Church Search Engine Optimization
Can Visitors Find Your Church Website?
The #1 most important part of our 10 Commandments of Church Website Ministry, is for your church website to be FOUND by VISITORS. In order to be proactive in ensuring your church website WILL be found, you must perform Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on every page in your site. This article offers 12 Tips for doing SEO for your church website.
What is Church Search Engine Optimization
Church search engine optimization – what is it? It is WHAT ENABLES VISITORS TO FIND YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE! It is changes made to your church website to make it easy for visitors to find it when they search using Google or any of the other lesser search engines. Today Google is where 75-90% of all search traffic comes from.
If someone searches on “your city name churches”, does your church website come up on the first page? If it does – wonderful, but is it first? According to a Cornell University study, users will click on the first search result presented by Google about 56% of the time! The number two search result only gets 13% of the clicks!
Let’s say you were moving to a new city… one of the most important things about moving to a new community might be to find a church for you and your family. How would you start? Well, you would most likely fire up your favorite search engine and search that town/city/community for a church, wouldn’t you? Well, that is exactly how people look for Churches these days! If your church is not showing up on the first page of the search results, people will NEVER find your church website! If it is not in the top 2, then they still may never actually visit your church website.
Now let’s understand why church search engine optimization is so important. You see, the search engines send their computer “robots” to “crawl” all over every website on the planet and then try to determine what your website is about. In order to determine what it is about, the search engines analyze the text on the page, any images, links, the page name, and a myriad of other factors. In order for your church website to be found, it often must be optimized so that the search engines can say “oh, this is a church website about a church in “your city“. So now, when someone searches for a church in “your city“, the search engines may indeed bring up your church!
Also, what about the when someone searches for a church in a surrounding town, or neighborhood or subdivision? Do you show up?
And of course this is only the beginning and doesn’t even address when people might be searching for answers to “life’s problems” – but we address that in Commandment #8 – Thou shall be connected and relevant.
Different people will use different keywords to find your church and that is why is important to have plenty of content on your church website and make sure every page is optimized for those different keywords they might use.
Benefits of Church Website Search Engine Optimization
This is powerful stuff! Once your site is fully optimized it may help:
- increase the number of first time visitors to your church
- force your church to plan for new visitors and how to welcome them in person
- increase visibility of your church in the community
- due to the planning necessary, it will help organize the site better for humans
- will give you great ideas on new content to add to the site
- will get you thinking more about what non-churched or un-churched people NEED
- will help turn your church website into a living ministry, rather than just a billboard
- as you are managing your SEO the data will TELL you exactly what content people are looking for
12 Tips for Church Website Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Our mission at ChurchBuzz is to help all churches do better SEO for their church web sites so that visitors will be able to find them, they might find a new church home, and we can all work together to bring God’s Grace to your community! Anyway here are the most basic tips you NEED to know for church SEO:
- Measure Traffic – Use Google Analytics (FREE) to begin measuring your traffic NOW, so you can determine any effects on traffic your SEO work is accomplishing.
- Register with Search Engines – Register your domain with Google Webmaster, Yahoo Site Explorer and Bing Webmaster Tools – the search engines will give you insight as to what pages they are indexing, problems they are encountering, etc – critical!
- SEO Plan – Develop a plan, documenting the major target keyword phrase for every page on your site and what optimizations you will make. Use ChurchBuzz SEO tools to help!
- Title Tags – Make sure that every page has a UNIQUE title tag and that the title accurately reflects what the page is about. You may want this to be the same as the H1 tag mentioned below. The major keyword phrase should be the very first thing in title and H1 tag.
- Meta “description” tag – This is what a user will see when your search result shows up in the Search Engines Results – if you don’t configure this, Google will take the first part of text on the page and you might be surprised as to what shows up!
- Meta “keywords” tag – not as important as it used to be, but we still configure this for any search engines that might use it, but also to give us a documented point of reference to remind us what this page is about.
- H1, H2 tags – Setup one and only one H1 tag and then H2, H3 tags as needed to subdivide the content on the page.
- Page Content – mention the keyword phrase within the content several times, look for opportunities to bold the keyword phrase and other supporting phrases.
- Sitemap.xml – make sure you create this and keep it up to date with any new pages you add to the site. Having this done automatically for you by your content management system is the best way to go.
- Internal links – make sure that links that point to the page are descriptive and contain the keyword phrase – rather than “schedule”, “church worship schedule” might be better for example.
- External links – when others link to your pages – (these are also called backlinks or inbound links) make sure they use appropriate keyword phrases in those links as well. The search engines love plenty of links to your site!
- Google Places / Yahoo Local / Bing Local – make sure to register your church with at least these to “Local” databases – this will make sure you can control what comes up when the search engines display “local results” with a map on the search results page.
This is a quick summary… to go into any depth of detail on these items would turn this article into a book! There is lots more to do and know in order to completely perform church search engine optimization (and it changes each month because the search engines change), that is why we want to help churches manage all this technology – so that your team can focus on its mission to make disciples rather than managing websites!
Contact me directly if you would like help or more tips on church SEO – we would be glad to help you!
Wishing you God’s Peace, Joy and Love!
1 John 4:16b – God is Love!