Search Engine Optimize Your Website
At the request of my Pastor I created a 20 Step program for Marketing our Church on the Internet. To make it as inclusive as possible, I recruited the assistance of Randall Mains of Pathmaker Marketing LLC. Realizing that the results of our efforts would be beneficial to a number of Churches, I decided to do a 20 part series and place it on the Internet so as many people/churches as possible can be Blessed by it!
To date we have discussed launching a blogging process and doing keyword research. Today, I want to discuss search engine optimization – both what it is and why it is important to you as part of your church marketing program. As we discussed last time, the paradigm shifts in our society mandates that churches utilize small business marketing strategies, and an effective website is an excellent church outreach Idea!
In a nutshell, SEO is used to receive Page One rankings on Google, Bing and Yahoo which facilitates more people to “click through” and find your website and all that you have to offer. As many people think they know a lot about SEO, there are three myths that I would like to dispel at this point in regard to the topic:
MYTH #1: As long as you Google your Church Name and come up “#1” you are in fact, search engine optimized.
The reality is that the major search engines treat your church name as a “gimme.” As a result, this means that in the realm of search engine optimization, this gives you virtually zero clout! In fact, if you don’t get page one ranking when you type in your church name you have a real problem!
MYTH #2: Search engine optimization can be achieved quickly!!!
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth!! It is a long, slow, and sometimes tedious task that leads you to the finish line in this race! There are, as you will learn, several steps involved, each time consuming in their own right. BUT the results are well worth the effort! As you schedule your SEO Program, you will want to allot at least six months to accomplish the task!
MYTH #3: You can accomplish SEO for Free!
The confusion in this realm is the fact that visitors come to your site for free, but the competitive nature of SEO mandates that you either hire professionals to achieve the rankings you desire, or that you plan on investing huge amounts of time and energy to accomplish SEO to your satisfaction!
The myths aside, SEO can be a tremendous boon to the success of your church. If you, through your SEO efforts, you can attain a #1 ranking on a Google search you will get a lot of click through traffic! This may lead to visitors who will, of course, greatly “enhance the chance” of your church growing!
Understanding that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of words related to a church, your goal is to make sure that yours shows up for as many of these words as possible when a potential parishioner is searching them, and that is where your keyword research that we discussed in Part II comes into play!
While the Internet is evolving daily, SEARCH ENGINES is one of the two items that tends to remain constant. Being well positioned allows people to discover exactly what it is that your church has to offer. To better understand this concept, consider the Internet a Super Highway with millions of people zooming along it every day. Your SEO program serves as a billboard, advising them of what awaits if they will take the “proper exit” and wind up at your place! Unless they can find you, however, they will always be “potential parishioners ” and never “your parishioners!” If you aren’t showing up in searches, you don’t have a Billboard! The first step is to conduct a keyword research project, which will allow you to find the right terms in order to have a website that is optimized!
As you can see, targeting keywords can lead to more visitors, which strengthens your church outreach. I know this may all seem overwhelming, and would suggest that if you have any questions that you e-mail Randall Mains at firstname.lastname@example.org, as he is more of an expert in this realm than even I am.
Search Engine Optimize Your Website
Be sure to include images in your search engine optimization efforts. You can get even more visitors to your website by properly preparing and coding your images. The reason is that properly prepared and coded images will be found and indexed by search engines, thereby increasing your search engine rankings. Here are some tips.
1. Use high quality images that are optimized for the web.
If your images get picked up by Google Images, more webmasters will link to crisp, clear photos, resulting in more people click on your photos and ultimately to your website. Also specify a width and height in the HTML to help speed up the length of time it takes your page to load into a browser. Pathmaker Marketing‘s professional search engine optimization services take into account the user experience, which ultimately results in more visitors and more conversions of visitors to business assets.
2. Give all images a descriptive title using your keywords.
rose.jpg is much more descriptive than img010609.jpg, and if “rose” is one of the strategic keywords you use for search engine optimization, you’ve increased the incidence of that keyword on your page. If you’re a florist who sells roses, daisies, carnations, etc., people doing a search for roses might be more likely to find your site if you use a more descriptive image name that uses your keywords. In its search engine optimization services, Pathmaker Marketing will help you research keywords that not only are strategic but are more likely to help you increase your page rankings.
3. Always use descriptive <ALT> tags, preferably using your keywords.
ALT stands for alternate text. If your link to the image breaks, or if people have images turned off in the browser or email client, they can still see a description of what you wanted them to see. But an additional useful feature of the <ALT> tag is that you can benefit from them in search engine optimization. Search engines will “see” what’s in your photos because of your <ALT> tags. If your photo is rose.jpg, and Rose is not a flower but a person who owns a bicycle shop named Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop (which is also a keyword), the <ALT> tag might be <ALT=”Rose at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop”>. Google warns against “stuffing” the <ALT> tag with keywords. Avoid something like: <ALT=”schwin shimano Windsor mountain bike”>. Sure, these might be the types of bicycles Rose sells, but none of them are in the photo. If she’s sitting on a Windsor mountain bike you could put that in the <ALT> tag: <ALT=”Rose at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop sitting on a Window mountain bike”>. Just be sure everything is in context.
4. Never put captions inside the image.
Sure, it makes it easier to keep your caption where you want it if you include it in the image itself, but it’s a really bad practice for search engine optimization. Put copyright info inside the image if you want, but not your descriptive keywords. Keep those in the HTML.
5. Opt toward JPG images when appropriate.
There are various types of image files, including GIF, PNG and JPG. Some older browsers don’t read PNG images well yet, and some search engines default to looking for JPG rather than the other two mentioned. That means the search engine is more likely to recognize your photo as a photo if you use the JPG format.
6. Put your images as close to the <TITLE> tag as possible.
If the title of your page is <TITLE=”Rose at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop in Podunk”>, and someone is searching for “bicycle podunk”, your page could get picked up. If your <IMG> tag says <IMG src=”www.someplace.com/images/rose.jpg” ALT=”Rose at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop in Podunk”>, and it is close to the <TITLE> tag (at the top of the page), the <IMG> tag reinforces the <TITLE> tag to help improve your page rankings.
7. Use strategic keywords in all links to the photo.
“Click here” is a good action phrase that people are used to seeing and therefore know what to do when they see it. But “See a picture of Rose at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop” uses your strategic keywords while also using an action phrase that people can quickly figure out what to do with.
8. Register your webpage at Google Webmaster Tools and tag them with Google Image Labeler.
Google Webmaster Tools is a free service that allows webmasters to optimize and check the indexing status of their sites. It’s located here: http://code.google.com/apis/webmastertools/. Google Image Labeler is located here: http://images.google.com/imagelabeler/.
9. Provide context and relevance.
If your photo and everything that describes it is of Rose sitting on a Windsor mountain bike at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop in Podunk, it won’t help if the page content is about studying Japanese in Los Angeles. This will just send a confused message to search engines, and it could do more harm to your rankings rather than good.
10. Protect your images in a way this is friendly to search engine optimization.
You can put copyright info in the image, and some people also include a watermark. Most people don’t mind the copyright info, but watermarks could result in webmasters not linking to your photos. Google also recommends providing a snippet of HTML for people to use to give you attribution when embedding your image on their page. Be sure to include a link to your page on that snippet. This will increase visits to your site also.
Pathmaker Marketing offers search engine optimization services along with non profit fundraising services, Internet business marketing promotion and more. See how Pathmaker can help you, whether you’re looking for a non profit consultant or other Internet business marketing promotion. Click or give us a call at 623-322-3334.
Search Engine Optimization is a specialized field that helps your website get higher rankings in search engines. Your goal in search engine optimization is to capture as much of the page 1 real estate in searches relevant to your business. Whether you’re developing a new website or updating an existing site, you should keep the following guidelines in mind as new content is developed and coded.
1. Structure your site appropriately to be found by search engines.
Google webmaster guidelines say that your site should have a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
2. Make navigation easy and clear.
Google recommends a site map with links that point to the important parts of your site.
3. Remember that “content is king.”
It’s easy to get bogged down in attempt to make the site look great and forget that search engines are looking for content, not looks. Google recommends that you create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
4. Think Through and Liberally Use Appropriate Keywords.
Google recommends that you think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it. Pathmaker Marketing can help you carefully research keywords; we regularly uncover keywords for our clients that they may not have thought of and that have a higher likelihood of being found in search engines. Call us at 623-322-3334 to see if we can help you do a more thorough job of researching appropriate keywords for your business.
Designers love to create headlines in fonts that aren’t available in HTML. They do it by making your headlines images, and this is one sure way to harm yourself when it comes to search engine rankings. Google recommends that you use text instead or at least use the <ALT> tag to include a few descriptive words of the image.
5. Make sure <TITLE> and <META> tags are used appropriately.
These are HTML codes that search engines look for when ranking sites. The <TITLE> tag should not be the same for every page of your site (for example, merely the name of your company). It should contain keywords that have been carefully researched. <META> tags contain specific information that search engines look for when deciding what each page of your site is all about. There is a <META> tag for description, and you should supply your coder with a short paragraph to describe why someone would want to visit this page of your site – it may not be used in ranking, but it could be displayed under the title of the page to help potential visitors decide if they want to click on your listing. These should contain words that actually describe the page content to avoid being penalized by search engines.
6. Check for broken links and correct HTML.
Your will severely hurt your rankings in search engines if you have broken links in your site or if your HTML cannot be read by search engines. Your coders need to be sure to check all code and clean up any extraneous codes left by edits or inserted by HTML generators. Several people should click on every single link in the site to make sure there are no broken links, and it should be re-done every time the site is edited. Also, Google recommends keeping down the number of links on any given page to fewer than 100.
7. Keep parameters short on dynamically-generated pages.
These are pages that are automatically generated from a database. The URL of this type of page will have a “?” in it. Google warns that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages and recommends that the parameters be short and few.
8. Be straightforward in your site structure.
Some sites create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content thinking they’ll trick search engines into believing there is more content on the site than there is. You’ll get found out of you do this – so the best advice is to avoid it. Google recommends that you avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content. If you site participates in an affiliate program, you need to develop your own content that adds value and gives potential users a reason to visit your site rather than the hundreds of others who also participate in the same affiliate program.
9. Make your photo captions text rather than embedding inside an image.
Search engines can’t read text that is part of an image. There rarely is a case when you need to make a photo caption part of the photo, and you’ll benefit in search engine rankings if you keep the captions to HTML text.
10. Use <ALT> tags and descriptive names for all photos and images.
This was briefly discussed with the tip about headlines. All images should have an <ALT> description so search engines will consider the images when ranking your site. These tags need to contain useful information about the subject matter of the image. You also need to use photo names that describe the content. Google states, “my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG.”
Pathmaker Marketing offers a full range of website design, search engine optimization services, fundraising services, Internet business marketing promotion, Christian marketing, non profit fundraising and more. We would be happy to discuss with you how we might be able to help you get the highest rankings in search engines or any other topic about your fundraising needs. Give us a call at 623-322-3334.