I predict that by the end of 2019 almost every US pastor will be involved in a church SEO conversation. Pastors want to see their church grow. Growing in obedience, knowledge of scripture, compassion for others and numerical growth are all parts of a vibrant and healthy church. Churches spend tens of thousands of dollars today to church growth consultants.
Alarmingly, Dr. Richard Krejcir reports, “Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors to just over 1000 new church starts!” He also posits, “at the turn of the last century (1900), there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared to the close of this century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America!”
A classic example of a church that has accelerated its growth with their understanding of Google rankings and SEO is Crossroads in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Carey Nieuwhof has a list of “10 Reason Your Church Isn’t Growing” that is fascinating. If you Google, “reasons why churches aren’t growing” you will have enough content to read for 5 lifetimes. According to church growth expert Thom Rainer, the numbers look like this:
- 56 percent of churches are declining.
- 9 percent of churches are plateaued.
- 35 percent of churches are growing.
In the heights of the church growth movement, you had a variety of church growth models to choose from. Throughout church history, churches have adapted, modified, and attempted great things while holding onto the primacy of the gospel. The church has thrived underground, adapted secular movements like the Sunday School Movement, and taken advantage of technologies like the printing press, transportation, and mass media.
Adapting: The Missing Link
The information age has ushered in new opportunities for the church to adapt and own as methods of making more disciples of Christ. The church, what she believes and the invitation of the gospel has never been more assessable. Unfortunately for some churches, their message of hope to a broken world is hidden. Jesus instructed his believers to light a candle and to not hide it under a bushel but rather set it on a candlestick. Churches and digital marketing firms from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya are adapting their online and digital strategies.
Unfortunately, churches lag behind many times when it comes to technology. Many churches today do NOT understand that their front door has changed locations. When ANY person has ANY question on ANY subject they simply “Google it”. The same is true when it comes to looking for a new church home.
What is the missing link you may ask? The missing link is your church’s weblink NOT showing up when families are abundantly searching. As a leader, you must understand that people do not often begin searches for churches using church names. Conduct a search for churches in your area, If your church is not in the top three of Google searches then your church is the epitome of the MISSING LINK.
Connecting The Dots
If you get your church in the top three of Google reviews you will drastically increase the number of guests in your services each week. In fact, you will double or triple the number of guests each week. This is precisely why many megachurches and multisite churches hire a full-time SEO specialist. Churches that aren’t ready for this type of expense hire SEO Specialist to move their church up in Google rankings.
The Google algorithms are complex but your church can climb the Google rankings.
Church SEO Goals
Understanding how SEO algorithms affect your church SEO goals is a must if you want your church found easily. Knowing how these SEO algorithms impact your churches rankings in Google is what drives traffic to your website and eventually guests to your services.
Outreach Magazine produces a Top 100 Fastest Growing Churches list every year. The churches on this list are maximizing every advantage possible and many are seeing phenomenal growth of 20, 30 and 40% year over year. Steeple Marketing exists to create effective marketing ideas that work.
3 Church SEO Goals
- Get your church on the first page of Google searches. 91.5% of all web visits go to those on the front page.
- Get your church in the top 3 in Google searches. Over 60% of all web visits go to the top 3 ranked websites.
- Get your church ranked number #1 in Google searches. The number #1 Google Ranked church gets a whopping 32.5% of all visits. All rankings on the 1st page are not the same. Plain and simple there are very stark differences.
Many Megachurches and Multisite churches hire an SEO specialist to make sure they rank high on Google searches. These strategists work to properly build SEO empowered websites and direct off-page SEO rankings. If your church isn’t quite ready to make this hire I recommend that you work with a firm that specializes in church SEO rankings.
Church SEO On-Site
If your site isn’t crawlable (Meaning that Google can’t index your page quickly) you will not get your website ranked. Church website issues and errors prevent your website from making the front page of Google Search. Digital Rocket can provide your church with a comprehensive church website audit.
Living in the top 3 Google rank begins with a properly working website.
Church SEO Off-Site
Your goal as a church is to climb into the top 3 positions in Google. Ultimately, the #1 spot is the goal. How do you get your church to the #1 ranking?
Choosing A Church SEO Specialist
When it comes to your church choosing a good Church SEO specialist there are a few ways to navigate this decision. One of those ways ends with your church being easily found on online searches and the other way ends with potential Google penalties. This decision can be the difference between hundreds of new families and explosive growth for your church or that these families simply do not find your church.
Church SEO- 4 Common Mistakes
- Unchartered Waters- Because some churches are not familiar with the world of SEO and the precision of Google algorithms they are tempted to believe those that over promise. If a Church SEO specialist promises you the number 1 Google ranking- RUN!
- Magic Formula- There is NO magic formula for climbing Google rankings. Backlinko’s Brian Dean declares that Google has 200 factors that affect SEO rankings. Moz’s Gianluca Fiorelli calls Dean’s list a complete myth. Even the experts can’t agree on what all the factors. If you are interviewing an SEO specialist and they maintain that they know the secret formula- RUN!
- Immediate Results- Like any get rich quick scheme an SEO specialist that promises immediate results aren’t to be trusted. Those that are on top of the leaderboard didn’t get there by chance. The amateur golfer that intensifies his practice for two or three weeks isn’t ready to compete in the US Open. It is going to take intentionality and persistence to get to the top of Google rankings.
- Smoke and Mirrors- It is true that you can climb to the top of church google rankings by using some obscure keyword search that an unethical SEO specialist might set up. There are VERY PRECISE church keywords that people use when looking for a new church. Ranking in other keywords might appear good for a season but these keyword rankings will NOT result in more guests attending your church.
My Professional Recommendation
When interviewing a potential church SEO specialist here’s what you need to know.
- Clients- What churches are your specialist working with? Can you contact them personally?
- Proof of Concept- What are the “proven factors” that have actually moved churches up Google Rankings that your potential Church SEO specialist has used? Discuss these factors as a means of achieving your shared goals. If you ask, “How do you do it,” and they say, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you, it’s a secret or it’s proprietary,” red lights should be going off in your head.
- Realistic Goals- If SEO were a sport it would be a Spartan Race or a Decathlon. Like these sports, SEO requires many skills that are performed over a longer period of time. The church that sees SEO as a sprint that is quickly over and then abandoned is missing the point entirely. The end game is allowing guests to easily find your church so they can attend. A skillful SEO specialist will desire to set your church up for these guests to find your church for decades.
- OnSite & OffSite- A true specialist is going to be proficient in both disciplines that impact future rankings. An SEO specialist that is a coder will understand the nuance intricacies affecting onsite issues, indexing, crawlability. I recommend a specialist that can write code in several languages. OffSite- This is where unprofessional SEO specialist gets church websites completely shut down by Google. These specialists can provide immediate results but that is because that are using blackhat techniques.
- Play Long Ball- Using consultants allow you to wade into the conversation slowly while getting to know your SEO specialist. For a fraction of the price, you can begin the process of testing the waters and seeing the actual impact of guests attending your church.
- Relationship- As you work with your consultant as the all-important questions: “Could we see this person working on our staff and Does this individual get our organizational goals?“
- Cost- The world of SEO isn’t cheap and there is a reason. Business (and churches) that are growing rapidly and are on top of the food chain realize that money spent here produces an incredible ROI. Outreach Magazine produces a Top 100 Fastest Growing Churches list every year. These churches are maximizing every advantage and many are seeing phenomenal growth of 20, 30 and 40% year over year.
Church SEO Specialist (It’s Coming)
For centuries churches have adapted their means while being anchored in the never-changing gospel. But ministry, crusades, worship styles and personal evangelism methods have all changed. The good news of Jesus dying for our sins and God raising Him from the dead remains constant.
There is a reason that Amazon, eBay, Wiki, PayPal, Apple, and Google are all reaching millions online. The fastest growing churches worldwide are doing the same.