SEO 101 for Church Leaders | Jason Collier

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Our Sr. Developer for Missional Marketing, Jason Collier, is on the podcast and gives us a master class on SEO for Church Leaders

Podcast Transcription


Jason Hamrock: Well, I am super pumped to have, he’s not really a guest because he’s a member of our family, Jason Collier on the show. Jay, how you doing?

Jason Collier: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me. I think it’s the first time I’ve been on the Missional Marketing podcast. I’ve been on the AI podcast and the Church Communications, now maybe X podcast, but not this one. So I’m glad to be here.

Bart Blair: Oh, but you have actually been on the Mission Marketing podcast because I repurposed your interview on the AI For Churches podcast for the Missional Marketing Podcast. So there’s a really good chance that people who heard that episode have heard your voice before.

Jason Collier: I’m happy to return then.

Bart Blair: Thanks for being on the show.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. I am so excited for our audience to hear from you. I’ve got to tell you, I’m just going to say this to everybody, most of what I know about SEO, if you’ve ever heard me talk about it or just anything in general, a lot of it comes from this gentleman right here, Jason Collier. He’s a highly valued member of our team, and he knows a lot about a lot of things. And, you know, a lot of us are just kind of like, we know a little bit about everything. Jason goes deep, he knows a lot about everything. So I’m really pumped to talk to you guys and have Jason on here today because we’re going to go into a topic that many of us, we all need to know about this, and I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what we’re going to talk about that some people say they know, but they really don’t know, or they’ve been duped into being taught something that isn’t exactly accurate. And so today, our title is going to be SEO 101 For Church Leaders. And so, Jason, before we kind of dive into this deep, awesome content, just give us a little bit about you, your role, and bring everybody up to speed.

Jason Collier: Yeah. So I’m a software developer by trade. I have a software engineering degree, so I spend a lot of my time working on proprietary development projects that we do at Missional Marketing. But in addition to that, I work on church websites that we build, I work on our own website, I helped develop our local SEO product many, many years ago, probably going on six, seven years ago now, and I help do a lot of optimization on church websites for search engines. So I get to wear a lot of different hats, just by necessity. And, yeah, I’ve, been here for about six years now, I think. Yeah, six, seven years, so it’s been a wild and crazy trip.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, yeah, it’s been fun to really help impact churches, and Jason has a servant leader’s heart. You ask him a question, you don’t just get a vague answer, you get a detailed answer, he’s put a lot of thought into his answers. So, we got the right guy on the microphone today talking about SEO, for sure.

Bart Blair: You might notice that Mr. Collier has a peculiar accent, because he does come to us from north of the border, he is Canadian and lives in the land of of Canada. He is actually, in Canada they refer to this as the brain drain, where all of the smartest people in Canada leave Canada and come to the United States to work. Now, Jason hasn’t physically left Canada, but he’s doing a lot of his work in the United States for American churches and, maybe some, we have a few Canadian church clients, but sorry, I hope that’s not offensive to you, Jason.

Jason Collier: No, that is just is how it is.

Bart Blair: It is how it is. Yeah.

Jason Collier: I get paid in USD. So its…

Jason Hamrock: There you go, there you go.

Bart Blair: When the exchange rate is beneficial, it is a real bonus, isn’t it?

Jason Hamrock: Well hey, Jason, just take a second, because there are a lot of people who are going I have no idea, I’ve heard the terms SEO, what are you talking about?

Jason Collier: Sure. So, SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it is a field that in an ideal world, would not exist. So, I probably don’t have to explain what a search engine is but think of Google. If you’re looking for something, you type it in Google, and Google tries to do the best job it can to find whatever it is you’re looking for. So search engine optimization is the practice of whatever content you have, be it your church website, or your church Google Business Profile, or any other online assets you may have, you’re trying to optimize those in such a way that Google can both understand it and also kind of buy whatever you’re selling, I suppose. So to sell yourself to Google is really the the goal of search engine optimization. And if the world was how it might be in 50 years, you wouldn’t need to do this, you would just create the content and Google would be an omniscient, present search engine that would understand it perfectly no matter how you presented the content, it would just have no flaws and work. The way it is now, Google isn’t perfect, so you need to help it understand what content you have, and that’s really what search engine optimization is all about. So because of that, search engine optimization gets a little bit less important over time as Google gets better. But we’re still in the far-from-ideal world where you need to help Google a lot to get the results you’re looking for.

Jason Hamrock: Wow. Okay, I learned something there. Okay, now to my knowledge, that you’ve taught me, there are two types of SEO. Will you explain the difference between local and then organic?

Jason Collier: Sure. So, once again, going back to the ideal world or kind of the highest level, there really only is the one type of SEO, which is just SEO, but people like to break it down that way in the SEO space because it kind of makes it simpler. So local SEO is the practice of optimizing for local search results. And when I say a local search result, if you type a search into Google, let’s just say church near me, the first thing Google does is it tries to understand what it is you’re looking for and if what it is you’re looking for, you know, if it matters your distance to a location, are you looking for a place or are you looking for, like, you know, a recipe of how to make really good pizza? If you’re looking for a place like a church, location matters. If you’re looking for a really good recipe for pizza, location doesn’t matter. So all search results in Google can be classified as either a local search result or what we call an organic search result, which is a little bit misleading because if you looked into organic traffic and Google Analytics, you would see just everything that comes from Google that isn’t a paid advertisement, right? So it’s kind of a bad, categorization that way, or at least counterintuitive. But the big split there is local search results, which is the local pack, which I’m sure you’ve talked about on the podcast before, and Google Maps, or everything else that you’d see just in the search results below that local pack, just the typical Google search results that you’d be familiar with. Those would be the quote-unquote organic search results. So in the scope of SEO, then, local SEO are the practices that are mostly targeted to affect those local search results, meaning Google Maps and the local pack on organic SEO are the practices that are more tailored to impact the other search results, the things that aren’t local.

Jason Hamrock: Okay, so I think for today’s conversation, we’re going to talk about that organic, because we do have a lot of podcasts and a lot of stuff on around local SEO. And if you, you know, church, if you ever want to have a conversation with Bart or myself about local SEO, we’d be glad to have that. Let’s talk about organic because often, and Bart was bringing this up earlier, sometimes if you’re building your website, right, or you’re going to hire somebody to build your website, and it’s always said, well, we got to make sure we SEO it. You know, that phrase gets used a lot in different conversations, and somebody will say, oh, I can SEO your website, you need to know what that means. So let’s spend the rest of our time talking about that on-page or organic SEO. What does that mean? And also some of the best practices for that. So just, if you wouldn’t mind just diving into what are some of the best practices when it comes to SEO and your website? I know that’s a really open question.

Jason Collier: Exactly. That’s a long list, but fortunately, I have notes breaking all that out, so I can start going down that list. So when we’re talking about the SEO that occurs on your church website, that starts with what we call technical SEO, which is things like making sure that first of all, the search engine is able to crawl and find all the content you have. So making sure you don’t have broken links, making sure that the content that is the most important content is linked in such a way that it’s clear to Google that it’s the most important content, like it’s the top-level of your menus, things of that nature. It also encompasses, things like performance. So if your site’s loading really, really slow, that creates a bad user experience, and people are not going to want to spend time on the website, and Google is going to figure that out and say, okay, then I’m not going to send people to that website.

Jason Collier: By the same nature of user experience, there’s a mobile experience. So if you’re if your site isn’t well optimized for mobile, like, just about every site now is mobile responsive, right? But not every site necessarily has a really good mobile experience. So if Google picks up trends that users on mobile are bouncing from your site really, really frequently that they aren’t having a good experience there, then Google is going to be hesitant to show your site to mobile users. So, the technical side is really making sure Google can find everything and making sure that people who go there are having a good experience. So that’s kind of the first pillar of organic SEO, which leads us connected into the next pillar.

Jason Collier: But before we jump there, this is the side, if you’re hiring a company to build your website, this is the kind of stuff that they should be covered for sure, right, like, they should make sure it loads fast, they should make sure internal linking is good, and they should make sure that it’s well mobile optimized. So there’s kind of no excuse for a company that says they’re going to build you a new website to not be delivering on that, even if they’re not claiming they’re SEO experts, that’s just kind of fundamental, like, they should be delivering that period. So if you’re building a new website, make sure that they’re prepared to deliver that and make sure that they do.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, yeah.

Bart Blair: That is a really good point. It’s kind of like it’s really the foundation of everything else, right? Because if you don’t kind of punch those little buttons, or you don’t check off those boxes, everything else that you build on top of the website is really kind of a moot point at that point. If you’re if your website does not play well with Google, or browsers, or the other search engines, really, I mean a lot of what you’re talking about there is even just browser use, right? Low load speed and mobile optimization, those are certainly key points.

Bart Blair: Let me ask you a question before we move on to the other piece. If I’m having a conversation with a company that is proposing to build a website, or revamp my website, or help me with SEO on these technical things, are there specific questions that I should be asking them? How would I frame those questions to know that they have covered the bases on those issues?

Jason Collier: Ooh ooh, that’s a good question. So in terms of technical SEO specifically, I would almost hope you could take those for granted. But rather than ask them the question, what I would do is I would look at their portfolio and I would see if those sites load fast, and I would see if, you know, what those sites look like on mobile and kind of, you know, audit those yourself just to make sure that they’re able to deliver on those kind of fundamental things. Because I think if you ask the question, the answer is just going to be yes, because a no would be such a red flag that if they ever answered no to those questions, they’d never get any business, so you wouldn’t be talking to them anyway.

Bart Blair: Good point.

Jason Collier: But I think there are going to be some questions for some of the later pieces here that we’ll definitely want them to ask. Which maybe we can kind of move on to the second pillar, which would really be the on-page SEO, which is probably the stuff that you’re a little bit familiar with already. Which is, the metadata, things like the browser title, the meta description, the H1 headings, and just how you’re framing your content to make it easy to understand for Google, what the content is about, and what kind of keywords you should be ranking for. So that’s an area where, while it is quite fundamental, we see a lot of church websites that have high-value pages with no meta descriptions, like someone just never took the time to do it. It’s a simple thing to do, and it is a really important thing to do, and they just didn’t do it. This also goes into whether or not you have the content to begin with as well. So that probably isn’t as much up to the company that’s building the website as it is for your church, but if you want to be ranking for certain keywords, you need to have content about those things. Like if your church has a marriage ministry or a marriage counseling ministry, let’s say, that you offer, do you have a bunch of content about it on your website? If the answer is no, then you’re probably not going to show up in searches for marriage counseling. So you have to have the content and then either your web team or the company that’s building your website has to do a good job of optimizing that content for the keywords that are relevant, which, might require keyword research, you might have to dive into Google Tools to find out what keywords people are searching for on that topic and then optimize around that. But yeah, we find a lot of church websites haven’t really done anything in that regard.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. You know, let me ask you, let me piggyback on that and ask you a question. Because back when I was a comm director, and still to this day, I think a lot of people think in the church world that, oh, nobody reads, right? So we have to have less words, and more images, or more videos. And my response to them is, well, sure, yes. I mean, you want to have a really good user experience, in other words, UX user experience with that. But the problem is, if you don’t have any content, you aren’t showing up organically, and you’re missing out on lots of great traffic. So, that’s a true statement, so the question I have is, well, how can you add a lot of content without it feeling like, oh my goodness, there’s a book on this page?

Jason Collier: Yeah, that’s a good question because to your point, maybe people don’t read anymore, but robots still do. And it’s robots that are, you know, figuring out if your website should rank. So, to your point there with images, if you’re using a lot of images, a fundamental thing you should be doing is making sure that there’s alternate text on those images which describes what the image is. And if it’s an image about the kind of content you’re trying to rank for, then it’s probably going to have those keywords. And as an aside, that’s also important from an accessibility standpoint, right? If someone’s blind and reading your website, they can’t see the image, they need the alt text to know what that image is supposed to say and how it’s supposed to contribute to the page. So there are two reasons why that’s important. But, yeah, for image-heavy content, the alternate text is the way to have that content in text form for a robot, but not necessarily for a human, it’s a little more complicated.

Bart Blair: Would nomenclature for images also contribute to a better SEO performance? So like a lot of times, the church will have like, even their logo on the website in multiple places, and the logo is called logo wide, underscore black, you know, and that’s the name of the logo. Would there be a purpose in optimizing the images by even like using the name of the church in the nomenclature of the images themselves? Does that help? Does that make a difference?

Jason Collier: Yeah, font naming won’t hurt, it can also potentially allow your image to show up in an image search in Google. But largely speaking, it’s the alt text that is really going to contribute to sort of, the overall understanding of Google saying, okay, this image is supposed to be about this thing on this page. So it doesn’t hurt to optimize the file names, but it’s definitely not as important as the alt text in that content.

Jason Hamrock: How do you do that? How do you add alt text to an image?

Jason Collier: That’s going to depend on your website platform, but just about any platform that you’re using, which has sort of a WYSIWYG when you’re inserting an image, there’s probably a field you can fill out there. Like in WordPress, if you open the image in your media library, there’s a field that says alternate text, and you can plug that in. So if your church management system does not allow you to add alternate text to images, there are probably a handful out there that are old and clunky that don’t have that capability, but 99% likely do. But if you’re using one that doesn’t, that’s probably a pretty big red flag, both for SEO and accessibility.

Jason Hamrock: So how much text should I have on a page? Is there a ratio, or a number, of like a thousand words, or is there something that people should try and strive for?

Jason Collier: Yeah, there’s been multiple schools of thought over the years on that, particularly in the SEO space for when people were writing, say, blogs that were particularly targeted for, okay, we want to generate traffic for this particular keyword, how long should the blog be? And it went from long-form content being king, to short-form, and back to long-form. You know, I think for me it’s more about just trying to create just a truly good user experience. So keep the user in mind first, and make sure you’re kind of following the fundamentals, and then if it’s a little longer or shorter than it should be, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The only thing I would worry about is if it was really short. Like if you have only 50 words on a page that is supposed to be ranking for multiple keywords, that really is SEO relevant, and you’ve only got 50 words, that’s probably not enough. So don’t be super short, but I wouldn’t be losing any sleep over the difference between five hundred words and a thousand words, or two hundred words and three hundred words.

Jason Hamrock: Okay. I’ve always kind of shared that one little trick is to add an accordion, right? So you can kind of hide the text, and you click on it expands. That way you could have three or four thousand words on a page, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Jason Collier: Yeah, and Google can still read that text just as if it was there from the beginning.

Jason Hamrock: I’ve always used if you can highlight it, I don’t know if this is true, if you can highlight it, the search engine can crawl it.

Jason Collier: I think that’s true.

Bart Blair: Yeah, yeah.

Jason Collier: I mean, it can probably call things you aren’t able to highlight as well, but.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I always look at, you know, if there’s like a button, they don’t really care about colors or buttons, they care about the content that they can crawl.

Jason Collier: Right, it’s a text in there.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. what are some, I’m kind of just all over the place because I think this is such a fascinating conversation. What are some of the tools that people can use? You’ve always taught me one tool that I always use, but I’m curious about some other tools that people can use to kind of see the meta description of the title, you know, h1s or whatnot. Are there tools that you can offer up?

Jason Collier: Sure. Yeah. There is a browser extension for Chrome, and there are probably many others for other browsers that you can use that will just allow you to one click and pull it up for any page. It’s called an SEO extension, you can find it at SEO.Extension.Com. It’s free, and you can install it for Chrome, and you can click a button and it’ll show all sorts of SEO metadata for the page you’re on. Like the title, the description, the URL, if you have a canonical tag or robots tag, all that sort of stuff that an SEO person would need to be looking at. It’s just an easier way to see that rather than having to right-click and say view source and actually look at the source code, it just scrapes that stuff out and, will allow you to view that very easily.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Bart Blair: So if I’m using that tool. So sorry, Jason. If I’m using that tool, what are some things that it allows me to do? What should I be looking for? So I just installed it on my Chrome browser, I’ve opened up my church website, and I’m going to start going through pages. What are the things that that tool will allow me to do? What am I looking for?

Jason Collier: Great question. So the first thing is that you should have a descriptive page title, ideally, it should be keyword rich as well, and a meta description for any page that you think might have any relevance in Google at all. So if you’re missing, I mean, you’re probably not missing the page title, there’s probably a title there. But if the title is just bland, just like only your church name, not great, particularly if it’s a page about something within your church website. And if you have pages that don’t have meta descriptions that clearly should, that’s another big red flag. Those are kind of like the fundamental things you can fix really easily. That tool will also help you with length, in terms of how long those things should ideally be. Don’t take that as gospel, you know, you can vary from that a little bit, but you don’t want to have a ton of meta descriptions that are way too long or way too short, you want to be shooting for about 155 characters on those, and page titles, probably in the 20 to 55 character range.

Jason Collier: The one thing that it will show as well is a keywords field. Keywords is a meta field that has existed since the dawn of time. Nobody uses it anymore. Don’t waste your time filling it out. It’s there for like old age posterity. It still exists, but Google doesn’t use it. It doesn’t help you. You can’t tell Google what keywords you’re supposed to rank for anymore. That’s how it worked in the year 1999. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Yeah. so those are those first two. The title and the meta description are are the biggest thing. the other thing is, if you’re looking at what’s called a robots tag, if that says that your contact, your content is no indexed, that means that you’re telling Google not to ever serve that as a search result. So if you see a no index warning on a page that should be in Google, then you’ve got a problem. If you see that on your church home page, you’ve got a big problem. And sometimes we see that. So, yeah, if you tell Google not to put your content into Google, it will usually listen to you. And if you do that by mistake, that’s a really bad thing. So don’t do that.

Bart Blair: What about H1 and H2 headings that that tool also identifies those on the page doesn’t it?

Jason Collier: It will. Yeah. If there’s a secondary tab for headers and images as well, where you can look at the the alt text and see if you have any images with alt text. yeah. Headings are just important to encapsulate what, what the main point of the page is about. So again, the page title is it’s kind of like your first heading really in terms of communicating, communicating. Excuse me to Google what the purpose of the page is. But the next steps there are the H1 heading and the H2 headings in particular. So if you have a lot of pages without H1 or H2, that’s not ideal. Google will still try to figure it out. Like it’ll, it’ll, it’ll try to use other wizardry to figure out what the page is about. But if you want it to be very clear to Google your page title and and your H1 and H2 headings are the starting points for that. and again, as I was saying, there’s another tab in that tool where you can look at your images and it’ll tell you how many images don’t have alt text. So if you have a whole ton of images without alt text, that might be a bad thing. If those images are adding something to the page, if they’re purely decorative, then it doesn’t matter. But if they actually have contextual value to the page, like the the user’s actually supposed to look at them and think something, then that’s a red flag.

Bart Blair: Um, let me let me comment on something before you ask your question. Mr. Hamrock, there’s two Jason’s on the call. So I’m clarifying here because I know you’re he’s burning. He’s got another question. I got a question. I as as it relates to the H1 and H2 headings that you just mentioned there, you softly mentioned that we could help Google by including H1 and H2 headings, but I’ll rewind to the very beginning of our discussion where you basically said it is probably in our best interest to help Google as much as we can, because Google isn’t perfect. So I don’t I don’t want to just slide by that. You know, maybe H1 and H2 headings aren’t the end all be all, but you help yourself and you help Google by making sure that you’re including those. And those H1 and H2 headings should be descriptive for the content that’s on the page. not like we see H1 and H2 headings all the time that really don’t add any searchable value to the page. can you speak to that just real quickly about what makes a good H1 and H2 heading? And Jason, I promise I’ll stop talking after this and let you ask your next question. Yeah.

Jason Collier: So the short answer there is really your headings are supposed to break down the the content on a page, almost like a, sort of like an index of a book. So if you were going through all your headings, those would be sort of the chapters of the content on your page. so that’s how that’s intended to function. If you were a blind person, that is how your screen reader would function. You would be able to tab between those headings to say, okay, these are the most important parts of the page, which is why if your headings are all over the place, if you go from like an H1 to an H4 to an H2 to an H3, that’s going to be really hard for a blind person to read, because they’re going to be going all over the place trying to find, content that’s out of order. So there’s accessibility concerns there, too. But to your point, Bart, yeah, it’s more like a table of contents for the, the content on your page. And Google is going to read that and say, okay, these are the most important, things that are covered on this page. And the one last thing I’ll add there just before is something we see a lot from front end developers or people doing esthetic things is they will, for whatever reason, have an element on a page that they don’t want to look like an H1 or an H2. but it really belongs that way. So what they do is rather than restyling an H1 or an H2 element, they just make it what an HTML is, like a div or a span, something that’s not a heading, even though it’s serving the purpose of the heading. So that’s a really bad practice. from what you’d call a front end developer, and that they’re avoiding using headings in situations where it might make their job a little bit easier, but it’s not contextually appropriate.

Bart Blair: So if I have a like, for instance, plan a visit page, this is the one that Jason and I talked to churches about probably every day. Your plan of visit page. What’s a better does this make a difference? My plan of visit page has an H1 that says I’m new or my plan of visit page says plan my visit to Grace Community Church. Does that make a difference in the way that I structure those two h1’s? If I if I choose one, does one make a difference over the other?

Jason Collier: I would say the second one is more descriptive and better. I’m not sure I’m new. As necessarily as clear to Google as plan a visit. I would even be as concerned with your H2 headings, particularly on that page, just because there’s so much information that somebody might looking, might be looking to find, like your service hours is the obvious example, right? If someone is searching for service hours of Grace Community Church or whatever your church is, having a H2 heading on your plan of visit page, that is your service hours is going to make it really easy for Google to know where those are. So if somebody searches from, for them in Google, it’s going to point them to the right place. so that’s a really good example of a page where your H2 headings, there probably are at least 3 or 4 important h2’s that just about every, church should have within that piece of content.

Speaker4: Mm.

Jason Hamrock: Okay. My next section affects well, all this is affected everybody listening to this because you have a church website, you should have a church website. But my next section really is, is is very important. So I just had a call the other day with a brand new comm director. And this is a big church 15,000 member church. And she starts pretty soon and she comes from the corporate world, actually a marketing agency in the corporate world where in that world they had to create content. And it was just that was their biggest hurdle is how do you create really relevant content? Well, she’s hopped over to this world of working in a church, and everybody knows who works in church. While I’m about to say is 100% true, it’s what do we do with it? And that is churches are content machines. We create content all the time. Every Sunday your pastor gets up and talks for, let’s just call it 30 minutes and drops a ton of content into the laps of the people listening, including the staff. you’ve got social media people who are creating content. You’ve got a high school pastor who probably preached content. You probably have children’s pastors who might have talked to the kids content, not to mention other maybe pastors in your in your church that are writing blogs. You guys are content machines. Okay. So the question then is how do we leverage that content on our website to be able to be used for, for reaching more people? Because I usually see that all we do is we put the video that you can watch a past message, but that doesn’t help really at all with SEO. So, Jason, what would you do with that massive content that, that, that Google or that people are creating so that it can be found in Google? What, what what kind of recommendations would you have? And then I’ll ask you the same question.

Jason Collier: Sure. So for a message, which is maybe the easiest example, you transcribe it and then you’ve got all the keywords, you’ve got everything that the message is about because you have all the words that were said, and then you optimize that page with the video in it for, you know, you have the appropriate H1, you have the appropriate title, you have a meta description that describes the message. You basically you cover all the fundamentals and then you have the transcription. They’re not necessarily just as a blob of text. You might you might put it within an accordion that somebody has to click View More or however you want to have it be esthetically, as long as the text is there, then Google is going to be able to look for the keywords that are appearing within that transcription and kind of figure out what that message is about. so that’s kind of the easy that’s almost the layup example, because you have a ton of content there. It can easily be text if you transcribe it, and then it’s just about putting in a little bit of extra work to sort of, you know, optimize the metadata around that. for other types of content that can maybe be a little bit more challenging, but I’ll see if Bart wants to add anything there.

Bart Blair: Yeah. I mean, I’m a I’m a big fan of using the blog features that we have built into our website platforms. If you’ve built a WordPress website or a Squarespace website, adding a blog component to your website is typically very easy. I think that sometimes we assume that everybody in the church learns best through, auditory learning, because that’s what our preaching is on Sunday. But I really think that there is a benefit in repurposing sermon content to be written content primarily blog post type content, where rather than a 30 minute spoken sermon, something can be read in a 7 to 10 minute read or a 5 to 7 minute read. And I think we actually help disciple people internally by being able to present them the same content in a readable manner that they that might be a better learning style for them and at the exact same time create, indexable content on our website by indexable. That means that the the search engines have crawled it, it’s properly optimized for the search engines, and they have basically stored it in their memory banks as authoritative content on whatever the topic is. So I think that there’s there’s two values for me in blogging sermon content. Most pastors, the average pastor I know does not have time to do both. Write a sermon every week and write a blog post. So many of them are struggling just to own all the responsibilities that they have in leading the church. and that’s small churches, mid-size churches and large churches. It doesn’t really matter wherever you are, the Lord somehow manages to scale all of your time to use all of it for whatever is right in front of you. So adding something like writing blog posts is kind of complex. It it takes time. And so repurposing those transcripts, for blog posts I think is huge. I’ll leave that there.

Jason Hamrock: Well, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll put a little bow on it to say that, yeah, I totally agree. And those transcripts, you can get them on YouTube, they’re there. And then you probably could use an AI tool like Claude or ChatGPT to actually help you write that transcript. And you can get that done in a matter of minutes, no longer hours. And I also say that we’ve got churches that we serve, that if you look at their analytics, this is nuts, guys. You look at their analytics and their home page is like the sixth or seventh or eighth most visited page on their website. Why they blog and those blogs that they have blogged about are like number one, two, three, four, five, six. They’re getting all this free organic traffic to their website because they took the time and they actually put that that into practice. They’ve structured the content and now it’s working for them. So yeah, that’s that’s so important to do I, I can’t, I can’t stress enough how your content is some of the best content. And I’ll, I’ll say this too. I say this all the time guys. All those platforms that we use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff is just things. We rent our websites, the only digital platform we actually own. You own that they nobody can come in and take that away from you unless you don’t pay your bill. But that’s your website. It’s what you own. And so you should be pouring into it. Because I look at most churches and that’s like the last thing to think about is their website, unfortunately. So, okay, I’m, we’re I could go on forever with I love this conversation. We’re 33 minutes in. Jason, how has Missional Marketing really helped churches with SEO?

Jason Collier: Wow. Lots of ways. I mean, beyond local SEO, which we’re trying to stay away from, which we help probably 300, 400 churches, at least that many locations. But yeah, rather large number of churches. obviously we build church websites. We make sure that those are well optimized. we do SEO work on, existing websites that have been built to, to optimize them in situations where a church sees the company who built the website in the first place didn’t do that. so we kind of intervene in, in those areas and we help with content creation as well. the one thing we don’t do, which is a little bit of an elephant in the room and that we haven’t talked about, at least if you’re familiar in the space, is that we don’t help with backlink profile. We don’t have a product for that. We don’t offer that. And there’s a good reason we don’t offer that. And that’s because it’s really hard.

Jason Hamrock: And explain what that means, right? So, um.

Jason Collier: Fundamentally a major driver of SEO that we’ve ignored up to this point that we need to talk about is that Google looks for all the links that are pointing from one website to another. And it tries to gauge. Um. If content is worthy of links or not based on that, if it is worthy of links, and if lots of websites that get high traffic and themselves have received a lot of links are linking out to other content that Google likes, Google transfers what we call SEO juice or Page authority from that link. So the way to, sort of improve the search rankings of your content, beyond all the things we’ve already talked about, is to get links from other quality websites to your website in a context that makes sense to Google. So, for example, a news station that is linking about an event you’re having at your church to that, the events page is a really good link. And that news station is probably really authoritative because they’ve been around for a long time. They’ve done lots of stuff. They probably have lots of links to their website. So it’s that sharing of authority relative to links that is the hardest part of SEO, the most expensive, the one that takes the longest.

Jason Collier: And that’s the one thing that we don’t do. And in our experience, at least in my experience, a vast majority of companies that say they do that or sell that service are doing so in black hat ways. And when I say black hat, it means it isn’t. It isn’t legitimate. The hard way to go about doing that is to find people who are legitimately interested in your content who are legitimately, legitimately excuse me also in that space, and tell them about it. Maybe you offered a post on their blog and do a guest post, or, you know, you communicate with them and forge a relationship and maybe you link to them, they link to you. But ultimately you have an above board set of links that make sense, content that makes sense, pointing to other similar content that makes sense. What a lot of companies will do is they’ll try to have a sort of faux news website that really only exists to link out to other sites and to kind of game the system, and that used to be a valid way to confuse Google. And Google didn’t like that. So about it’s probably ten years ago now, Google started to heavily penalize people who were doing that and the death of what they called the the Personal Blog Network, where you had a whole bunch of sites that their only purpose was to link to the site you wanted to rank.

Jason Collier: Uh, that no longer became a valid, practice, but a lot of companies are still trying to game the system, and if it’s not catching up to them now, it’s almost certainly going to in the future. So don’t you know, almost learn from marketing’s experience to, from us having hired a few of those companies to help our company and then realizing, even though the process they laid out on their website they weren’t following, they advertised, they said explicitly, we’re white hat. This is what we’re going to do. And then we look at what they’re doing and they’re not doing what they said they were going to do. So if you’re a church and someone’s promising to do SEO work for you, and the thing that they’re focusing on is, hey, we’re going to boost your backlink profile, your domain authority is going to go through the roof. That’s the main service they’re offering you. Maybe they’re going to do it legitimately, but they’re probably not in in our experience, because that work is just really hard and really time consuming. Yeah.

Jason Hamrock: There’s another a different angle to that as a communications angle. And that is you can you can, promote things. It’s this is labor intensive. You actually send out press releases to all the different.

Bart Blair: That’s, you know, Jason, I was thinking the same thing that’s worthy of a podcast episode, the press release.

Jason Hamrock: We’ll jump into.

Bart Blair: A press release or the painful press release because you can.

Jason Hamrock: Also pay. You can spend, you know, 300, 400 bucks and sort of buy that press release so that it gets sent out to all kinds of news stations. And hey, if a new station or a newspaper or a magazine picks it up and links back to your website, as Jason said, that’s that’s gold in the SEO world, especially if it comes from like a Fox or NBC, some kind of affiliate news station, because they have high rank authorities, rank authority. Jason, I’m going to take a stab at this. It’s basically 0 to 100. And there’s every every website’s ranked from 0 to 100. Google’s like what, 99 or 100? They’re they’re pretty high up there.

Jason Collier: So domain authority is um a. Fictional estimation that two very, very smart, companies that are kind of pillars of, of SEO work have come up with to estimate based on backlink profile, where your website sits in authority on a logarithmic scale versus other websites. So that doesn’t necessarily mean that a 20 is good or a 99 is good or a 70 is good. It’s really how you how you are measured relative to other people who are trying to rank for the same keywords. So you’re not going to see a lot of churches with domain authorities in the 90s or 80s. It just no church has that quality of backlink profile. You’ll see a lot in the tens and the 20s and the 30s. And then you might have like a Lakewood, I think is Joel Osteen’s church. He might be in like the 70s or 80s. so some of those megachurches, because of their reach. A smaller church is just never going to compete with them in domain authority. It’s not going to happen. You know, you could you could have a small church take ten years and $10 million, and they’re probably not going to get all the way there. So.

Bart Blair: Um, and if you’re a small church with $10 million, please don’t spend it on that. Yeah, don’t spend it on that.

Jason Collier: It’s not a good investment, but.

Bart Blair: Uh, spend it on.

Jason Collier: That. Yeah. The authority really is something you should be accruing naturally by doing the things you should be doing as a church, like. Hosting events and having press releases pointing to those events like you were pointing out, the good practices of, communication are going to naturally lead to people linking to your website. So the more good things you do that are worthy or good content you create that are worthy of linking, and the more good things you do in promoting that content, the more backlinks you’re going to get, and the more your domain authority is going to increase over time. And you’ll start to outperform other churches because of that.

Jason Hamrock: Okay, okay, we gotta land this.

Bart Blair: I have one more question. I have one more question. And it’s really important okay? It’s it’s really important. And then I’ll let you lay on the plane. This is a master class and we can’t let it end. Okay. myth or no myth, Mr. Collier, we have a WordPress website, and we have a Yoast plugin on our website, and we use the Yoast plugin to optimize all of our pages on our website. And therefore our website is sufficiently optimized for search engines. Is Yoast. I mean, I, you know, not a paid, not a paid promotion, not a not paid promotion for our podcast here. But talk to us a little bit about that, because it is a very, very common thing that a lot of churches with WordPress websites are using. And they’ll use that as to say we are optimized because we’re using this plugin.

Jason Collier: Uh, so Yoast is a tool that gives you easy access to optimize the metadata for a given page, particularly the page title and the page meta description. And we’ll give you some tools to say, you know, I think this is the keyword I should be focused on on this page. Am I using it in the right places, that sort of stuff. So Yoast doesn’t do the optimization. It allows you to do the optimization. So if we were optimizing a WordPress website, we would almost always use Yoast because it is our we think it’s the best, plugin for SEO optimization because, I mean, it’s almost objective to say it is at this point. There are some other competitors, but it’s the market leader for a reason. so it allows a person to go in and say, okay, this is my page title here. This is my meta description here. Oh, it looks like that meta description is too long. I should tune it up this way. So Yoast doesn’t do the work. It allows a human to do the work. so if the human has done the work using Yoast, then the sort of on page metadata side of of SEO optimization is indeed complete. Now that’s one fraction of a much bigger hole that we were talking about. There’s still the the user experience, the the speed, the backlink profile, all that other stuff that’s going to play into it. But. Yost is is a great tool to use for that is is the answer to that question. But you still have to do the work. Installing the plugin is not doing the work.

Speaker4: Mm.

Bart Blair: Okay.

Jason Hamrock: Thank you.

Bart Blair: All right Jason, now you can land the plane. Well I was.

Jason Hamrock: Going to say I think this is just part one. because I think there’s there’s more that we need to get to, but we’re out of time for today. So, Jason, thank you so much for joining us. And I can’t wait to have you back on again. You’re a walking wealth of knowledge in this space. Thank you for serving churches here at Mission Marketing. And we love all that you do.

Jason Collier: Yeah, thanks. I’m always happy to. Come on. Whenever Bart tells me to.

Bart Blair: Will happen again for sure. Hey, for those of you who made it all the way to the end of this podcast episode, 44 minutes in. Crazy long for us, but hopefully super valuable for you. We appreciate you sticking with us. if you haven’t ever left us a rating or a review, wouldn’t today be the best time to do that after this masterclass on SEO? Come on, leave us a rating. Leave us a review. tell us how much you appreciate the podcast. It feeds the algorithm of the podcast universe, and it helps more people find the podcast. When you do that. Also be sure to check out the the show notes of this episode, because we’re going to link to a number of different articles that we have on our website, blog posts that we’ve created that speak to a lot of the things that we talked about on this particular episode. So you can do a little bit of a deeper dive, with some of the content that we have on our website. There’s also a search feature on our blog where if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, just by browsing, use that little search feature. And, hopefully you can find the content that you’re looking for on our blog. We put a lot of time, energy, and effort into that, because we want to be able to be a resource for you as church leaders. So thanks again for tuning in to another episode of the Missional Marketing Podcast. We’ll see you next time.

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