You have made your church’s website one of your greatest outreach tools. It provides good information to people searching for faith communities and mission, spiritual formation and family opportunities. However, someone searching Google with the generic term “United Methodist Church” may not find your church -- if you haven’t optimized your site. Google is smart enough to show local results for generic terms like this, however you have to do a little homework first.
To give you a head start, we are providing examples and sample text to optimize five common church website pages. But first, let’s review a few terms.
What are the elements you should optimize on each page?
What might people be searching for in your community? Put yourself into their shoes and optimize these elements accordingly.
Page Title Description: This is the large font title displayed in search results. A descriptive and relevant title tag will grab the attention of searchers. “About us” page titles are typically ignored.
Meta Description: This is the short excerpt that is displayed in search results below the title description. It gives more information about what the page contains. If this element is blank, a search engine will take the first 150-160 characters of a page and create a meta description. This auto-populated text is usually too vague to entice searchers. It is important to fill in the meta description with something helpful and interesting.
Page URL: A URL is a string of text that locates a specific web page. Some pages will benefit from having shorter “friendly” URLs that can be used in print publications. Other URLs are longer and may include keywords and phrases to entice a person to click.
Keywords: Keywords used to be important, but in September of 2009 Google officially announced that "Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking." You can safely ignore them. Engaging, meaningful content with good links and social engagement is far more important.
Now that you understand the terms, let’s optimize some common church web pages. Doing so will help you get into the right mindset to tailor other pages to reflect your church’s unique calling.
SEO tips and examples of how to optimize your church website pages
1. Pastor and staff page
The pastor and staff pages are among the most visited on a church website. Keywords people use to search out church staff usually include a name, for example: Pastor John Doe. You might be able to insert everyone’s name into a staff page, but use personable language in other elements to ensure that searchers take a look.
- Page Title: Rev. John Doe and (town name) Ministers
- Page URL: domainname.org/ministers/
- Meta Description: Rev. John Doe and our other family-friendly ministers love getting to know you and to help you find places to grow and serve in the church. We’ll buy the coffee.
2. Vacation bible school (VBS)
VBS can be a huge outreach opportunity. Many families know what vacation Bible school is and seek places to go with their children. Keywords people might use are”vbs” and “vacation Bible school” coupled with the name of the town or neighborhood. This pattern can be used for most pages highlighting events.
- Page Title: VBS in City, State
- Page URL: domainname.org/vbs-in-town-name/
- Meta Description: Looking for vacation Bible school in (town name)? Bring your children to (name of your church), and they will never want to leave! Bible stories, crafts, songs and exercise in a safe and loving environment for your child … check it out!
3. Children’s ministries
Families often find their way into the church when they have children. New families look for things to do with their kids. And, let’s be honest, some people want to drop them off and take a break. This is precisely what they will search for! Church pages often use the word “ministries,” but parents search for the word “activities’ or ‘programs.” You may keep the “ministry” name in various content areas, but optimize title, URL and description with “activities.”
- Page Title: Township Name Children’s Activities
- Page URL: domainname.org/kids-activities/
- Meta Description: From crafts to choirs, stories to missions, (church name) is the place (in town name) for children’s activities that nurture the souls of your children.
4. Worship page
The majority of worship pages on church websites indicate the times, locations and, at times, styles of worship. Keyword searches for worship services will generally indicate a “style of worship in town name,” for example, “contemporary worship in Nashville, Tenn.” Don’t waste your meta description space on service times. People initially want to know what they will experience. Times can go in the content of the page. Stimulate a searcher’s imagination. Make them feel something, and you may see them sitting in your congregation next week.
- Page Title: Contemporary Worship in Town Name
- Page URL: domainname.org/contemporary-worship or /worship-townname
- Meta Description: Looking for a spiritual boost and affirmation of your faith? Our contemporary worship service is filled with old and new hymns and inspiring messages.
5. Bible study and small group page
People use search engines to find answers about everything. Church websites often describe Bible studies and small groups using proper names and church-language. Unfortunately, that internally-focused content doesn’t do much for people searching for practical solutions. Start thinking (and optimizing accordingly) about how Bible studies can help people:
- Strengthen a relationship
- Move on after a break-up
- Make better friends
- Enjoy family life
- Manage money
- Manage time
- Be confident
- Make a difference
- Connect with nature
- Face death
Think about common theological solutions. Some people may search the phrase, “Does God really exist?” You might optimize your page accordingly:
- Page Title: Does God Really Exist? Church Name Town Name
- Page URL: domainname.org/does-god-really-exist
- Meta Description: How do we know God really exists? Why do bad things happen? If you are struggling with doubts, we provide a loving community where you can explore your faith and questions are welcome.
Content management systems make SEO easy
Every web design program has a different way to optimize for search. You may need to contact the program’s IT support to learn the most efficient methods. If you have a site that is static html, then check out these links to learn how to add page titles and meta descriptions.
WordPress makes SEO easy
If your church website is on WordPress or umcchurches.org, consider utilizing a plug-in like Yoast.
Google makes SEO easy
Finding search terms that relate to your area has become easier. Use Google’s Search Console.
Optimize your site today and start reaching the people looking for a congregation like yours.