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Give your church website an SEO tune-up

SUMMARY: Search-engine technology is constantly changing, as are ways for marketing professionals to maximize organic (free) search-engine results. As long as your church has an indexed website, your search-engine-optimization (SEO) work will never end!

You’re thinking: My church’s website is indexed, and my meta tags and keywords are in place. I’m all done with SEO, right? Wrong! Google, the most popular search engine,  is constantly changing, so your SEO strategy must also constantly evolve. Here are some of the latest SEO tips and tricks. Use them during your next website revamp, or give your existing website an SEO tuneup.

Replace existing keywords with more popular ones.
Use Google’s free keyword tool, Google Trends, to test how popular your current keywords are compared with alternatives. Google Trends uses basic pull-down menus to set search parameters based on location and time frame. It takes the keyword(s) you enter and assigns a number that reflects how often people use that keyword in a search. The number isn’t an absolute volume. It is a normalized measure of that word/phrase’s search popularity based on a 100-point scale. For example, “churches” gets a 80, while “congregations” gets a 72, based on Chicago-area users between 2004 and the present. So, if you are a Chicago-area church using “congregations” as one of your website keywords in tagging and headers, change that to “churches,” which is used in searches twice as often as “congregations.”

Increase the density of keywords that reflect your church’s unique traits.
Keyword density is the percentage of a keyword or phrase in relation to the total number of words on a Web page. Search engines measure density to determine whether a Web page is relevant to the searched keyword. So let’s say your church is very focused on families. Make sure your website copy is dense with the keyword phrase ”family-oriented church.”

Rule of thumb—repeat a keyword to make it stand out to Google as a pattern, but not so often that it makes reading awkward. Experts recommend 1% to 3% density per page using one-to-three or three-to-six keywords/phrases depending on the theme and amount of copy on the page.

Use easily readable URLs with keywords rather than dynamic code or numbers. 
For example, use instead of

The easy-to-read address can improve search rankings and your click-through rates.

Pay special attention to animation, photos and graphics.
Use Flash sparingly as Google can find it difficult to determine keyword importance within Flash segments. For pictures, make sure your alt-tags describe the image because search engines “look” at the photo through those tags. To see what your current alt-tags are, put your mouse over the image to enable the coded keywords underneath to become visible. If the image code is just a file name, such as 1201.jpg, then add some alt-tags with keywords, calls to action or a value propositions that describes why the picture is important, such as “Families at Salem United Methodist Church.”

Finally, keywords embedded in discrete file graphics such as maps or pdf versions of Microsoft Office documents are not readable. How can you tell what is embedded? If you can highlight the copy by left-clicking your mouse, it is readable. If not, you’ll want to take the type out of the file copy or add an alt-tag to describe what it says.

These are just a few ways to keep weeding your website content to attract as many searchers as possible. Keep up on SEO trends, as Google and other search engines are constantly refining their products.