If you’ve got a church website, it probably exists for two reasons. First, to let present church attendees know what is happening with updates about the next services, upcoming events, and so on. Second, to attract new visitors to the church and get them through the door.
What you may not have considered is using SEO to boost the number of people who can discover you via your website.
What is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimization, and it is a method of preparing your website in such a way that your search ranking improves – this means instead of coming up 50th in the search results, you appear closer to position 1.
Why is this important? In most case, people won’t scroll past the first page to find what they are looking for, so a top 10 (preferably top 5) spot is desirable. Plus, many of the optimization requirements just make life better for people who use your site, so it’s worth doing anyway!
How can I optimize my church website?
SEO for churches can be split into two section – on-site and off-site factors. Off-site factors include things like social media presence and links to your site from other places. There’s very little you can control with this, so as long as your social media is up and running, you’ve claimed your church on Google My Business, and you’re providing a good enough service to get good reviews, you should be good to go.
On-site factors are within your control. It’s a good idea to ensure your site is optimized for keywords, but we’ll come to that in a moment – here are some priorities for SEO for churches:
- Make sure your site loads quickly. Slow loading can be down to your hosting company, graphics-intensive themes or layouts, using videos in the page, using super-huge images that are scaled-down, etc. If you’re on the techy side, you might want to look at using caching or a content distribution network – Cloudflare is a good place to start
- Write all the content in good, clear English. Search engines are using AI more commonly to try to understand what your site is about, so make it easy for them!
- Check for any broken links
- Include ALT text for images to help people who use screen readers
- Make sure every page has at least 300 words. Anything shorter may be disregarded by the search engines as unimportant
- Make your menus easy to navigate. Your user interface experience is likely to become more and more important
- Make the site work on mobile devices. Worry about desktops later – mobile-first is the most appropriate strategy in the modern era
- Include links where appropriate, to other pages within your site and to external sites where relevant
SEO for Churches – Keywords
Keywords and key phrases are the words that people type into the search engines which you want to be found for. Including them within your content helps your site to be found.
In the good (bad?) old days, you just needed to crowbar the phrase in as many times as possible. So if you had a church in Bolton, you just said “church in Bolton” in every other sentence. Nowadays, search engines as wise to this practice, and “keyword stuffing” is dissuaded. You won’t get penalised for it per se, but you are likely to rank better if you just include keywords naturally within the content.
With or without proper keyword research, it’s beneficial to brainstorm ideas for things that people may search for. Put yourself in the mind of the searcher – don’t use overly churchy terms, and give it some real thought. Ask other people to give you ideas, as you can get locked into a certain way of thinking…that nobody outside of your church would ever use.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you use “season” instead of “a period of time” or “platform” instead of “stage”, you’re not in tune with what everyone else is thinking. In the world not of it for sure, but you can’t reach people outside of church if you don’t write in a way that appeals to them.
Get Your SEO for Churches Right!
Above all, monitor your site statistics. Keep track of visitors and how they find you, plus check which pages they visit. You can use Google Analytics or other similar products, but what gets measured gets managed. If you don’t know how your site is performing, how will you know if you’ve improved it?
Regular monitoring, changing and adapting as needed – this is the role of the church and church websites in the 2020s.