Wouldn’t you like your website to show up at the top of the list when someone googles for a church in your area? Getting to the top of the list doesn’t cost money, but takes a little ongoing work. This whole art of getting your church website found by Google is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Content is King
SEO is governed by the rules that Google itself creates to determine which sites are credible. Google changes their algorithm regularly. Their update in May 2013 gutted the effectiveness of inbound linking – links on others’ websites that point back to your site. Before that, they drained the power of meta keywords because marketers were stuffing keywords that had nothing to do with the content on the site. As soon as they make a rule, people figure out how to exploit it, which forces them to adjust the rules.
Google is trying to [replicate the logic of the “real world” and apply it to the online world]. The search engine crawlers are evaluating everything they can find pertaining to your brand, including your website content, press releases, videos, presentations, PDFs, webinars, podcasts, articles, etc. The more varied content the crawlers see regarding your brand, and the more frequently this content is verified as quality — and relevant to your target market — the better the crawlers will be able to authenticate your brand. And by defining your brand as an industry leader, the better your site’s rankings will be.
Going forward, you might want to worry less about the volume of backlinks to your site, and focus on your content variety and distribution — both onsite and offsite — instead. You want to get your videos found and shared on YouTube and Vimeo, your presentations on SlideShare, your content on relevant sites and guest blogs, etc. …Google+, authorship tags, rich snippets, and social signals are now a big part of the SEO equation… These links will have more authority and represent a branding citation that will boost your SEO…” –HubSpot blog
Unfortunately, your on-page SEO doesn’t really help so much as it used to, but NOT having it will definitely hurt you, so you have to take care of it.
On-page SEO includes the actual text on your site as well as some behind-the-scenes content that only web browsers can read, called metadata. Metadata can’t be seen anywhere on your site, but it’s what Google shows the user in the search results before they click through to your page. It includes the title, description, and keywords:
- The Meta-title is what appears at the top of the web browser when someone visits your page. Yes, humans actually get to read this one, but it is very important to the search engines, too.
- Meta-descriptions are the snippets that people see when your site shows up on the search engine results, you know that short paragraph that summarizes the site? This will help people determine if yours is the right search result they are looking for and whether they should click through. You get to write 150 words or less.
- Keywords are tags or phrases you try to match to both the content of that page and the phrases you think people will be using to ‘google’ for that page. You may come up first on ‘Mytown Church’ but not show up at all on ‘Mytown youth group’. You have to optimize your site for each keyword phrase where you want to appear at the top of the search results.