Simple Steps to Take to Get Discovered Online
Every week, people in your area search for a community of faith to visit. Will they visit yours? Only if you take the necessary steps to ensure it will be found. Here are the key SEO (Search Engine Optimization) steps you need to take right after launching your new website or if SEO hasn’t been on your to-do list. Plan on spending at least two hours to get through these introductory steps, by the way, in order to cover the essentials.
Submit Your Church Website to Google
Every day, search engines crawl the web in order to index millions of web pages. Eventually your church’s site is likely to be discovered by Google (and other search engines) without you doing a thing. However, you will speed up the indexing process bysubmitting your site to Google.
If you don’t update your website regularly, you may re-submit your site when you do make changes. This keeps Google up-to-date about your site and ensures it has been accurately indexed. Once you’ve submitted your site to Google, go ahead and submit it to Bing too.
Select Your Keywords and Tweak Your Site Content
When people search for a church in your area, it’s possible they could search for any number of terms.
- Some might type in the name of your church, if they know it.
- Some might simply type a phrase like [your town name] followed by the word “church.”
- Some may search for descriptive terms, such as “family friendly church,” “LGBTQ church,” or “church youth group.”
- Some may search for location-based terms, such as “[denomination] church near me.”
These short terms and phrases are keywords, and they need to appear in your site’s content. Ideally, they will be some of the more common words you use in your headings and text, as they help search engines to know what your website is all about. As Google and other search engines crawl your website, they use those keywords to help determine your site’s ranking in comparison to other similar sites.
If you are unsure about the words or phrases people have used in the past to find your church, ask some of your most recent guests and members what they searched for in order to find you. To go deeper, though, you’ll need to use a tool called Google Keyword Planner, which requires that you first have created an Adwords account.
With Keyword Planner, you can get ideas about the terms people search for so that you can add these relevant keywords to the content in your church website.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some other examples of keywords people may be searching for that might lead them to your church, depending on your ministries. Any of these would be good to check in Google Keyword Planner for your community:
A warning: use these keywords naturally, or Google may penalize you for trying to game the system. In other words, don’t try to fill a post with these phrases or put a section filled with keywords at the bottom of your post.
Create Links Between Your Church Website and Social Media Presence
A general SEO rule of thumb to remember is that you want to have as many external links pointing to your website as possible. (Internal = your church website. External = any other website.) Hopefully, your church is already using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media sites to share information. These are terrific places to post updates when you make changes to your church website, such as adding a blog post. Search engines visit these pages regularly, so this can help your changes become indexed more quickly. Be sure your profile pages also have at least your church’s website address included in the settings.
Get Listed in Online Directories
If someone is searching for your church, there’s a high likelihood that they are from your area. So, be sure you are listed in any local directories. For example, your Chamber of Commerce or the town itself will likely have a local business directory. Find others by searching for “[town name” directory” or “[town name] businesses”. Also, just ask your members and friends what local websites they frequent.
There are also many online directories that specialize in churches and other faith communities, some generic and some specific to one denomination. For example, here’s the United Methodist directory, and here’s one popular general church directory. Some of these websites will offer free listings, while others offer both free and upgraded, paid versions. In general, don’t bother paying for these listings unless you are clear from your research that they have been beneficial in driving traffic to your website.
Your Next Steps
The tasks above will absolutely ensure that your church gets indexed by search engines, but they won’t guarantee you’ll always be at the top of the list. That takes a combination of creating great content people want to read, sharing your content regularly, keeping your site updated with appropriate keywords and up-to-date plugins, and much more. (We’ll do more posts on these topics in the future.)
Because all of this can be time-consuming, your most important next step is to enlist the help of others on your staff and in your congregation. Get everyone committed to making your church website the best it can be, and you’ll soon see your rankings rise!