Your ranking in Google will soon be, if it is not already, more important than your physical location in terms of attracting visitors. And, remember the old adage: 100% of the growth potential of any church comes from its visitors. In the old days people drove by a church and walked in. Or, a friend told them about the church. Now they Google first. People are increasingly looking first on Google before they shop, eat, or go to church.
In another article, we might talk about what is good to have on your web page. The short answer is, you want people to get a feel for what your church is actually like. Look around at some church web pages. A lot of them are really dorky. They look really old fashioned and out of date. If you want to see what I mean, do a search for any church name. Go to page 5. Look at a few church sites. See you don’t hear some outdated midi files and see some animated gifs. So 1998.
This does not have to be. You can create a cool looking WordPress site quick and cheap. It will look sharp the day you create it and is easily customizable to a whole different look. That is the topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about being found on Google. If your church does not show up on the first page (hopefully the first half of the first page) in a search for “yourtown, state, church” you are invisible. Go ahead and try it. If you are in top five, quit reading.
I have been reading on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on and off for many years. I always thought of myself as having a decent working knowledge of the subject. More importantly, I saw good results, or so I thought. How wrong I was.
For example, do a search on “Sunday school growth” and www.joshhunt.com will show up #1 and #2. If I do a search for “Sunday School lessons” I show up #2. If I search for “Bible Study lessons” I show up #1 and #2.
Here is my recent learning: this is only true if I am doing the searching. Google keeps up with what I have clicked in the past. I have clicked a lot on www.joshhunt.com so Google assumes I like that site. So, it shows it to me high on the list for quite a number of church terms. You won’t get the same results.
In a similar way, don’t get too happy when you show up high on a search for “yourtown, state, church.” Joe Citizen may not be getting the same results.
To find out, you need to clear the cache on your browser. Of course, you might not want to do this as it will also forget a lot of things that prove helpful to you, like remembering passwords. To get around this I do my searching with a different browser than I routinely use for browsing. I routinely clear the cache on that browser. To double check my work, I also search on other computers when I have a chance. Every time I have lunch with my son I do a search for “Sunday school lessons” on his phone. I making some progress.
When I first did this my results went from #1 and #2 in a browser that knew my browsing history. Without that I was at #17. Very few people are going to look through 16 other results to find what they are looking for. Do you ever look on the second page of a Google search?
Consequently I have done a lot of reading in the last month on SEO. Let me summarize it for you. What does it take to get ranked well in Google?
This is, of course like reducing the gospel to John 3.16. You could spend the rest of your life learning what all the ramifications of the gospel, but John 3.16 is a pretty good start.
In a similar way you can read for days as I have in the last month, but the #1 variable comes down to this: if you want to get found on Google, and thus by people who are looking for a church in your town, get lots of links to your site.
Here is some good news for pastors: we tend to be a well-connected bunch. Because of this, here are some positive steps you can take to get links to your church’s website and get found by visitors:
- E-mail your pastor buddies and offer to do a link exchange. You link to his site; he links to yours. You might forward this article to explain what you mean.
- Ask your Association to link to your church
- Ask your State Convention to link to your church
- Get on sites like http://www.churchangel.com/
- I’d be happy to do a link exchange. Set up a link to www.joshhunt.com Make the anchor tag “Sunday School Lessons” so it looks like this: Sunday School Lessons The actual code is this: <a href=”https://www.joshhunt.com/”>Sunday School Lessons </a>.
- E-mail me and show me where you have set up the link and I will set up a link to your church. We both win. Repeat this about a hundred times with all your friends and you all win.
100% of the growth of your church comes from your visitors. Getting ranked high in Google is a great way to start.