Church Marketing Through On-Page Optimization
Are the pages of your website optimized for the search engines? On-page optimization is the essence of search engine optimization and the key to targeting the keywords that can make your website a success.
What is On-Page Optimization?
On-page optimization refers to all the optimization done on the actual pages of your website. This includes both visible elements, like optimizing text, and behind-the-scenes work, like optimizing META tags. Search Engine Optimization has essentially three main parts, keyword research, on-page optimization, and track/reporting. (You could also technically include link building). These elements of SEO could also be described as research, implementation, and tracking the results. On-page optimization is the implementation stage of search engine optimization. With on-page optimization, you target specific keywords and help the search engines to rank you well for these keywords. (If you’re not sure what keywords to target, read our article on Keyword Research).
On-page optimization can be one of the cheapest and more rewarding forms of church marketing you can do.
On-Page Optimization Elements:
The optimization of a web page involves several different elements of the page. Below I’ll go through these elements and discuss a little about them:
Title Tag: This is one of the most important elements in on-page optimization. The Title tag is an element found in the head of the page. Look for the title and /title tags. What comes between these tags is the Title tag. The Title tag is visible to visitors, but not in the body of the page, rather it is displayed in the top bar of the web browser. The Title tag should be a short description of the page and should contain the keywords you want to target for that page.
Description META Tag: The description tag is not as heavily weighted as the Title tag, but it should still be optimized. It is located in the head of the page, usually just below the title tag. The coding for the description tag is meta name=”description” content=””. The text used between the quotes after content= is the description META tag. The description tag is not seen on the web page, but some search engines do use the description tag in the search listings. The description tag can be longer than the title tag, but should still be relatively short and should contain each of the keywords you are targeting.
Keyword META Tag: The keyword tag is honestly all but ignored by the search engines at this point, but it should still be optimized. Every little bit helps. It is located in the header of the page, usually just below the title tag. The coding for the description tag is meta name=” keywords” content=””. The text used between the quotes after content= is the keyword META tag. The keyword tag is not seen on the web page or anywhere else. Keyword should be separated by a comma and a space, and keywords should not be repeated (i.e. “church, Lutheran church, youth group”). Notice that “church” and “Lutheran church” are considered two different keywords even though they both contain the word “church”.
File Name: It’s never too early to start thinking about SEO. When you are creating the page, consider your keywords when you name the page file (if you have that option). Instead of using a file name like “directions.html”, use a file name like “directions-to-Atlanta-church.html”. If you use more than one word in the file name, it is best to separate the words by hyphens as search engines see hyphens as word breaks.
Alt Tags: Alt tags are attributes that can be added to images. Search engines can’t read pictures, but they do read alt tags. So, alt tags allow you to get some SEO value from those pictures on your site. Generally, the alt tag should describe the picture, but you can usually do that in a way that includes a keyword or two. You can add an alt tag to an images by adding alt=”” in the img tag. If you are using a web builder, their may be an alt option or possibly a description or title option. Alt tags are viewable by visitors. If someone mouse over a picture, a text box will show the alt tag.
On-Page Links: Incoming links are great for helping websites in the search engines, but your internal linking structure (the way each page in your website links to other pages in the site) can help as well (though not as much). Use keywords in the link text. So, instead of “Homepage” use “Grace Baptist Church Homepage” or if you want it shorter, just “Church Home”. In addition to using keywords in the link text, you can also add title attributes. Title attributes are to links what alt tags are to pictures. Just add title=”” in the a tag. Like the alt tag, title attributes are visible to visitors if they mouse over the link.
Tip: If you have graphical link, you can use both an alt and a title tag.
Text: Using keywords in the text on your page is probably the most important element of on-page optimization, though the Title tag is nearly as important. Search engines read the text on a page to determine what the page is about. The key is what’s called keyword density, how many times a word or phrase is used on a page compared to how much text there is. The more times a word or phrase is used, the more important that word or phrase is (except for words like “and” and “the”). The trick with optimizing text is getting the right balance. You want to use keywords multiple times on a page, but not over-do it. It’s difficult to say how many times you should use your keywords, as it will depend on how much text you have on your page, but I’d suggest using the keywords at least three times.
H tags: H tags are used for paragraph headings and titles. There are 6 H tags, H1 through H6 (creative huh?). In HTML these tags include several characteristics, including size, weight (boldness), and a line break. An H1 tag will be very large and bold, while an H6 tag is small. Because these tags are used for headings and titles, the search engines place extra weight on words used in H tags. The weight they give also depends on which H tag is used. H1 is given more weight than H3 and H3 more weight than H4. Be sure to use your keywords in H tags. If you do not like the appearance of the text when it’s placed in an H tag, then you can use CSS or HTML to change the font attributes, though there is some debate as to whether that effects the amount of weight the search engines give the H tag.
Optimization is a comprised of several small elements that work together to get the result of higher rankings for targeted keywords. Each element adds to the affect. You may find, however, that you cannot or do not want to optimize every element of your page. That can affect the results, but just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Every element you optimize is another step towards that #1 ranking.
Make It Natural:
One of the most difficult aspects of on-page optimization is balancing the optimization and the experience of the visitors. You should always design for your visitors. The search engines should always be second. After all, does it matter if you get thousands of visitors if they all leave after 3 seconds because they can’t stand being on your site. So, it’s a balance. Choose keywords wisely so they naturally fit into the topic of the page and then work them into the text in way that is natural to the visitor.
Don’t Leave Your Net in the Boat!
Whether you do it yourself or hire an expert SEO, Optimize Your Website; not just your homepage, all your web pages. Each page is like a fishing net. Not optimizing a page is like leaving that net in your boat instead of using it to catch fish (or visitors). This is something to consider even before you create your website when you are choosing your web host. Many hosts include web builders that either make it very difficult to fully optimize a website or completely impossible. Make sure you choose a web host that allows you to fully optimize your website and then make sure you take the time to optimize. It will be well worth it.
Kurt Steinbrueck is the author of the Church Marketing Online blog. He has been Director of Marketing Services with Ourchurch.Com for over 5 years providing Christian search engine optimization services including services specific for church marketing solutions and private school marketing. Kurt is also a Deacon at his church.