3 Things Google Loves in a Church Website | Bart & Jason

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Does your church website show up on google search results? Bart & Jason discuss 3 things they have learned Google Loves in a church Website.

Podcast Transcription


Bart Blair: [00:00:31] Well, hey there, welcome to the Missional Marketing Podcast. My name is Bart Blair, I’m joined as always by Jason Hamrock, the CEO of Missional Marketing. And we want to spend a little bit of time coaching you today. Jason, we coach, that’s what we do here at Missional Marketing, coaching.

Jason Hamrock: [00:00:46] That’s what we love to do. We’ve all been serving in churches, and now we’re on this side where we get to serve churches instead of working in a church. And today we want to go deeper into how does Google look at your website and what are three things that you need to focus on when it comes to your website that we want to speak into?

Bart Blair: [00:01:05] Yeah, we used to travel around the country and do these lunch and learn events with churches all around the US, and one of the things that we spent time doing in these lunch and learn events was helping churches understand what Google loves in a website. And I sort of unpacked a few things that we talk about in those lunch and learn events and thought, let’s share this as a podcast episode for all those people that never got to attend the luncheon. Now, maybe one of these days we’ll have luncheons again and we’ll buy some lunch for some people, but we’re not doing that today, so if you’ve got av lunch, eat your lunch while you watch or listen to this episode. So, all right, here we go, three things that Google loves in your church website. We’re going to start by talking about website security, we’re going to talk about the speed of a website, and we’re going to talk about crawlability on a website. But let’s stop on that first one, which can sometimes be a website stopper, and that is security. Jason, why is security important on a church website?

Jason Hamrock: [00:02:01] Well, to speak the obvious, you don’t want your website being hacked, obviously, right, so everybody understands that. But actually, what has to happen these days is you have to have an HTTPS, a secure website in order for anybody to get to your website, otherwise, browsers will say this is an unsecure website, you never want to see that happen. Or Google will not deliver ads, and Facebook, they won’t deliver ads if your website is unsecure. So it’s as simple as connecting with, usually, where you have your website domain, right, it could be GoDaddy or a website like that, but you want to buy an SSL certificate, an SSL certificate, and it’s kind of an annual thing, you kind of have to pay for it. But having that will put that little nice green padlock next to your domain when somebody goes to your website. And so I often look at church’s websites and I recognize it’s either secure or it’s not secure. In fact, sometimes, though, I’ll look to see the homepage of secure, but you go into some of the sub-pages and they’re not secure, and so you’ve got to make sure that that SSL certificate is authenticated and it’s throughout your entire website. We have a lot more to offer on that, but that’s something that’s really, really important.

Bart Blair: [00:03:22] Yeah, I’m pretty sure we have a blog post on our website related to security for websites, so I’ll make sure that that’s linked in the show notes. But, you know, it’s really frustrating when you’re surfing the Internet and you see something that looks like a website you want to click on and you go to click on it and all of a sudden your browser, whether you’re in Chrome or Firefox or whatever you’re using, says, no, you’re not going there, this website is not secure. We do not want that happening to people who are trying to get to your church website, and from a surface level, your website might look secure because the home page is secure, but sometimes you might have content on your website that isn’t secure on sub-pages or other parts of the website, and so you need to make sure that you have an SSL certificate installed and that it’s installed properly so that all of your content is secure on your website. It not only gives Google confidence that your website is secure, but it gives you confidence in knowing that someone hasn’t embedded malicious content on your website and you’re not spreading a virus, we don’t want you spreading viruses. I can’t believe I brought up viruses, we’re not going to go any further down the virus conversation. Let’s move on to the second thing that Google loves in a church website, and that is speed. Jason, why is speed important to Google?

Jason Hamrock: [00:04:34] Well, obviously, you don’t want a slow website, and there are a number of ways that your site can be slowed down. For example, if you go to your church home page and it starts to load, there’s a time to load thing that takes place, right, and so most websites you want them loading in about two and a half to three seconds. Now, if it’s a little bit more than that, okay, but you really want to be in that optimum time of 2 to 3 seconds. Why that’s important is a couple of reasons. Number one, Google is watching, they’re always watching, and so they look to see how fast a website loads and you want to be responsible and make sure your website, your church website loads fast, right? You have to understand, though, that people are using different, you know, they’re using their phone, tablet, their desktop to actually go to your website, and so their connections could determine how fast it loads based on their Internet speed, but you want to make sure you do your side of the equation of you have a fast load speed. Google watches that, it actually does have something to do with the rank authority of your website when your website is loading quickly and it really plays pretty well in there.

Jason Hamrock: [00:05:46] Now, there are some things that you can look at, say, how do I make it faster? Well, images, often sometimes you load up a massive image on your website and it’s just a little thumbnail, but it’s a massive image in the library, that takes a long time for that to have to download, right? So you want to make sure your images are optimized, that’s usually the biggest one I see. Another one is video, often you’ll load up a big old honking long video and you’ve not really taken the time to optimize that video as condensed as possible.

Jason Hamrock: [00:06:17] There’s another one, though. sometimes it’s where your website is hosted. Usually, you’re hosting on what’s called a shared server, a shared server is basically a server that’s got lots of different websites. And if there’s a website out on that shared server that pulls down a lot of data, it could affect your load speed because your files, your website, is sitting on a server shared with a whole bunch of other websites. So we often will look at that, and sometimes whenever we get hired to help speed up a website, that’s kind of one the first thing we look at is we want to investigate the server that it’s on and see if we can get it to a quicker server, sometimes that does alleviate the problem. But those are in a kind of a nutshell, kind of covers the speed aspect, and you just want to make sure you have a fast-loading website.

Bart Blair: [00:07:08] Yeah, I just want to add a couple of comments to that. One is that Google is looking at the speed of your website, but the speed of your website impacts the user experience. You’re going to have a higher bounce rate on your website if you have a slow-loading website. A bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave your website without engaging any of the content, and you want to have a low bounce rate, a low percentage of visitors leave without doing anything. So if you are looking at your Google Analytics and you see that your bounce rate is 50, 60, 65, or 70%, one of the things that you might want to look at is the speed of your website, maybe people are leaving the website because it’s taking too long to load. You’ve done that, you’ve left a website quickly because it was just taking too long to load. You need to expect that the people who are coming to your church website, they’re going to leave if it’s taking too long to load.

Bart Blair: [00:08:00] One of the other things that I want to comment on is video. You talked about video, it’s very, very common these days for churches to have kind of these buzz reel videos playing in the background of the homepage. I want to say this, and I know this is going to probably hurt some feelings, and I’ll give you my email if you want to send me a hate email. But here’s the deal, that buzz reel on the home page of your website means a whole lot more to you than it does to the users who are coming to your website. They’re not going to sit there on the home page and stare and watch a video playing in the background, they’re looking for buttons to click and content to consume, and that is not consumable content. Yet, it is one of the primary reasons that I see website homepage speeds being subpar, being too slow. That home page buzz reel video just takes too long to load. So if someone’s on mobile and they’re using their cellular data, the last thing that they want to do is have to load your big honking video and it’s going to slow that load down. So I just challenge you to consider the cost of the user experience, if you think it’s enhancing the user experience and you can really be convinced of that, that’ll leave that buzz real up there. Otherwise, I think a static image, a really low compressed, high-quality image that communicates something, that gives that emotional impact that you’re looking for is just as impactful as that video buzz reel. It looks cool, but it may not necessarily be working in your favor.

Bart Blair: [00:09:32] Okay, so we’ve talked about security, we’ve talked about speed, and the third thing that we want to land on is kind of the biggest of them all, and that is what we call crawlability. Jason, explain what crawlability is and explain why it’s important to Google.

Jason Hamrock: [00:09:47] Sure. So one thing I want to talk about is the phrase UX. You all understood, user experience, so UX is user experience. And the user experience on your website is how a person engages with your website, the images, we just talked about, the video, the content, the navigation, all that stuff, right, is really important for user experience. Crawlability is not about user experience, crawlability is how Google looks at your website, and what they’re looking for is really pretty important to understand. They’re looking at different things that you want to make sure you are locked into what Google sees so that your website shows up organically.

Jason Hamrock: [00:10:33] Let me give an example. I’ll often go to a church website and they’ll have a care page, they’ll have care, so you click on care, the care ministry. And there are like five or six or seven different things that the care ministry does, they might have celebrate recovery, grief share, they’ll have like some kind of a divorce support group or something like that, and they have other different things that they do. Well, when Google is crawling that website, when we talk about crawlability, we’re talking about all the data behind that, we’re talking about the URL structure, we’re talking about the meta description, we’re talking about the content on the website, we’re looking at things that when Google crawls this site, are we convincing Google that we’re an authority in this subject matter and will we show up organically? And so we’re looking at all the different errors, the different warnings, and even the notices that are on your website. You can run a report, we’ll run a report for you, and it’ll tell you exactly all the different issues you have with your website. When it comes to things like meta descriptions, I often will find that churches don’t have a meta description, and if they have a meta description, it’s pulled from whatever content that is on that website, which may not be what you want, right? I often find that their URLs are kind of mumbled, they just have their domain, forward slash, and a whole bunch of characters afterwards, but that doesn’t help Google at all. And so whenever I’m talking to a church, I’m not talking about the user experience, although that’s a great deep conversation, I’m talking about how does Google crawl your website and if it doesn’t make sense to Google. If it doesn’t make sense to Google, you’re in trouble. And so we look at again, I’ll go back to that we look at the URL, what’s that string look like? We look at like the meta descriptions, you can see what that looks like. The title of the page, H1 one headings, H2 headings. We look at images, and how are our images named. Are they named appropriately? We look at the content, Google doesn’t care anymore about keywords. If you know what I’m talking about, back in the old days before Google really released new algorithms, you could stuff keywords into your web page, right? So you’d have like 500 keywords, and Google is like, oh my goodness, this is really relevant because they have all these keywords. Well, they just see right through that, so keywords are irrelevant. what Google focuses on is content, the text that Google can crawl on the page. Keep in mind that Google cannot crawl PDFs, they can’t crawl videos, they don’t care about colors, and if you have a picture up there with words on that picture, that’s not crawlable. They have to crawl content that they can actually…If you can highlight the content on your page, Google is crawling that. And so crawlability is about making sure your website’s functioning correctly, it looks good to Google, there are no errors, there are no warnings, the notices are minimal, and you’ve got a really sound website. You’ve got to start there, and then from there, you can start getting into what I call the content of the site and actually the navigation of the site, that’s search engine optimization, optimizing your website, but you’ve got to start with the crawlability and fixing the foundation first.

Bart Blair: [00:13:52] Yeah, a lot of people who are watching this podcast or listening to this podcast are probably familiar with like the Yoast plug-in if they use a WordPress website. And Yoast will actually give you some good pointers in terms of the readability, and crawlability of your website, but it only scratches the surface. There’s actually a whole lot more to crawlability than just the little red light, yellow light, and green light that you get in Yoast. You talked about user experience, and I would say that a lot of web developers, especially in the church world, have defaulted to a less-is-more mindset. That we’ll have a care page and that care page will have all of the information about the four or five different care ministries that we have in our church, but we have only like one or two descriptive sentences for each of those care ministries. Well, Google will crawl that page and index that page, but because they’re so little content on the page and it’s such a wide variety of content, Google doesn’t see that page as authoritative on any particular topic. So if you have a care ministry, and you have four or five different ministries that fall within that care ministry, such as, you know, Divorce Care, or Financial Peace University, Grief Share, or whatever, you should actually have separate pages for each of those ministries with more content extrapolated. Don’t be afraid to use words, it’s true most people will not read most of the content that you have on the website, but Google does, and that’s how Google determines whether or not your pages are actually authoritative on the topic that people are searching for. So crawlability is huge, another thing in crawlability you talked about, is errors and warnings, broken links, pages that are orphaned, and pages that don’t have any way to get to them. We can run a crawlability report for your church website, and kind of show you what all of those errors and warnings and red flags are so you can determine whether or not you need to do an aggressive deep dive on fixing that stuff to make your website healthier.

Jason Hamrock: [00:15:57] Yeah, backlinks and all kinds of stuff. A couple of tools and tips for you guys, if you guys use Chrome because I like using Chrome as a browser, I’ve got a plug-in called SEO META in 1 CLICK. SEO META in 1 CLICK, find that plug-in and download it into your email bar up there at the top. And I’ll tell you when you’re on your website and you click on that and it’ll give you kind of a snapshot of sort of a highlight that we just talked about. It’ll tell you your title, your meta description, your H1’s H2’s H3’s, it gets into images, it’s kind of a cool little plug-in.

Jason Hamrock: [00:16:34] Here’s another little tidbit, most churches build their website, their church website, and it’s basically a brochure about their church. This is fine for your people because if I’m looking for like grief share, I’m going to go to care, and there are all the listings, fine. But as Bart just said, you don’t want to do that to reach people outside your church. I’ll give you a perfect example, like if you guys, we like to cook at our house, and so often we’ll look up recipes, right? And so if you ever look up a recipe like, you know, we made pasta with broccoli and sausage the other day, right? So if you Google that, and you see like the first recipe, you click on that recipe, like you click on that link, it’s not going to give you the recipe, is it?

Bart Blair: [00:17:19] No.

Jason Hamrock: [00:17:23] It’s going to give you a long page, and you’ve got to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll to get to the recipe. Why? Why don’t they just put the recipe, and that’s it? Because it will never show up number one in Google. The reason that you look at that page, it’s talking about the best pasta, the best broccoli, and the best sausage, and how to use the ingredients. It’s got all this stuff before it even gets to the recipe, that’s intentional, that’s why they’re number one. And you have to think the same way, sid I read all that content? No, I looked at some images and went, yep, that’s the recipe I want, ooh, that looks really, really tasty. I’m scrolling straight down to the recipe, and it doesn’t bother me, I recognize that that’s just the way it is. Your website has to be the same way when it comes to like grief share, don’t just have like we have grief share at 7:00 pm on Wednesdays in room B152, that’s never going to show up anywhere. However, there are a ton of people searching for like how to recover from grief, or how to help a loved one through the grieving period, right? You’ve got to have content that actually shares what you can do to overcome grief, have some scripture, have some tips, have a video, have some images in there, and give links to download this, right? That is optimizing the page, and that’s a little bit deeper than crawlability, we just sort of sunk into some SEO practices you should do, but it really does start with crawlability to see if your website even functioning correctly when it comes to Google?

Bart Blair: [00:18:58] You’re only slightly passionate about this, we can tell, just a little bit. That’s pretty good, we’re going to wrap things up, that was a pretty good conversation. Three things that your church website needs to knock out of the park in order to make Google happy, you need to have a secure website, you need to have a fast website, and you need to have a website that is crawlable. And if you have any questions about any of those things, or would like us to run a report for your website and meet up with you and have a conversation about what we might be able to do for you or what you might be able to do on your own, we’re happy to do that. Just go to our website, MissionalMarketing.com, you can click the Contact US link and you can schedule an appointment to meet with Jason or me or one of our other coaches.

Bart Blair: [00:19:37] We want to thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Missional Marketing Podcast. We know that you got a lot of podcasts that you can choose to listen to, and the fact that you hang out with Jason and me, we consider it an honor. If you haven’t subscribed, make sure that you subscribe, whether you’re on our YouTube channel or whatever your favorite podcasting app might be. And if you haven’t left us a rating or a review, we’d love to hear from you, that helps more people find the podcast and also lets us know if we’re providing the kind of content that you find helpful. So, thanks again for tuning in to the show today, and until next time, I’m Bart and that’s Jason, and we’re Missional Marketing. Thanks again.

Jason Hamrock: [00:20:11] Thank you.

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