Search Engine Optimization is a very important topic among bloggers and web site owners. But I do not know many churches who are dealing actively with this question. Is SEO needed in church ministry and for church websites?
Jesus told us to go into all the world, and to preach the gospel to all men. What about the Internet? How are we to spread the gospel on the Internet, and what strategies should we use to let people hear the good news?
I do not know the answer
I am not writing this article because I have the answer, but because this is something upon which I ponder a lot and I want to grow wiser on the subject. Still I have thoughts I would like to share on the subject, and then maybe we can grow wiser together. That is why I look forward to read your comments later, to hear what your thoughts are on the subject.
SEO – short introduction
SEO is about doing work to get better ranking on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). If you want to reach a special group of people, you need to make practical steps to make it happen. If you want to get good rankings in Google, hard work is needed. However there are some questions worth considering before continuing.
What words do I want to optimize for?
As a local church you will probably have a good ranking in Google for your actual name. As other churches and local (geographical) sites refer to your site using your church name as the anchor text, this will happen by itself. But when we think of Internet as a place to evangelize, there are not many people who will look for information about God by typing the name of your local church (when they have not even heard about it earlier). That is why I believe that we need to work actively to optimize for keywords and expressions that non Christians are interested in. For some churches this sort of evangelism should be done on another website (not the official church website), but for others it might be useful to use the website of the church the way it is.
Why it can be useful to create another website
People surfing the Internet looking for purpose, hope and encouragement do not always know what they are looking for, but they often know what they are not looking for. They might say that I do not want any of that Christian stuff – so when they search Google for „how to be set free from depression” and see the following result in Google: „How to be set free from depression – Bethany Church Houston” they quickly scroll down to the next result. A more discrete page might not scare away the visitors simply by the title, but will make them visit your page and actually start reading the article. If you choose such an option you will sooner or later wanna help them get in contact with local Christians somewhere near them. Such a page can turn out to become a great blessing, not only to your local church, but just as much, and probably even more, to the global church.
Why it can be useful to use the church page as an evangelism tool
No matter what you do, your church page should be an evangelism tool. It should be including, warm and welcoming everyone, no matter who they are and where they come from. An advantage by using the church page to reach people with the gospel is that your page already has domain authority, and that makes it easier to get the evangelistic content up and running and to get new visitors faster. Since your church can be found on a certain location it is very easy to actually invite people visiting your site to meet up with you in person and of course to church services. Maybe a great idea would be to have a pastor or a leader set aside time every meet simply to chat with people who have taken contact through the Internet page?
SEO is needed no matter what you do
As I mentioned earlier you will probably not need much SEO work to get a good ranking in Google or the name of your church (at least not if you add the city name of the church in the search). But to get a good ranking for evangelistic content written on your page SEO work needs to be done. If you want your article titled „Five steps to a blessed life” to turn up among the top 10 results in Google for those keywords you need to optimize it, get good deep links and make sure that your content is king.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this SEO Wednesday article. Now I look forward to read what you think about church ministry, church web pages and SEO, so please share your thoughts as you write a comment!