Church SEO: The Complete Guide
Let us start by saying that wanting to use marketing methods to bring exposure to your church is not a sinful activity. Of course, for the wrong purposes and with misleading tactics, search engine marketing can become a sinful approach to filling seats. But this originates from the heart of the church or agency, rather than the act of marketing itself.
When marketing your church, it’s important to remember you are spending money the congregation has tithed. For new churches, you may spend another church’s investment based on their belief that your purpose is on-mission and aligned with God. Both require proper stewardship and spending in areas where you feel is most appropriate.
There are many forms of digital marketing, including social media advertising, pay per click advertising, and ad placement on relevant websites. Then, of course, there is SEO, which is why you’re here.
So let’s talk about why this form of advertising is a preferred choice for many local businesses, including the local church. Once you understand the why, we will move on to the how, explaining each area of SEO that can affect a church’s local search rankings.
Can SEO Help With Your Church?
Yes. SEO helps your church become more visible to those within the local community. Done correctly and with the right strategy, SEO helps your church reach people aligned with your style of preaching, set of beliefs, or seekers who resonate with your message.
Of course, as faith believers, God will bring people from any and everywhere, but we can still do our best to make it easier to find us.
Should Your Church Invest In SEO?
While you are receiving tithes and offerings, ultimately, you are spending God’s money. The Bible teaches us we shouldn’t receive talents from the master only to return the same amount. To the same point, we shouldn’t take monumental risks with money we are called to steward.
Search engine optimization is a safer and more sustainable marketing method. As you will find, the actions we take are both helpful and informative to new and existing church attendees.
But just because it’s safe doesn’t mean that we won’t receive more talents than we started with. In fact, organic search engine marketing is often the most effective form of digital marketing with the greatest return on investment.
But it requires patience and consistency. If we don’t have that, well, perhaps more scripture reading is necessary.
Hopefully, you’ve moved past thinking this activity as sinful and see SEO as a potential outreach method for your Christian organization. So now, let’s get into more of what SEO is for the local church.
Local SEO For Churches
No different from a for profit business, there are decision makers paying for SEO services with no actual idea of what is being done. At the surface, it may appear that a single activity is creating the position one ranking when a person does a Google search. At our core, we know it cannot be so simple or everyone would do it.
Local SEO is not that simple, but it’s not so complicated that it takes an SEO expert to understand it. Like any form of marketing, we start with the basics and then move to unique strategies that take us to the top. To start, let’s go over the basics.
The very first thing our SEO agency will do is keyword research. This means finding all the words or terms that people used to find church organizations in your local area. These could be as broad as “church in Santa Barbara, Ca” or as specific as “church service with worship music.”
The internet is a big place and there are literally thousands of monthly searches within your area for your faith category. Creating a list of church SEO keywords is a great way to understand what your community is looking for.
Right away we see SEO can help us better service our community. SEO keyword research gives us a look at what people we do not engage with are asking about. Unlike most social media advertising methods, there isn’t any fear of disrespecting someone’s privacy. But even while protecting privacy, keyword research provides valuable information, helping us consider the informational gaps between our church and the individual.
This is a pretty simple activity, but it reaches farther than you would think. Most churches set up online directories such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook, but there are hundreds of directories we should list your church on. These directories serve as signals to Google and Bing that you have a broad online presence with more name mentions.
Also, believe it or not, people use other search engines. People use Yellow Pages, MapQuest, and church directories. While setting up online directories is a time-consuming and tedious process, any qualified SEO company automates this service for minimal cost.
There is also the potential that the links these websites have that point back to your website to increase your domain rating or domain authority. We’ll get into backlinks later in this article but for now, understand that we need quality links and a quantity of links pointing to our website.
Google Business Listing
If your church has been around longer than a couple of weeks, then you most likely have a Google Business Listing. Whether you have claimed it is another story. While many churches invest in their church’s website, few investments into their Google Business Listing.
You have access to a Google Business Profile (formally known as Google My Business), which is essentially a website. While you may assume that increasing website traffic is what you most need, optimizing your Google Business Listing is the first step.
For the SEO church keywords such as “non denominational church near me” and “church with youth groups” you need to be shown in what is called the “map pack.”
Almost everyone with a phone has used the map pack to finding a local restaurant or specialty store. It’s where Google displays a map with 3-5 business names and basic information.
There are more clicks on these Google Map Listings than traditionally organic search taking people to your website. The Google map clicks are split between phone calls, text messages, emails, and website clicks. With these listing services, it’s most important that we can help the searcher, not increase as much website traffic as possible.
Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for… SEO for your church website. But while there’s a lot of beautifully designed church websites on the internet, far fewer have the technical components required for search engine rankings. We’re talking weird geeky stuff like your alt text, meta description, URL structure, title tag, website navigation, and internal linking.
Just like you want to build your church with a solid foundation, you want to build your website in the same way. Thankfully, with our WordPress SEO setup, design, and management, we keep a close eye on the technical aspects of your growing website.
Without the technical components in place, your website design will be a thing of beauty for only the chosen few to see. Don’t let that happen.
This is where the fun begins, and why I am so excited to talk about SEO for churches. Besides speaking, church leaders are readers and writers. Telling Pastors to write blog articles because it will help more people find and follow Jesus sounds like a dream come true. But it’s a time zapping and disappointing journey when publishing articles hoping your congregation will reach each of your posts, but only a few do.
It is crucially important to remember that blog articles are a form of church marketing. Yes, some of your congregation will read your blog posts, but we are writing these articles for people searching the internet. More than ever, Google is considering those with subject matter authority to be the most important websites to position at the top of the search engine.
So your content marketing is there to support your E.A.T. score (expertise, authority, and trust) and provide helpful articles for your local community. Sometimes this means covering big issues such as “how to recover from someone hurting you in the church.” Other times it’s specifically about a subject important to your local area, such as “10 quiet places to walk in Prayer in San Luis Obispo.”
With the right content strategy, you can encourage people in and out of your church. Your content will help them understand the Bible’s teachings. It will help the people within your community practically apply it to their lives.
We would like you to take a moment and see social media through the lens of an SEO. Unless adamantly opposed to social media, most churches have Facebook, Instagram, TikTok profiles.
While you might assume becoming an influencer is the only way to win with social media, for SEO, winning is keeping social media alive and well. This means healthy and informative information to serve your community.
Having a massive increase in followers and likes on your posts is not what is important. It’s the communication you have and how it relates to your website’s communication. Synergy is key.
In SEO we call these social signals and they are important for your position in a search result. Activity and website visits determine the impact of these social signals. While not considered a ranking factor by Google, SEO insiders understand they do factor in your rankings.
Requesting and engaging with online reviews is a higher priority for most businesses compared to how we have it positioned here in this article. These reviews include user generated keywords which Google loves. Yes, people can game the review system, but it rarely happens. These comments about your business help search engines understand what your church is about.
We’ve positioned it a little lower for the church category because the point of SEO isn’t to compete against other churches. We want to reach people best fit for our church and to witness to the spiritually lost. A church SEO strategy shouldn’t search only for believers but also for those not necessarily in search of a church to attend.
We’ve placed reputation management below social media for a reason. Engaging with reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook is not all that different from responding to comments on social posts. While creating a conversation that continues within the review thread isn’t the point, you want to create the potential for further in-person discussion.
To summarize, request reviews from your congregation to help people better understand your church. Then I want to respond to those reviews to further engagement in how you can do better at serving the community.
Link Building For Your Church
Building backlinks to a website shows Google that the internet has deemed your website as important. SEO is not impossible, but significantly harder when having only a few backlinks. For any company or organization, backlinks happen naturally, but there are steps you can take to ensure as many natural backlinks as possible.
Brand mentions are when people mention your church name online. Often, people forget to create a link to your website when they mention your name. A simple outreach asking for a website link may be enough to get the backlink ball rolling.
Being proactive and putting yourself into online conversations is another way to establish backlinks. Going on faith based podcasts, hosting events, and guest posting for other websites are a few ways to create backlinks. Through our SEO strategy, we help you flush out ideas and backlink building opportunities for your website.
SEO For Multi Campus Churches
Let’s touch briefly on multi campus churches. Many church leaders want a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th campus. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this. But too often these additional campuses lead to low turnouts with few opportunities to engage.
Is it possible that they would better serve these people by referring them to a church with more helpful resources for their faith journey? An important question to ask.
If you are going to have additional church campuses following the same values and structure as your main church, they should be uniquely serving the community. You will most likely need a different SEO strategy for each of these locations.
While this doesn’t mean you need a separate website, you will create a Google Business Listing and location page for each address. You will target different keywords with your description and content marketing.
Remember to give the same level of outreach effort to your new church campuses. Done correctly, you will find it has its own interdependent identity. What you learn may even carry over back to your main church location.
Content Marketing Strategy For Your Church
Your Pastor delivers a message almost every week. Why isn’t this information summarized as an article for the church’s website? This is something almost no church implements into its marketing strategy. What is beautiful about this strategy is that new nuggets of spiritual wisdom present themselves each time the pastor speaks on the subject.
In content marketing, updating your articles every 6-12 months is important. These updates keep the content relevant and make sure we discuss everything in full. Since Pastors speak on a subject approximately once a year, the timing works perfectly.
If your church follows a teaching through the Bible approach, update the article each time it is the principal theme of the sermon.
Link Building Strategy For Your Church
We’ve provided you a few examples of ways to build backlinks, but let’s focus deeper on hosting an event. Anytime you invite the community into your church home, have someone focused on outreach to the media who can help spread the message. You might assume there will be a fear of communicating with a faith based organization, but this is less true than you might think.
Anyone with a heart can get behind an event that benefits the underprivileged or those in need. Reach out to newspapers, bloggers, radio stations, and other non-profits to see if they can spread the message. Give them the website page URL that discusses the event and ask them to link back to that page.
It will surprise you how many backlinks will happen because of your direct contact and those spreading the message. This is why we love SEO so much. It rewards businesses that do good business. A church is no different.
Local SEO Specialists
805 SEO believes in ethical SEO that stays away from black hat tactics. You can feel confident putting your church’s website in our hands. Our team of SEO experts helps you with everything, including:
- Technical SEO.
- Website Design.
- Setting up local listing websites.
- Building quality content.
- finding backlinking opportunities.
Together, we create a strategy to encourage more website visitors and church visitors. The result being a repeatable process that benefits both church members and prospective visitors.
Fill out the form below or call us for your free website audit and SEO strategy call. Thank you for considering our agency for your SEO services.