Squarespace, you’ve probably noticed that it’s typically very hard for people to find your website, no matter how much time you’ve spent on it.  This is Squarespace’s most misleading truth.  Users who develop a website are lead to believe that once they put in the time and effort of developing a website using Squarespace, they’ll pay their dues, click a button and they’ll be online!  No sweat.  They can set up their online store or personal portfolio and start marketing immediately!

This is only half true.

Disclaimer:  This post is not meant to offend users of Squarespace, merely to inform.  Squarespace users are using the tool they thought was best, and they likely did a fantastic job.  The problem is not their effort or knowledge, it’s the tool.  Building a website on Squarespace made to rival a tailor-made website is pretty much like trying to build a house with a hammer squeaky toy; it just doesn’t do the job.

You can do all of the work, click publish, and your website will publish to whatever domain you choose.  But try to share it to Facebook.  It probably looks crazy.  Now, think about your users.  How would someone who doesn’t know about your business, but is looking for a service you offer, find your business?  They would go to a search engine and look for the service in their location (ex. “T-shirt printing in Burlington, NC).

You most likely won’t find your website listed.  Not even in the void that is page 2-infinty of Google Search.  But why?  You did your job!  Your website looks AWESOME!  Why can’t you find it?

Because Squarespace mislead you.  It told you that you could MAKE a website.  You did.  But they didn’t tell you anything about things like Social Media Sharing and Search Engine Optimization.

But wait, I have pictures!

This is an example of a Squarespace website, designed by a marketing firm (who specializes in logo and graphic design).  I will block out the names because, truly, the point of this post is not to offend anyone who uses Squarespace.

This is what’s called “Meta Data”.  It’s what is served up to search engines and social platforms to get you noticed online and represent you on those platforms.  Now at first glance, this looks like just a mess of words, which it is, but they serve a purpose.  But, let me dissect this a tad.

  • We have our site name, cool
  • We have the title of the page, cooler.
  • We have a URL (which doesn’t make sense for the title….)
  • We have a description of the website.

So what happens with this page when you share it on Facebook?  You will get the a post that has the title of the page and website’s generic description, and no image.  Boring.

What about Google?  Without giving too much away because, again, I don’t want to offend, this website was for a catering business in the bay area of California.  It even says that in the description.  So I should be able to search “Catering California bay area”, like any user would, and find them right?  Wrong.  I got to page 3 of the Google Search void and 50+ locations on Google maps and this business was nowhere to be found.

Now let’s compare to the metadata from a JBTheory, LLC website.  I’ll pick on Rebecca Travis, freelance writer, columnist and blogger over at rebeccatravis.net.  To keep it fair, I’ll go to one of her inner pages, just like I did with our friends in the California Bay:

Notice a difference?  Well…there’s more!  But what is it?  In short, the meta data is more descriptive internally on the website.  One of the main things Squarespace gets wrong is the “keyword” meta and “classification” meta.  Keywords are the buzzwords about a website, but classifications are the group that your website should be grouped in.  For example, our friends in Cali should have a classification of “Caterer” and geolocation meta data for “Bay area” and “US-CA”.  That would put them up there in the top Google Rankings, above some of the locations that were a stretch from the Bay Area.  Rebecca is a freelance writer serving a global market, so she doesn’t have the limitation of geopositions, so she shouldn’t that in her meta data, but you will see a slew of classifications for the services she provides.

The next thing you’ll notice may be that there are images for generic, OG (which stands for Open Graph, which Facebook uses for its meta data), and twitter.  This means when you serve up a link from her website, the post/tweet will have the title, description (which is specific to this post, not a generic site description), and the image, no matter the platform she shares it on.

This is what users expect when they design a Squarespace website.  They expect that their website will be competitive in the expanse of the internet.  The simple truth is, Squarespace misleads its users by letting them think that will be the case.  There are many things, not just meta data, that go into marketing a website.  However, all of it starts at quality meta data so search engines and social networks can process a website.  Squarespace, as it is today, is a rubber squeaky hammer trying to build a house for individuals and businesses.

We here at JBTheory, LLC are the real deal.  I myself have spent countless hours developing proprietary systems that will empower our clients with the clout of standing out online.  Because really, how can your business make money or portfolio get in the hands of someone that might hire you if nobody can find it?