How can churches advertise without being ignored or worse – being annoying? In fact, in today’s distracted culture, what kind of advertising really makes an impact? I recently asked that question to Paul Steinbrueck, co-founder of OurChurch.com which helps churches live out their mission online through custom designed websites, DIY websites, and church SEO. Since most church leaders don’t have a clue about what “SEO” (search engine optimization) really is, I thought Paul could help shed some light on the subject. Here’s what he had to say:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Department store founder, John Wanamaker, said this more than 100 years ago. Today, it’s closer to 99% of marketing that’s wasted, because we are bombarded by so many interruption marketing messages every day that we have trained our minds to ignore them. It’s known as “ad blindness.” And in those rare cases where we just can’t ignore ads, we are usually annoyed by them.
The challenge for every church is to communicate with the people who actually want to connect with a new church without annoying the vast majority of people who do not.
There is one place where this happens all the time: search engines.
Google has become the 2nd most valuable company in the world because it helps people find what they want when they want it – including a church.
To many church leaders, Google seems like a magical black box. Type in a question or a keyword and out pops a list of 10 web pages. Why those 10? Why in that order? Google looks at more than 200 different factors, and it updates the algorithm that calculates search rankings from those factors more than 1,000 times a year. It can all seem very complicated.
But there are things that can be done to dramatically improve the chances a church’s website is displayed on the first page of the search results. These things are collectively referred to as search engine optimization (SEO.)
While there are many church SEO tasks that can be done, I recommend starting with these 3:
1) Connect your website with Google Search Console. Google Search Console is a free service by Google which tells website owners what if any problems Google has reading their website. Connecting with Google Search Console gives you the opportunity to discover and fix any problems that may prevent Google from reading your website and displaying it in the search results.
2) Put name and address of your church in the header or footer of your website. The header and footer are the part of the website that are displayed at the top and bottom of every page of a website. By including the name of your church and address in either the header or footer, you ensure that they are displayed on every page of your website and will be seen by both human visitors and search engines (assuming you’ve addressed any issues revealed by Google Search Console)
3) Create, claim, and verify your Google My Business Listing. Google My Business listings are the information Google shows in Google Maps and the local/maps section in the Google search results. Google tries to gather as much information about local organizations as it can from various sources. So, a Google My Business listing for your church may exist even if you’ve never created it, but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Create a Google My Business listing for your church if one doesn’t exist, or “claim” the listing if it does. Then you can make sure all the information in the listing is accurate.
For more details on how to take these 3 church SEO steps and others, see the Ultimate Guide to Church SEO.
– Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder of OurChurch.com which helps churches live out their mission online through custom designed websites, DIY websites, and church SEO. He’s passionate about the kingdom of God, his wife and three children, and Tampa Bay Lightning hockey.