|Building Links to church website?|
Any suggestions for a non profit org such as a church?
I recently developed a Joomla CMS based site for our church. The site prior to that was done in Frontpage, and had a lot of non-friendly SEO attributes such as numerous page titles with non descriptive, duplicate names, etc. I tried to pay close attention to fixing those problems with this new site. I have also enabled search engine friendly URLs in Joomla. We are a relatively small organization, so we do not have funds to pay for advertising. We do have a .org domain.
The site itself is updated on a weekly basis. Much of the information is static in nature with history, policies, meeting times, etc. However, we also post our upcoming events which change from week to week. We also have some original content posted in the form of weekly sermon audio.
I'm looking for ways to increase traffic to our site. Right now, our home page has a PR of 1. According to GA, we are getting 10-20 visits per day. So far, I've been trying to obtain backlinks from community and regional websites, but there are only so many of these. I've also tried to identify where other local churches were getting backlinks and submitted to those sites. I was thinking of trying to get some links from Christian websites but this seems to be a challenge as well. Any other suggestions that might help us drive more traffic to our site?
Thanks in advance!
"Traffic" is meaningless unless it is related to the purpose of the site in question. Promotion of the site should also relate to the purpose.
For example, if the main purpose of the church site is to serve the existing congregation, then promotion should be focused within the congregation itself.
If there is an aspect of the is the site that is meant to reach into the local community, then site promotion would focus there via things like the local Chamber of Commerce, community directories, etc. I would also work at local search in G, Y, etc.
Leave competing for the search term 'church' to the Vatican ;)
Thanks for the input. Well the site has two primary purposes. The first is to serve the existing congregation. The second is to serve as a promotional tool to reach out to prospective new members.
How about asking members of the congregation who have blogs or websites to link to the church site? Prepare a link-to-us page with code snippets to make it easy for them.
Also ask people to bookmark the church URL in their social bookmarks. That wouldn't help as much with SEO support, but even so it would help to get the URL out there.
Another suggestion for links is to think weddings, and maybe funerals too. Some vendor directories in the wedding sector will include churches in their lists of venues. Also, local wedding professionals might be a source for productive link exchanges ... florists, photographers, caterers, etc. (That assumes you have some editorial discretion about linking out.)
Make sure your site provides useful information and a welcoming attitude for couples who are thinking of getting married, whether or not they're not members of your congregation. Do the same for families who need to make funeral arrangements. Weddings and funerals can be a major point of connection, not just for website traffic but for potential new members.
Make sure the church URL is mentioned in the service program every week, on the bulletin board, and any other place you can get it in print. Does the church office have an answering machine? Mention it there too, as long as the URL is one that would be reasonably easy to understand by hearing.
Your primary target audience will be local so go for all the local exposure you can get.
Thanks buckworks. I was thinking along those same lines on trying to get our URL out there as much as possible. I think for a long time, the church did not publicize it's web address very often. Some of this could be that church marketing in general is poor, and that the previous site, while good content-wise, did not have a professional look to it.
One issue with our church in terms of reaching out to more people is that our demographic is older. So opportunities in terms of getting people to link back to us through blogs/social bookmarks are few and far between.
|demographic is older ... few and far between |
Ask anyhow. The sweet little old lady squadron will often amaze you when they know there's a need and also a practical way to help. They might not have their own blogs but they'll have nieces and nephews and grandchildren who do. Get them talking!
|So opportunities in terms of getting people to link back to us through blogs/social bookmarks are few and far between. |
Don't start off by putting roadblocks in your way, you'll never get anywhere. It only takes one good link to build others.
You have to start somewhere and a solid foundation gives you something on which to build. As buckworks says, get the domain name on everything: business cards, the side of the church van, youth group T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, phone book listing, heck, the back of the choir robes.
|Some of this could be that church marketing in general is poor... |
Few churches think in terms of "marketing". Rather, if anything, they think in terms of outreach, evangalizing, missions, etc.
Dealing with the congregation, one will probably get more mileage using similar terms, rather than marketing (even though we know it is one and the same).
I am reminded of a church I attended many years ago that had a sign on the exit doors that read, "Our work starts here." The idea was to get the congregation to focus outward, toward the community, rather than inward, towards itself.
I have a couple of websites that I would love to have a ready and willing group, regardless of age demographics, that were willing to activley promote.
And, as was said, don't discount the power of elderly women in front of computers. I know several in their 80's that are extremely active on the Internet - and quite articulate to boot.
It sounds like you have the first key element down - frequent updates. Nothing kills a church site faster than an announcement for a 3 year old big event on the front page :-)
I see a lot of event announcements for activities that are sponsored by or held at churches, car shows, festivals, etc. If any of your events would welcome non members of your church event calendars might be an option.
Some event calendars will let you post these notices as much as a year ahead of time, with a link to your site.
Look for both local and national event calendars.
A simple search for the (type of event) + (your town or state) should help find appropriate event calendars.
A really great way to bring some extra traffic to your site and increase "brand" recognition is to not only post church events that are being held, but to go out and document them from the perspective of your congregation. If you're holding a fair, bake sale, anything, it doesn't hurt to take a little video and throw it on youtube. You can embed that directly on your site and also have it on youtube so a lot of people can look at it, and you never know, you may fall into something viral. I know a lot of older congregations are looking for "young blood" so to speak and i think this kind of social viral marketing is just the thing to get those young folks you may be looking for.
Does your pastor have a blog at all? Might not be a bad idea to have him post a weekly blog or something along those lines which you could fill throughout the week with "related" news pertaining locally to your congregation and then more generally to religion as a whole, etc.
Another neat thing you could do is possibly create a directory of churches along your same lines of faith so that your congregation can attend church if they are out of town, maybe they can find a church through your page. And if you extend a reciprocal link exchange to say, a church in Florida, then perhaps someone from THAT church will come visit yours when they're in your area on vacation. Things like that should provide a virtually never-ending source of reciprocal link material and also provide a lot of use for your visitors.
If your church has a Boy Scout troop (Cub Scouts, Brownies, Girl Scouts, etc.), create a section of the site for them. I can almost guarantee you that there is some local Boy Scout association that organizes local jamborees and events for the scouts in your area. There may also be a state level Boy Scout association that organizes state jamborees and events. They more than likely have a web site that will likely have a directory listing all of the scout troops in your city (and/or state). Get on their directory with a link to your Boy Scout Troop page.
If your church participates in Meals on Wheels or other charities, ask them to link to your site as well in appreciation for all of the good work you do for them.
Are the wheels turning yet? Pretty much any company/organization for whom the church does work or interacts with is a candidate for a link. They don't even have to be reciprocal. I would ask the charities you do work for to give one way links in return for all the work you do. Other non-charity organizations like funeral homes, etc. might request reciprocal, but even with those I'd start out asking for one ways. Chances are half of them have never even heard of Search Engine Optimization...
But before approaching anyone about giving you a link, you should already have visited/researched their site and have an idea of where on their site (an existing page or a new page you're suggesting for a particular section of their site) they should put your link.
[edited by: ZydoSEO at 11:11 pm (utc) on Oct. 27, 2008]
The advice is standard for any not-for-profit organisation.
1. Find niche authority sites. (for Episciopal churches start with the diocese)
2. Find location authority sites - local media, local government
3. Peer to peer links - other churches in the region
4. Related not-for-profits, eg local organisations that use your premises
5. Related business - catering for weddings, baptisms, funerals etc
Same classes of link as for the community arts organisation that I run a site for.
|Well the site has two primary purposes. The first is to serve the existing congregation. The second is to serve as a promotional tool to reach out to prospective new members. |
I work with sites in similar situations. The thing is, you have a "territory" if we were to use traditional terminology. You are only going to appeal to a regionally based audience unless of course you've moved into the 21st Century and now provide Audio and Video. I see you have the Weekly Sermon which may be a great promotional tool for those outside your regional radius. I mean, how far are people going to actually drive to attend church? ;)
Video is viral. If you can produce them, hurry and get on the train before it leaves.
Events are viral. If you have them, post them, promote them and follow up on them after the fact. Post pics, videos, etc.
I better not receive any emails from churches wanting to do link exchanges, arrrggghhh!
Keywords. Don't think anyone has mentioned keywords. I think they're vital. Assuming you're outreach is mainly to "Ourtown" then make sue "Ourtown" is in your keywords. Are you focussing on people who are looking for a church? Or for people for whom church is off the radar at the moment. If it's the latter, I think other promotional methods will be your primary focus, supplemented by your website.
PS I hope your website's good - I've seen so many poor church ones that are a real turn off - bad design, too much jargon, (as mentioned above) - out of date events, too twee ....argh the list goes on!
Poor design or too much jargon can be annoying, but out-of-date content is the unforgivable sin. ;)
If I had a church site...
One of the first things I'd do is look to the church membership. Find out who is online, who is active in the local communities, etc. Get them involved with your undertaking.
With many church groups, the 80/20 rule applies. Find the 20% that are truly devoted to the promotion of the church and focus on them. They are your coaches. They will help you get things done.
Find your photographers in the group. Ask them to get involved and start photographing events and such. Set up an email for them or provide an image upload area so they can easily send you their content. Get them involved!
Find your writers in the group. Use the same process as above, rinse and then repeat for additional groups. The more you get the church members involved, the more it becomes a community thing. It will take time and you will need to make things happen fast so they see it working. Don't worry, the word will spread and many will want to get involved. You'll have a waiting list! :)
Capitalize on the talents that the members of the church have. If you can provide them an outlet to get involved, by all means, go right ahead and give them whatever they need. If you make it "very easy" for them, you'll have plenty to work with.
Bottom line here is you need content that people will link to. That content needs to come from somewhere. Of course the church membership is the best and only option. In this case, you will build it and they will come. Look at it as a long term relationship. ;)
|Find out who is online, who is active in the local communities, etc. Get them involved with your undertaking. |
Sure, it's all local and all the usual suspects: the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Along with the innkeeper, local CofC, Rotary and such. Then add in local tourist board, local attractions, newspapers; many will have a "Local Houses of Worship" page for visitors.
i would head over to the google maps local business center [maps.google.com] and start optimizing things there as well.
God bless your site. There a few church site the will link to your site.
Thanks for all the feedback. I already hit most of the basics, but this thread definitely added some new ideas that I didn't even think of.