Site structure is becoming an increasingly important part of church website design. There was a time when just getting a website online and adding some content was enough. But if you want to get your website working harder for you, then it’s important to have the correct church website site structure in place.
What is Church Website Site Structure?
Church Website Site Structure refers to the way in which your website is laid out. There are many components involved, such as the pages of your site, how pages and posts are laid out, how they’re categorized using categories and tags, and how users navigate between them using contextual links and header/footer links.
Why is Church Website Site Structure Important?
Site structure has become increasingly important over the last few years, for two reasons:
1. User Experience
User experience is not only an important factor in keeping people on your website, but also in getting them to come back. Your site should be well laid out and easy to navigate, using header and footer menus, and internal links, so that users can quickly and easily find the area of your site they’re looking for.
For example, it’s good practice to have the pages that users frequently visit as the main items in your header menu. For many churches, these would be pages like Plan a Visit, Our Location, Our Ministries, Our Beliefs, and Contact us.
User experience has also become an important ranking factor for Google. Google measures usability of your site and how users interact with it, and then uses this to help judge if your site should rank highly in the search results. This brings us to the second reason church website structure is so important.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While a good site structure is great for users visiting your website, it’s also helpful for the navigability of bots that Google uses to crawl your website. Google uses a complex algorithm to crawl every area of your site and then decides where it should rank in the search results.
Having a well thought out site structure in place assists Google in understanding your site and can help to increase your rankings in the search results, thereby bringing more traffic to your site. A good structure can also stop you from having errors on your website that might harm your SEO. For example, it’s not a best practice to have duplicate content on your website. Duplicate Content refers to pages that occur more than once. Having an optimized site structure can help avoid this.
How to Set-up Correct Site Structure on your Church Website
The ideal church website site structure is made up of a number of elements. Here we’ll lay them out for you and explain how you should most effectively use them.
A good site structure starts with your homepage. If your site is small (<20 pages), ideally a user should be able to click to every page of your website from your homepage. For larger sites, users should be able to navigate to different sections of your website from where they can easily reach the content they’re looking for. For example, you’re not going to add every blog post or sermon video to your homepage navigation menu. But it’s important that links to sections such as ‘Blog’ and Sermons’ are in your homepage navigation menu so that people can easily find them.
Your homepage header menu should remain the same on every other page of your site. This is so users can easily learn how to navigate through your website no matter what page they land on.
Here’s a great example of a clean Homepage header layout from one of our clients, Coker UMC.
The header is divided into sections of the site through main menu items, and then each of the main menu items have sub-menu items so users can get to more specific content easily.
After your homepage, your site should be divided into sections called categories. This makes it easier to keep relevant content close together on your site. The website used in the above example shows good use of how this is done. For example, they have their ministries all categorized under Gather. They then have a page for each ministry as a sub-menu item. This helps create a proper church website site structure for your site.
3. Pages & Posts
After your homepage, it’s a good idea to divide your website into pages and posts. Pages are generally used for webpages that are the core pages of your site. Examples would be your plan a visit page, or contact us page. Posts are generally used for pages that are regularly added, such as blog posts, or sermons or messages. Posts are date stamped, so that they can be easily categorized.
Categories and Tags are taxonomies are used to add to your posts so they can be easily found and sorted on your website.
Usually categories are used to broadly categorize posts into different areas. For example, Sermons, Messages, or Latest News. These categories then dynamically create a page that contains all posts within a certain category. This allows users to easily find the content related to a certain area. Generally, you should assign just one category (and perhaps one sub-category if your site is very large) to each post.
Tags are more specific, and you can use multiple tags per post. For example, you could use topics from a sermon to tag a post with tags such as forgiveness, or Psalm 103:2-3. Tags also create a page that contains all posts with the same tag, however, it’s best to no-index these page so that Google doesn’t crawl them. The reason for this is because they may cause pages to be created that are very similar to your category pages, which may cause duplicate content issues. Tags are best used for navigation, and to suggest similar posts to users.
5. Internal Linking
Internal linking is a very important part of site structure, and also of SEO. Links should flow throughout your site, enticing visitors to visit more and more pages. While you will have already set up your header and footer links, it is also important to have what are called ‘contextual links’ running throughout your content that promote this behavior of deeper engagement.
These links appear within your text, and can lead someone to a section of your site if the want to read more about a topic. For example, this is a contextual link.
While this helps users find other related areas of your site, it also tells Google what the page you’re linking is about. This is great for SEO, but it’s important to not use it too frequently, as it may cause a penalty. One contextual link for every 150-200 words is a good rule of thumb.
Final Tips for Church Website Site Structure
If you follow the above guide, your site should be in a solid place in terms of site structure, User Experience, and SEO. Here are some final tips to make the most out of your site structure:
- Once you’ve made your site structure plan, you should stick to it! Write it down, and make sure others who update the site stick to it also. Some simple rules can ensure your site structure stays on track. Here are a few examples:
– Only 1 category per post
– Only use existing categories
– Maximum of 4 tags per post
Your site structure can become very unstructured, very fast if you don’t stick to the plan.
- Over time, you may accumulate pages that are very similar. These pages can often be joined together into one longer page. This has a better impact on SEO (but be sure to redirect the old pages to the new longer one to retain existing SEO – we can always help you implement 301 redirects if needed, although sadly, not every church website platform allows them).
- Try not to overuse the same keywords. If you try and use ‘church in Phoenix’ as a keyword on every page, you harm your chances of ranking. Try to vary your keywords and your traffic will improve.
- Add an XML sitemap to your website. This acts as an additional ‘roadmap’ for Google to use when crawling your site.
So there you have it, our comprehensive guide on church website site structure. If you follow the pointers in this guide, your website will be built with a sound structure and will perform better moving forward. At Missional Marketing, we’ve worked with hundreds of church websites and are experts in planning our site structure from the outset. If you’d like to have a discussion about how we can help you and your church website, get in touch with us today.