Why I removed my Squarespace SEO description. And why you should too.
Removing your Squarespace SEO description can improve both your site's search engine optimisation and the impact of your social sharing strategy.
First the how, then the why
Removing the SEO description is easy.
In your Squarespace Admin system go to Settings > SEO and delete the SEARCH ENGINE DESCRIPTION field.
It could be that you didn't populate the field in the first place, in which case you're ahead of the game.
Once you have done this any pages / blog posts that you haven't entered descriptions / excerpts for will perform better in search engine listings and when shared on Facebook.
Why the Squarespace SEO description can have a negative effect on SEO and Facebook sharing
If you forget to set a description / excerpt for a page or blog post the Squarespace system will use your SEO description as a fallback in the meta description and og:description fields in your page headers. This can result in duplicated page descriptions across your site.
Search engines and Facebook use meta description and og:description when formatting search results and shared links - repetition of the SEO description can be bad for both SEO and Facebook sharing.
Why it's bad for search engines
If you have more than one page on your Squarespace site where the SEO description is being used as a fallback then you will have multiple pages with the same meta description.
Google's algorithms don't like duplicate content, and this includes duplicate meta descriptions. There are specific warnings in Google Webmaster Tools about duplicate meta data. What's more, Google's SEO guru Matt Cutts has specifically advised against having duplicate meta descriptions.
It's likely that the negative impact on SEO will be very small. Indeed, if it wasn't for the Facebook Sharing problem outlined below I wouldn't worry about duplicate meta descriptions.
Why the Squarespace SEO description is bad for your Facebook Sharing strategy
Having a Squarespace SEO description means that it will be used on any shared pages that don't have their own description or excerpt filled in. The consequence is that the share description looks generic and is less likely to be clicked than if it had a relevant description.
Facebook will use og:image, og:title and og:description information but if any of these are empty or absent it will look at other meta tags and then for suitable content on the page.
As an example, the following image shows two Facebook shares for the same story from Piqueshow, a client's site that I have been working on.
The left hand example shows Facebook using the generic SEO description
The right hand example shows what happens when you remove the Squarespace SEO description - Facebook finds some text from the main body of the article and uses that instead. The result is far more relevant and engaging than the generic description.
NB - The right hand example also features a much larger preview image that adds to the impact of the shared page on a Facebook timeline. I'll explain how to get these larger previews in a future post.
If you would like assistance or advice in setting up Squarespace and structuring your content so that it can perform well in search engines and on social media, contact me using the form below.