If It Didn’t Improve My SEO Score, Why Should I Do It?
Last week we talked about how to be a welcoming church as it pertains to your online presence. We spoke about why the optimization of a church or ministry’s search ranking is a great way to make people feel more welcome to visit without them even knowing it. There is still so much to talk about within that subject, but I promised at the end of that post that this week we would delve into a new question. What if a church was to make an effort to expand their online outreach via SEO work, but then they could perceive no actual fruits of all that time and effort? I suspect that this is an unlikely scenario because so few churches are engaged in this sort of outreach that it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to see more visitors on Sundays. But let’s ponder this hypothetical anyhow, shall we?
For today’s thought experiment, I want to simply list a few examples of SEO strategies that a church ought to consider employing. I won’t get into the how to’s today, I’ll just introduce the concept of each task and we’ll discuss the benefits of each that have nothing to do with a higher search ranking.
- Internal Links: Internal links are somewhat
self explanatory. They are when a website links within its text a path from that page to a different page of the site, As I did with the very opening of this blog post to last week’s blog post. Google loves them. It helps them to map your website in more dynamic ways than your basic sitemap can. Master this skill, and you can see results in your SEO score. But what if you don’t? Internal links might get clicked, when the same link in your menu may have been skipped. Why does that matter? Because a clicked link on your website can also lead to better stats for numbers of pages seen by a visitor or overall time spent on the website, which is just one of the thousands of metrics within Google’s search ranking algorithms. But again, that is an SEO benefit, and we’re focused on benefits beyond SEO today. Think of the pages visited and time spent on the site with this anaolgy: the evangelistic tract. Those booklets with a brief presentation of the gospel. Depending on the quality of the tractand the heart of the recipient, many of them may be thrown out before they’re even opened. But as the one handing them out, wouldn’t you be happier the more pages they read or the more time they spent reading them? This is the basic practical application of internal links beyond the SEO benefit. Besides, it portrays the impression that you are polishing your blog, vlog, podcast, event post, or static page with added value. Click here to learn more about internal links.
- Having the best Google Maps listing: We talk about SEO as a way to boost our online visibility, but you need to remember that SEO is also the act of damage control. If you do nothing, things don’t stay the same, they get worse. My best case in point: a church moves to a new address or changes its phone number or other contact information. Or what if you just change your service times? Even if your church has made no effort towards a web presence at all – no website, no claimed local listings, nothing – you almost certainly have info online. The more effort you put into getting your presence known online, the more information about you has disseminated itself around the internet, even without your effort. You may be able to find yourself on Google Maps even if nobody at your church has ever claimed the listing. All that takes is one visitor to add some basic, most likely inaccurate, information. Now imagine with all that information online, you make one of the changes above, like moving to a new address. Your website may have the right information, but it could take years before Google Maps fixes itself to the new address or some visitor fixes it for you. Nobody wants a potential visitor to instead spend the Lord’s Day wandering your former town/area instead of worshipping in your new building with you. Keeping all of your online information current (not just your website), is just a modern common courtesy. However, going the extra mile and having an awesome Google Maps listing with all the trimmings helps you transition from unwelcoming inaccuracies to being visibly proactive in your welcoming of visitors.
- Google Questions and Answers: I mentioned a few posts ago that there are ways to help Googlers get their questions about your church answered before they even get to your site. This is a wonderfully effectual ranking hack that few people know about and was listed as one of 2018’s best-ranking factors. Essentially, you go into an incognito window in your web browser (find this in your file menu) and search for your specific church, and on the right sidebar click “Ask a Question”. You can come up with whatever question you think visitors might ask (wheelchair access, how long are services, cry room, etc) and ask them yourself, and then answer them. This helps you boost your Google Maps listing with more information than they even let you provide on the local business admin site. But the non-SEO benefit here is quite self-evident. Isn’t it more welcoming to visitors for their questions to be so quickly answered that they can get the information they want before they’ve even been to your website?
- Reviews: I have to always come back to reviews, because I have a personal mission to convince as many good solid biblical churches as possible that the awkward comfort zone smashing work of soliciting reviews from your congregation is not as awful as it can be made out to be and is in fact well worth the effort. I want you to do everything you can to cast out of your mind all the reasons why requesting reviews isn’t worth it. Just do it. It is SO huge for increasing your search ranking, and again the practical usefulness in making your visitors feel welcome couldn’t be clearer in this case. Each individual from your church who gives your church five stars and writes something nice about the church is literally giving the visitor a personal invitation to visit. Lots of churches do not have a culture that is easily vulnerable to strangers, but in so much as you have the boldness to do so, this is a great place to get personal (but not too personal – use your discretion) about what this church means to you and how your life has been transformed by the gospel by means of the preaching and fellowship you’ve found there.
I could go on, but I think the point is coming across. There is hardly any SEO work out there that isn’t worth doing for its own sake. You can hire an SEO strategist to tell you what SEO work will give you the best bang for your buck. If you have a small or not so tech savvy congregation, you may need to start there, rather than trying to tackle every strategy out there. But no effort is wasted, if only for the fact that almost all SEO work says to the visitor (even when they don’t notice it), “You are welcome here.”