Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Lessons in Failure – or Stinko Search Engine Marketing Strategy

Admit it, we’re powerless over who visits our church web site … yet we find ourselves obsessed with our hit count. So instead of turning over our content and our robot exclusion files over to Google, we instead try to take matters into our own hands and spend hours thinking of ways of improving our search engine ranking through a witches brew of cheap tricks and unethical practices.

Well, okay. Maybe YOU don’t do it, but we all know of sites that do. Worse, we know of some church and charity websites guilty of these practices. So do the good people at Marketleap who yesterday released a must-read report entitled “Lessons in Failure – The Top 10 Ways to Ensure Your Search Marketing Strategy Sucks.”

I think their opening paragraph says it all:

“Marketleap is always amazed at the amount of effort people spend trying to trick or manipulate their positioning in search engines. People love to focus on the shortcuts to success and not on their website or the value their content provides to their audience.
In the spirit of educating marketers about best practices, we present this list of ten things you can do to sabotage your search engine marketing project in no time at all.”

Can I hear an amen?

Now if you don’t know what we’re talking about here, let me ask you ten simple questions. If any of them are yes, then you need to read this article and understand why you may have done your church web site more harm than good trying to take a short-cut to a better search engine ranking.

  1. Do you include “invisible text” on your home page?
  2. Still using Frames?
  3. Do you offer original compelling content, or are you just mirroring those who do?
  4. Is all your compelling content stuffed onto one, long honking page?
  5. Instead of plain-old-hyperlinks, do you offer jumps to other sites via a redirect mechanism?
  6. Is your URL as long as my name is in Greek? And as hard to remember?
  7. What robot exclusion standard?
  8. Doorway pages? You know who you are …
  9. Lazy Titles and Meta Tags? That is, are all your page titles and tags the same for each page?
  10. Ever subscribe to a “linking network” … a.k.a. a “link farm?”

Look, the bottom line is this. To get more hits you first need good, compelling content. Then you need to display it in a fashion where the technology doesn’t distract or get in the way of the user’s experience. Once you’ve got that figured out, then you need to submit your site to a search engine. Then you need to do some old-school advertising and marketing. I know it’s hard. I know it can be expensive. It certainly isn’t fun. But it is effective.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
     but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5


  1. What search terms do people use when looking for a church to visit anyway? Are they more likely to go thru the denomination’s site to find local churches? Is it even worth trying SEO strategies for a church website?

  2. I think we’ve discovered that people who use the web to find our church are searching for “church +Minneapolis +Minnesota”. If they wanted a particular denomination, I imagine they’d add that to the list. (I’ve never used a denominational website to find local churches unless I’ve already failed to find their sites directly.) If you have a great singles program or something similar, that might also be a draw. I know I’ve searched for “singles +church +Minneapolis” before.

  3. Our top keywords for May-July were:
    toongabbie;anglican sermons;understanding matrix reloaded
    6th on the list was: anglican church sydney

    Our Diocesan sites are 8th and 21st on the list of referrers – unfortunately, links to churches are well hidden on those sites.

    We had 524 refers from http://www.google.com over the last three months, and 300 from http://www.google.com.au; our top two referrers.

  4. Two things:
    a) participating in linking programs doesn’t directly hurt your ranking with search engine. If it did all you would have to do to bring down a site is sign them up for them….
    There main disadvantage is that they mess up your site, steal value from its content, and make you look unprofessional.
    b) On link popularity search engines like google people tend to forget about things like titles. I have had a large increase in traffic simply by choosing new titles and puting headings as < H2 >’s and the like. The words contained in these kinds of constructs are what google places most emphasis on during a search.

  5. My husband sent me this URL to improve the church website, but I feel over my head. In 7 you say.
    “What robot exclusion standard?” What is that? Other wise I have to agree with some of your complains including the lenght of the name. I had to figth to keep it as short as I did. After some consideration I decide not to play the search engine game. Emailed Google and followed their instructions for being located by them and left it at that.