The majority of website advice and articles are targeted towards making money and business minded people. Search Engine Optimisation is largely a science aimed at generating traffic for websites- but this is mostly done with the aim of increasing revenue for the owner of the website. However not all websites have the aim of building revenue. Church websites certainly don't fit into this category. Many churches are non profit organisations and a large number of churches are interested in sharing their message, and they rely on donations and will ask for them, but they view their websites in an entirely non commercial way. In fact because of this, many churches and religious organisations don't even have websites, although this is changing. Church websites are largely information based. This information is aimed at converting a person, encouraging a person with religious thoughts, providing religious materials regularly (daily bible reading etc) or to push a certain stream of thought. Many local church websites are also used to encourage church attendance in their area. Because of the purpose of church websites, traditional commercial promotional methods are often not used. Many religious leaders ignore popular marketing advice or advertising systems (such as Adwords) or other forms of website promotion because is intrinsically linked with commerce - but this is a mistake. In particular Search Engine Optimisation should be a large (if not the most important) priority in the building of an information based website. Search Engine Optimisation has several components to it - the external which involves link building and other off site activities. It also has the internal which involves on-site optimisation. This second component is crucial to church websites. This takes the information about a local church and optimizes it on the website so that it captures traffic from Search Engines in the Local Area. This is likely to and does lead to new people attending churches. Let me give an illustration. In my home town of Mt Morgan, in Queensland Australia, I built a very simple church website for Peace Apostolic Community. The site has audio sermons, church newsletters and a blog and that is all. I optimised the site with keywords that relate to its community, and to its activities so that local people who search for those activities will see the church in the listings. So a new person moves to Mt Morgan and is looking for a church to attend, they type into Google "Mt Morgan Church" and the website for Peace Apostolic Community is displayed prominently at the top in the Google Local Listings (more on this in a minute) and then further down in 6th position as well. No special promotion took place to achieve this position - there was no link building campaign or advertising blitz. This result is simply a benefit from on site search engine optimisation. In addition, Google offers local businesses and organisations a Place listing. This is a free service and each church should list for their community. This increases the chance of being found in searches like the one described above. The benefits from search engines come begin with proper optimisation of websites using keywords, and this should be a priority for church and religious leaders. SEO simply means taking the time to determine the proper keywords that are appropriate for a website, and including them in the right places like titles, page names, headings and so on.
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