You have a message you want to deliver; you have a specific audience that you want to target; you develop a cool website for this purpose and then you do a search – and if it shows up at all, your shiny new church website is buried 20 pages deep into the search engine’s list. "How will our people find our website?" You are not the first person to ask this question. Here are some tips and ideas that you can use. I have broken them down into several broad topics and included links to some very helpful websites.
Web Site Design
It is important that the structure of your website accommodates search engines.
"How will our people find our website?"
- Searchable text: Search engines need to be able to "read" your site. So pay careful attention to such things as key words and phrases for which your target audience would likely be searching. These must appear prominently as part of the text on your home page. Use such terms in text headings (in your HTML <h1>, <h2> <h3> etc.), as opposed to graphics, to maximize how search engines rank them.
- Page Titles: Each page on your church website must have a unique but relevant title (HTML tags <title>Title Here</title>). Search engines look for these and they also appear at the top of your browser window. If you are using web authoring software like WordPress* the titles you give to your posts and pages become the page titles automatically.
- Meta Tags: This is a little more technical as it requires you to get into the actual HTML code of your website but it is something that search engines look for. Each page of your site is broken down broadly into a header, body and footer. In the HTML of the header there is a place for Meta Tags. One of those tags is the KEYWORD tag (HTML <meta name="keywords" content="place your key words here each separated by a comma" />). Choose good, descriptive keywords including your church name. For more information on this go to the WC3 website and read their information on page structure. Scroll down to section 7.4.4 on meta data.
- Site map: Creating an easy way for people to see the contents of your site at a glance is also good for search engines. WordPress* has several plugins that do this automatically.
Search engines look for traffic to your site. This indicates to them that your site is in demand. So get your site listed on site directories (i.e. the denominational web directory) and other similar websites etc.
Submit your URL to the search engines
Be sure that you follow their instructions carefully as submitting your information more than once could be construed as spamming and actually reduce your chances of a good ranking.
- Google: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl.
- MSN: http://search.msn.com/docs/submit.aspx.
- Yahoo: https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit.
Use Other Media
Place your web address on everything you publish – from your weekly church bulletin to your daily email signature; from your letterhead to your note pads! Do you publish a church ad in the local newspaper? Don’t forget to include your web address there too!
One technique that is promoted to increase traffic to a website is the use of web advertizing. This is probably not an appropriate technique for a church website but I mention it here for interest sake.
Search engines will eventually find and rank your site. It may take some time. Following the tips above will help search engines determine just how valuable your site is to your target audience.
Other Sites on Website Design and/or Promotion**
- Google has some good material at http://www.google.com/webmasters/.
Also at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769
- Web Marketing Today has a good checklist at http://www.wilsonweb.com/articles/checklist.htm
- Modwest has a good FAQ answer on website promotion.
*I will be writing an article on WordPress at a later date. It is the software that all of our Northwest sites run on.
**Including a particular website’s url on this site does not imply endorsement of the site or its views.