Google has long been people’s guide for navigating the internet. But because the internet is a vast place, it’s difficult to crack your way into Google’s search results. Your church wants to be found by people, but so does everyone else. It’s increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowd.
So how does your church crack the search engine code to get discovered online? The answer is as simple and as complicated as SEO. That’s likely an acronym you’ve heard frequently, but perhaps know nothing about. So what is SEO and why is it important to your church?
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the ever-changing art of being discovered online. Like its name suggests, it is the practice of optimizing your website to be found through search engines.
Search engine companies like Google keep their proprietary search algorithms a secret—and for good reason. If we completely understood how the rankings worked, they’d be easily manipulated. And for years, marketers have found ways to hack search results to their own advantage.
Luckily for users, Google and others have gotten more sophisticated and better at cracking down on these unsavory practices. Ultimately, if you want to show up in specific search results, your best bet is to create valuable online content that’s relevant to what’s being searched.
The benefits of SEO at your church
Increase your website traffic
You already know the primary reason for implementing better SEO practices at your church—because you want your website to be found online. And creating content that’s optimized for search engines like Google certainly can help increase your website traffic.
Get more relevant web visitors
There’s another layer to this as well. You don’t just want more people coming to your church’s website, you want the right people coming to your church’s website. Google has made its business on delivering people relevant search results. So your aim is to figure out who should come to your website and what they should do when they get there.
Have a more user-friendly site
Focusing some time and effort on SEO best practices forces you to consider these things and make your website better. As you optimize your site to be found by search engines, you’ll end up creating a better user experience for the people who land there. Which increases the likelihood that they’ll actually do something after visiting your website—like actually visiting your church building.
5 ways to improve your church’s SEO
By now, you hopefully have a better understanding of the basics of what SEO is and why it’s relevant to your church. And now you’re ready to do something about it—but what? What practical steps can you implement on your website to be search engine optimized? Ask and you shall receive.
1. Update your website regularly
Making sure that your website is updated regularly is crucial to showing up higher in search results. Google wants to send people to websites that have updated content and they know how to check for it. They also check for important things like site security and web accessibility.
Take some simple steps like adding an SSL certificate, keeping all of your plugins updated, and adding alt-text to all of your images. These will keep your site running more smoothly and ensure that visitors have a good experience when they arrive.
2. Post new content to your site
One of the simplest ways to increase the likelihood of showing up on Google is by adding new content regularly. That could mean blogging, adding new events to your online calendar, or posting sermon notes and videos to the site.
Every new post and page is a new chance for your website to rank for keywords and search terms. Keep in mind, sheer quantity isn’t a recipe for success. Focusing on the quality of the content—making sure it’s relevant to your online visitors—is more important for SEO.
3. Identify your keywords
What words and phrases do you want your website showing up for? There’s next to no chance of your local church’s website showing up near the top when someone Googles ‘church’ or ‘Jesus.’ But you’ve got a better chance if they’re more specific by searching for ‘church near me.’
It’s less likely for you to appear in those search results if you aren’t intentional about it. If you’re not sure what people should be searching for, neither will they. So start by making a list of 30-40 relevant keywords and phrases for your church. These could be different combinations of things and should be more long-tail and specific, rather than short and general.
Once you’ve got a list together, you can start adding those keywords to your pages and posts. Try to focus a specific page around 2-3 keywords. Do a search for those terms and see what other pages show up in the posts. Try to borrow ideas on what they’re doing well.
4. Make sure your site performs well
As previously mentioned, website performance matters to search engines. Google doesn’t want to send its users to a broken or slow site. So they won’t send people your way if your website isn’t working. Take some time to do a technical audit and clean up.
- Check your website for broken links.
- Test your website’s speed.
- If you’re a bit slow, try minimizing any large images or files.
- Do a general check with these tools from Catchpoint and Hubspot.
- Run a test on your site’s accessibility.
There are plenty of other free online review and audit tools out there. It’s even better if you can find a knowledgeable website developer who can also help you take care of any issues you might have.
5. Get other sites to link to yours
One element of Google’s secret sauce that people often forget about is backlinks. A backlink is any time that another website links to yours. To Google, this is a vote of confidence that your content is high quality. Lots of backlinks means lots of people trust you. No backlinks means you’re unknown.
Spend some time seeing if you can get other reputable websites to link to your page. That could mean a link from your denomination’s website or adding your URL to your social media channels. If you help support a local nonprofit, ask them if they wouldn’t mind linking to your page from a partners or sponsors page. You can also join local groups like the chamber of commerce for a backlink in their member’s section.
There’s no perfect way to secure these backlinks, but all of the small efforts gradually add up over time. This is a strategy to be aware of and work on incrementally as you can.
What are your biggest challenges with website SEO?