You can optimize your church website to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and display information about your church. You’ll want to do this because, since 2000, search engines have been the #1 source of information gathering in America. Internet search engines are relied upon more than family or friends as sources of information. It is simply good stewardship of church resources and good missional strategy for churches to make sure that their information is discoverable over the internet through SEO.
A search engine is a computer program that is designed to search the internet for information. That information is organized into an index, much like what you would find in the back of a book. However, instead of displaying information in an alphabetical table, the search engine sorts information according to relevance to search queries and displays it on web pages called search engine results pages (SERP’s). A simple search query may produce thousands of pages containing hundreds of thousands of results. Search engines are so good at returning relevant results, that most people do not look beyond the first page and may hardly ever look below the fold (top half) of the first page of search results. Therefore, if a particular web page does not appear near the top of the first search engine results page, its content is not likely to be seen by anyone using a search engine. Furthermore, since more people are used to getting more of their information through internet searches, if they can’t find your church on a search engine, the assumption is that either the church is poorly run, or it does not exist.
Search engines rank results based on what the search engine’s algorithms determine to be the most relevant to the search query. Try this: do an internet search for your church’s name and see where your church website ranks in the search results. Are you #1? Great! If not, try adding the name of the city that your church is located in (example: “Grace Church Orlando”). If your church website ranks in the top three organic (non-paid) results, that’s good! But not everyone knows the name of your church.
Try doing a search for “church near me” without the quotes. What results did you get? Was your church listed? The results for this type of query will differ based on your location and the type of device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) and internet connection that you are using. If you are not physically located near the church address when you conduct this search, your church website may not rank at all. If you are in the church parking lot and searching for “church near me” on your phone, your church’s listing should show in one of the top map or organic results. If not, you have an optimization problem that is easy to fix. Find out more in my book: Fishing On The Other Side: A Guide To Being The Church In The Digital Age or contact me at Mark@RenovateConference.Org
Mark Weible serves as the Strategic Director of Renovation National Church Revitalization Conference, Director of Church Planting for Greater Orlando Baptist Association and Directional Leader for ReproducingChurches.com.