If you build it, they do not always come. The novelty of the web has worn off and the fact that your church has a website will not make you unique anymore. So how can you bubble to the top of search engine rankings? I talked about some pro-active measures you can take to get yourself known, however there are plenty of strategic decisions you can make that will give your site the high ranking it rightfully deserves.
What is it?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is how you configure and setup your site so that search engines can easily index it. Then based on a multitude of other factors, it ranks your site for several keywords. These keywords are what people type into the search bar. It is up to you to determine what keywords you want to rank for. A safe bet on keywords most churches want is your church's name, the geographic areas it is located in, and (if applicable) the denomination.
SEO is not something that is slapped on at the last minute. It should be something you think of early on in your website creation (or redesign) process. Your business goals should determine what keywords you are going after. The best way to obtain good ranking is to have those keywords in your actual content. Many "black hat" organizations that claim to get you #1 Google rankings over-stuff your site with those keywords to the point where it’s no longer readable; and eventually has a negative impact if/when Google blocks you. Just be sure you mention those keywords in the right areas. Page titles, headings, and of course your body text; are important places to use your keywords.
Another factor in your rankings is link building. If other sites link to you, it builds your credibility with the search engine; especially if that site has a high ranking itself. This is much like getting a recommendation from a well-respected person in your field. So if you belong to a denomination, please get your site listed on their site as quickly as possible. Additionally, if there are other churches in the area you are associated with, help build each other’s reputation and exchange links.
Link building does not have to be 100% external. If you have related content, do not be afraid to link to it. If you are talking about your church’s choir in a news release, be sure to provide an inline link to your church choir section / page. Search engine robots pay attention to the text used in the link. So when you create the hyperlink, avoid using generic text:
- Bad: “For more information about our church choir, click here.” (generally seen at the end of the paragraph)
- Better: “Visit our church choir page for more information.” (also seen at the end of the paragraph)
- Best: “Last week the Your Church Name choir was featured on the local news…” (an in-line link with good keyword saturation)
You will notice that I do this in my articles. If I think there is relevant content that would help a reader, I am sure to include it in-line with your reading. So not only am I (hopefully) helping my readers, but I am building my own internal linking structure and keyword density.
First, consider your approach to SEO from a strategic perspective. Determine the keywords you wish to capture, and develop a site structure and content that you will need. Once you get your site up and running, start both internal and external link building campaigns. Check your analytics to ensure you are capturing those keywords, and pray for guidance in moving further with any tweaks and revisions.
Photo courtesy of Svilen Milev