Let’s start this article by stating that Squarespace is a great website-building plaftorm... for certain businesses.
My girlfriend was looking for a portfolio site for her photography styling work, and even as a Shopify expert, I recommended Squarespace and we built the site together. It was a pleasant experience overall and the outcome was a beautiful templated design with only a few hours of work. So for service based businesses from graphic designer to lawyer, we’ve steered friends towards squarespace for its ease of use, efficiency, and cost.
For eCommerce, however, we always recommend using Shopify. Squarespace is not a bad place to start for companies with a smaller product offering, but sooner or later you will run into limitations when trying to grow your business. If you already have a Squarespace store and are looking to move over to Shopify, this is called a migration. Also, if you are looking to migrate, this blog is written precisely for you.
First, let’s look at a few advantages of Shopify over Squarespace for eCommerce in particular. We wrote an exhaustive list in this previous blog post but we'll summarize below.
Shopify was built for eCommerce from the ground up. Squarespace was started as a general website building platform, and added ecommerce later on to solve for a customer need.
The third party app store on Shopify is filled with useful software that can extend features and help optimize your store. Apps can increase sales, solve complicated fulfillment issues, or tweak the design of your site just to name a few. Squarespace has some basic integration, but simply doesn’t have as robust an ecosystem for third party apps as Shopify.
With liquid code, you can add almost any customization to your Shopify store. You can use a theme from the Shopify theme store, customize that template, or make a completely custom website that nobody else has. The possibilities are endless with Shopify, and you can even hire a certified Shopify Expert to help you accomplish your goals. Squarespace is targeted more for the non-developer and it can be difficult and limiting to customize your front and back-end.
Shopify integrates seamlessly with your Google tracking ID and Facebook pixel, making it the clear choice for larger stores that have an advertising budget, as well as smaller stores that want to be setup for future marketing efforts. It’s also never been easier to run marketing campaigns without the help of an agency with Shopify’s built-in marketing channels.
Shopify has over 100 different payment gateways. Squarespace only has a couple. Also, Shopify recently added dynamic checkout buttons that allow you to accept Google pay, Apple pay, and Paypal right on your product pages.
We’ll talk more about this topic later on, but Shopify was built carefully with SEO at top-of-mind. Shopify automatically implements some SEO basics right on the product listing, with more options easily accessible. Shopify has a leg up on Squarespace with URL mapping and 301 redirects that will prevent search engines from crawling the wrong pages
I. Exporting Your Products
First, you’ll want to export your data from Squarespace. You can and should keep your Squarespace site live while completing this step.
- In the Home Menu , click Settings.
- Click Advanced, and then click Import/Export.
- Click Export.
- Select Products from the Export Site menu.
- Click Download. Your products will download as a products.csv file.
More info here
II. Exporting Your Content
Next, you’ll want to export the content from your website including blogs, text and image blocks, and pages. For a full list of what will and won’t export, just visit here.
- In the Home Menu on Squarespace, click Settings.
- Click Advanced, and then click Import / Export.
- Click Export.
- Click the WordPress icon. Note: Click this icon even though you are going from Squarespace to Shopify, not Wordpress.
- If you have more than one Blog Page on your site, a “Select Primary Blog” message will appear. Only one Blog Page can be exported.
- Select a Primary Blog from the drop-down menu, and then click Export.
- Wait for the export to process. This may take a few minutes depending on the amount of content on your site.
- Download the exported file
- When the export is complete, a Download option will appear. Click Download to save the .xml file to your computer, or click Clear to erase the export.
III. Starting A Development Store on Shopify
Now that you’ve gotten information out of Squarespace, the next step in migrating is to sign up for Shopify and start a staging site known as a development store. You can prepare everything for your new website here so once you’re ready to flick the switch and go live you’ll know exactly how the site will look and work.
You can follow this link to sign up for a 14-day trial. If you need more time than that, a Shopify Expert can give you access to a development store with no expiration date. If you sign up for the trial, please be aware that you’ll be charged with Shopify plan fees after 14 days, and it could take longer to complete depending on the complexity of the migration.
This is what your new Shopify backend will look like.
Once you’ve got your development store started, take some time to run through all of the settings information and set it up properly.
IV. Importing Your Products to Shopify
In Step 1, you exported your products to a .csv file from within Squarespace. Because the two platforms are direct competitors, it’s not exactly easy to import your .csv file into Shopify. There are multiple ways to get your products migrated, whether it’s through an automated service offered on the app store, or manually entering small product catalogs.
Here is a video showing how to import your Squarespace .csv product file into Shopify.
If you have a large product catalog or have difficulty importing, we recommend using an app called Excelify to automate your import process.
V. Importing Your Content to Shopify
You’ve exported your XML file containing your blogs and content from Squarespace from step 2, now you can import those into Shopify. We recommend using the Excelify app to ease along this process. First you need to convert your XML file into a CSV, you can use an online tool like this one.
Follow this video to import your blog posts and content from your CSV file (I started it in the right spot since you are not importing from Wordpress):
VI. Choosing a Theme
Now that you have all of your content uploaded to your new site, you can pick a theme and start to preview how the information will appear. Definitely checkout the Turbo Theme as your first option. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the themes on the Shopify Theme Store, but comes packed with features that you might have to pay extra down the line to add.
Information on how to download a theme and install it can be found here.
VII. Switching the Domain
The last steps you need to follow before closing down your Squarespace site involve making sure traffic goes to the new store and nobody gets lost along the way. Once your products and content are imported, theme is customized, and all Shopify settings are in place, you can change your domain settings.
I suggest following this guide step by step to achieve your domain switch. You’ll need to access your hosting and domain settings. Keep in mind it can take up to 48 hours for domains to point to Shopify properly. It’s a good idea to keep your Squarespace store open until you’ve confirmed that all traffic is pointed to the new site. One last warning is that if you purchased your domain through Squarespace, you need to wait at least 60 days before you can transfer it to Shopify. If you need help unlocking a domain from Squarespace, you can follow this guide.
VIII. SEO Considerations
If you are moving from a Squarespace store that has a significant amount of traffic and sales, you’ll want to make sure you address all your old URLs and product links so you can retain your SEO rankings.
Below is a detailed overview of how you need to address ‘301 redirects’ with your store and also other considerations. Be aware that there will be a drop in your SEO for a few weeks but it should recover for the most part if you follow all of these steps.
What is a 404?
An error message displayed by a browser indicating that an Internet address cannot be found. Google hates these and gives you a bad score.
What is a 301?
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. These pass through most of the Google ranking system, which is designed to ensure traffic is going to the correct location.
What is forwarding?
www.old-store.com/ -> www.new-store.com/
This only changes the stuff after www. and before /
If you are keeping the same store url, you don’t need to address forwarding, just 301 redirects from any relevant links.
What is a redirect?
www.old-url.com/red-hats.html -> www.new-url.com/shop/collections/red-hats
Here you can take products and pages from your old site and redirect them to any url you’d like on your new site.
Here are some instructions on how to handle your redirects:
- Backup everything! Just because.
- Go find your sitemap on Squarespace using this guide.
- Convert it to a CSV (http://www.convertcsv.com/xml-to-csv.htm) & download
- Upload the file to Google Sheets (for safe keeping)
- Create the SEO redirects. This is how you do it on Shopify (https://www.useloom.com/share/168ad12dc4fd4646856c82da6e25d967)
- You have 3 courses of action:
- Forward it to the same page on the new site, i.e About Page to About Page, Red Shirt to Red Shirt
- Combine it with another page. This is just like forwarding it to the same page, but maybe you combined your About Us and Contact Page, or you no longer have Hoodies but you still have Sweaters. Just send it to the most similar page.
- Send it to the homepage. Do not ignore it or else it will give a 404 error. As we stated, Google hates 404s and it will negatively impact your SEO ranking.
Below are a few extra steps to consider if you are migrating your store to Shopify:
- Verify New Site With Google Search Console (HTTP & HTTPS) using this guide.
- Submit a change of address in Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT)
- Change all internal links
- If you migrated any pages automatically, some internal links might be pointed at the wrong place. Update them.
- Edit Google Analytics settings and add annotation(s)
- In both your property and view settings in Google Analytics, you should change the domain name to your new domain (in the field for default URL).
- Also, you should add an annotation in your Google Analytics views with a note about changing domain names on the specific date you switched.
IX. In Summary
Squarespace is a fantastic platform for artist portfolios and professional services, and has beautiful, easy to use templates. For ecommerce however, Shopify might be the best option on the market for most brands. Hopefully this step by step guide to moving your business over from Squarespace to Shopify was helpful. If you find yourself migrating and have any trouble along the way, feel free to drop us a line for further explanation.