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How to Communicate the Importance of SEO to Your Pastor

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Almost every church website administrator (volunteer and paid) and every church communications director I talk to understands it’s important for their church website to rank well in search engines.  However, less than 10% of churches do anything to improve their search rankings.

Why the discrepancy?

  • “I don’t know how”
  • “I don’t have the time”
  • “There’s no money for it in the budget”

Ultimately, for a church to improve its search rankings it’s going to have to either:

  • A) Direct a paid staff person to devote the time to learn how to do search engine optimization (SEO) and implement the SEO that will improve the church’s search rankings, or
  • B) Budget to have a professional church SEO improve the church’s search rankings

Because the senior pastor is usually the person with the most influence over how paid staff spend their time and the church budget…

Most churches will only experience good search rankings if the pastor is on board with SEO.

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So, here is some advice about…

How to Communicate the Importance of SEO to Your Pastor

1) Explain the How SEO Is Directly Related to Your Church’s Mission

  • Is your church’s mission to share the gospel with unbelievers in your community?  80%-90% of people searching for spiritual answers do at least part of their search online.  If your church website can’t be found, they will find their answers elsewhere.
  • Is your church’s mission to connect with people who recently moved into your community? People who haven’t been to a church in a while but are feeling nudge to go back to church?  Your best chance to help these people find a new spiritual home in your church is by getting your church on the first page of the search results for “church in [your city]”
  • Is your church’s mission to serve the poor, mentor youth, help those struggling with addiction, walking with people who have suffered a loss? How are you expecting the people you want to help to find your church? They will be searching online

2) Explain What SEO Is in Plain English

To many people, SEO seems like black magic.  Google considers more than 200 factors in its search ranking algorithm. When someone starts spewing SEO terminology like meta tags, alt attributes, on-page optimization, link building, the local 3 pack, content marketing… it can sound like a witch’s spell.

Here’s what church SEO is in plain English:

  • Reviewing and fixing any problems with the church website that may prevent search engines from being able to read it.
  • Optimizing the church website so search engines understand the cities you serve and what kind of a church you are. This way when people search for your kind of church in the cities you serve, the search engines will show a link to your church.
  • Setting up local search listings on sites like Google Maps and Bing Maps, so your church is listed there, and the information there is accurate.
  • Ongoing monitoring of your church website and search rankings to make sure something bad doesn’t happen to cause your search rankings to drop (or if it does you catch it and fix it quickly.)
  • Ongoing efforts to continue to improve search rankings such as blogging and social media.

Answer any questions your pastor may have. If you don’t know the answers, send them to us – we’d be happy to answer any questions. You can also read our in-depth blog series What is SEO?

3) Show a Cost-Benefit Analysis

For some pastors explaining that SEO is mission-critical may be enough: “If this is what we need to do to reach our community, let’s do it!”  Others may ask, “How are we going to pay for it?”

I encourage churches to look at SEO as an investment.  Church SEO services typically cost between $150 and $500 a month depending on how big a city the church is in and how aggressively the church wants to improve its search rankings.  That works out to $1,800 to $6,000 a year.

The median family income in the U.S. is $60,000.  If even just one new tithing family comes to your church because they found it through search engines, that would produce more than a 3x return on investment for an inexpensive SEO service, and it would even pay for a more aggressive SEO service.

Aren’t your mission and the people in your community worth that kind of investment?

If you’re proposing to have a staff member do the SEO, you can run similar numbers based on their salary and the amount of time each month they will put towards SEO.

4) Continue the Conversation

Don’t expect your pastor to instantly jump on the SEO bandwagon.  Most of the pastors I know are contemplative. They want to think through the details, ask questions, and pray about it.  At the end of your initial conversation with your pastor, ask if you can schedule a time to follow up in a couple of weeks so you can answer any questions, discuss any concerns, and talk about next steps.

Don’t be surprised if it takes several conversations over several months.  Your pastor may want to see more evidence that SEO works, case studies, or talk with pastors of other churches that have done SEO.

Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you with these conversations.

If in the end, your church decides it would like our help with church SEO services, we’d love to help. But more importantly, it’s our heart to see every church living out its mission online and reaching the people in its community regardless of how or where they do their SEO.

What questions can we answer for you and your pastor?

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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.

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