In our Squarespace review we look beyond the beautiful templates and fancy ads. We ask and answer the question: How successful are solopreneurs using Squarespace to build their business?
Squarespace’s rise in popularity is partly due to its promotion of notable celebrity endorsements (e.g., Keanu Reeves, John Malkovich) all beautifully rendered on a Squarespace-powered website, https://www.squarespace.com.
It’s a testament to their core value proposition:
“Squarespace empowers people with creative ideas to succeed.”
To be truthful in their advertising they should add a disclaimer – “we focus on design, good luck getting the rest of your business off the ground.”
Squarespace Review: What Is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a website builder and hosting platform similar to Wix, Weebly and WordPress.com.
Note: This Squarespace review is based on version 7.0 of the platform. There’s a new release under development (version 7.1) with limited availability (i.e., beta access users).
Squarespace Review: How Does Squarespace Work?
Like the other popular site builders (e.g., Wix, Solo Build It!, WordPress), Squarespace users build sites with a template and a drag and drop editor.
To get started using the Squarespace platform, users are offered a guided approach to create an initial design by answering a series of questions about:
- The preferred layout of the home page
- Choosing a font type
- Choosing a group of stock images for use on the home page
After reviewing the website and settling on the initial design, you can create an account with a 14-day free trial (or log in if you’ve already signed up).
Next, Squarespace will pull all the elements selected into a working draft of the website with a Squarespace.com web address (URL), then opens the Home Menu.
Unlike Solo Build It! (SBI!), Squarespace doesn’t provide any additional guided help on what to do next. Here are more Pros and Cons about using Squarespace.
Squarespace Review: Pros and Cons
- All templates have demo sites with content so you can get a good look around before choosing a design for your site.
- Each template in the library includes a gallery showing customers using the template so you can see the variety of ways they can be customized.
- Supports multiple roles (admin, editor, billing, reporting, moderator, commenter and store manager) so you can get help publishing content and managing your site.
- Has easy to understand pricing plans (personal, business and commerce). All plans include unlimited bandwidth.
- Provides import and export options so you can bring content over from another platform or move your content out of Squarespace.
- Product support is enabled through videos, articles, live chat, email and community forum.
- PayPal and Stripe are integrated as payment processors within the eCommerce features.
- Lacks guidance and tools for researching and building an online business.
- Most of the articles in the Tips and Advice section are focused on design and how to use the style editor.
- Drag and drop functionality is not intuitive and not easy to master.
- The free trial is only 14 days. You cannot publish your site unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
- Although templates can be customized, there are style parameters and special features built into each template that can’t be changed.
- You’ll need to read a number of articles in the knowledge center to understand how templates work, and how to choose and compare the templates and options.
- Lacks in-context help.
- No business guidance.
Based on the introductory user experience, it appears that Squarespace offers an amazing website building platform. But lurking behind this flawlessly engineered initial experience is a complex tool that’s not user-friendly.
Even though the templates are professionally designed, creating a site with Squarespace can feel frustrating as the drag and drop editor is not as easy to use as Wix’s or Weebly’s. Squarespace supports extended functionality only through their official integrations. There’s no third-party app market to extend the capabilities and features.
Squarespace Review: Squarespace Pricing and Plans
Squarespace offers two main packages (after the free trial period has ended):
A Personal package costs $16 a month for “a beautiful, simple website.” A Business package costs $26 a month, “perfect for businesses of all sizes.”
Both packages include domain name, hosting, a website builder, access to a library of well-designed templates, and the ability to create unlimited content.
The business package also includes eCommerce, pop-ups, the ability to completely customize templates, and additional premium options.
There are also additional online store packages for businesses that already have traffic and more than a few products to sell.
Who Should Use Squarespace?
Squarespace promotes itself as a leader in web design with world-class designers creating award-winning designs.
Since templates are the fundamental starting point for a Squarespace site, you should review the various template design options within the relevant category (e.g., photography, local business, restaurant, professional services) to ensure you find a starting point that works for your business.
Make sure you do this review as part of your free trial period. Keep in mind that customizing templates is a feature only available in the business package.
Squarespace Review: Should I Use Squarespace for My Business?
There’s a lot to think about when choosing the best platform for your business. One way to judge whether a platform is worth considering is to find out how popular it is.
However, a superior approach to judge whether Squarespace is a solid platform that leads to business success is to conduct a data-based review of real websites. So that’s what we did.
We conducted a study to find 10,000 “Real Effort” websites as an accurate and verifiable reflection of the Squarespace customer base to discover:
- How successful are solopreneurs who use Squarespace as their website builder? The answer will help round out the typical solopreneur experience, too.
- How do these results compare to SBI!’s website builder plus the included suite of tools and resources (C T P M approach, step-by-step guidance and training, domain name registration, hosting, ongoing education and auto-updating, tools, community)?
We use the term Real Effort to designate websites that have a demonstrated level of website-building effort and commitment. These sites are:
- Not under construction
- Have a home page and at least five links to internal pages on the same domain name
We had to parse through 20,828 Squarespace domain names to find 10,000 Real Effort websites. In other words, 48% of Squarespace websites fulfill the Real Effort definition.
Note: in our Wix review we noted 5% of domain names were Real Effort and had to parse 190,077 domains to find 10,000 real websites!
Now that we have defined what we’re measuring, let’s explore how to measure a successful website. In a nutshell, we chose traffic as the defining factor. The reason is simple — no traffic = no business.
We selected Alexa, Similarweb and SEMrush as the best tools for measuring traffic. Both Alexa and Similarweb use a ranking system (the lower the rank, the higher the traffic) whereas SEMrush uses traffic volume.
Our findings are based not on anecdotal claims, but on a rigorous, verifiable, reproducible study, conducted on Squarespace as well as other popular web hosting and site-building companies.
We’ve summarized all the results here, so that you can compare and gain perspective on how each of these companies’ customers actually rank.
Again, if you enjoy looking at data (as we do!), download the full study results.
Squarespace Review: How to read the results
In the bar chart below, you see a breakdown summary that covers all of the traffic ranges:
- from the highest success (0-100K Alexa rank — extremely difficult for a solopreneur to achieve)
- to the worst failure (>30,000,000 Alexa rank — virtually no traffic)
See the red and blue “Bar Couplets” in the charts below? There’s one Bar Couplet for each range of Alexa traffic ranking.
Each couplet is a percentage, and the two add up to 100%. Each couplet, therefore, shows how much of each traffic range (e.g., 0-100K) is contributed by SBI! sites and how much by Squarespace sites.
The blue bar represents SBI!. Squarespace is red.
Wix / GoDaddy / Wealthy Affiliate / WordPress / Squarespace vs. Solo Build It!
As we complete each study, it’s helpful to compare the results to all previous studies as there are new conclusions that can be reached.
For reference, here are the key charts:
These comparisons detail the percentage of each platform’s sites within the Alexa traffic ranges. The lower the Alexa traffic range, the higher is the website’s traffic.
Clearly, choosing Solo Build It! means that your chances of building a successful site that drives serious traffic are significantly higher than if you use Wix, GoDaddy, Wealthy Affiliate, WordPress or Squarespace.
If you want to take into account who else has made an honest attempt at building a successful website using Squarespace, consider these additional findings from our study.
We conducted a manual review of 500 randomly selected Real Effort Squarespace websites (out of the 10,000) to determine the type of businesses using the platform. We found:
- 436 solopreneur content sites (blogs, infopreneurs, etc.)
- 35 service sites (lawyers, dentists, service sellers, etc.)
- 19 local sites (local restaurants, schools, etc.)
- 7 online stores (small to medium retailers)
- 3 junk sites (sites with poor content and no real effort)
This filtering process successfully narrowed the study’s focus to legitimate, business-oriented websites. Some were larger companies, but we accept that and other skews in favor of Squarespace to keep the study simple and reproducible.
So, if anything, the study is biased in Squarespace’s favor, all the more so because of the “early filter” that weeds out more than half of their sites.
Armed with a sufficient “apples-to-apples” sample of active websites from Squarespace, we were ready to compare them against online businesses built by solopreneurs using SBI!.
Squarespace Review: Triple-checked results
The following three charts compare SBI! to Squarespace total count of Real Effort websites using Alexa, SimilarWeb and SEMRush.
As you can clearly see, the results of our Squarespace review findings validate across the three traffic-measuring services.
SEMrush provides an extra valuable insight. Its results are specifically for search traffic. Search accounts for most of the traffic for the majority of solopreneur sites, which means this tool gives us an important insight into the effectiveness of sites to rank organically.
For example, within one of the higher SEMrush ranges, 60K – 70K, we found 11 SBI! websites and 1 Squarespace website that fit our criterion for Real Effort. That equates to 92% Solo Build It! (11 websites out of 12 total) and 8% Squarespace (1 out of 12).
Not into numbers?
Here’s what the study found:
- SBI! websites are 32.5 times more likely to achieve “Outstanding – Excellent” levels of traffic than Squarespace.
“Outstanding – Excellent” is defined as being among the top 1,000,000 sites on the Internet.
- SBI! websites are 5.2 times more likely to achieve “Medium” levels of traffic than Squarespace.
“Medium” level of traffic is defined as websites having traffic that places them among the top one million to ten million websites.
- 75.4% of Squarespace Real Effort websites are Invisible. Solo Build It!’s “Invisible” rate is only 40%.
“Poor to Invisible” is the lowest traffic category. Squarespace nearly doubles Solo Build It!’s lowest traffic range (these sites get no detectable traffic).
Squarespace Review: The conclusion
Squarespace promotes itself as a website builder for professionals and creatives, and offers design templates geared toward this demographic. Their templates are a good start, but the editor and website builder are difficult to master.
However, a successful website is more than just a beautiful way to present ideas online. Outstanding results are based on real effort, producing content that engages the reader, building trust and confidence, deepening the connection with site visitors and customers.
It makes sense that a service like Squarespace pales in comparison to SBI!. It fails to provide the essential elements for building an online business — process, tools and guidance.
So, if you just want a beautiful website, Squarespace might be a good choice. If you want a successful online business, choose a platform like SBI!, with a proven track record.