SEO (search engine optimization). Not that again! Right? We know a lot of churches feel this way. We also know a lot of leadership teams don’t know where to start or assume it’s too time consuming or complicated to even worry about it – there are too many bigger fires to put out. We know, and we want to help make it as easy as possible. So we created a crash course below to help you understand the basics of easy SEO and get started. It’s worth knowing how to help people find your website, reaching your online audience, you can make steps today to be found, we know you can and we know we can help you. Here are easy SEO steps you can take right away to improve your websites searchability.
The term SEO, search engine optimization, is used a lot in marketing and website development. Search engines are the places you go to search online – Google, Yahoo, Bing, Duck Duck Go, etc. For the purpose of this course we’ll limit the discussion to these types of websites. But be aware – social media is the new landscape of search engines (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tik Tok, etc) because those are places that also use SEO algorithms to place content. They also have search functions for audiences to find companies, churches, people, etc.
For all of the main search engines (Google being the most-used, by far), a listing is free.. This means it costs no money tobe shown in their search results for an organic search. An organic search is the placement of search results that does not say “ad” underneath, next to or nearby the link or title. The search engines do not require that you pay them to show up in the free spaces but they do require payment to be shown in their paid spots which are typically the very top 3-5 spots in the list. Audiences typically realize these are ads and many scroll past unless a keyword highlights exactly what they are looking for or they’re familiar with the brand. SEO and SEM are often used interchangeably but they’re not the same thing. For our purposes, we’ll simplify – you pay for SEM and SEO is free. It’s really more involved than that though, so here’s a resource to understand it further if you’d like.
The goal of all search engines is to get people to use their product (Google, Bing, etc) as their primary search tool. Google, as mentioned above, is still by far the most well-known and used search engine. We know this to be true culturally since “Googling” is also now a well-used verb. But basically what it does is scan websites for keywords that match what a user types into the search engine’s search bar. It’s quite complicated and we’ll skip the ins-and-outs of all the ways they do this here but the main takeaway about how it works is that search engines hope to be able to show searchers as close to what they are searching for as possible.
Here’s a quick example – say you want to search “Churches near me.” A search engine will now show a map (if you have location turned on on your device) and show you a list of all the websites the search engine could find that matched your zip code that it has already scanned and matches that “church” keyword. It’ll rank those by closest location to you that matches the description of “church”. It does this by scanning your site for how many times the keyword is present, how much content is in line with those keywords, location information, and other factors if in fact that’s a church near the user who is searching. There are easy SEO tactics below to help you navigate this.
So now that you know what SEO is and a little about how it works, you probably want to know what you can do to be seen or show up on these types of searches. Well, there are some important steps to take to be included in the list Google or other search engines might return when someone searches for “Churches near me”.
There’s a saying in marketing and amongst SEO experts that, “content is king”. The reason this continues to be an accurate saying with regard to SEO especially is because search engines are scanning your site looking at the content for keywords that match searches. So simplistically the more content you have that matches searches being done widely by your audience the higher you will rank in the free or “organic search” results.
Great and relevant content helps you and helps your audience and also helps search engines more easily find and serve up your website. So having good content that has appropriate keywords adds strength to your website, adds information people can find about who you are, what you believe, and how you can help them or spread your message. For churches, content is an easy SEO tactic because you are creating content in the form of sermons all the time. Be sure to write about what you’re preaching and add it to your site. Add audio and video content and be sure to add content descriptions that have good keywords to match what people are going to learn or look for in the content.
At the end of the day, SEO can be a robust action you take, and we suggest you do what you can incrementally and set goals to accomplish an easy SEO plan. But we do recommend having easy SEO-specific goals and processes in place and updating your website every 3-5 years to remain relevant and keep your keywords relevant and updated. We also recommend that if you haven’t already done so, take the steps to complete your Google, Yelp, and Facebook pages and listings. Being seen can be difficult, not to sugar coat it, but some work goes a long way. And we can help! Just let us know where, when and how you need help meeting your online presence, SEO, marketing, or website goals. Easy SEO tactics are within reach, let’s get started.