In this article, you are going to learn how to optimize your website for the search engines (aka SEO). This is considered an intermediate (e.g. 201 level) article. If you have not already done so, read our beginners guide to search engine optimization before continuing with this article.
Who Should Read This Article?
You should read and follow the steps in this article if your site meets one of these criteria:
- It’s been two months since launching or relaunching your site, and it is still not showing on the first page of Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
- Your site shows on the first page, but toward the bottom of the page (and you want it to rank higher).
If you live in a small town with a handful of churches and you already rank in the first 3 or 4 spots, you probably don’t need to optimize your site, but doing so could bump you up a few spots to the first or second position. The choice is yours!
First Things First: Keywords
You probably already know this, but it’s helpful to fully realize the importance of keywords when optimizing your church website. If you want to find a Baptist Church in Normal, IL, you would likely go to Google (or another search engine) and type “Baptist Church Normal” or more specifically, “Baptist Church, Normal, IL.” Each of those words are what search engines call “keywords.”
Because the search engines are in the business of providing relevant results, they are not going to show a website about bluegill fishing in Illinois when you search for ”Baptist Church, Normal, IL”.
So it makes sense that in order for people to find your site it needs to include the keywords people might use to search for your church website.
What Kind of Keywords Should You Use?
That is a great question. While you could do “keyword research” (see below in the blue box), here are a list of singular keywords you should consider adding to your site if they are applicable:
- Christian (Christianity)
- Your denomination (e.g. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.)
- The name of your city
Let’s look at how these keywords can be combined to provide even more relevant results:
- Emergent Church
- Christian Ministry
- Christian School, Seattle
- Christian Youth Ministry
- Christian Fellowship
- Church Service (Church Bulletin)
- Christian Sermons
- Christian Audio Sermons
- Belize Mission Trip
- Calvary Baptist Church
Hopefully this will get your mental wheels spinning about some good keyword options for your site.
Keyword Research: If you are really serious, you can perform “keyword research” using a tool like Google Keyword tool to find out what kinds of keywords people use to find churches.
Install & Configure SEO Plugin
While your church website is already search engine friendly, in order to turbocharge it, you can install a SEO plugin. Let’s do that now.
We recommend installing the free WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. To do so, log into your website:
- Click on Plugins > Add New > and you should see WordPress SEO by Yoast as a featured plugin:
- Click Install Now > click OK in the pop-up > and Activate the plugin.
- Once the plugin is installed, you’ll see a new item called “SEO” in the bottom of the left sidebar. Go ahead and click on SEO and then Titles & Meta now:
- Select Force rewrite titles:
- Scroll to the bottom and click Save Change.
How to Optimize Individual Pages
Now that you have a good understanding about keywords and have your SEO plugin installed and configured, we can move on to the fun work of optimizing each page on your site.
Let’s start with a simple page — the About page. Go ahead and open up your About page in the advanced dashboard by going to Pages > All Pages and then click on the title of the page to edit it.
- The basic idea of optimizing is to use keywords in the following parts of your web page:
- Below the content editor, you’ll see options that allow you to further optimize each page. Of particular interest is the SEO Title and the Meta Description fields:
- The Title is good as it includes our keyword (“About”) and our church name. But let’s say I want to include our city. All I need to do is type in the title exactly as I want it in the SEO Title field:
Make sure your title is 70 characters or less.
- In the Snippet Preview above, the Meta Description doesn’t provide a clear description or summary of our page. Here’s a short, but effective Meta Description:
When customizing your meta description, think about the person who is searching for your site as they may read this before clicking. It should be easy to read, and quickly define what this page is about.
The Snippet Preview is the default Title and Meta Description. You can leave it as is, or you can override the default by adding your own title and/or description to the SEO Title and Meta Description fields.