On-Page SEO for Your Church Website

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In today’s podcast episode, Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng discuss the three basic components of On-Page SEO Optimization: Metadata, Security, and Speed. Tune in to hear them explain the different components and add their valuable insight into each of these three components!
For more information, visit Missional Marketing’s page, and be sure to download a checklist of On-Page SEO optimization steps and test how well your website content and metadata is optimized for ministry-related keywords:
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Katie Allred: Welcome to the Church Communications podcast. I’m Katie Allred.

Kenny Jahng: And I’m Kenny Jahng.

Katie Allred: We want to help you become a better church communicator.

Kenny Jahng: And this is the place we’re going to talk about strategies and best practices for your church.

Katie Allred: Let’s get started.

Kenny Jahng: Hey friends, it’s that time again, Kenny Jahng, Katie Allred, reporting to you live from the interwebs.

Katie Allred: Yes, welcome to episode three of this season.

Kenny Jahng: Katie, aren’t you excited that we’re doing this together?

Katie Allred: I mean, I’m pretty psyched about it. This is the most time we’ve ever spent together actually so.

Kenny Jahng: It is a pleasure, an honor to be co-hosting this podcast series with you. We are really diving deep I think into some of the practical necessities of what churches need to do with their websites. At the end of the day I think there was a period of time where everyone almost forgot about their website, almost like it’s their fifth, sixth, seventh child that tends to get forgotten about or a pet that’s just in the corner all day. But I think there’s a resurgence of attention back to websites. And so, today we’re going to talk about the old topic of on page SEO.

Katie Allred: Yep.

Kenny Jahng: It seems to be something that never disappears it just keeps on percolating back in circles and conversations.

Katie Allred: It does come up a lot but it hasn’t changed a ton honestly like in actual doing it. So, I mean there is definitely some things that have changed a little bit. Like back in the day in order to get ranked for keywords, to rank for certain things in your area you used to have to just write the same thing over, and over, and over again and that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Actually Google will penalize you for doing that.

Kenny Jahng: Yes. Would you like a church in Tampa, Florida? Because Tampa, Florida is a great place to have friends that you live with in Tampa, Florida and invite them to your Tampa, Florida church.

Katie Allred: Right. And that was what SEO people recommend for a long time and SEO experts probably still say stuff like that but that’s not necessarily the case.

Kenny Jahng: No, not at all. In fact so we’re going to focus in on just three things today that we are talking about on page SEO testing, how well your website content does. I think this is the stuff that we want to get to. First of all, we’ve got to talk about some of the stuff like what is on page SEO so maybe we should start there.

Katie Allred: So, that is the stuff that’s happening on the page even if it’s in the background not necessarily happening throughout the site or through Google My Business or something it’s actually happening on the website’s page.

Kenny Jahng: Yeah. And so, I think we both came to agreement that there’s probably just three core things that everyone here needs to pay attention to first. I think it’s, again it’s like a dark hole that you can be trapped in a tunnel somewhere if you really go down deep and get lost in SEO but really I think all websites, all church websites need to think about these three things first. So Katie, I want you to just share first what those three things are and then we can go through them today.

Katie Allred: Okay. So content metadata, and then speed and insecurity. So again, content metadata, speed and security. So don’t worry if you’re like, “I have no idea what she just said.” We’re going to go through it.

Kenny Jahng: So metadata …

Katie Allred: What is content metadata?

Kenny Jahng: Yeah, this is the stuff that in order for your church website to be displayed in organic searches, not paid, it’s not an ad, but naturally you’ve got to have content that’s dedicated to telling Google and the bots, all the search engines, what topic of relevance your website is all about. And so …

Katie Allred: You know too, if you don’t have content, so say you have specific ministries, you’ve got a special needs ministry, you have a counseling ministry, you don’t have content about those things on your website how is anyone going to know that you offer counseling? How is anybody going to know that you have a special needs ministry? You’ve got to put the content on your website and then structure it so Google can understand it.

Kenny Jahng: Absolutely. And so, I mean first of all we’re not going to discuss what content you should have actually on your church’s website today but instead we’re going to talk about how the content you do have should be structured. Again because it’s really important for Google to understand what it is all about and then let them deliver it to the searchers. Right?

Katie Allred: Right.

Kenny Jahng: Okay. So where do we start?

Katie Allred: So purposefully optimize your page title, so your browser, your titles. We talked about this a little bit in the last episode but the browser title is basically the title element in HTML. You can set this on Yost, you can set this, that’s a WordPress plugin, so you can set this in WordPress, you can set this if you’re just doing an HTML website, you can set this in Squarespace. But essentially it’s a 50, 60 characters title of your church’s website. It’s really important for Google to understand it so you need to say what is on the page but also you need to say where you are.

Kenny Jahng: Great. And then I think the second one if you’re going to set the title description there’s these meta descriptions or what your page is about. And we talked about how Google actually would pick up that text and use it as the blurb in the result pages sometimes. And again this can come down to the difference between whether someone’s going to click on your listing on the SERP, the Search Engine Result Page, or not. They’re going to ignore your search result and keep on going down the page and try to find the next one. So, if you don’t set this meta description for your page then Google is going to have to figure out on its own a search result description that it’s going to basically scan your page and try to pull snippets together. And I feel like there is a, we could probably do some memes probably of failed snippets that Google has figured. Google thinks your page is about this and then it presents it and it’s completely off. So, you really want to set that meta-description tag.

Katie Allred: Yeah, it’s a 160 characters so it’s not super long but you just need to be upfront, clear to the point. “We are a church. Christian Community Church is a church in Dallas, Texas and we offer children’s ministries. We care about you.” Next thing Kenny.

Kenny Jahng: It’s like we talked about last time. These are very standard, very basic best practices. Headings are appropriate. So the organization is really important for content on the web. And so, if you think about like when you’re in high school or college writing essays and outlines you have ordered lists that indent into sub list, sub list, sub list, and that’s the same thing that’s going on here. We have a headline one tag which should be your largest, most important subject category tag, that’s your headline. And then the H two is the next order of business and the H three so it’s like a nested levels, different levels of a headline. Those help Google tell what’s important and what is the relationship of contents in that structure of the conversation that you’re putting out there. I think it’s really important for you to put that out there for the user but it also helps for Google ranking as well.

Katie Allred: For sure and it also helps with accessibility so. As a church you know how many people in your community are hurting. You have developed amazing ministries to help but how do you connect your church ministries with those who so desperately need them? Imagine what would happen and Google will gladly do it for you. Paying attention to your church’s websites on page SEO is the answer.

Kenny Jahng: So our friends at Missional Marketing, they created this checklist which I love. It’s a simple checklist for on page SEO to basically help you understand how your church is doing in this whole area. So they’ve also developed this diagnostic tool which I think all churches should put their website through. It’s free. Basically it’s a tool that recalls every nook and cranny of the site, identifies key words connected to each page, and then a rating of effectiveness for each one. So, Missional Marketing is offering both of these resources to our listeners today. We’re thanking them for sponsoring this series so that we can provide these resources to you for free.

Katie Allred: Yeah. All you have to do is go to missionalmarketing.com/onpage again that is missionalmarketing.com/onpage one word. All right, so what is the next thing we need to focus on?

Kenny Jahng: This one drives me crazy man. When you’re setting up a [inaudible 00:09:29] especially you’ve got some options and then sometimes you have URLs that is like gobbledygook. It’s like my church.org/ministry-/children/XRPonetwothree. It just goes on, and on, and on. It’s almost like pi, 3.14, but in letters, I mean it just doesn’t make sense. The web is made for people, it’s written by people, your URLs should indicate structure and purpose. Those are the two things I think you should and it should be in plain English. So, maybe you can give an example Katie of what, like a children’s ministry page.

Katie Allred: Yep.

Kenny Jahng: What might be the structure?

Katie Allred: So, I would literally just do /children personally. But you could do /ministry/children. Because it belongs under ministries. You can even get more specific than that. You might have a preschool ministry in your children’s ministry. Well you might could do ministry/children/preschool. The important thing is just to make sure your permalink structure uses plain English instead of numbers.

Kenny Jahng: Yes. Please, please, please. Okay Katie what’s the last one? This is to me it’s like one of my secret weapons in SEO because I think it’s one of those things that it just takes a little bit extra time to do this but the results are huge.

Katie Allred: Huge. Yeah, I completely agree.

Kenny Jahng: Well, the last one was all texts, right?

Katie Allred: Yes.

Kenny Jahng: So there’s these tags, alternate text tags that you can put on these attributes you define. It’s not seen by regular display of webpages. It is seen for accessibility issues but it also serves a purpose for Google, right?

Katie Allred: Yeah 100%. Google will read all of these tags so you have to make sure that the tags are descriptive and that they actually do explain what’s happening here. But you can also use them as the time for you to put Florida church or whatever, those kinds of things in there just because it does help eliminate the disconnect.

Kenny Jahng: Imagine if you had a page on life groups and you had a dozen pictures and you could say, I’ll just use cities in New Jersey, “West Orange life group, Paramus life group, Livingston life group.” You can have all these city names and it’s a [inaudible 00:11:55] life groups. And if someone who’s searching for churches with life groups or churches with small groups near me that’s going to help the page rankings. So, these all text attributes are like a secret weapon to me. It’s so easy to set, it just takes a little bit extra time, but the results are going to be amazing. So that’s great, content and metadata. The second one I think you said was talking about what, it was speed.

Katie Allred: Speed optimization, speed it matters. So you can go to page speed through Google. So just Google page speed and you can type in your address, your URL, and find out what the page feed is for your website. So, desktop versus mobile, there’s different page speeds there. Basically how fast does your website load? If your website doesn’t load in less than three seconds then you’re going to lose users and also Google is going to rank you lower. So, not only will you lose users because they don’t like your slow website but Google will actually push your ranking down because your website’s slow. And there’s a lot of different things that impacts speed. So it’s not just your web host. Your web host does play a huge part in this so please get a great web host. Don’t buy Blue, I don’t want to say don’t buy Bluehost but get a good web host and then that ranks well for speed.

Katie Allred: But also crunching your images, optimizing those images, there’s a lot of different things you can do to optimize your speed. So it will actually tell you how to optimize your speed. If you go into page speed and they will actually generate a little report for you and tell you all the things you can do in order to do that. You can also minify some scripts which that’s a little more technical developer kind of jargon. But I just recommend figuring out there’s a ton of different optimized plugins too if you want to do that. Caching is really important. A CDN, a Cloud Delivery Network, can help increase your speed. There’s a lot of different ways.

Kenny Jahng: Is this a Southern Northern thing is catching, caching, cache, cash?

Katie Allred: I don’t know. I have no idea.

Kenny Jahng: It’s like GIF and GIF what do you call it GIF or GIF?

Katie Allred: JIF. I’m 100% on the GIF chain.

Kenny Jahng: Even though everyone else says GIF?

Katie Allred: That’s not correct though. Well first off, I’ve always been on the GIF team ever since I was a child, been team GIF, but then the guy who created GIFs came out and it’s GIF and then also you don’t say giraffe you say giraffe. I don’t understand. And then people were like, “Well, it’s a antonym or whatever. It’s a thing.” Not a …

Kenny Jahng: Acronym.

Katie Allred: Right it’s an acronym. And so they’re like, “Graphics has a G, a hard G.” I was like, “You don’t say ATM, like ATM.” You know what I’m saying? I know it’s A now but you don’t say that. You don’t say ATM or whatever. So I was like, “That’s not how you do it.”

Kenny Jahng: I’m going to start calling it ATM.

Katie Allred: ATM, I’m going to go use the ATM later.

Kenny Jahng: Get cash from the ATM.

Katie Allred: Go get cash from the ATM. So it’s GIf because it’s a silent G sound. I mean, anytime there’s a G and a I together it’s GIF. I mean, I know of course it’s like nobody expected. It could just be GIF. We could be saying that like we say P and G but there’s a vowel in the middle so why not? Anyway, that was besides the point but speed really important you should do it.

Kenny Jahng: Yes. Speed is important. [crosstalk 00:15:39]

Katie Allred: SEO. No doubt at all. If your website is slow you will not rank and we don’t want you to do that.

Kenny Jahng: There’s even a technology called AMP pages which loads lightening fast and Google prioritizes pages built in AMP then regular static or dynamic sites.

Katie Allred: Article’s really, I don’t know if the whole website but articles especially you can use ANT for and there’s a plugin for that if you’re using [crosstalk 00:16:10]

Kenny Jahng: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. The third pillar. You said first of all an on page SEO, we need to think about your content and metadata, we talked about speed optimization. What was the third pillar you were talking about?

Katie Allred: Website security.

Kenny Jahng: Okay. I think this is big issue. I just had a client site got hacked last week and it actually set up I think 80 gigabytes of data logs in the account and so it overloaded the hosting account. I mean there’s security stuff that we have to pay attention today.

Katie Allred: Yeah. And it’s really a hot mess. It’s very easy to before you know it your website’s hacked or whatever. But did you know if you’re not using an SSL certificate. So, your website needs to be HTTPS not just HTTP. It has to have the lock symbol up in the browser. If you don’t have an SSL certificate your website will not rank and then every time somebody goes to your website it’s going to pull up, especially in Google Chrome, it’s going to pull up this website is not secure. Do you want to go back? So, that’s terrible. You don’t want that to happen to your churches website because people are going to automatically think your church isn’t legitimate. So get an SSL certificate. It’s really easy to set up.

Kenny Jahng: Where do you get an SSL certificate? Is it like you go to school and complete a course and get the certificate?

Katie Allred: No. It’s not a real certificate. It’s a online thing, a digital certificate of sorts that you add to your hosting not through your domain typically through your host.

Kenny Jahng: Your web host?

Katie Allred: Yeah, your web host. So whoever your web host is you can get an SSL certificate. You can get one for free through let’sencrypt.com. It’s so easy to set up. Most of the time your host will set it up for you. If they’re trying to charge you for it maybe tell them, “There’s a free one. Can we do that?” For a long time hosts wouldn’t do it for free and now it’s become pretty normal just because you have to have one. Otherwise again, Google is going to push you down in the rankings if you’re not HTTPS and you’re not secure.

Kenny Jahng: So SSL certificate means your sites, the site session is encrypted for all you nerds out there, it has a secure connection and you want to make sure that it’s used all the time. I love, there’s a plugin called Really Simple SSL, it’s a WordPress plugin. So if you have a WordPress site it actually just forces the SSL connection all the time so it guarantees that all you transition to and from your site will be private. And so, and it also creates consistent URLs for your Google analytics tracking and other purposes. So that HTTPS is just so important, right?

Katie Allred: Right. And sometimes it’ll happen where there might be mixed content where some of it is secure and some of it’s not and that happens when your website hasn’t been for a long time and maybe some images are behind that SSL certificate. I would totally just talk to your web host about that and see if they can’t rectify it for you. Because a lot of times they will fix it. So, that’s where I would try to lean on them and ask them some questions through they’re support if you have it.

Kenny Jahng: Gotcha. Well that’s great. So, I think today we’ve talked about on page SEO. Hopefully if you listened to our previous episode, go back, this last episode we were talking about local SEO. There’s a difference between that kind of activity and on page SEO. So, hopefully you understand the difference between the two different activities. They are both important. Today we talked about metadata, why that type of the content of your title, meta descriptions, all image tags, et cetera. Those are your secret weapons. Go off and do them. And then speed was really important and then the security stuff. Those are the, I think for on page SEO those are the three pillars that almost any and everyone, all 21,000 people in our Facebook group, the Church Communications Facebook, better have these three things. In fact we almost should require it to get into the group.

Katie Allred: That should be a question. Have you set up your on page SEO?

Kenny Jahng: So, that was a lot, so it was a lot we covered. It might be intimidating. Katie, I think there was a checklist that you said that we had available for everybody.

Katie Allred: Yeah, there is a checklist. If you go to missionalmarketing.com they’re sponsoring this today. It’s missionalmarketing.com/onpage. No dash just /onpage. You can download a checklist and get the test and figure out how well your website content metadata is optimized for ministry related keywords. So again, missionalmarketing.com/onpage.

Kenny Jahng: Great. Again, I love the fact that we’re going through the core basic best practices for websites because again I think websites were forgotten. Katie, what are we going to talk about next time as we get together?

Katie Allred: Well, so we’re talking about using Google analytics and the search engine console to gain actionable insight. So, I’m excited to figure out what we’re going to talk about next time. Google analytics, I mean if you haven’t been using Google analytics you really need to. I mean there’s so much you can gain and learn. I found out in the group, I asked people to look at their Google analytics and tell me how many people’s websites are mostly mobile users and it was 70% of churches found that 80% of their users were mobile, something like that. It’s wild.

Kenny Jahng: That’s like.

Katie Allred: Yeah. So, mobile use on on websites is, you should be mobile friendly first. So we’re going to talk about how you can use Google analytics to pull insights like that, really exciting stuff. I can’t wait for next week.

Kenny Jahng: And then finally you’re going to be in the know because there’s all these techie terms like bounce rate, conversion rate, click through rate. I mean there’s all these terms that get tossed around and I’m sure when I first started I felt like I was the only fool in the room because I didn’t know all those terms. We should go over some of those stuff and make sure that everyone feels comfortable, Katie, next time we get together.

Katie Allred: Yeah, sounds great.

Kenny Jahng: Well, thanks for joining us today. One of the things that we really want you guys to do is help us share these episodes with your friends and your team members if you find them helpful. It’s one of the best things that you can do to help us reach more church communicators and equip them. Our heart is to really equip people with the best practices that we have here in technology, the internet, the web, the social media, et cetera. And Katie and I just would love for you to be able to share that as a resource with someone that you know that would benefit from it. And also, the obligatory smash that like button, give us a review, and reach out to us. We love hearing from you. And then last call out is Katie what’s the best place to find our community and our resources? If you could just hand out our URL and our Facebook group name it’s really hard to remember.

Katie Allred: Yeah, churchcommunications.com. Again, that is church communications with an s.com And you can also find our group on there if you just click group. So, we’d love to have you, can’t wait to see you in the group if you haven’t been a part. So looking forward to it.

Katie Allred: You can improve the online impact of every ministry within your church through on page SEO. Help ministries of your church today, download Missional Marketing’s on page SEO checklist and use their powerful keyword analyzer tool. Both resources are totally free for our listeners. All you need to do is go to missionalmarketing.com/onpage. I’ll see you there.


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