What No One Told You About Your DIY Squarespace Website
Did you build your own website using Squarespace?
Maybe you haven't yet, but you're thinking about it.
After all, it's a more affordable option than hiring a web designer—and with all the gorgeous templates available, it seems easy to have a website that looks amazing.
But here's the thing no one tells you:
Squarespace may help you "Build it Beautiful", but it leaves lots of room for blind spots when it comes to a website experience that's strategic.
It's not enough for your website to look great... it's gotta be smart, too!
The truth is, most DIY coaching websites aren't living up to their full potential—not even by a long shot.
I get it, though. There's something really appealing about owning a Squarespace website.
Maybe it's the collection of fresh, modern templates... the enticing promise of a website that looks professionally-designed, for just a low monthly subscription fee.
Maybe it's the idea of building it yourself, because you're a DIY kinda person.
In this article, I'll explore the reasons I've found Squarespace to be the wrong solution for 95% of coaches. But first, I'd like to share a personal story about blind spots with you.
You don't know what you don't know
Recently, I went out of town to visit my parents. We had a great time over dinner and coffee, just talking about life and enjoying each other's company.
The next morning, my dad called. He told me that my car had left a big oil spot on their white driveway, and that I should have it checked out. Yikes. I hadn't noticed this because I live in an apartment building with a parking garage.
Plus, my car is fairly new and I don't drive it very often. An oil leak was way off my radar.
Well, I took it in to my local mechanic that day. Turns out, the cause of the leak was just a loose oil plug from a recent, improperly-done oil change (thanks, Jiffy Lube). He tightened it up for me, topped off my oil, and boom: problem fixed.
Now, if I hadn't gotten that insight about my car leaking oil, who knows how long it would've continued unchecked. Over the coming weeks, I probably would've noticed that my car was acting funny, and I'd have no idea why.
Eventually all the oil would have leaked out, causing serious engine problems that would've cost thousands to repair.
This is the terrible power of a blind spot. We don't know what we don't know, and when problems arise as a result, we don't know what's causing them—leading us to make assumptions that we're usually wrong about.
But with insight, our blind spots can be illuminated—saving us from the havoc they'd otherwise wreak if left unchecked.
So... what's this got to do with Squarespace?
One of the big selling points with Squarespace is the visual aspect: the templates look fantastic. And to the everyday small business owner, this feels like enough: they assume if it looks good, and performs the basic website functions, it'll get them the results they want.
But I've been doing web design for a long time (since 2003!), and I get my fair share of clients who come to me after they've built their own Squarespace website and realize it isn't attracting new clients.
I hear things like, "I need a real designer to make it look better. Can you help?"
But after closer inspection, I almost always see that there are bigger reasons why their websites aren't bringing in new clients:
- Their copy (written content) isn't compelling
- Their navigation menu is overloaded and confusing
- There's no sense of direction or flow guiding visitors to take important actions
- Their email opt-ins are uninspiring and ineffective
...Just to name a few.
In short, their websites have no strategy behind them.
Naturally, the need for a well-planned website strategy isn't on my clients' minds—their realms of genius are in running their businesses—so they don't realize this is the problem.
If you currently have a DIY Squarespace website, or if you're thinking about one as a low-cost solution to building your coaching practice, keep reading so you can get some insights into why it might not be the ideal solution for your business.
The templates can be... misleading
If you already have a Squarespace website, you probably realized this pretty quickly:
The templates do look beautiful at first—because they rely heavily on pre-loaded, designer-selected stock photos that make them look impeccably cool and modern:
Of course, these images are rarely (if ever) appropriate for your coaching business, so they're the first thing to go.
And unless you have a library of your own striking, on-brand images to replace the pre-loaded stock photos with, your website may not be telling the visual story you think it is.
This is one of those tricky cases of you don't know what you don't know.
In other words, without a designer's eye and skill set, you may choose images that you think look just fine... but are you sure they're sending the intended message?
Your ideal website images:
- Meet your people where they currently are, mentally and emotionally
- Communicate feelings they want to feel, that are specific to what you do
- Tell an inspiring, cohesive story about you and your brand
Without these strategic elements, your website imagery won't serve you as well as it's meant to—which means lower engagement with the people who matter.
Your website images should never serve purely as decoration. They're right up there in importance with your messaging, so make 'em count.
There's also the matter of how Squarespace templates format their content: you might be tempted to follow suit with your own content, which can go against your best interests.
For example, the first thing you read in the template pictured above is "Welcome", the company name, and some descriptive text. There's also an "Our Story" button.
It'd be easy to just replace that with your own name and a description of what you do, and replace "Our Story" with "My Story", leading them to your About page... right?
Well, this isn't the ideal way to make your first impression—because your homepage headline and introduction should be all about your ideal client, not about you.
Furthermore, your first call-to-action button should never take them to your About page. Instead, it should serve as a means of generating a high-quality lead.
Following this template's example would be an easy and innocent mistake to make, but it would leave your potential client wondering "What's in it for me?"
And that's something you never want them wondering.
The templates aren't focused on your exact needs
As a coach, you want to guide your people through a website experience consisting of 3 major phases:
- Emotional connection
- Lead generation
- Taking your most wanted action
A Squarespace template isn't necessarily designed with this specific experience in mind, so it's up to you to figure out how to achieve it on your own.
Is your website telling your visitor within seconds that they're in the right place? Is it forging an immediate emotional connection with them, leading them further inward?
Is it quickly intriguing and enticing them to sign up for your mailing list, so you can nurture them into a future client? Is this happening at multiple strategic points across your website?
Is your website also guiding your potential ready-to-be clients in a simple, focused way toward the action you most want them to take—either scheduling a consultation call, or submitting an inquiry/application to work with you?
Most importantly, is your copy doing the heavy lifting in all of the above? Is it creating the ideal mental and emotional connection with your people, keeping them engaged, and inspiring them to take action with concise, outcome-oriented messaging?
The right "experience elements" are crucial to your success — without them, you'll have a website that may look great, but it won't be doing the job it's supposed to do.
And the worst part is, you may never know why (because, blind spots)—I've worked with coaches who thought their marketing campaigns just weren't working, or their services were too expensive, when those things weren't the problem at all...
They just had a website that wasn't doing its job!
You definitely don't want to leave this to chance with a template that you selected mainly because it looked good. Creating a well-structured website experience—one based on a strategic outcome—is super important!
Site speed can be an issue
Squarespace websites rank pretty low in terms of site speed, and a primary reason why is...
See, a professional web designer will optimize images for file size and loading speed manually. But since Squarespace doesn't have a native image optimizer, what ends up happening is people just upload their images at full size—not knowing this results in a website that has to load lots of big image files on every page, sometimes 10-20 times bigger than they need to be, which slows the page loading waaaaay down.
You want to make sure your images—especially large background images—have been optimized for small file size without deteriorating the quality. This will ensure your website isn't loading too slowly.
There's limited support for marketing apps
Squarespace does come with native Mailchimp integration, but for coaches who use a different app to handle their opt-ins and marketing funnels (like MailerLite, ConvertKit, etc), the only solution is to bring a 3rd party app like Zapier into the mix.
Zapier is great for integrating marketing apps into "walled garden" platforms like Squarespace, but it's also a paid service that comes with a technical learning curve. Some apps require code to be manually inserted. Most coaches don't want to deal with this.
A solid email marketing strategy is essential to your coaching business. You want to be sure you can use the marketing app of your choice, without needing to bring additional services, complexity, and costs into the picture.
It can be terrible for your SEO
This is yet another case of you don't know what you don't know.
A good web designer will code your website to follow best-practice SEO (Search Engine Optimization) guidelines, making your website attractive to search engines like Google, and optimizing it for important searches.
But... if you don't realize that your website's headlines should be coded a certain way (rather than just styled in a large font to look like headlines), and that the rest of your pages should follow a specific code hierachy to rank well in search engines, well...
Squarespace won't have your back there.
In fact, Squarespace is infamous among web designers and developers for coding text and image elements all wrong, leading to low search relevancy, and in some cases making your website practically invisible in important searches.
This problem is worse in some templates than others—something you'd have no way of knowing before selecting that particular template. Another blind spot.
More recently, Squarespace has allowed for more manual control over how your website appears in Google results, but this still requires understanding things like "meta descriptions", and knowing the best way to format them.
Again, these are things a good web designer will do automatically for you—and if you're like most other coaches, you have better things to do than staying up-to-speed on the latest SEO best practices.
Which brings up another big problem:
Squarespace's poor SEO performance aside, how much do you know about writing page titles, headlines, and content that help you rank well in Google searches?
You're definitely not alone if you thought "Not very much" or even "Huh??!"
This kind of stuff takes a lot of continual research, learning, and technical skill.
It's an art and a science, and it's ever-changing.
You're already busy perfecting your craft and helping your clients improve their lives—you probably don't have the interest or the bandwidth to add learning SEO to your plate.
Still, this stuff is important if you want organic search traffic, and Squarespace has a long way to go in making it easier.
Here are some other reasons why I don't recommend going DIY with Squarespace:
- You don't own your site, and you can't move it if you want to leave Squarespace
- No live phone or chat support
- Getting your website to look unique will require a lot of customization
- Fine-tuned customization requires knowledge of HTML and CSS
- Customization can easily break things, and Squarespace support won't help you with that
Is Squarespace really that bad?
In experienced hands, a Squarespace website can be a truly great marketing tool.
I know this because I've designed powerful Squarespace websites for clients, and I know other web designers who build all their clients' websites in Squarespace with amazing results.
The key is knowing the areas where Squarespace falls short, and being able to compensate for them. Having good web design and development skills plays a huge role in this.
Knowing precisely how to create a website experience that gets the right people engaged and taking action is essential.
The big choice you have to make
Do you want a website that comes with a smaller price tag and can be set up within a few days, but requires some serious DIY know-how when it comes to implementing solid strategies (website, messaging, and SEO) that get you clients?
And are you OK with handling some tech stuff around integrating your marketing apps, optimizing site speed, and getting your basic SEO right?
If so, then a Squarespace website might be fine for your coaching business.
But if you'd rather hand off the creation of your website to an experienced brand + web designer, so you can spend your time doing what you love—helping your people achieve big goals, and working on your business—then I might be your guy. I don't build in Squarespace, though. I use a much more powerful and robust platform (Wordpress).
A Squarespace website is cheaper upfront. But it can cost you a TON in the long run if it's not working as a powerful marketing and client-converting tool on your behalf.
If a would-be client bounces because your website didn't sell them on your coaching services, how would you know? It's not like they'd tell you.
How much is that lost client costing you? How about 10 lost clients?
Now let's flip it and reverse it—if you were to invest in a professionally-designed website, and it resulted in one new client, how much would that be worth to you?
How about 10 new clients?
I know how to plan, build, and launch a website that makes an emotional connection with your ideal people... one that positions you as just the coach they've been looking for, leading to more awesome, perfect-fit clients.
I can also get you set up with an email marketing system that generates a steady stream of high-quality leads from your new website, nurturing them into future clients... on autopilot.
What could you achieve with a website and marketing system that works this hard for you?
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Hi there! I'm Daniel Wolfsong.
I believe that success begins with a bold vision and a stellar plan.
My clients are visionary coaches: the helpers, the illuminators, the life changers. You're motivated to create a thriving, fulfilling coaching business!
I'm here to help you convert more clients with a stunning website that beams with your personality, powered by a success strategy that's proven to convert.
Ready to have them at hello? Let's team up and make some magic.