Drawing Attention to Your Website - SEO

Nadiya Borshch (Kharkiv, Ukraine)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Nadiya Borshch, a junior at Bethany Lutheran College majoring in Business Administration with a Religion Minor, arrived in the United States from Ukraine in 2009, attended Michigan Lutheran Seminary, and graduated from a high school in Lansing, Michigan. Very active on the Bethany campus, one of her favorite extracurricular activities is singing in Concert and Mary Martha choirs. - This study was supervised by Andy Krueger, Associate Professor of Business Administration.
According to Social Networking, "The Internet is a large database of information. Search engines read information on the web and prioritize the relevant or important results." When a person uses Google to find "Churches in Mankato, MN," for example, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church would want to be not only on the first page of the search engine results, it would want to be one of the first three choices. As of January 2016, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church is on the 5th page of the Google search. A person who is looking for any church in Mankato area will choose one of the options that pop out first on the Google search and typically will not browse all the way to the fifth page. When you add "Lutheran" to the previous search, Mt. Olive Lutheran is still not on the first page, but on the second. This paper will give some tips on how to move your website to the first page, so that people that are searching will easily find your church.

Search Engine Optimization does take some time commitment, but it is fairly easy to do. Says Social Networking, "Search engines are looking for content, performance, authority and user experience." There are two categories SEO splits into: on-site optimization and off-site optimization.

On-Site Optimization

On-site optimization is mainly creating a website that will help search engines find the right information at the right time to help the user find your church. The website has to be very eye appealing, user friendly, and contain relevant and up-to-date information. Photos, videos and other graphics should be included in your website, but they need to include ALT tags, which would include the keywords that would help search engines to read them.

Most churches have a website that has its own URL. It is important that the church is consistent in using the same name through all Social Media and websites; for example, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church should be consistent at either abbreviating "Mt." or spelling it out as "Mount," because a search engine might have a hard time seeing it as the same place.

According to the Beginners Guide to SEO https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo, "One of the best ways to 'optimize' a page's rankings is to ensure that keywords are prominently used in titles, and text."

Updating the website regularly is a must, as it builds up the authority of the website.

One of the best ways to bring your website to the top of searches is to have a lot of links throughout the site pointing to social media posts, or just moving from one to another page on the website. This is an example of using anchor text throughout your website: Read more about our mission.

The word mission would be a link to the page that talks about the mission of the church. It is far better to use links that direct people to different pages on the website, than just adding click here links.

Adding videos and keeping them up-to-date will help your website increase its rankings as well as its user experience. Many people enjoy watching videos, as it is far more convenient to do on their phones and tablets than reading an article on such devices. It is not very easy to read off the phone, but more than that, it can be very frustrating to navigate the site when pressing small tabs with big fingers. Also, by having videos available on your website, viewers will enjoy watching it. In today's society people multitask on a regular basis, and watching a video is more convenient for them as they do their task while still learning more about your church.

Off-Site Optimization

Off-site optimization is using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to move you up on Google rankings. It is important to have a few social media accounts as younger generations use it and very often some social medium is their only news channel. To make it easy to share the content on your website, create share buttons and put them in the most visible places as people like sharing and by doing it, they will build up your website's authority. Social Networking says, "Since search engines are looking for relevant and authoritative information, social sharing tools can help build authority and ultimately rank your site higher in search." Here are some other examples of off-site linking ideas besides Social Media:

  1. Post church announcements, bulletins, and newspapers on the website in PDF format.
  2. If you have a presentation for a Bible study, instead of using Power Point, put in on a slide sharing website like Prezi (https://prezi.com), or put it on the Slide Share by Google and share it with the church members.
  3. If your church had an event, like soccer camp, and you have many pictures to upload, share it on a photo sharing websites, such as Flickr (https://www.flickr.com)

Having a social media account go along with a website is very important today. According to pew research as of September of 2014, 71% of online adults use Facebook, with about 25% of adults using Twitter and Instagram. The near ubiquity of cell phones, especially the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away; staying in touch with social media is a must.

And so is making websites mobile friendly. A mobile friendly website also helps with SEO. According to web marketing, "On April 21, 2015, Google announced that it would begin using mobile-friendly sites as a ranking signal." That means that if a website isn't mobile-friendly, it will soon see a decrease in search engine rankings. There are companies who offer to make your website mobile friendly. There is a fee, but it is very much worth it as generations change and people want information to be on their fingertips. Making connections and personal relationships on Social Media can go a long way when it is done right, but it takes time and effort. Working on redesigning a website, keeping that website current and investing in Social Media takes time. Sometimes it is beneficial to use a younger member of congregation to help with it all. But being up-to-date is important because if you are not, your pretty website won't work for you if people can't find it because of its position on the Google search pages. If people can find your church easily on search engines, and can look at the website with any form of technology, it is a very positive way of sharing the information and Gospel resources of your church.

Works Cited

Salpeter, Miriam, and Hannah Morgan. Social Networking for Business Success. New York: LearningExpress, 2013. 61-77. JSTOR. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.
Kumar, AJ. "20 Easy, Ethical Ways To Attract More Website Visitors." Forbes. YEC, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.

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Stephanie Wentzlaff 28 days ago
Years ago, I used to create web sites. I used HTML. I am dated to say the least now. But, in the html formatting, I used (if my mind remembers correctly) META tags. At the time, I listed numerous key words that would lead searchers, possibly, to the web site I was creating. (<meta name="keywords" content="Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Mankato, Marsh St. conservative Lutheran, Christian elementary school.">)
What is the equivalent in todays web site creating?
Nadiya Borsch 28 days ago
Dear Stephanie, thank you very much for taking your time and visiting my page. Very good question, this is what I found on this topic when researching for this project:
Yes, Meta is still the top item used for search engine optimization. However, several things have changed pertaining to which Meta tags are worth your while to add.
In addition to Meta elements, you should desire to use alt attributes in your img tags. The value of these alt attributes should describe briefly, often in only one or two words separated by hyphens, the content of whatever image is supposed to display.If you imbed any Flash or Java plugins, provide supplement text in these. Search for examples online. Likewise, you should provide textual transcripts for any imbedded audio and video on your page, should you include any. Again, search for examples. This should be similar to using alt attributes for images. Concerning old-fashioned Meta: The Robots attribute in Meta tags is the most important for search engines. If the value is “all,” you maximize Google Spider crawling privileges, but there may be times when you don’t want this. My host brother, David Stiefel, gave me some more information on this if you would like more technical examples. I hope this helps and let me know if I can answer any other questions. God bless, Nadiya
Stephanie Wentzlaff 27 days ago
Thank you for the clarification. I no longer make web sites, but I am involved with arranging sites for our churches. I wanted to be more up to date when asking questions or making suggestions to our designers.
Judy Kuster 27 days ago
I know it is important to put links to social media such as facebook, twitter, pinterest, and maybe linked in (the top three according to latest research). How do I go about adding them to a website? Is there a cost involved? Is it hard to do?
Nadiya Borshch 26 days ago
Hi Judy! Great question. There are two ways you can add the social media link buttons unto a website. The first option is to select desired social media icons, download them from a website like WordPress.com, and then upload them to your website’s Media Library. Or, you can also add a Text Widget to your sidebar or footer. Using HTML, you can add Social Media Icons to the Text Widget, and link them to your social media profile. These functions are free. Word press has a very good tutorial on how to add Social Media buttons unto a website. Here is the link to the tutorial: https://en.support.wordpress.com/add-social-media-buttons-to-your-sidebar-or-footer/
Hope it helps. Let me know if you need more information on it, and/or if you have any other questions.
Judy Kuster 24 days ago
Thanks for your suggestion, but what about someone (me) who does not use Word Press but just basically has develop a site with just basically html. How hard and complicated would it be to add those buttons to a couple sites like that? Is there a tutorial that might be helpful for a person like me?
Nadiya Borshch 21 days ago
Judy, Yes, sorry if I did not answer your question. I looked in more into Social Media buttons, and here is what I learned. There are different types of social media buttons that exist for each site. The person who is making the site, has to decide if they would like, for example, the visitors to like the church on Facebook there is one button for it, but if the visitors would like to share an article from your website, then there is a share Facebook button. This website gives a very good tutorial on how to add buttons to your website. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29544/The-Ultimate-Cheat-Sheet-for-Creating-Social-Media-Buttons.aspx Usually you have to go to the website of the chosen social media website and there you can find the tools that will help you add the button unto a website. I believe it is not very complicated. Thank you very much for your interest in the subject. Let me know if you have more questions I can answer.
Judy Kuster 18 days ago
Thank you, Nadiya. I will explore your suggestions.
Andy Krueger 17 days ago
If you are coding a page from scratch (HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc), this link shows how to do it http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp.

Basically you type in <a href="the url you want to link to which can be copied and pasted from your address bar">Some type of text to appear on your page that the viewer clicks on</a> so it would look like this <a href="http://www.facebook/mypage.com">Church Facebook Page</a> make sure to get all the right characters in or it won't work. Missing one of the quotation marks is usually the most common culprit.
Judy Kuster 9 days ago
Thanks, Andy for the information and the link!!
Mike Hartman 21 days ago
Nadiya, Thank you for sharing this. You include some good suggestions. I live in Mexico and serve as missionary to Latin America. During the past year we have been working hard to bring attention to our website: academiacristo.com. We launched the website in February 2015. During the past year we've learned quite a bit. I am coming to the conclusion that there are certain similarities between drawing attention to your physical church and your website.

One way to draw people to your church is by having a well cared for facility, quality church services, and an inviting atmosphere to visitors when they walk through the door. The challenge, however, can be to get people to walk through your door so that you can share God's Word with them. Instead, you can go out looking for them. That's one of the reasons to do fliers, mailers and knock on doors. When you knock on a door you have no idea who you're going to talk to. They probably didn't wake up that morning thinking they might have a Spiritual conversation with a Christian.

When we first started trying to draw attention to academiacristo.com we focused on creating an attractive page and making sure it showed up high on Google searches. We even used Google Adwords. We got some visitors, but the trouble is that few people in Latin America have ever heard of the Lutheran church. There's not a lot of value to appear at the top of a list few people see.

Almost as a second thought, we decided to try promoting our website on Facebook. Facebook allows you to promote in a way that is similar to handing out fliers and knocking on doors. You can get your message in front of a lot of people who aren't intentionally looking for you. In its first 13 months, our Facebook page has grown to +250,000 likes. We use it to build an audience and bring people to our website. I tell people we use Facebook as a means to hand out hundreds of thousands of digital fliers every day.

Promoting on Facebook is not free. We are able to do it because we repurposed offerings previously used to print and mail a bi-monthly newsletter for Latin America. We made the newsletter digital and are instead using the printing and mailing costs to promote our material on Facebook. Promoting on Facebook does not have to cost a lot. I think a lot of churches could also potentially re-purpose some of their offerings spent on printing costs and use it to reach more people using online forms of promotion.

Anyway, I find your subject fascinating and enjoyed your write-up. I thought I'd share some of our experiences during this past year as we worked to draw attention to our website.
Nadiya Borshch 20 days ago
Mike, thank you very much for taking your time to write your note. It is very much appreciated. I enjoyed reading it and learning about your experience. I visited your website and it looks very neat. I liked the video instructions, I wish more churches abroad did that. My host father loves to travel and a month ago he took me to Chile. That was my first time being in the Spanish country, we actually flew through Mexico City. One of my favorite things that we did, was attending worship service in Linares, Chile. It seemed very similar to a service in Ukraine. I loved it, even though I did not understand the language, but we had some help in understanding the service from one of the members who could speak Spanish. Thanks again for visiting my page. God bless your work in Mexico.
Luke Ulrich 17 days ago
Hi Mike,
Glad you are doing the work that you are. We pray for your success as you share God's Word in the Spanish speaking world! I also appreciated your paper on our Online Conference--thank you for that!
As you pointed out, I understand that there are unique differences (in culture and technology, etc.) that have helped to facilitate the success of your online ministry in Latin America--but there must be some things that would apply to us in the States. Suppose you were back in the US, serving a church (say in the Midwest...) would you continue Facebook advertising? What do you think an adequate cost would be for a church to give it a try? Would you have any other practical advice or opinions for our American churches looking to use Social Media? Thank You!
Andy Krueger 17 days ago
Hi Pastor Ulrich, this is Andy Krueger from Bethany; Nadiya is one of my students. I attend St. Mark here in Mankato. We use Facebook; I believe Pastor Siverly is the main person that updates it but you may want to check with him on that. I also don't believe there is a cost. I coach tennis here and have a Twitter account for the tennis team. It's a great way to update members and remind them of things that they may not remember from Sunday's bulletin. For example if there's a Wednesday night activity you can remind people the day before or the day of by simply typing in a sentence or two. I'm not a big user of Twitter so I don't know all of it's capabilities but Facebook can be a mini-website with some basic information about your organization besides sending out news and information.
Luke Ulrich 17 days ago
First of all, thanks to Nadiya for pointing out the problem we and so many other churches can improve upon with our websites. We at Mount Olive are working to improve our SEO with the helpful suggestions that you have provided--we have consciously taken steps to improve our online presence and have recently rebuilt our webpage--Mtolivelutheran.org --(though I think we need to be filling in those "ALT TAGS" a bunch more...). Nadiya- if you are willing, I'd love for you to come and look through webpage with me and give me some tips as to where we might continue to improve so we can move up from page 5!

ALSO: Thanks to Andy also for your suggestions. Facebook & Twitter, etc. are very valuable in the ways you describe! ...So allow me to clarify my question for Mike...We do have a church Facebook page up and running that we frequently are updating and adding material to--I think we are doing a good job with that aspect of it--updating our members and promoting our Christian Day School. We get many likes and shares of our material. (If you haven't done so already, please go and LIKE our page [we're so close to breaking that 500 Likes mark!] and give us a good review: https://www.facebook.com/mountolive.)

Mike, my question specifically is about the benefit of paying for the advertising on Facebook. Would you suggest (for the sake of outreach) that our churches in the States try paying for advertising through Facebook? Obviously, a local congregation in a specific limited geographical area will have a different approach than the AcademiaChristos.com that is seeking to reach all across Latin America. Sorry for my very vague and general question before... Thanks Andy for your comments...
Mike Hartman 16 days ago
Luke, Good question. If I were in the States, I would consider spending money on online promotions. Facebook is an easy one to try and you can spend very little. I would encourage you to consider 3 things.
1) Make sure you define your goal. Does your pastor post sermons on your churches website? Could you use Facebook to draw attention to those? Just an idea. Think about what you're already doing that you'd like more people to know about.
2) Look at your evangelism budget, and try a test. For example, perhaps a church mails fliers to invite people to their Easter service. Could that church instead try promoting their Easter service on Facebook?
3) Consider what forms of online social media are used in Your setting. In Latin America Instagram is unknown. Whatsapp is huge. The pastor of a small congregation in a small Colombian city began sharing devotions on Whatsapp. He now shares his devotions w over 100 people a day. He uses devotions produced by MLP in Spanish. It takes him less than a minute a day to share the devotion.
Blessings on you efforts!
Nadiya Borshch 15 days ago
Thank you very much Pastor Ulrich for checking out my article. I appreciate your comments and your words of encouragement. I would love to look through a website with you, and I maybe will try to find another person at Bethany, who studies website design, and the three of us can all look at the website.