Raising SEO Ranking
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 unending world of online content. Even if your church has a lot to say, it often gets drowned out by the biggest voices online. It can be frustrating to get people to pay attention or even see your content.
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 complicated. But to help ease the burden, we’ve put together a guide with a few tips to get Google to help lift your message higher and bring new eyes to your page.
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,” “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 that keywords don’t still serve a purpose. So, putting the right words in your 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.
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.
If your URL is short and keyword rich, Google is more likely to notice it. With such an obvious and simple trick, 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 or an anecdote or two. 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.
4. Keep it Quick
Fast and responsive websites also rank higher for Google, 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 has also provided a site that can tell you how fast your site is and what you can do to improve.
5. Link link link
Google loves links. Connecting content makes Google’s job easier and creates a more cohesive experience for those searching through topics. But while most links are good, some links are more worthwhile than others.
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 longer users spend on your site, the more Google will be willing to raise your site up in the rankings. These internal links also merge your material and identity into a cohesive whole. Feel free to link within your articles to your church’s statement of faith or previous articles. 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 like keywords, overusing links can get your posts labeled as spam. With every link, make sure it is germane to the topic and that the link works. Even more, 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.
6. 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. Then, make it easy for others to share for you as well. Make those Facebook and Twitter icons on the page easy to identify. By 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 only the tip of the iceberg. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on the way to making sure your church is the first stop for anyone in search of an answer.