You’ve worked hard to come up with the perfect church name, logo, and website that reflects who you are and how you can be a light in your community. That should be enough for a solid online presence, right? Possibly not.
It may not even be on your radar, but consider this: if people don’t see your site listed prominently online when they search Google for, say, “churches in your area,” they might never find you at all. The term for improving this situation, called your online “ranking,” is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
What do we mean by SEO? To illustrate, try this simple exercise: what listing appears when you search for churches in your area? Is your church’s name near the top (or even the top 3) of the search results?
If not, you might be missing important traffic (viewers) to your site – and in turn, an opportunity for them to check out your church. If that’s the case, you’ll want to improve your visibility as much as possible. Here’s 3 things that can help – and note, all 3 are really about connecting with people:
- Improve your Page Loading Speed (My what?)Page loading is about how fast your web content loads – all the text, images, etc.n What’s the link to people here? It may be an indicator of a shortening attention span, or lack of confidence in your website – but studies have shown that if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, 40% of perspective visitors will simply give up, and look elsewhere. What’s more, 80% of those visitors won’t return to your website again in the future. Which means, you’ve lost them – maybe for good.
Not sure how fast your site loads? There are online services, such as Pingdom, which you can use to test your site’s loading speed – for free. You can also gain helpful insights as to what may be slowing things down, and then proceed to make improvements. Remember, it’s worth taking the extra step to remove these issues – not only for first-time visitors, but for repeat viewers as well.
Note: Some of the factors which will influence website loading speed include your web hosting company’s server (how fast it is), large files that increase loading time, too many “plug-ins” on your site (such as WordPress plug-ins for greater functionality), etc.
- Increase Dwell Time What draws people to your site? Hopefully, it’s more than just to check for directions or service times. While those things matter, of course, there’s other reasons to have people hang around your site – the primary one being to give them relevant, helpful content. Dwell time is a key metric that influences SEO, and it’s simply the length of time a person spends looking at your web page after clicking on it from a list of search engine results. It’s based on the idea that more time a viewer spends taking in or “consuming” the content of a particular page, the higher the probability is that their needs were met by the content contained there.
While exact dwell time is not an easily accessed metric for most people, you should know that your chances of increasing it are better if you simply add interesting, fresh, and relevant content. For example, adding video content is one excellent way to do this. Studies show that videos can actually help dwell time increase by a factor of 6, as viewers become engaged with real people and their stories. Which leads us to our 3rd point…
- Consider Adding Regular Blogging to your Site Blogging is another great way to increase traffic to your site, while improving SEO at the same time. If someone can find the relevant content they need, chances are they may come back. But what are people searching for? What kinds of questions are they asking? It’s worthwhile to step back and ask yourself these things, and not assume that you’re automatically connecting with people in your approach. If you really want to meet people where they’re at – struggling, often confused, desiring love and relationships – take note of the people in your community, and learn to ask good questions.
Here’s where your blog can shine, as it provides a welcoming place for people to visit and feel safe; to grapple with practical questions and explore how your church interacts with someone like them – before they show up in person. A regular blog is also a great opportunity to show how gospel grace can transform all of us, in the midst of our everyday struggles (an excellent resource on this is Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands).
- SummaryOur point about SEO is that Google has algorithms designed to detect your website’s popularity. As you increase things like load and dwell time, and continue to add fresh and attractive content to your site, your rankings should improve accordingly, and your visibility as well – all in the name of connecting with real people.
In this way, improving your online presence can become a key part of striving to, “in every way… make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Titus 2:10