church website

Church Website SEO

When you are looking for something where is the first place that you go? Google, of course.

To say that Google runs the internet might be an understatement. Historically people found our churches while driving by or seeing our ad in the Yellow Pages. Those days are over. Even if they do find us via those two paths, their likely next step is to Google your church to get more information.  

So, the question is: how do we make sure that our website ranks high on Google searches?  

Honestly, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is quite complicated and the details of how Google ranks website is unknown to most. There are however some best practices in order to optimize your website for Google results.  

The first thing you want to do is think through the top 3 search terms or phrases that you want your church to pull up. For Community Bible Church there are 3 primary search phrases that we focus on: “Community Bible Church”, “San Antonio Church”, and “Online Church.”  In order to make sure our website performs well in these searches we need to make sure these phrases are on the homepage of our website.  One common mistake that churches make is not having their church name on the homepage of their website. It is visibly there through a graphic logo, but it is not searchable because it is not searchable text.  

Beyond making sure your key phrases are integrated into the homepage of your website here are 3 additional things you can do to make sure your church is searchable:

  1. Utilize Google for Nonprofits - Google offers nonprofit organizations $10,000/month in FREE Adwords advertising.  Maximizing this resource can make sure that your church is Searchable in your local area.  

  2. Utilize Google Webmaster Tools - this might actually be the most important step as Google will help make sure your site is optimized for Google Search Results.  

  3. Setup Accounts on Google+ and other Social Networks - many of the top search results will pull from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and other Social Networks.  Having a Church account on each of these will help in search results.  

Know that SEO takes time to build and it takes minutes to destroy. Please do not buy into link pyramid scams that can often get your website blacklisted by Google. Work hard to create a great website with a lot of traffic and Google will steadily take notice. Building strong Google Search results is a long term play with huge return for your church.  

What are you doing to make your church more searchable on Google?

 

Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Church Website: Google Analytics

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How do you measure the effectiveness of your church website? For Community Bible Church our primary goal of the website is to lead people from website visitors to worship attenders.  That’s very hard to measure though.  While it’s hard to measure, we still try to measure all that we can and strive to enhance our website to become the most effective ministry tool that we can.  In order to measure the effectiveness of our website we primarily measure 4 things via Google Analytics:

  1. Overall Website Traffic - we believe that the better we make our website the more people will visit it. People will come through social sharing, personal invites and Google search results. We desire for our church to grow and often that church growth is directly in line with the growth of our website traffic.  

  2. Time On Site - while we don’t want people to live on our website, we do want people to spend significant time on our website finding out more about how they can get connected, watch sermon videos, and more. We primarily measure the time on site of our first time visitors to see well we are engaging this audience.

  3. Google Search Traffic - optimizing our site for Google search results is very important. People primarily navigate the Internet through Google and we want people to find our church through their searches.  

  4. First Time Visitors - the primary goal of our website is to reach new people in our community. If all we have are returning website visitors we are providing value to our church members, but we are missing our primary target audience.  

How do you measure the effectiveness of your church website? What other opportunities do we have to measure the effectiveness of our websites?

 

Make a Great First Impression with Your Church Website

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At Community Bible Church we have consistently seen that 40% of our website traffic are first time visitors from our local area. These visitors are primarily coming from Google Search and Social Media.

When they visit our site we have found based on analytics that they are interested in 4 things:

  1. Service Times & Location

  2. Kids information

  3. Staff/Senior Pastor information

  4. Sermon Media

We have also found that returning visitors go to 3 primary pages:

  • Online Giving

  • Sermon Videos

  • Events

While we don’t want to hide information from our members or returning site visitors, we have found that their time on site is longer and they will spend the time to find what they are looking for. If a first time website visitor has a hard time finding the key information they are looking for they will likely to disengage and move on. So, how do you make a great first impression with your website?

This first starts with defining your goal for your website visitors. For Community Bible Church that is attending a worship service at one of our physical campuses in San Antonio or attending our Online Campus if they live outside of San Antonio, Texas. My guess is that your goal is pretty much the same. So, how can you do this?

  • Clean and Vibrant Design - your website should look much like your church lobby: welcoming, clean, and clear. Use images or videos that give visitors a look into your worship experiences and church campus. Show friendly faces and engaging imagery.

  • Communicate Clearly - make sure your service times and locations are easy to see and find. Also, make sure it is clear what families are expected to do with their kids and what that check-in process will be like before they arrive.  

  • Meet the Pastor - while your church is more than your Pastor, people still desire to feel a personal connection to their pastor. While you don’t need to feature your pastor on the homepage, you should make sure that people can get to know them on the website before attending.

  • Offer Video Messages - before we go to a restaurant or hotel we check out the reviews.  We want to see pictures, hear what others say, and get the best understanding of what we are about to experience.  By offering your sermons via video on your website you allow potential visitors to get the great possible perspective on whether your church might be the best fit for them and their family.

So, leave the clutter behind and create a great first impression that helps move people from curious website visitors to worship service attenders.  

How else are you helping to make a great first impression with your website? What sites out there do you see that make a great first impression?

One other recommendation that I would encourage you to consider is a great value add that we have created: Live Chat. We have added a live chat feature to our website where a digital receptionist is logged in and ready to answer questions via live chat or visitors can leave a message that are returned within 12 hours.  This level of engagement has proven to create a “wow factor” and personalization to the first impression we are creating with the website.

Why we use Wordpress at Community Bible Church

At Community Bible Church we chose to build our website on Wordpress. We moved from a custom coded site (HTML, CSS, and PHP). I don’t even understand what those are and the cost of upkeep on a custom site is challenging and often limited to just the developer who created it.  About 3 years ago we switched to Wordpress with the help of our development team at PlainJoe Studios. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Powerful - there are seemingly no limits to Wordpress and we loved the power of a CMS with few limitations

  • Flexible - Wordpress is easy to update and easy to change.  We have been able to change “themes” a couple of times since launching and the infrastructure has allowed for great flexibility.

  • Customizable - having a development team like PlainJoe we were essentially able to build a custom website on the Wordpress CMS, so the freedom to customize for our unique needs has been huge.

 

Since launching on Wordpress we have had minimal issues and continue to believe we made the right choice. We continue to watch trends, but don’t currently have plans to change anytime soon.

Do you use Wordpress? If so, what has your experience been? Why did you choose or not choose Wordpress as your website CMS?

By the way, if you’re looking for a good Wordpress Theme for your church, Church Themes provides a great option at an affordable price. I built one website just to test their platform and found it very easy to setup. While the customizations were minimal, the basic theme was very functional and great for churches on a budget with minimal design/development support.  

Wordpress or Squarespace for your Church Website?

When it comes to church websites there are generally 2 primary options for websites: Squarespace or Wordpress. In the past there have been many other CMS (Content Management System) options built, but Squarespace and Wordpress have far surpassed all other options from my perspective. Here’s my perspective on both:

Squarespace is simple, flexible, beautiful and functional. Within Squarespace you can manage your domain, hosting, setup emails, and essentially have everything in one place. Just about anyone can build a Squarespace website in about an hour and have the site live and functional on the internet. Squarespace even makes it easy to setup simple PayPal donation forms within their management platform. The downside to Squarespace is that most Squarespace sites look the same and the customization options can be limiting.

Wordpress on the other hand, seemed to take over the internet about 8 years ago and has continued to grow tremendously since then. Wordpress offers a powerful and flexible CMS and with the thousands of Wordpress themes available churches can customize a website that is completely unique. The challenge to Wordpress is that you have to setup emails, domains, and hosting on separate platforms. You also must continue to upgrade your account and plugins which often can be susceptible to attacks from hackers.   

So, which should you choose? Well, if you are looking for a clean, simple website and you are not real picky then I strongly recommend Squarespace. If you are looking for a very customized website and you are willing to pay for custom development then Wordpress is a great option for you.  

In the coming days I will share why I choose both Wordpress and Squarespace for different sites that I manage/oversee. I would love to hear which you chose and why. If you chose to use neither I would also love to hear from you!