Getting your church to the top of Google’s ranking is no easy feat. It’s a competitive world out there, even amongst churches and the faithful, and finding the right tools to get your message out to the massive online audience can be intimidating.
That’s where SEO can make a huge difference. In our first post on this subject, we discussed how your words can have a major influence on getting Google to notice you and raise your profile. Now, we’ll look at how you can connect your church to the rest of the world.
1. Keep it quick
One of the most important things, in Google’s opinion, is how fast and responsive your site is. And that makes a lot of sense. How often have you clicked a link and grown frustrated waiting for the page to open? If you do that, and every other user does that, imagine how frustrated Google must get with that extra half-second it takes to reach your information.
This point goes well-beyond just SEO. This is just basic online courtesy.
Think of it like this: if your church has greeters at the door on Sunday who hold the doors and welcome people in, how do you think a prospective new congregant would feel if it takes forever to get a greeter’s attention and get the door opened to enter. Would that person wait around or would they decide this church really isn’t for them?
Basically, if you want others to come to your church, and if you want Google to help you, you have to show some speediness in holding their interest. Take the time to time your site and make sure everything is loading with consistent blazing speed. Google prizes this so highly, it has revealed publicly that this is an important factor in its ranking system. (Google keeps most of its criteria and how heavily they are weighted secret, so this is a pretty big deal.) It has also, very helpfully, provided a site that can tell you how your site is doing and what you can do to improve.
2. Link link link
Google loves links. Connecting content makes its job easier and creates a more cohesive experience for those searching through topics. But while most links are good so far as Google is concerned, there is a differentiation to be made in just how worthwhile each link is considered.
Internal links are links made to your own content on your site. These are less weighty than external links that lead to and from other sites, but they still serve the purpose of getting more eyes on your past posts. The more your site gets browsed and the longer users spend on it, the more Google will be willing to raise your site up the rankings. These internal links also integrate your material that merges your ideas and identity into a whole. Feel free to link within your articles to posts about your church’s credo or previous posts that connect to the topic at hand. You’d be surprised how many people will click to learn a little more about what you’re about.
But external links are where your Google ranking can really start taking off. That’s because Google has become very interested in what it calls “authority,” a somewhat ambiguous concept attached to sites that people trust and frequent. Authoritative sites tend to be the major news outlets, government sites, educational sites, and similar prestigious institutions.
To really get Google’s notice, you would need one of these sites to link back to you, thus lending you some of that precious authority. But peppering your pages with authoritative links does show to Google that you consult trusted sources and present accurate information, which is a major concern for the search engine.
A word of warning, though: just as with keywords in the last post, overusing links can get your posts labeled spam. With every link, make sure it is germane to the current topic and that the link actually works. And don’t start buying links from other sites. Google has become very good at sniffing out which links are authentic and which are bought.
One way to get genuine links can be through guest posts from another authority in the field. Have a fellow pastor from another church write a few posts and then share links between the two sites. Creating such connections will bring more visitors to your site and strengthen your own authority in the field.
3. Share everything
Perhaps this goes without saying, but social media is simply the way of the world these days. According to Pew Research, 62% of Americans get their news from social media at least some of the time. Avoiding Facebook and Twitter is quickly becoming an impossibility for businesses and churches alike.
But it isn’t just a matter of setting up the page and occasionally posting a verse from Scripture. To really use social media effectively, you need to post and share content regularly. That’s the only way to ensure that your content is going to get out there.
Just like Google, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what news gets in front of its users every time they log in. If you post rarely and those posts aren’t shared, it’s hard to convince Facebook to place your latest article at the top of the page, unless you want to pay them. To avoid this, simply get into the habit of sharing. Share posts from other churches that you think will speak to your congregation as well. Share photos from recent church events. Share stories about congregants and about yourself. Preview next Sunday’s sermon. And then, make it easy for others to share for you as well. Make those Facebook and Twitter icons on the page very easy to identify. Giving your readers the option to share the post easily, much of the work can be done for you, which brings more viewers, more external links, and a higher ranking on Google.
SEO is a vast topic, and these tips are obviously only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mastering search engine optimization for your site. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on the way to making sure your church is the first stop for anyone online in search of an answer.