So you have your new church website ready to go, but wait, before you hit that publish button, you may want to consider the following.
For many people, that will be searching for your church through their mobile phones or online they need to find you in their local area. Believe it or not, in this Pew research study based on 2016 data more than 95% of people between the ages of 18-29, more than 94% of people between the ages of 30-49get directions from their relative locations. Most people who are searching for a church will do so online first and many are doing this from their mobile phone browsers. You can consistently connect with these people online and lead them to visit your local church by optimizing your website for search engines both for desktop and mobile search/maps.
We have listed six ways to optimizing your church’s website for local search, which will help you when launching a website or optimizing your current website.
All of these steps are of great importance for local search so make sure you do this.
Step 1: Be sure to claim your local listings
The first thing you should do is claim your church’s local listing. These are the top 3 we would start with and we suggest adding your address, service times and any other important information there. You will be mailed a postal card to verify the listings so make sure you keep an eye on your mail.
Creating these listings will benefit you in a couple of ways.
First, by claiming your listing this allows search engines to know how to display your information within search results. So, when that person who visited your church last week can’t remember the address because they threw away a bulletin or forgot their welcome packet, the can easily find the church address online.
Second, by doing these listings on the major search engines, this will provide your church what we call a local citation listing, which is very helpful to ranking online.
Step 2: Be sure to claim your church on local directories
The next step you will want to complete is local directory listings or what we call local citation listings in the SEO world. The two we recommend focusing on creating are Yelp and Citysearch.
There are over 300+ directory listings online so this can be a lot of manual work, and we can help your Church with these with our directory listing service. As with your local listings, this will help you to share the most up to date information about your church, provide a local citation, and help boost your ranking in search engines.
Step 3: Get reviews for your church
Getting Local reviews is a huge key to increasing your ranking in search results, this could be built into your parish mobile app to include a link so people can add these on Google, Yelp, and elsewhere. We recommend focusing on getting reviews on Google first as this will be most beneficial to start.
Here is an idea, you could place a sign on your kiosk or window with a QR code or Shortlink for people to check out while leaving, place this in your bulletin as well. We don’t recommend you asking everyone to pull out their phones in a service and doing this all at once, as Google will flag your account.
Step 4: Get to know keywords for your church
Imagine yourself as someone visiting your church wanting to know more about your church. What are some keywords or phrases they might type in a search enging like Google to find your information?
I would start by taking at least an hour and coming up with keywords, think of the ministries in your church, the names of programs and other important community events, this is a start to working on pages on your website for each of those and optimizing each. Get Google Analytics setup so that you can look at Google AdWords Keyword Planner to search for ideas. There are also other tools you can use to conduct keyword research. But this free tool will help you to get started.
With your list of keywords and keyword phrases then identify the words and phrases you really want to focus on for the next step.
Step 5. Optimize your website content and structure
The fifth step that you should do is work on optimizing your website with the keywords you selected.
Start with the homepage first, it’s important to optimize every single page but your home page is most important. For all of our websites we install a plugin called Yoast SEO that allows you to do this on a per page basis. We suggest using this to
- Title (Example: St. Theresa Catholic Church – City, State – Page Title)
- Meta Description (Example: St Theresa Catholic Church in Phoenix, AZ. Come visit us to celebrate Sunday Masses at 7am, 9am, 11am.)
- Headings (Heading are larger fonts on your site, we recommend using the keywords in these as this is really helpful to Local SEO)
- Page URL (The page url should include keywords for example sttheresacatholic.org/mass-times, sttheresacatholic.org/music-ministry and so forth)
- Content (Example: Content should say things about St. Theresa Catholic Church in Phoenix, AZ and what the page is; about, ministry, event, etc.,)
- Alt-Text in Images (Adding Alt-text in or descriptions to images is important as well, name the image file the same)
- Internal Linking (Building links from pages within pages, using what we call anchor text is important to search engines. For example maybe you are talking about your music ministry in a blog post, having a link in their that says visit our music ministry linking to that page is helpful)
Step 6: Add a Google Map and Address to Footer
Adding an embedded Google Map on your contact page is a very beneficial search tactic.
If you want to add one right now, you can visit Google Maps, do a search for your church, if not already there you will have to go back to Step 1 and make sure you have completed the Google Business. Here at Google maps you can copy the Embed code from Embed map, and paste it into your Contact Page.
We also recommend adding your address to the footer of your church’s website. This way it will appear at the bottom of every page and be visible when search robots crawl the website.
Feedback on the article
We hope that this helps your church with your local search, if this article was helpful we welcome you to leave feedback below.
Also, if you need help with any of this, we include this work in our monthly church websites support plans. Wishing you the best in your evangelization and continued sharing of the good news.