Every church dreams of setting up a website that attracts loads of visitors. Follow these three steps to maximise your chances of appearing prominently in Google’s search results.
Ever heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? No, it’s not some complex theological term. It’s actually to do with the way internet search engines like Google scour the content of websites to work out which ones are most relevant to the person doing the searching.
And here’s the thing. If you can master the art of optimising your content, you can ensure your church’s website stands out from the crowd, enjoying a high ranking in Google’s results.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? With a decent Google ranking, you can attract the people you want to reach online far more easily. Maybe that’s newcomers to your local community, or people who want to find out more about the deep questions of faith. Perhaps it’s folk who want their children baptised, or are keen to book a wedding.
Whatever the reason, it’s great if your church can be found easily. And since we live in a digital age, key to that is cultivating an effective online presence. Here are three steps to help you do it.
1. Think like a visitor
Consider what it’s like when you’re searching for a church online. What sort of thing do you look for? What would you enter in Google’s search box to land up on a church website?
Sometimes, this will be obvious stuff, like “Where do I get my child baptised?” or “What’s the name of my local vicar?” But on other occasions, it could come from the leftfield.
Consider the person who wants some entertainment for their children during the school holidays, for example. They may not even know they’re looking for a church. But if they search for holiday clubs in the local vicinity, and yours comes up, they’ll be on your site sooner than you can say, “Who’s up for a game of rounders?”
To make sure you hit the right spot, think carefully about what people are looking for, and how you can help. Not a bad tip for mission, is it? And it’s crucial to successful search engine optimisation. So whether you’re advertising the Sunday Communion or a concert in your church rooms, work out how a casual internet searcher will discover you, and be sure to include relevant words in your event descriptions, welcome pages, and blogs.
2. Be specific
We get it. You’ve a busy church with an active congregation. It’s not going to be possible to optimise every single piece of information about your church community.
But that’s okay, because the crucial thing is that you generate optimised content for specific activities and events, targeted at specific audiences who you especially want to reach.
Say you’ve a great youth camp coming up on the west coast of Wales. You want to target information to young people and their parents from your local area, making it clear that you’re offering the chance of fellowship, adventure and exploration in Wales. So these are the sorts of terms you should use in your description. Then, when someone is looking for the specific thing you have on offer, your website will most likely be high up in the list of results.
Remember to think about the breadth of activities, events and experiences on offer in your church. It’s not just about attracting people to Sunday worship, as important as that is. Part of your missional outreach will be to the wider community. So if you have a programme aimed at making connections with those who do not currently belong to the church, be sure to use language that will resonate with them, both at an emotional level, and when they’re searching online. And remember, the more specific you can be the better.
3. Get writing
You may have heard that content is king (or queen), and there’s a lot of truth in that. You don’t only need decent content so you have a chance to incorporate your key words and thereby maximise the chances of Google (and the people searching there) locating you. It’s also very much the case that good quality content that engages readers and encourages them to come back to your website in the future plays an important role in building relationships.
Think of it like your welcome at church. If someone new comes to your Sunday service, you’ll do your best to make them feel at home, provide a rich and spiritually vibrant act of worship, and display hospitability at the end. Your thinking is simple: “If we do this right, this person will want to come again, and that’s the way to bring them into the community of Christ’s body.”
It’s no different online. Write content that is informative, engaging, entertaining and, yes, spiritually relevant, and you’ll find that people will find it, and come back for more. Online marketers call it “stickability”, and it should really be what every church tries to achieve, both online and in face-to-face encounters.
Blogs are a great way to do this, because they provide an opportunity to add new content on a regular basis. Posts don’t need to be long, but they should be well-optimised, using the techniques described above, and well-written. If you’re writing about an event or activity, be sure to include relevant search terms so that Google locates it. Whatever the topic, write in a way that does justice to the warm welcome your church extends.
That way, when people land on your website, they’ll know it’s a place of fellowship, hospitality and care. After all, that’s pretty much exactly what people want to see when they come across their local church.