Church Website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is more important today that it ever has been. It is the way we learn about just about everything. Need a plumber? Google it. Want to know if a restaurant is any good? Ask Siri. This is how we make decisions.
The bigger the decision, the more likely someone is to start with an online search. If people are unwilling to go to a restaurant before they check out the reviews online, they are certainly going to do several searches before they buy a car, or a new home.
And one of the biggest (and best) decisions anyone will make in their life is to get involved with a local church. If we believe that to be the case, it is naive for us to ignore the place where people are making their first encounter with our churches. For most people their very first impression is happening on a search engine.
Church Website SEO Tip #1 – Start A Blog
Starting a church blog is probably the best thing you can do to improve your search rankings. There is a saying in the industry: “Content is King.” This is as true today as it has ever been.
Churches are notorious for using the Ronco Rotisserie method of managing their church website. They just set it and forget it. You can have the nicest looking website, but if you don’t create new content for it regularly, search engines will assume that not much is happening at your organization. You will start to see your search engine rankings decline.
A blog is the perfect place to communicate with your church and it has the added benefit of being full of the one thing that search engines love the most – Text. Pictures and video or important too, but we need to remember that search engines can only index the text they find on your site.
Now before you start a blog make sure you count the cost. The only thing worse than not having a blog on your site is having a blog that only gets updated every 14 months. One thing I know about pastors is that we are busy people. So make sure you come up with a plan before you jump in head first.
Consider building a church blog team. This can be your church staff, or anybody you trust to write on things that are important to the people of your church.
As far as what platform to use, we strongly encourage you to use WordPress. It is flexible, easy to use, and the most search engine friendly platform bar none.
Church Website SEO Tip #2 – Use Social Media
Your church is already using social media. Please don’t tell me you aren’t. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are fantastic tools for communicating with your church as well as your community at large. If you are not using these channels you need to start today.
In addition to being a fantastic tool for communication, as of 2014 Google started putting a lot of weight on social media presence in its ranking algorithm. The logic is simple. If an organization has a lot of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and there is a lot of content being created there, they probably are an important player in that industry. Thus they should be given a higher rank. If you are ignoring your social media accounts you are lowering your search engine rankings when people look for churches.
Also, don’t forget the other sites out there that aren’t your traditional social media channels. Yelp is a very important directory with social components. It plays a big part in googles search rankings. I know it’s weird to have people rank your church on Yelp, but getting on there and registering with Yelp can make a big impact.
When I started doing web development for churches, using video on your website was only something that mega churches could afford to do. For small and medium sized churches the equipment alone made filming services cost prohibitive.
Today, it is easier and more affordable than ever to create video and it costs you nothing to have it online. Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have made video easy to put online and share with friends.
Search engines love video content. Like social media, videos with a lot of views indicate they are from an organization with a large online presence. This gives you a better search engine ranking.
The obvious place to start for churches is filming your services, but don’t think that is the only kind of video you can make. Welcome videos, testimony videos and promo videos all can make an enormous impact. Maybe even consider doing a video devotional. Remember we are in a time where people value authenticity just as much as slick production value. Sometimes a pastor sharing from his heart at a desk can make a big impact.
Church Website SEO Tip #4 – Get Google Ad Grants
This last one isn’t technically an SEO tip but falls under SEM (Search Engine Marketing). When you do a search, usually the first few links on the top and a few on the sides are paid advertisements. Many people are unaware that Google’s primary business is in advertising. They make over a billion dollars each month selling those ads you see on the side of your searches.
For most churches paying for those ads is not an option. Thankfully, Google offers Ad grants to nonprofits in order to help them get onto their search engines and be a force for good. Churches are eligible and the opportunity is huge. Google gives churches $10,000 each month in free advertising on their search engines. Yes I said $10,000 each month. No, I am not kidding.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say it would be an act of poor stewardship to know about this and not to take advantage of this opportunity. There are a few hoops to jump through as there are with any grant, but once you get through it the rewards are amazing. At REACHRIGHT we offer plans to help churches manage their google ad grants, or you can go it alone.
At my church – Journey Church Madison – We nearly tripled our website visits when we started taking advantage of the grant. That translated into a huge uptick in visitors. We even saw searchers get onto our website and make donations to some of our local missions initiatives without ever stepping foot in our church.
You need to get a grant. Today! We can show you where to start.
What do you think? Did we miss any church website SEO strategies that you have worked for you?