Optimize your ministry website

Optimize your ministry website

In this article, you can learn how to optimize your ministry’s website to be picked up by search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. In the industry, this is referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The following tips will be explained to you and most can be implemented automatically by Calvary Publishing as we build your website.

1. Determine your top search queries

Basically you’re answering this fill-in-the blank statement, “I want my website to appear in the search results when people search for __________” Whatever you put in that blank space (it may be multiple words or statements) is called the search query. It’s what people type in Google, Bing or Yahoo to find what they’re looking for. When choosing yours, you’ll want to be careful to not make it too broad and vague. For example, if you’re a church, a vague query would be “Baptist Church.”

Vague search query results in lots of competition!

In this screenshot there are 114 million search results. This is because you’re now competing with the millions of Baptist Churches worldwide. However a better one would be “Baptist Church in Lansing Michigan” (see screenshot). Notice the difference? Only 387,000 thousand results. By making it more specific you’re eliminating a lot of competition (in this example, 99.7% of competition is eliminated) , giving your website a better chance to rank higher in the search results. And this is your target audience anyway, right? Those who are searching for a Baptist church in your town? When you determine what you want your search query to be for your ministry, that now gives you a starting point to implement the rest of the following tips.

Targeted queries eliminate competition

2. Easily navigated website structure

Now that you have a target audience in mind (determined by your search query, see Tip #1), and you begin the process of figuring out what you want on your website, the task is to make your website easily navigated. While your website designer makes the website look appealing, it’s your content (text and images) that determines a large part of the website’s navigation (how visitors interact with your website). So think of your website as an outline: your main points (I, II, III, etc) would be the main pages (Home, About, Contact, etc.) and the subpoints of the outline would be the subpages of your website. For example, an Evangelist website might have a Media page in their navigation links, and then have Sermons and Photos underneath that Media page. The more organized a website is, the longer visitors will stay on your site. A confusing, hodge-podge jumble of links will scare away visitors in a matter of seconds and will hurt your ministry’s reputation.

3. Develop a keyword set

Once you have your pages and subpages all laid out, we recommend developing a keyword set for each page. These keywords are a single word or a few-word term to describe the content of each page. These keywords are picked up by the search engine computer software (called a bot or a spider) and give your website a better chance of ranking higher compared to a website that doesn’t have those keywords. Typically 5-10 keywords per page are recommended. As an example, a ministry’s contact page may have the keywords of “Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Lansing, Michigan, D.L. Green, Michigan State University.” These keywords are concentrated around the content (contact information) of this page. Our church is located close to the campus of Michigan State University, so if a student is searching for “Baptist churches in Lansing” our website has a better chance of ranking higher.

4. Content, content, content!

Content is the “stuff” you put on your website. It’s the text, images, forms, blogs, etc that is generated by the website’s author – you. The designer takes the content and makes it look good. Content without presentation deters visitors, while presentation without content ranks poorly. You need both, which is why you should hire a professional website designer for your ministry’s website. But, back to content; the more content you generate, the higher your website will rank in searches. A sentence or two per page is not enough. You should at least plan on a paragraph or more per page. Even if you have a video or photo gallery page, you should still have a paragraph of text on that page. When you write this content, be sure to incorporate some of your keywords (see Tip #3) in the text. This increases “relevancy” which is another attribute search bots pick up. A page with a bunch of unrelated text means little, but a page with text that’s relevant to the keywords of that page is now considered “important” by the search bots, giving your website a higher ranking.

5. Page descriptions

These are short, keyword-rich descriptions of each page on your website. You’ve already written the content and generated keywords for each page, but this yet another information set the search bots analyze. Along with the keywords, the page descriptions are not seen by visitors while at your site. The keywords are completely hidden from view, but the page descriptions are often seen in the search results section (see screenshot). Don’t just copy a paragraph from that page and call it a page description, because the search bots don’t view duplicate material in a positive manner. Create a new, fresh and accurate page description.

Adding page descriptions is great for SEO!

6. Interlink your pages

When writing your content, it’s a good idea to interlink your pages together. For example, in your Home page text, you could have links to your Photos page or a Contact page. Or on your About page you could have links to your Blog. This keeps visitors active on your site, increasing their time interacting with your content and increasing the chance of turning that visitor into a lead/contact/customer.

7. Acquire more inbound links to your website

Another very useful and powerful tip to increase your website rankings is by getting other relevant websites to link to yours. These links back to your website are referred to as inbound links. For example, you’re an Evangelist or Missionary, you could ask your supporting churches to add your ministry website to their Links or Missions page. You should also consider “deep linking” which means, don’t just have an inbound link to your Home page, but perhaps to your About page or even directly to your Sermons page. Getting a visitor “deep” in your website increases the likelihood they will browse the rest of your website. Another consideration is that the more relevant the inbound link is, the better it is for your website. If an inbound link to your Evangelist website is from a church website, it’s more “important” than one from, say a coin collecting website. This is because the church link is more relevant to your website. However, the more inbound links you can get (relevant or otherwise) the better. With that said…

8. Use social media sites

In our modern era of social media sites like Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Twitter, you have a huge potential of creating inbound links yourself. Your posts on Facebook (granted, not all of your posts), could contain a link to your website. A tweet on Twitter might have a deep link to a new page that was added. Or perhaps you posted a new video on YouTube, be sure to add your website link in the description. This is a great way to generate numerous inbound links. Another site to consider for your ministry website is BaptistMeetings.com. Here you can not only list your ministry, but any upcoming events your church or ministry might be hosting. Traveling preachers, Evangelists and Missionaries can also list their preaching itinerary. Each listing will have a link back to your website. Best of all, this type of social marketing is free!

Final considerations

While all of the above tips are highly recommended and are utilized by Calvary Publishing, please use them in moderation. Any of these tips being “overdone” can result in suppressing your website from the search results instead of increasing your rankings.

If don’t currently have a website and are still looking for a reliable, Baptist website design ministry that can SEO your ministry, look no further because Calvary Publishing is here to help! Simply fill out this form to get started today or if you’re wondering why you should even choose Calvary Publishing, here are some convincing reasons. We look forward to working with you!