The other day, a pastor friend of mine started talking about his new church website. He knew I was a copywriter and worked in internet marketing, so we briefly discussed what he was doing to gain some traction online.
We talked a little about his site, a little about an adwords campaign he started, and some SEO tricks he had heard about, but of course, he was looking to answer the question many are asking, “What can I do to make my site show up in Google?”
Here’s what I told him.
“Give your site value.”
This is the key to reaching those who don’t know your name -and getting your site ranking with Google. It’s not necessarily keywords and it’s not links (though they are an excellent byproduct), the answer has everything to do with value.
Let me qualify this by asking a question. When visitors come to your site, why are they there?
If your answer is, “to learn more about our church,” stop here. You don’t need Google. The visitors you’re serving with this approach have already heard about you from somewhere else and have typed your church name into the search engine. You’ll come up close to the top every time this type of visitor searches for you.
For this visitor, you only need to provide the details about your church. Maybe a little about your pastor, service times, events, and the ministries you support. Of course, every church should have this information on their site, and for in this case, it’s all you need.
But this won’t get you very far with Google. If you’re looking to reach the audience that doesn’t know your name, if you’re going to stand out from the rest, you’re going to need more.
Providing Valuable Content
Content is a trending word these days, but that’s because it’s so important. Google has taken great steps in the past few years to reward websites that provide valuable content to their visitors. In your case, “content” describes the stuff that makes your site valuable to a visitor. When helpful content is provided, visitors come for different reasons than just details. They come to find the answer to a question.
For example, they come to learn what God has to say about “X”, maybe receive encouragement or find the answer to a friend’s tough question. When they need answers, they come to you, because you give them more than an address and phone number.
This can be quite intimidating to consider. You probably thought with the rest that building a good website would be enough. People would find it, get excited over the details, promote them and your building would fill with people who found you just with a search.
It can be discouraging to hear that there’s more. But it can also be very exciting, especially for churches. And here’s why, you have the answers people are looking for. You talk about them in small groups, you preach them from the pulpit.
And here’s the best part, you’re already used to helping people when they come to your building. You’re excellent at providing them with an environment for worship, teaching, and a place to be a part of a community. In many ways, it’s what a church is for.
All these good things can be moved onto the web by taking a content approach to your online space.
How to Start
For starters, answer the question presented above, “Why do visitors come to my site.” And take an honest look at what you have there. Do you just provide details about your church or do you have some other form of value? Then, consider how you can provide more of that valuable content.
Can you start and maintain a blog?
Can you create a podcast with your sermons?
Would some short videos be helpful to reach your desired audience?
Can you post sermon notes?
Giving your site more value doesn’t have to take too much time or be very expensive. But it does take a little bit of work. That’s why Google has taken many steps to reward valuable website.
One Final Point
One very important point to tag to the end here has to do with your congregation.
As you think about implementing this strategy and find which avenues are best for you, remember that making your online space more valuable for visitors gives those in your congregation a reason to point others to it.
This means, instead of them saying, “Hey check out my church’s website for more information,” they can say, “That’s a great question, I know someone who wrote about it last year, you should check it out.”