If you have spent any time researching how to have an effective website, you’ve probably come across the term SEO. It stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the key to having your site show up in search results on Google, Bing, or other search engines.
SEO is a huge topic, and it’s easy to find tons of advice – both good and bad – on how to optimize your website. Some of the many factors (over 200 in Google’s constantly changing algorithm) that a search engine looks at when ranking results for any given search are the frequency of keywords in the site, page titles, the domain name’s age, the number and quality of links pointing to the site, and many more factors. SEO is a huge topic.
Fortunately, for church websites, SEO is pretty simple. The goal isn’t to stand out in a hugely crowded competitive field to sell a product, the goal is just to be in the first few results when someone searches for a church in your city.
In fact, if you have a church website, there’s one very simple step you can take to improve its SEO. Search engines find websites through links from other sites, so make sure your denomination’s congregational directory includes a link to your church’s website.
For instance, if your church is part of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), there’s a Find a Congregation link prominently displayed at the top of every single page of ELCA.org. Pretty much every denomination has a similar page.
These denominational websites tend to be considered very reputable by search engines, so links from them carry a substantial amount of weight, helping your congregation’s site show up in search results. In addition, people of your denomination searching for a church are quite likely to start at the denomination’s congregational directory, so it’s important to keep the information in the directory up to date.
If you are part of the ELCA, be sure to update your church’s photo in their directory.
In my survey of the 60 Lutheran churches closest to my hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, 11 of the 60 churches had outdated or incorrect information on the ELCA’s page, so even if you do have information in your denominational directory, check to make sure it’s correct.
If your church is a member of other associations, like the Willow Creek Association, the Alliance of Renewal Churches, or similar groups, they may have directories as well. It’s also a good idea to submit your church’s information to other church directories, and there’s a helpful list compiled at churchseo.org.
Once people makes it to your church website, what do they find? Check out this post on the 3 things every church website needs.