SEO 101: Helping Adventist Websites Position Higher in Relevant Search Results.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps your optimize your web presence to better connect with those who are already searching for what you offer. Businesses pay thousands of dollars for SEO each year, but you can learn the basics of these industry-insider secrets for free.
If you have administrative access to your website, or if you work closely with a web developer or content manager, these lessons can guide you through the necessary steps in order of priority. New lessons are added every two weeks.
SEO 101: Lesson 2: Measure, Analyze, ENGAGE!
How to study your users’ behavior — then use that data to aid development and increase engagement.
SEO 101: Lesson 3: Acing the Beginning Use of Google Analytics & Search Console
Understanding the possibilities and best practices
SEO 101: Lesson 4: Get More Clicks! Optimize Titles & Tags
Boosting On-page SEO Using Copywriting Principles in Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Headers and ALT Tags
SEO 101: Lesson 5: How to Help People Find You! They’re Already Looking…
Claiming & Creating Google Maps/Business Listings for Greater Exposure
Introducing our SEO 101 Series—Helping More Seekers Find YOUR Ministry
What does SEO have to do with your ministry?
A woman stood up on a table at a crowded, noisy party. She asked, distraught, “Who is Jesus?”
The host of the party took her by the hand and led her past several folks (including Adventists, let’s say) who could have answered her question. But the host ultimately led her to a group of Mormons and said, “They can answer your question.”
The Mormons had a great relationship with the host, so anyone who asked a religious question, the host directed them to the Mormons.
The woman represents online seekers.
The Host is Google.
All the potential question-answerers are different websites, social media profiles, etc.
The relationship between the host and the Mormons is SEO.
(Paraphrased from thegospelcoalition.org/how-mormons-are-winning-the-internet)
As over-the-top as this sounds, you may be familiar with how the LDS Church has been using digital marketing best practices to reach the online mission field. And it’s working.
Think of all the good we can do if we worked together to reach the online mission field in a big way! It’s a huge opportunity for each of our ministries.
SEO is all about helping the right people in the online mission field find YOUR ministry—connecting your target audience to your services.
You may have heard the terms “SEO” or “Search Engine Optimization” if you work with websites, content management, social media, or web development. (It can also be referred to as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.)
It’s a catch-all term to describe a collection of efforts to make your web presence more prominent in search results after someone types a related phrase into a search engine (most likely Google, but some use Bing, Yahoo, etc.)
Because it’s such a widely-applied and ever-evolving process, SEO does not have a set definition in a dictionary—it has several definitions! The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that:
SEO is all about people—their behaviors and preferences—not just search engines.
It’s about your target audience’s needs, desires, and questions, and how you can best make the connection so they realize that yes, you can provide what they need. You are worth their time.
Then they either buy from you, subscribe to your content, follow you on social media, join your cause, or come to your event or location (all possible calls to action—which will be studied later in the series!).
SEO combines some technical work with creative, strategic content work. Often a complete SEO project involves an SEO Specialist, a Content Strategist (copywriter), and a Web Developer. However, there are several SEO best practices you can implement yourself as a content manager, communication director, or webmaster.
The process of SEO can have a big effect on your ministry’s online presence, whether your audience is local or global.
SEO is so big in the business world that there is an overabundance of tools and techniques being pushed by various “authorities” in the industry. It can be an overwhelming field to train into, keep up with, and even to work in as an experienced specialist.
That’s why the Center for Online Evangelism wants to help guide you through SEO fundamentals, baby step by baby step, to make sure our church’s ministries do not have to miss out on these potentially far-reaching benefits.
Lesson 1, Part 2 continues next week.
SEO Series:1-2—[Checklist] What's involved in SEO?
What do we actually DO to optimize our web presence?
Since optimizing websites for search engines primarily means optimizing websites for people, many of the principles of SEO follow fundamental advertising, marketing, and sociological principles.
That also means there’s a lot involved in the process, and it includes the work of writers, content managers, SEO specialists and web developers. For the sake of introduction, here’s a checklist of what comprises basic SEO, split into two major categories: Onsite SEO (directly applied to your website) and Off-site SEO (concerning the entire web presence).
ON-SITE SEO BASICS
- Keyword Research: Typically using software like AdWords’ Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Keyword Explorer, or several others, this process researches words, phrases or entire sentences and questions commonly typed into Google, related to a topic (e.g. “Easy Vegan Desserts,” or “How to Monetize Your Blog”). Strategize your content based on what people are searching.
- Measuring and Analyzing User Behavior: It’s difficult to know how to optimize your site if you don’t know how people are using it! Properly installing Google Analytics and Search Console will show you page visits, where clicks come from, which pages users start on, where they click after that, and how long they spend on a page.
- Tags, Headers and Meta Descriptions: How your site appears in the list of search results! Based on keyword research, you “front-load” appropriate keywords on each of your pages’ titles (that appear at the top of the browser window), headers (headline and subheads for the page’s content), meta descriptions (the intro blurb that shows underneath the page title and link. It helps draw users in by introducing the site’s content.)
- Fixing Page Errors: If your website has broken links or other page-load errors, Google takes notice when it crawls your site. This dings your credibility with Google and frustrates site visitors. There are several ways to audit for these errors, then you can fix link misspellings, apply redirects, or optimize other items that affect navigation.
- Optimizing Page Load Speed: You may have seen Google’s latest announcement that page load speed is a ranking factor, especially for searches on mobile devices. If your page takes longer than 1.5 seconds to load, your ranking—and the patience of your audience—may be at risk
- Optimizing Site Security: It’s not a question of if your website will be hacked, but when—regardless of how much traffic it gets or what topics are covered. If you’re not using good security plugins and your site is hacked, all your hard work on optimization can be lost as well. Additionally, websites without an SSL certificate, which tells browsers that a website is secure, can cause a lower ranking as well as wary site visitors.
- Optimizing Navigation: You want to make sure your XML sitemap is submitted to Google, and your sitemap should facilitate easy, user-friendly navigation throughout your site so users can follow a logical path that leads them to an action. To help users visit archived content and to give them whatever supporting information they need, use internal linking strategies.
- Targeted, Topical, Reader-centric Content: To achieve higher visibility for the key topics you want to work with, a good rule of thumb is to keep each webpage to one topic or subtopic, and structure these subtopics logically. This makes for better navigation and it’s easier for Google to determine what each page is about—and direct the right traffic to it.
- Consistent Updates (Fresh content): Google looks at how often a site is updated, as part of its determining if a site has fresh, relevant content. If a site hasn’t been updated in 6 months, and other websites covering related topics have, it will cause the other sites to appear higher in search results. Additionally, if a site visitor spots out-of-date information, credibility is hurt as well.
- Links to Other Sites Within your Web Presence (and some that aren’t): To help show relevance, linking to other websites can boost credibility if the links are about similar topics. Additionally, linking to sister websites, your social media sites, or review sites can direct traffic where you want it to go, and demonstrate that you have a robust web presence. But don’t overdo it! You don’t want to end up ultimately leading your traffic away from you.
OFF-SITE SEO BASICS
- Social Media: This is the best place to start for off-site SEO. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, or a combination, remember to always link back to your website for credibility’s sake. Conversations happen on these platforms. But you’ll often want to lead users back to your website’s blog, contact page, product page, or landing page with a call to action.
- Review Sites: Make sure you set up or claim your entity on review sites like Yelp, and also on Google, Facebook, and other platforms that allow users to leave reviews. Bonus SEO points if you regularly respond to reviews (with caution!) and show an active interest in your audience.
- Directory Sites: Especially if you have a brick-and-mortar entity as a church, school, office, ministry, etc., directory sites such as Google My Business, Google Maps, Yellowpages.com, Better Business Bureau, and several niche-specific directory sites, help legitimize your entity and provide places to add additional information, such as hours of availability, driving directions, parking information, additional contact information, area-specific information and more. But this process also needs to be done carefully. Not all directory sites are respected.
While this checklist covers several of the fundamental facets of SEO, this is a process of perpetual motion. Your work is never “done.” Google releases updates, websites need to be consistently posting fresh content, and trends in online behavior can change almost instantaneously, as it’s such a reactive space.
But that’s why we’re on this journey together! A concentrated effort can reap big rewards.
We hope this gives you an overview of the ongoing effort of SEO. Lesson 2 covers the setup and basic use of Google Analytics, Search Console, and other introductory tools.
SEO Series: Lesson 2 INTRO—Measure, Analyze, ENGAGE!
1st step to boosting engagement: Find out what your readers are reading & how they navigate your website.
As we get further into the nitty-gritty of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it’s important to lay the groundwork that will support your efforts as you progress. Using these free measurement and analysis tools, you’ll find it easier to plan your content development as you learn more about your audience, such as:
- How many people come to your site.
How they’re getting there.
What regions of the world they’re browsing from.
Where they click to go next.
How long they stay.
If broken links or page errors are deterring them.
The list goes on…
It’s almost like market research, but without having to ask people to take surveys! You get a front-row seat to observe users’ behavior on your website.
Then you can analyze this behavior to determine what you can improve, add, reduce, or consolidate.
3 free, essential tools come in handy:
Lesson 2 will guide you through the setup and beginning usage of each of these 3 tools. The full lesson will be live on Tuesday, Feb. 27—before then, here’s some steps to take to prepare.
Prep for Lesson 2:
SEO 101 Series: LESSON 2 - Start with These 3, Free Tools
Making SEO Easier—Start your SEO journey right, with the best tools in your toolkit.
As discussed in the introduction to this lesson, we’ll be walking through the setup for 3 free, highly-important tools that will guide your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts:
These will be foundational in support of your content marketing and user experience, as your website is the communication hub of your entire web presence. It represents your credibility and your story.
If you have your organization’s Google account set up and ready to use, you can get started by downloading the complete Lesson 2 here.
SEO 101 Series: Lesson 3: Acing the Beginning Use of Google Analytics & Search Console
Acing Beginning Use of Google Analytics & Search Console
2-in-1 Tutorial to Understand the Possibilities and Best Practices
After the successful installation of Google Analytics and Search Console in Lesson 2, this lesson will get you acquainted with the terminology and functions necessary to get you familiar with these platforms. This walkthrough includes instructions and screenshots for the reports that will be most immediately helpful for your ministry website.
You’ll learn how to quickly check for site errors that may affect search engine performance or user experience, while also determining how users are navigating through your site. This helps you determine if any important pages are being missed, or if certain pages are causing a drop-off in traffic.
By tracking your audience’s patterns, you can better plan your content to match their preferences and behavior, which will increase engagement.
SEO 101 Series: Lesson 4: Get More Clicks! Optimize Titles & Tags
Boost your on-page SEO by using web copywriting principles in page titles, meta descriptions, headers and ALT descriptions!
Optimizing these small areas can make a big difference, especially if you’re starting from scratch or working from a website that has minimal custom page titles and no unique meta descriptions. This lesson will guide you through the updating process for each of these four areas, as well as the best practice principles behind their optimization.
SEO 101 Series: Lesson 5: More Exposure with Claimed Map Listings
Your Google Map Listing: They’re already looking for you…
Here’s how to help them find you!
When we want to figure out where to go, chances are you go to your phone. You search for restaurants, barber shops, hair salons, gas stations… even churches and schools. Especially if you’re traveling or new to an area, you and many, many others rely on map apps such as Google, Apple, Bing, Mapquest and more.
To appear prominently on map apps for related keywords, and to show up with accurate, complete information, your organization must “claim” or create a map listing. Not doing so comes with both risks and significant missed opportunities.
The Center’s SEO 101: Lesson 5 will guide you through the process of claiming or creating your Google Maps listings through Google My Business, the most widely-used map and business directory. You’ll also be introduced to the setup for Apple, Bing and Mapquest.
Download Lesson 5 below, and as always, if you have questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to hear from you!
(Catch up on Lessons 1-4 here!)
After going through Lesson 5, we recommend the following article: