Let’s be honest: we all want to see our church’s posts rank at the top of Google’s search results. But it’s hard to get noticed in the expansive, almost unending world of online content. Even if your church has a lot to say, it often gets drowned out by the biggest voices online—those sites that everyone knows and visits, the ones that end up with that top spot on Google searches every time. It can get frustrating trying to get a word in edgewise, to get people to pay attention or even see your content so they have the option of paying attention.
Part of the difficulty is due to how Google ranks content. The world’s most popular search engine can be a hard place to get noticed. If you don’t publish for one of those already established sites that are already popular and already heavily trafficked, it can feel like there’s simply no way to get your words (or the Word) in front of new eyes.
That’s where SEO comes in, or search engine optimization. These are techniques that can move your content up Google’s rankings and get your site noticed.
Unfortunately, like so much involved in modern technology, SEO can be very complicated. But to help ease the burden, we’ve put together a two-part series with a few tips to get Google to help lift your message higher and bring new eyes to your page.
And it all starts with those words, words, words.
1. Keywords are still key
Keywords are the crucial set of words and phrases that define what you’re talking about. If you are in the baseball card business, for instance, “baseball,” “card,” and “trade” or “sale” would probably be key to any topic you cover, while “Babe Ruth” and “Hank Aaron” might be key to a particular article.
If you were involved in SEO in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, you may know that having lots of keywords in your content was very important for high page rankings. However, since Search Engines now use a number of ways to determine where a page is placed in a search, keywords are not the only way to get a page to move up.
That doesn’t mean, however, that keywords don’t still serve a purpose. So, putting the right words in your actual page title, for instance, can still improve how relevant Google considers your article to the most common searches.
If you are writing about activities in your community around Christmas, be sure to put those main concepts in the page title or first few sentences of the first paragraph. “[Cincinnati] Christmas Activities” will net a far higher ranking than “What you can do around [Cincinnati] at Christmas.” This can take a little time to adjust yourself to, since the latter may seem more intuitive.
Using those words again (and/or synonyms) in the article will further reinforce the exact niche your article fits into. In our above example, starting your article with a sentence like, “The local Christmas activities for [Cincinnati] will include:” with a keyword-rich list of events, would help Google sort your article into its proper place.
A word of warning, though. If you try to stuff too many keywords and too much keyword repetition into your article, Google may actually penalize you. So, tread with some care here, and make sure your keywords read like a natural word selection in every instance (i.e. don’t force them where they don’t belong and sound awkward).
If you’re struggling to come up with keywords, consult authoritative sources like Google Adwords to generate some ideas.
2. Keep the URL Short
It’s easy with all the effort going into building your church’s presence online (Using Social Media to Promote Your Church & Crafting a Church Marketing Plan) to forget the little things that Google seems to cherish above all else.
One of those is right there above this article, the URL. URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator, but you’ll know it by the simpler title: web address.
Getting your URL to be short and keyword-rich is a very useful way to get more of Google's attention. With such an obvious and simple point, you might think this would go without saying as you click “publish” on that next post, but not every site-building platform will naturally create short URLs. Unnecessary information like the date or sorting categories connected to your site layout or even a seemingly arbitrary set of numbers and letters can clutter the address and will cost you when Google comes scanning your page for relevance.
For optimal results, keep the URL short and to the point, ideally with just your main site address and the keyword-rich article title.
3. Go long
Despite the common assumption these days that no one knows how to pay attention anymore, Google is a big fan of long articles. If brevity is the soul of wit, verbosity is the essence of ranking.
While the exact word count Google looks for isn’t known, the search engine does seem to prefer content with more than a thousand words.
So, don’t be afraid to add a few more points to your post and add another anecdote or two to push it past the brief. If there’s another story that might make your point stronger, add it with all its requisite detail.
While it will do no good to jabber on if your point is already made (Google measures how long and how far down the page visitors read), and simply adding nonsense to extend your page length will immediately be noticed as spam, the general rule should be this: if you have the ability to elaborate on a subject then do so.
It should be clear, three points in, that SEO is a balance of expert writing and word strategies to get excellent results. In our next post, we’ll look more closely at connecting your posts to the rest of the internet.