Fact: People are using Google for every little decision they make in life.
We Google restaurants, transportation schedules, dry cleaners, and tree trimmers. Just this week I entered this three word phrase into a google search box: Best Hair Comb. As embarrassing as that is, it illustrates the fact that people search for literally everything you can imagine.
Churches need to start taking this to heart.
For centuries churches have understood that visibility was important. This is why churches were built with spires or crosses that rose above all the other buildings in town. It made the church and it’s mission visible for everyone to see.
Today we live in a time that is easier than ever to gain visibility, but sadly many of our churches stick with what worked 20 years ago and are missing an enormous opportunity. That opportunity is through internet search.
While search providers keep the exact formulas a secret in order to prevent people from gaming the system, there are things we do know about how to improve your visibility on search engines. Here are 3 things you can do to start showing up online today.
Get a Google Grant
While there is no sure fire way to ensure you will come up on the first page of Google (anyone who says differently is lying to your face) this is the closest that you will get. Google makes most of its money by selling advertising. The only way to ensure that you will come up on a google search is to pay for a spot at the top, bottom or right hand column of a search.
And these ads can be very expensive. Depending on the competitiveness of the market you can pay anywhere from a few cents to over $50 dollars for just a click onto your websites.
But for churches and all other non profits google offers a grant that gives $10,000 (not a typo) each month (also not a typo) to be spent on advertising on its search engines. There is an application process but almost every church qualifies if they go through it.
If you are looking for a way to reach people and not taking advantage of this program, you need to do so today.
The average church will pay just under $2 per click on a paid ad in google search. That means over 5000 visitors to your church website each month. If you can convert just 1% of them into visitors to your church…. that would mean 50 visitors this month.
Would 600 new visitors to your church this year make an impact on your ministry… my guess is it would.
If you are looking for better organic (non-paid) search results the one tried and true method to make that happen is creating great content. Chances are you are doing this all ready.
When we talk about content most people think this means they have to start a blog and they need to add one more thing to their all ready busy schedule just for the chance of doing a little better on search engines.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
In the church we create content every single week. Some us do this multiple times. We call them sermons.
Each week Pastors spend anywhere from 2 to 20 hours praying, preparing and writing sermons. Instead of creating new content, a great start would be just taking the content you are all ready working hard to make and turning it into content for the web.
For some churches that means providing message transcripts of the message, for others its bullet points. For others it is a few highlights and some community questions.
No matter what you have, you need to find a way to get your sermons online in both a media and text form, and not let that resource got to waste.
Use The Word “Church”
Over the past three decades there was a move away from using the word church in the names of our churches. It was much more trendy to be known as a community, or a fellowship, or a family.
While we didn’t know it at the time, in an attempt to make ourselves more appealing we have made ourselves less visible online.
When people are looking for a church to be a part of, they don’t go online searching for “fellowships” in their city. That is more likely to be someone looking for a Lord of the Rings LARPing group to join.
They go online and search for “Church in Atlanta” or “Des Moines Churches”.
Let me be clear, there is no value to key word stuffing. Don’t use the word church 45 times on every page. Make sure that your content readable, and use your key word a few times. As a general rule you want to use the word church between 1%-2% of yrou total word count. So if you have 200 words of content, using the word church 3 times would be appropriate.
If you do this you will have a reasonable shot at appearing toward the top of the pile when people are looking for a church.
These are just 3 of the things you can do to help improve your online visibility.
Has your church done anything else to make yourselves visible online? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.