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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blogging Basics Bonus: 5 Reasons Squarespace is the Perfect Platform for New Bloggers (Guest Post)



Hello superstars! Whether you’re a new blogger or a seasoned veteran of the industry, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is which platform to build your blog on. Depending on the one you choose, you’ll be offered different services and will be confronted with different problems, making the selection process tough at best, and super stressful at worst! As a blogger who has been around the block a few times, I’ve tested various solutions over the years and have finally found one that meets my needs: Squarespace.

With more and more bloggers adopting it, Squarespace is definitely en vogue at the moment, and with good reason! It’s a slick, great-looking, easy-to-use system that’s pretty hard not to love and for reasons that I’ll go into in just a sec, it’s also pretty much the perfect platform for bloggers who are just starting out. Ready to take the grand tour and discover why Squarespace has my heart? Let’s go!

FROM IDEA TO BLOG IN LESS THAN AN HOUR

As a new blogger on the scene, all that talk about purchasing domain names or choosing the right hosting for your website may feel a little confusing, and with good reason: with the online industry being as saturated and competitive as it is, there are literally hundreds of service providers out there, all vying for your attention and offering packages that may be difficult to make sense of or compare — probably because they all offer a variation of the same thing!

Squarespace is brilliant because it allows you to circumvent all of that mess: rather than requiring you to buy a domain name and hosting from one service provider and installing a content management system separately (this is what you have to do when using a platform like Wordpress, for example), it provides an integrated blogging ecosystem that enables you to do everything in one place. This means that from the moment you’ve decided to sign up, you can pick a name for your new blog, choose a hosting plan that suits you (from as little as $8/month if you choose the basic option, which is really all you’ll need to set out), choose a template and setup shop in less than an hour — without having to hop from one website to the next and pull out your credit card a million times. Winning!

SUPER SLICK DESIGN (WITHOUT CODING!)

One of the main reasons I decided to move to Squarespace was the wealth of gorgeous templates to choose from. I have total magpie syndrome when it comes to websites: if it looks good, chances are I’ll want it, and with so many of my blogger colleagues making the jump and dishing up these absolutely incredible-looking designs, I knew I had to at the very least check it out to see what all the fuss was about! And guys — I wasn’t disappointed.

Squarespace makes it very easy to build a sexy website without getting bogged down in technical details, making it the perfect platform for bloggers who are just starting out and aren’t necessarily that technically-minded. Its drag-and-drop system is super intuitive and allows you to make changes as you go along, without having to fear the dreaded white screen of broken code death (trust me, I’ve been there more times than I can count and it is not pretty).

There are plenty of templates to choose from depending on your needs (check ‘em out here – I personally use Galapagos and love it!) and they are all customisable within an inch of their lives without needing to get your hands into too much code, which is a clear win! (Of course, there might be a few little extra tweaks you might want to make, and for those, I’ve got an awesome cheat sheet for you right here.)

As an added bonus, all the templates are responsive, which means that whatever the device you’re viewing the site on, it’ll still look good. Whether you are a blogger or a creative entrepreneur who blogs, chances are you will have heard of Google's latest algorithm update — you know, the one from way back in April that came down hard on any website that wasn't optimised for mobile. In one word: OUCH. Basically, if you don’t make the experience as pleasant as possible for those of your readers who are accessing your blog from their phone, Google will punish you and your SEO will really suffer from it. Not to make too fine a point on this: you NEED responsive design, and luckily, Squarespace makes this super easy to achieve.

INTEGRATED METRICS

You might not think you need to think about this from the get go, but you’re wrong! While your numbers should in no way intimidate you or stifle your creativity (comparison is the thief of joy – compete against yourself, not other bloggers!), it’s a great way of keeping track of your progress (which is super encouraging), see what works and what doesn’t work, and make improvements and adjustments to your strategy as you go along.

While Wordpress certainly makes it possible to link your Google Analytics account (pretty much the grand-daddy of metrics) to your dashboard, making it easy to view your basic stats at a glance, Squarespace goes above and beyond in the way it tracks your numbers: not only does it give you a standard traffic overview (with your page views and unique visitors); it also shows you who many readers are accessing your blog from a mobile device, how many people have subscribed to your RSS feed, which posts are receiving the most love from your audience, and so on.

Again, there are plugins that allow you to get this data on other platforms like Wordpress, but much like with its brilliant, seamless setup process, Squarespace makes finding out what’s really going on behind the scenes of your blog 100% painless.

SOCIAL SHARING? HELL YES!

A HUGE component of getting your amazing content out there is sharing it on social media: it’s a surefire way of ensuring it gets seen by more people and it gives it the potential to go viral if it gets retweeted or repinned by influencers. In other words, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to social media, and if you want to engineer exponential growth for your new blog, you’d do well to choose a couple of platforms (I love Twitter + Instagram) and go to town.

You already know what I’m going to say here, don’t you? That’s right: Squarespace makes it SUPER easy to share your content on social media. Not only can you add your social media profile links pretty much wherever you want thanks to the social links block (a lifesaver after months of inserting them manually on Wordpress, I tell you!); you can also easily add your Instagram and Twitter feeds to your sidebar, and add a “Pin It” Pinterest button to all your images with a simple click for extra shareability.

If you want to go a little further, you can also set it up so that each post is automatically shared to your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, too! Simply swipe a toggle in the “Social” section of your blog post “Settings”, and you’re set.

BUILDING YOUR MAILING LIST MADE EASY

Whether you’re a new blogger fresh off the block or a seasoned veteran in the industry, building a mailing list is super important: even if you don’t send out any newsletters just yet, having a database of loyal fans who have intentionally signed up to hear from you will prove invaluable in the long run — especially if at some point, you choose to monetise your blog. Email marketing is historically one of the highest converting channels there are out there, because email is so intimate: once you’re in people’s inboxes – a privilege not given lightly! – there’s a very good chance that they’ll listen to what you have to say. Building a mailing list now, then, is a great way to pave the way for future business opportunities!

Because of its drag-and-drop system and its partnership with MailChimp and Google, Squarespace makes adding opt-in forms to your blog SUPER easy. I’m not even joking. Back when I was using Wordpress, simple things like adding an opt-in form to the bottom of every post felt needlessly complicated, resulting in me procrastinating wildly when it came to making important changes to my blog. With Squarespace, all you need to do is use a newsletter block, drag it to where you want to put it and you’re all set! The best thing about this? Your newsletter opt-in forms are 100% customisable, so you can tweak them so that they match your brand (super important!). I go into how to do this in my cheat sheet here.

PARTING WORDS

Is Squarespace perfect? Nope, but then again, no platform truly is! When I moved my blog over from Wordpress around a month ago now, I was torn: on the one hand, I loved it for all the reasons I just listed above; on the other hand, as an experienced blogger with certain expectations, there were a few pain points that frustrated me to begin with. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to get really stuck into it, I’ve come to the realisation that there isn’t really that much that you can’t do (especially with the tips in my cheat sheet!), making it a high-performing platform for new bloggers and seasoned veterans alike.

So, to sum up, if you’re new to the blogging game, definitely give Squarespace a try! It’s a great solution if you’re just starting out and don’t want to tear your hair out with endless technical issues. If you run into any niggles, the support forums are great, too, and there are plenty of guides out there with answers to your burning questions (including my own, of course)!

Jessica Johansen is a writer, coach and digital marketing specialist based in gorgeous London. She’s passionate about thinking up creative new ways to live a happy, super successful and fabulous life on a crazy busy schedule and over on her blog, Jessica Says, she shares insights on how to live your very best life and blog like a boss — even when you’re short on time. Come and say hi!
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