Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting “organic” traffic from search results on search engines. All big search engines (including Google, Yahoo, and Bing) rank web pages and other content in their results based on what – according to the search engine – is most relevant to the searcher.
Good SEO requires considerable work, time, and dedication. Why should churches be concerned with where their site ranks on a search engine?
This page will help you understand what SEO is used for and why it’s crucial for ministries who want to establish a strong online presence.
SEO Increases Organic Traffic to the Site
Organic traffic is received every time someone types in a query in the search engine and lands on your page. Essentially, it’s traffic which arrives at your website without being paid.
SEO can increase both the quantity and quality of search traffic by attracting people searching for specific words related to your website. Over time, organic traffic leads to higher conversion rates. This translates to more volunteers, members, and donations.
Most users stay within the first or second page of search results, making the top spots desirable and highly competitive. This is why many website owners choose to travel the paid advertisement route. Though paid ads are effective, once you stop paying, your visibility disappears.
If you rank high on search engines organically, your rank will likely stay in the top results and you will enjoy regular visitors.
SEO Builds Trust and Credibility
You’re probably wondering how search engines measure abstract concepts like trustworthiness and credibility. Simply put, each search engine evaluates a variety of factors when trying to determine these things. Factors often include traffic, backlinks, optimized content, and on-page elements.
Backlinks are a crucial part of building credibility, and help search engines find and index your website. These are usually links from other sites that lead to your ministry’s website. Keep in mind that search engines (especially Google) consider both the quantity and quality of these links. An easy way to start building backlinks is by contacting local newspapers, tourist websites who list churches, or perhaps members of your congregation who have blogs.
SEO Improves User Experience
Whether you’re applying SEO to a brand new website or improving an old one, it’s important to ensure that user experience (UX) is at the forefront of your church web design. Essentially, UX includes everything that affects a visitor’s interaction with your website.
The better job a website does in meeting searchers’ needs, the better the chance of ranking on the first page of search results. If UX is poor, visitors are likely to leave and try again with the next search result.
Your website is often the first experience a user has with your church. To help them find what they’re looking for (and keep them on your website longer), think about what could make a visitor’s experience on your website better. Start by checking and testing your site speed, navigation, and usability on mobile devices.
Boost Site Speed and Experience
Consider why people are visiting your church website. Are they looking for more information about your volunteering program or church camp? Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and allows the user to find the information they are looking for in only a few clicks – both on desktop and mobile.
Website speed and mobile page speed are two of the most important ranking factors for search engines, and they’re absolutely crucial for UX. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights allow you to easily check your website loading time (both on desktop and mobile).
A user’s experience on your ministry’s mobile page can directly affect SEO. Make sure your church website is mobile-friendly, loads fast, and has clear navigation.
Remember: a good website design will always compliment your SEO efforts by increasing page views and time users spend on your site.
Local SEO Is Crucial
Local SEO can increase your ministry’s organic visibility and rankings in location-based search results. This often includes searches that contain geo qualifiers like “near me”, zip code, city, and state (e.g. ‘churches in Springfield’ or ‘chapels near me’). These qualifiers report the location of the searcher to the search engine and show results from that area.
One of the many advantages of local SEO is boosting attendance numbers. People living in – or even visiting – your area may be looking for a nearby place of worship. Local SEO will help introduce them to your church.
An essential part of local SEO is to list and optimize your church on Google My Business (GMB). Having an up-to-date, accurate, and detailed GMB listing will have your church show up in Google Search as well as Google Maps. GMB also lists some of the most important information about your church (e.g. operating hours, address, ministry description, reviews).