People visit web sites for many different reasons and they find them in many different ways. Search engines are scanning web pages and indexing them to make it easier for visitors to find pages of interest to them. Other web masters are providing links to other web sites and pages of similar interest to theirs. People visit web sites because of the content they provide on their pages. Contrast that with attracting visitors to a building in a specific location. What draws them into your building? What tells them what is inside before they go in for the first time? How can we do our best to tell people about what they will find on our web sites before they visit for the first time?
We will start with the non-technical answers to some of those questions. Your ministry and your web site need to complement each other, so we identify the key aspects of your ministry. Your ministry has a name - something that identifies you. You also have a location and a purpose for being in that location. And, you have a group of people that gathers there. Keep all of those in mind as we move through this discussion.
Getting found on the Internet relies on knowing how people look for things on the Internet. Primarily, people use search engines and keywords to help them search. Searchers will fall into 2 different categories - one group is looking specifically for you because they already know something about you and the other group is looking for something you offer without knowing who you are. If you are a church, the first group will most likely search using the name of your church. The second group will do a more generic search - location +church. If the person searching is a bit farther along in their faith walk, they may even include a denomination (Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, or Episcopalian) as one of their search terms. So, this means you want to show up in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for searches that include:
- Your church name
- Your church location (city)
- Your church's denomination
- 'Church' or 'churches' as one of the search terms
I suggest you conduct some searches using various combinations of the above search criteria and see what results you get. If you already have a web site, see where your site is in the list of results. Doing so will give you an idea of some of the sites that have clearly defined themselves for those search terms. Study them and see what they have done to earn them those positions. Remember, though, this is not a competition between churches. If a seeker connects with a church as the result of searching online, isn't that what really matters?
So, how do we translate attributes of your church or ministry to online search results? Take a look at that page of search results - what do you see? Each result has 3 parts - a title, a short excerpt and the link, or URL, of the page for the result. The first and third items are easily seen when you visit the page. The title is the page title that displays at the top of the browser when you visit that page. The URL shows in the address bar of your browser. The excerpt usually comes from a description assigned to the page you are viewing and is only visible to the search engines and web savvy people. Now look closely at each of those 3 parts - which ones contain the search terms you used? It could be all 3, or it could be none of them, or just some of them. The algorithms used by search engines are quite complex so people don't manipulate them to the disadvantage of other sites, which means we can only do our best to tailor our site and make it easier for people and search engines to find us.