Church Website SEO | Four Tips To Improve Your Ranking

sitting on the couch looking at google search on computer

Church Website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is more important today that it ever has been.  It is the way we learn about just about everything. Need a plumber? Google it. Want to know if a restaurant is any good? Ask Siri. This is how we make decisions.

The bigger the decision, the more likely someone is to start with an online search. If people are unwilling to go to a restaurant before they check out the reviews online, they are certainly going to do several searches before they buy a car, or a new home.

And one of the biggest (and best) decisions anyone will make in their life is to get involved with a local church.  If we believe that to be the case, it is naive for us to ignore the place where people are making their first encounter with our churches. For most people their very first impression is happening on a search engine.

Church website SEO is important. Here are four things you can start working towards today that will improve your ranking.custom church website button

Church Website SEO Tip #1 – Start A Blog

Starting a church blog is probably the best thing you can do to improve your search rankings.  There is a saying in the industry: “Content is King.”  This is as true today as it has ever been.

Churches are notorious for using the Ronco Rotisserie method of managing their church website. They just set it and forget it. You can have the nicest looking website, but if you don’t create new content for it regularly, search engines will assume that not much is happening at your organization. You will start to see your search engine rankings decline.

A blog is the perfect place to communicate with your church and it has the added benefit of being full of the one thing that search engines love the most – Text.  Pictures and video or important too, but we need to remember that search engines can only index the text they find on your site.

Now before you start a blog make sure you count the cost. The only thing worse than not having a blog on your site is having a blog that only gets updated every 14 months. One thing I know about pastors is that we are busy people. So make sure you come up with a plan before you jump in head first.

Consider building a church blog team. This can be your church staff, or anybody you trust to write on things that are important to the people of your church.

As far as what platform to use, we strongly encourage you to use WordPress.  It is flexible, easy to use, and the most search engine friendly platform bar none.

Church Website SEO Tip #2 – Use Social Media

Your church is already using social media.  Please don’t tell me you aren’t.  Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are fantastic tools for communicating with your church as well as your community at large.  If you are not using these channels you need to start today.

In addition to being a fantastic tool for communication, as of 2014 Google started putting a lot of weight on social media presence in its ranking algorithm. The logic is simple.  If an organization has a lot of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and there is a lot of content being created there, they probably are an important player in that industry.  Thus they should be given a higher rank.  If you are ignoring your social media accounts you are lowering your search engine rankings when people look for churches.

Also, don’t forget the other sites out there that aren’t your traditional social media channels.  Yelp is a very important directory with social components.  It plays a big part in googles search rankings.  I know it’s weird to have people rank your church on Yelp, but getting on there and registering with Yelp can make a big impact.

grow your church buttonChurch Website SEO Tip #3 – Use Video

When I started doing web development for churches, using video on your website was only something that mega churches could afford to do.  For small and medium sized churches the equipment alone made filming services cost prohibitive.

Today, it is easier and more affordable than ever to create video and it costs you nothing to have it online.  Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have made video easy to put online and share with friends.

Search engines love video content. Like social media, videos with a lot of views indicate they are from an organization with a large online presence.  This gives you a better search engine ranking.

The obvious place to start for churches is filming your services, but don’t think that is the only kind of video you can make.  Welcome videos, testimony videos and promo videos all can make an enormous impact.  Maybe even consider doing a video devotional.  Remember we are in a time where people value authenticity just as much as slick production value.  Sometimes a pastor sharing from his heart at a desk can make a big impact.

Church Website SEO Tip #4 – Get Google Ad Grants

This last one isn’t technically an SEO tip but falls under SEM (Search Engine Marketing). When you do a search, usually the first few links on the top and a few on the sides are paid advertisements. Many people are unaware that Google’s primary business is in advertising. They make over a billion dollars each month selling those ads you see on the side of your searches.

For most churches paying for those ads is not an option.  Thankfully, Google offers Ad grants to nonprofits in order to help them get onto their search engines and be a force for good.  Churches are eligible and the opportunity is huge.  Google gives churches $10,000 each month in free advertising on their search engines.  Yes I said $10,000 each month.  No, I am not kidding.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say it would be an act of poor stewardship to know about this and not to take advantage of this opportunity.  There are a few hoops to jump through as there are with any grant, but once you get through it the rewards are amazing.  At REACHRIGHT we offer plans to help churches manage their google ad grants, or you can go it alone.

At my church – Journey Church Madison – We nearly tripled our website visits when we started taking advantage of the grant.  That translated into a huge uptick in visitors.  We even saw searchers get onto our website and make donations to some of our local missions initiatives without ever stepping foot in our church.

You need to get a grant.  Today! We can show you where to start. 

 

What do you think? Did we miss any church website SEO strategies that you have worked for you?

 

 

Mobile Friendly Church Websites Are No Longer Optional

young man looking at website on mobile phone

When thinking about mobile friendly church websites, it may be best to start by looking at the past. It used to be that when a church needed a website they would have one developed and check it in a variety of different browsers.  There a was a time when almost everyone used Internet Explorer (You are not still using IE are you?) but it was still important that you checked to make sure your church website worked well in Firefox, and Safari, and the fledgling Chrome browser.  The reasoning was that we wanted the doors to our churches to be wide open to everyone, even those who browsed the internet with Opera.

In those days Internet Explorer had a whopping 85% of the market share, and yet we painstakingly ensured that websites looked perfect on all the other browsers in order to reach the most people for the kingdom.

Churches Need Mobile Friendly Church WebsitesFast Forward 8 years and it is a different world.  Chrome is the browser of choice, Flash intros are all but extinct, and the majority of web surfing takes place on a mobile device. This last piece has been an enormous shift that has taken place in a very short time.

It would be a bad decisions to build a website that looks great in Firefox, but does not fuction well on Chrome today. So why are we giving mobile friendly church websites the cold shoulder like it is 2009?  By not taking a mobile first approach churches are giving over half of all their website visitors a terrible online experience.  They are slamming their doors closed!

Mobile design should not be an afterthought, but should be the first version of the site that we test if we are serious about reaching our communities.

The studies show that the younger the user the more likely they are to encounter your church website on a phone or tablet. Every church I talk to is clamoring to reach more young families and 20 somethings.  Well, this is the place to start.

Here are a few things you need to look for to make sure you have a mobile friendly church website.

Mobile Friendly Church Websites Use Responsive Design

Responsive design is just like it sounds.  A responsive website will will respond to the size screen it is being view on and will restack the content in a way that is optimized for that screen.  When we build a website today we are really building four different layouts.  One for desktops with large screens up to 4k, one for laptops with smaller screens, one for tablets, and one for phones with a tall and narrow display.  A good web designer will think through this challenge before they start and will plan accordingly.

Retrofitting an old website to be responsive can be a time consuming and it not recommended.  Make sure you next church website is a mobile friendly. Make it responsive.

custom church website buttonMobile Friendly Church Websites Allow People To Use Their Fingers

With a mouse you have the ability to hover over elements on the screen.  That doesn’t work with fingers. Mobile friendly church websites will take this into account and will make sure that no mouse hovering is required.

The most likely culprit is your navigation.  Several years ago we fell in love with drop downs in our navigation.  They made it easy to organize lots of information on a church website. Drop downs can still be used, but when someone is on a mobile device your users need to be able to access your entire navigation without hovering.

Mobile Friendly Church Websites Do Not Use Flash

So many church websites still use flash as the primary language to deliver movement on the site.  We still have people call us and refer to any moving part on the website as flash. Even worse, some churches build entire websites in flash.  This must stop.

Flash is a language that is notoriously hardware demanding, and most phones do not support it without help from outside software. Movement is still important on a church website, but flash is not the way to accomplish this.

Mobile Friendly Church Websites Are Interactive On All Devices

When we originally started building church websites with mobile browsing in mind, the strategy was to build a separate website with a separate web address for people on mobile browsers. These were usually stripped down versions of the main websites, with just the bare essentials – A few ministry pages and some contact information. I remember clients saying things like – “Who would ever try to watch a sermon on a phone?”

Well as it turns out, lots of people would want to watch a sermon on a phone.  Dare I say, most people would prefer watching on their phones or tablets while they do something else, as opposed to sitting in an office chair at their desks.

Today your site must do everything on your phone the same way it does it on your computer.  People need to be able to see what’s happening, sign up for events, make a donation, and watch a sermon from their phones and not wish they were on their laptop instead.grow your church button

 

It is time to open our doors wide, just as we have in generations before.  If we are serious about reaching people in our communities, we have to get serious about mobile friendly church websites.

Do you have any mobile pet peeves that we missed?  What have you seen out there?  Let us know in the comments section.

 

Best Church Websites That Will Light Up 2016

Best Church Websites for 2016

I believe 2016 will be an amazing year for church website design! That is what everyone said at the end of last year too right? It is easy to assume and think website design improves each year because technology is always advancing and so on.  While this is true to an extent, each year sees something different than the last that gives it it’s own uniqueness. In my opinion this year was one of the most unique and creative one’s producing some of the best church websites ever.

With mobile web browsing surpassing desktop/laptop usage this year, church website design took on a much different approach/strategy. Churches realized that having a mobile responsive and mobile first approach was a non-negotiable thing for outreach online. I believe the “mobile first” approach this year that was taken with web design is what produced the unique creativity that was unparalleled compared to years past producing some of the best church websites of all time!

There were many to choose from out of the top 100 but these 5 below were my top picks for several reasons:

www.risenchurch.com

Welcome to Risen Church Santa Monica California RISEN Jesus

The compelling video background of people doing life in the city the church is located in not only grabs your attention right away but very effectively communicates the mission statement of this church”Loving God, others, their city, and the word”. With a well thought out and put together video feature like this; the person visiting the site for the first time knows right away what this church is all about. Shouldn’t that be the goal every church has with really only having a few seconds to get someone’s attention on your home page? The best church websites just the right amount of scrolling on the home page too with compelling graphics that lead people to the main content the church is trying to highlight as well. Very simple/intuitive navigation on this site too.

www.thevillagechurch.net

The Village Church

I can go on and on about this one! Starting with a very simple yet memorable logo that stands out, to the very authentic feel to the rest of the design. “Authentic” is not only what we need to be in the church today, but it is really what the culture responds to in this day an age as well with marketing efforts. From the imagery of community taking place, church member testimonials within the very well done parallax design, and with compelling blog titles; this site really is one of the best church websites out there period!

www.tnl.org

TNL Church Tuesdays 7PM

Anyone who would visit this site would realize right away that it is just”different”. Different design is creative and unique. Therefore I am led to believe this church is different,creative, and unique which almost demands that you would have to check it out in person right? You do not want your church to be viewed as the same as others either do you? Not only was the layout of the site very unique but the use of colors on a great white backdrop really is special. Very gifted designer here using beautiful graphics for blogs, sermons, and events. Though very different and unique, the site still did a great job of keeping the navigation simple and intuitive as well.

www.renewalchicago.com

Renewal Chicago

Overall I think this site might be the best example of how to communicate your brand and identity as a church. The best brands make for the best church websites. A big part of building your brand is telling your story and this site does that well in several ways. With a very compelling home page with a large banner graphic with centered logo, and a great welcoming video/rotating graphic piece on the home page that says on the same on every page throughout too, stellar videos/photography content throughout the site; a user on this site will not leave wondering more about what to expect at this church.

www.readingfamilychurch.org.uk

Reading Family Church

The trend has been to keep it simple with church website design for good reason. People are impatient with marketing online and who wants a seek and find task on a church website? Nobody does and you will not find it here on this site! This church gets right to the point on the home page with large yet simple graphics highlighting all of the practical elements people need: service times, events, and a great embedded map right in front of your face. But what about the user who wants more? They thought about that too with a great mega navigation with all of the needed depth of content a user needs to have.

Did we miss one?  What are some of the other Best Church Websites for 2016?

Freelance Apprentice WordPress Designer Position Available

reach right news

Are you a young creative looking for the opportunity to build your portfolio?  Are you experienced with building sites in a WordPress environment?  Do you have an eye for design and a desire to exceed clients expectations with your work?  Do you love the Church and want to build church websites that don”t embarrass the churches they claim to represent?  If that sounds like you, you may be a great candidate to be the newest member of the REACHRIGHT team.

Why This Job Rocks!

  • You have a chance to do design work that really matter.  Studies show that 85% of visitors get onto a church’s website before they walk in the doors.  You have chance to help churhes reach more people.  For our team, that is the reason why we get up every morning.
  • You can work from anywhere, wear anything.  At REACHRIGHT our team is made up of the most talented outreach minds in the nation.  Limiting ourselves to the talent in one locale just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Technology allows us to stay connected even with great distance between us.
  • You can work when you want.  While we live by deadlines and need to get work done in a timely manner, you get to find the time to work that works for you. Want to go for a long morning bike ride?  Go for it?  Want to get your work done after the big game?  Works for us.  If you are self motivated and get your work done, you can work when you want.
  • You get get to work with an amazing team.  Our team is made up of mostly bi-vocational techie pastors who know and love the Church.

Is This Job Right For Me?

This job might be right for you if:

  • You LOVE the Church.
  • You have worked with WordPress in either a professional or volunteer capacity.
  • You have a design portfolio that you are proud of and will standout in the crowd.
  • You are self motivated and have a history of getting things done in a timely manner.
  • You have a place where you can work where you are comfortable and productive.
  • You want to be part of a young company and are looking for a career you can grow into
  • You are okay working part time in a contract position to start, but are open to more work in the future.

If this sounds like you, please forward your resume and links to your portfolio to careers@reachrightmultisite.com