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9 Ways Bad Church Website Design Hurts Search Rankings

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Sometimes when churches come to us asking for help to improve their search rankings, we have to tell them they need to get a new website first. That’s because church website design has a huge impact on church search rankings and the degree to which a church website can be optimized to improve search engines. Therefore…

  • If your church is thinking about building a new website, it’s important to consider SEO factors now – before you build the site – so they don’t come back to bite you later.
  • If your church already has a website that seems to look good and functions well but it’s not getting many visitors, consider whether one or more of these design issues may be hurting your search rankings.

9 Ways Bad Church Website Design Hurts Search Rankings

1) Not Mobile-Friendly. I beat the mobile-friendly drum every chance I get, with good reason… 50% of searches are done on mobile devices. Sites that are not mobile-friendly are penalized by Google. If you’re about to build a new website, you would be crazy not to require it be mobile-friendly. And if your current website is not mobile-friendly, you really, really, really should be looking to redesign it ASAP.

2) Built with Flash. There’s at least one very popular church website design company that builds all their websites in Flash. Flash can be used to create some really cool effects, which is part of the reason this particular company became so popular. But search engines have a hard time reading Flash, and Apple does not support Flash on any of their devices, so Flash is a really bad design choice.

3) Doesn’t Use a Content Management System (CMS). There are 3 basic ways to build a website: a) hand-code HTML files, b) use web development software like Dream Weaver or Microsoft Expression, or c) use a content management system (CMS) which is software installed on the server which stores and manages all the content. When a website is created with hand-coded HTML files or software, the files are created and stored on the developer’s computer and then uploaded to the server. If the files on the server are optimized for search engines, those optimization changes can be overwritten the next time the developer updates the website. So, often the person optimizing the site has to ask the developer to make the optimization changes which takes extra time and money. Using a CMS saves time and money and prevents these conflicts.

4) Title & Description Tags Can’t Be Changed. Some CMSs don’t allow the user to edit the title tag or meta description tag, which are used by search engines. Others allow the user to set one title and description tag which is then used on every page of the website. Make sure the CMS your website uses allows you to edit the title and description tags for each page individually.

5) Unoptimized URLs. If the web addresses of your web pages is something like, that’s not good. Something like is much better.

6) Poor Use of H tags. H tags are the HTML used for creating headings in a web page. The H1 tag is used for the title of the page. H2 tags are used for 2-3 other major headings. If a website design includes no H1 tags or multiple H1 tags, that’s going to hurt its search rankings. If it has no H2 tags or more than 3 of them, that could also hurt search rankings.

7) Slow Load Times. If your website takes a long time to load, it’s already giving your visitors a poor experience. There is a lot of speculation as to whether site load time is a search rankings factor. Some SEOs say it already is. Others say search engines will be making it a search ranking factor soon, especially in mobile search results.

8) No Social Media Integration. When people share your web pages, blog posts and other website content, it helps your search rankings. The more social shares usually also leads to more links, which also helps search rankings. Having share buttons on each page/post makes it easier for people to do that. And having social media icons built into your theme will lead to more people following you on social media.

9) People Don’t Link to Ugly Sites. You could have the most insightful, inspiring or useful content in the world, but if your website looks bad people won’t to link to it. Links are one of the top 2 search rankings factors. So, if you want links and better search rankings, your website has to look decent.

If you’re considering a new website for your church…

Waiting to think about SEO until after your website is built is like waiting to think about a car’s engine until after the car is built.


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If you want more visitors to your church website but it’s got one or more of these 9 design problems, it might be time to consider a new site.

What do you think?

  • Did you consider these SEO factors when your church created its current website? Why or why not?
  • Does your current church website have some of these design problems?  If so, how do you feel about that?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.