A Guide To Setting Up Squarespace: 10 Simple Steps To Get Your Squarespace Website Up And Running
Fortunately so many people have already caught onto how amazing Squarespace is! One of my favorite things about the platform is how easy it is to make a professional-looking site, even if you aren’t a web designer.
But what about the logistics of setting up your Squarespace site? What are the most basic instructions for getting a Squarespace site up and running?
I’ve got those outlined for you with these 10 easy steps :)
1. PICK A TEMPLATE.
Before doing anything else you'll need to browse through the different Squarespace templates.
You’ll find these located under “websites”. Your options are websites, online stores and cover pages. For this tutorial we’re going with a website (more on setting up an online shop later this month).
Squarespace filters the templates by category. Feel free to use them as a starting off point, but don’t worry too much about fitting into one category or another. You’ll probably even notice that individual templates show up in several different categories.
You should pick a template based off of design, not what pages or content you see on the template. Any template can be customized with pages and elements you’ll need later on, even if you don’t see it on the template.
You can select a template, preview it and even look at other blogs and businesses who are using the template (if it’s a template that’s been around for awhile).
When you’ve found a template you want to start with (you can always change your template later without losing any content) just click “start with this design”.
2. Start your trial account.
After that you’ll be prompted to create an account. Squarespace automatically puts you on a trial account, meaning you don’t have to pay anything while you’re setting up your site and deciding if Squarespace is a good fit for you or not.
Once you sign up you’ll be prompted with some questions to help Squarespace (and search engines) index and categorize your site.
And that’s it for setting up your trial account! Whenever you’re ready you’ll just click the “Upgrade Now” option on the black bar at the bottom and follow the prompts to get off of the trial account and upgrade to a normal account.
PS - you have 14 days in your trial period (but you really only need a day or 2 to get a basic site going)
PPS - you can use the code “GIMME10” when you upgrade to get 10% off!!
3. Basic biz info + settings
The first thing I like to do is set up the basics. We’ll do this by clicking “settings” from the main dashboard then clicking through some of the links on the next page. I’m outlining the first 2 sections in “Settings”for you (General and Website), but the options with asterisks* are the only things you really need to take a look at now.
*BUSINESS INFORMATION: enter your business name, tax ID and contact info
REGIONAL: this is just for time zone
PERMISSIONS: only use this if you want to invite other people to access the backend of your website with their own log-in info
BILLING & ACCOUNT: this shows you what credit card you have on your account, what plan you’re on, your account invoices, log-in history + option to change to a commerce or cover page plan
BASIC INFORMATION: this is a short description that will show up for some templates (I don’t think it's that important)
DOMAIN: you’ll use this page to set up a custom domain (I’ll show you how to do it part 2 of this guide)
EMAIL: this section allows you to create a custom @domain.com email account (through Google Apps)
*CONNECTED ACCOUNTS: connect your social media accounts here
*MARKETING: we’ll go more into this section, but for now just include a brief description of your blog/business in the SEO section. The Marketing section also has space to customize different social media aspects.
BLOGGING: this section connects your DISQUS account (if you have one), enables simple liking, formats your post URLS and plays around with the settings for blog comments
SECURITY: create a site-wide password here (not recommended - you can use a cover page if you aren’t ready to have a full site!)
ADVANCED: this section goes over customizing your 404 page and other random things. We’ll come back to this tab if you have content from your old website to import.
4. Adding pages and creating your navigation menu.
The next thing we’ll want to do is customize your navigation and create pages for your website.
To do this, go back to your main dashboard and click “Pages”.
There are 5 things I want to go over for in the Pages dashboard:
1. First you have your main navigation. As you can see from the example above, the pages underneath “main navigation” are what show up in the navigation on your website.
2. The “+” option will allow you to create a new page. Some of the options include a new blank page, a cover page, a folder (this houses other pages), an index (basically a long scrolling page made up of individual pages and galleries) and much more.
Creating a folder will give you a dropdown menu in your navigation (like mine does for “Blog and Services”). I think this is a really good option if you have a lot of pages you want to include in your main navigation. Folders allow you to organize your content in a way that makes sense for your website flow and they help you declutter at the same time.
Creating an index means you’ll have one long page with different sections. I love working with indexes because they give you more control and functionality in most templates.
3. Most templates are going to have a secondary navigation option. I don't personally ever use this (for myself or clients) because I don’t want to give visitors too many options and overwhelm them. It’s best to have clear steps for your site visitor to take, and 10 times out of 10 that’s easier to do with less options : ) It's a personal preference but it hasn't failed me yet.
4. Some templates offer footer navigation as well. While having important pages linked in your footer is a really smart idea, I opt to have more control over the look by manually adding links through a text box. So this part of my Pages dashboard never really gets used either.
5. Now...unlinked pages! These get used lots and lots on almost any website I design. Unlnked pages are basically pages that you need on your website but don’t need to show up in your main navigation.
For me, this includes individual portfolio projects, my blog archives, special pages like promo landing pages and client portals, and even my home page (I don’t link my home page in main navigation because my logo links to my home page and I think it's redundant to include both).
The last thing to note for this section is that you can click and drag pages to different sections. So, for example, if you create a page in “main navigation” but then you decide you want it unlinked, simply click the page and drag it down to the unlinked section.
5. Tweak design elements.
Right now you should still be seeing content from the template. Before adding in your own content though, I like to play around with the design elements.
You do this by going to the main dashboard and clicking “Design”, which has a couple of sections we’ll want to play with now.
The first one is “Logo & Title”. If you have a logo you’ll upload it in this section, otherwise you can just type in your blog or business name in addition to your tagline (if you have one).
You certainly don’t have to do this next part, but adding a favicon is a really cool way to customize your website (plus it comes in handy if someone pins something from your website).
Now let’s go back and click “Style Editor”. This is where we get to play with fonts, colors and spacing and really get to change up the look of your site! Go through each section and play around with elements until it starts feeling good for you.
I recommend sticking to 2-4 colors and no more than 2 fonts throughout your entire site. Be sure to check out my epic guides on picking fonts + colors for your website if you need a place to get started!
6. Map out the elements you’ll need for each page.
Now we can get to the actual content on your website, which is my favorite part about creating a site! You can have a beautiful website, but if you don’t have a clear strategy for each page and know how they all work together, you’re really missing an opportunity to increase your sales, subscriber count, service inquiries, page views and so much more.
Essentially you’ll want to grab a piece of paper for each page on your website, write the name of that page, then plan out what each page needs to include. I’ve got a great free workbook in The Vault to help you map out each page, so if you want access just sign up HERE 🙌🏾. There are also tips for website photography and copywriting in there!
Speaking of copywriting, make sure to think about using terms and phrases that speak directly to your ideal customer and his/her pain points. You also want to curate attractive imagery (whether that be on-brand photography, graphics or a mix of both) and clear calls to action on each page.
Think about the flow you want a visitor to take (and don’t assume that they’ll always land on your home page first and keep clicking around!).
For each page, I like to imagine that someone has a bunch of tabs open on their browser and is quickly browsing through all of those open pages. They get to my one single page…. What is it that I want to make sure they see and feel?
I want to build trust and consistency through all of my web copy and visual elements, and I want to lead them to other relevant material if at all possible. The more that person is clicking around, the more likely they are to contact me, follow me on Instagram, read more blog posts, sign up for my newsletter, etc.
So with saying that, ALWAYS try to have a call to action on each and every page, even if it’s a simple “find out more about me here” image that links to your about page (because then they can click on your about page and see a quick outline of your services/product, your most popular blog posts, your free courses/resources/opt-ins, etc).
7. Import content from your old website (optional).
Perhaps you’ve already got content ready on your old website. If that’s the case you just need to transfer it over to your new Squarespace site, which Squarespace makes super easy!
To get started you’ll need to export the content from your old site first (click here for instructions on exporting content out of Wordpress, Tumblr and Blogger). You can also import content from Etsy, Shopify and Big Cartel.
To import everything into your new Squarespace site go to Settings → Import / Export → Import. Click the icon associated with your old platform then follow the prompts.
Once all of your old content is imported you’ll need to go back to your Pages dashboard and organize everything then go to your Style Editor and make sure there’s nothing new that needs customizing.
8. Make edits + customize pages.
Once all of your content is organized you should go through and edit each page using the content blocks. From your Pages dashboard click your page from the menu, hover over the page and click “edit”, then click the tear drop icon to add new content. You can click and drag the blocks to rearrange the page.
I should also mention that your options are pretty endless here! The most basic content you can add is text, images, videos and slideshows, but you can also add forms, maps, social media blocks, products and so much more!
9. Set up your site for SEO.
Now that you’ve got the basics of your site laid out, there’s really only one thing left to do: get your site SEO ready. Luckily Squarespace includes lots of ways to help you show up in search engines. Here are a few
1. Type in a brief description of your blog or business in Settings → Marketing → SEO (you probably already did this in step 3). Again, this is what shows up next to your business name in search results, so make sure you’re speaking directly to your ideal customer.
2. From your Pages dashboard, click the gear icon of a page and add a description to each one.
Note that some templates include this information on your actual website. Some of those templates give you the option to hide it in the Style Editor, but if the description shows up for you and you can’t hide it, you may want to consider skipping this step.
3. For every single image you upload you can change the filename during the upload. To go back and edit this just double click the image while in edit mode, then type in a few keywords in the spot that says “Filename” (you can include spaces here).
Since search engines can’t “see” photos this helps them discover what your images are about, which helps you come up in search results when someone is looking for something relevant to your website!
4. Blog posts! Writing blog posts related to your industry, service or product will inherently help you show up in search engine results.
Since I love designing on Squarespace I make sure to blog about it a lot. I try to cover a lot of topics related to things someone might be searching for on Google or Pinterest (for example, someone may have found this post by searching for a guide to setting up a Squarespace website 😜), so I’m inherently going to cover a lot of phrases or keywords that someone might be using while searching.
Google wants to help their users find helpful, relevant content. The more your website points to being helpful and relevant on a topic, the more likely you are to show up in search results.
10. Go live with your website!
Guess what?! YOU’RE ALL SET! Once your site has been customized, your content is in order and you’ve got the basics laid out, you can upgrade (Settings → Billing & Accounts → Billing) and brag to everyone you know about your new website!
If you want to take your website even further be on the lookout for the rest of my Squarespace series, covering everything from setting up a custom domain, creating a custom 404 page, customizing the style even further with CSS, adding an announcement bar, setting up a blog, setting up a shop, Squarespace-specific SEO tips and lots of other fun stuff!