Elexio Church Management Software Blog

5 SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid With Your Church Website

SEO strategies for church websitesSo last time I talked about 5 tips that you shouldn’t miss out on that would help your church website SEO. I’ve been spending a little time working on SEO audits lately, and I wanted to address a few common mistakes that I found. The thing is that these mistakes, while common, were actually gaping holes in SEO.

Here we go:

5. Duplicate and Low content pages

It’s easy to fall into a pattern where we just create a page for every little thing. Google actually doesn’t like that. In fact, a bunch of low content pages will actually serve to frustrate and confuse the Google crawler, especially now that it’s focused on context and content.

To avoid this pitfall, look for opportunities to better organize your content into categories, then build related items into the same page. Of course you should show Google some sections in that page by using H2-H6 tags, but more related content means better recognition of your information.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want mile-long pages. Look for things like contact information, location, service times and directions. All of those things can work well together on a page, and will work better than 4 short, disparate pages.

Also, avoid pages that repeat the same information. It can be a strong temptation to just copy and paste some content that you’ve written for another page, but I guarantee that Google will see it and you can and will be penalized. Better to just slightly rewrite the content and use it with slightly different keywords.

4. Duplicate meta descriptions and titles

This is a surprisingly common mistake. It can be excruciatingly BORING to write page titles and descriptions for each page on your site. It becomes less boring when you understand how they work and why you need them to be unique for every page.

Duplicate titles are bad. Google really doesn’t like them. Beyond the page URI information, the page title is one of the first things that Google sees that tells the crawler what to expect on the page. When every page has the same title…well…the Google gets annoyed with you and rewards you with a nice fat duplicate title penalty.

Duplicate descriptions are almost as bad. Back in the day (like 3 years ago) Google still looked at the description for keyword content. It doesn’t anymore. That means that if you have a description that reads something like, “First Church of Anytown, USA is the bestest bestest church in Anytown USA with childrens programs, great music, and sermons and messages that are the bestest.”

You get the idea.

If all of those pages are completely loaded with keywords and have no contextual value, you will be penalized – even more if they are all the same. You see, the purpose of the meta description is to get someone to actually want to read your page content when it comes up in Google SERP.

Therefore, a good description for a page about service information (limited to 156 characters) might be, “Get the information you need about church service times and directions for Our Church in Anytown, USA.” Here’s why: when someone uses keywords like “service times” and “Our Church” in Google, your site should be the first result. If you’ve used “Service Times” and “Our Church” in both the page title AND description Google will actually BOLD those keywords when it displays your page information in SERP to make it very obvious to the searcher that you are likely to be the best answer.

3. Broken Links

Don’t let these happen. With a good church CMS, like Elexio Website, it’s easy to fix 404 issues and get people to the pages and information that they want. Using tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics on your site properly will give you more information about what pages are broken and might be sending people away.

There’s no excuse for the webmaster who allows someone to stumble onto a 404 error. Not with the free tools that are available. Those tools include:

  • Moz or SEMRush
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)

There are more, but those are where you can start to easily locate problems and get them fixed.

2. Answering on more than one domain

You may not know what this means, and that’s ok. If you’re able to type in “mywebsite.com” and “www.mywebsite.com” and the URL doesn’t change from one to the other then you might have this problem. A properly configured site should forward from “mywebsite.com” to “www.mywebsite.com” or vice versa.

Here’s why: Google REALLY doesn’t like duplicate content, and as far as their crawler is concerned, each domain is a separate website. However, when they see two sites with exactly the same information they penalize both. This was an old blackhat SEO trick for building a backlink profile and increasing search rank.

Your web provider should be able to help you with this – it’s a standard practice at Elexio.

1. Broken or missing robots.txt and sitemap.xml files

You’ve possibly never even heard of these files, which is a shame because these are the files that literally tell Google and every other search engine about every page on your site, if they should even look at them, and how it’s all organized. Make sure that you have them, and that they are working.

Once again, there are free tools to help you build these. A proper website CMS, like Elexio Website, generates these automatically as pages are added. Also, make sure they are saved in the proper format, and that the robots.txt file references the sitemap location properly.

Getting your church SEO done right

Fixing these simple mistakes can make a massive difference in where your church website appears in search. While all the other churches aren’t aware that they have these issues, your search results can be flying to the top.

Once again, using the right tools can make all of this stuff either automatic or easy to fix. Look at quality church website CMS systems, like Elexio’s website solution.

If you’ve got some more questions about how this works, feel free to contact Elexio. Plus, we’ve got a bunch of great SEO tips in our online help center.

Whiteboard: The Moses Method for Choosing Church Management Software – Part 2

In part 2 of this whiteboard session, Rodney provides the final steps of using the Moses Method to choose the best church management software.

Whiteboard: The Moses Method for Choosing Church Software Part 2 from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi. Welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. This is Part 2 of our discussion about the Moses Method, inspired by the story in Numbers 13, where Moses sends out scouts into the Promised Land to determine what it’s all about. We use that as our inspiration for guidance on selecting new church management software, sometimes called your church database.

In our last session, we looked at trying to arrive at Moses-level clarity on whether or not you need software or not. It can’t be wishy-washy. You need to be very clear because challenges will come up. And if you’re not clear and feel strongly that this is the right pathway for the church, it will falter at some point. You’ll have nothing to fall back on, so try to arrive at some level of Moses-level clarity.

The second thing we talked about in our first session is getting or at least setting yourself up to get 12/4 buy-in. Moses selected one representative from each tribe of Israel. I think one of the reasons was to make sure he gets buy-in from everybody on this big task, even though it was a God-ordained task. Because he was Moses, he had complete clarity on what he needed to do, but he still, I think, needed buy-in.

You can do the same thing in setting up your software search by gathering a group of three to six, let’s call them scouts, who will not only represent their own interests, as it relates to what the new software will do, but then also an assigned group of other users that they will represent and really, truly represent them, setting aside even sometimes what their own needs are for the good of everybody they represent.

Okay, that’s a review of the first two phases of the Moses Method. This side of the board really starts talking about once your software search really starts. That is, again, a fair amount of reading, talking, and watching. Mostly what you’ll end up doing is listening to salespeople from the software companies do presentations, do demonstrations. This will help you through that process.

This Phase 3 is the Milk, Honey, and Giants phase. Now that may sound familiar, of course. The report that Moses got back about Canaan was that it was a land flowing with milk and honey, but it also had some strong and powerful men, even some giants that lived there. That was the report. And I would suggest you are going to see some of the same types of things surfacing, the same types of reports surfacing, as your scouts are reporting back what they’re finding.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s get specific. Your scouts may fall into. . .and I will call it a trap, although it’s not the worst thing in the world, but they may fall into a trap of becoming milk men. Now that doesn’t mean it can’t be a woman. It could be anybody. But we’ll use the phrase milk men. Now milk, of course, is a great thing. We all, when we start life, milk is our source of nutrients. But eventually we move on from milk and get nutrients from lots of different places.

Milk men, in your software search, are going to be the people that are tending to look back and think about basic things. They may be overly concerned with what screens look like, where certain fields are placed. They may be concerned about the order in which things are done. Rather than looking at big picture, they’re tending to focus on small things. And a big indicator of somebody, one of your scouts, falling into an overly milk-mannish mode is that they may say something like, “Well, our old software didn’t do it that way” or any type of comparison to the way things were done before.

Now remember, as we said, we all grow out of having milk be the only thing that we gain sustenance from. In the same way, your church, if you’ve gotten Moses-level clarity that you need a new church software, it’s probably that you’ve outgrown your old software. You need to move on, and if some of your scouts are too focused on the basics. . . Now not that basics aren’t important, don’t hear me say that, but an over-focus on comparing, “Well, this software doesn’t work like the old one does.” Well, of course, it doesn’t, and you may need something that doesn’t work like the old one did. But it is a challenge, and it is a trap that your scouts can fall into. The thing to do is not to completely disregard it. Of course, those are valid things to be concerned about, but just be aware of it. It will help you keep focused in the software selection.

Okay, let’s move on. Honey drippers. If these were milk men, these next people or your scouts may become honey drippers. Now what do I mean there? They’re really the exact opposite of milk men. If milk men are looking back too much and too focused on the basics, your honey drippers have become enamored with some new thing, some sweet, new technology that they are seeing. It could be a feature that they see in this one software. It could be a technology that that one software uses.

And the reason I say that they are honey drippers, it’s not only do they become enamored with this new feature, but they’re going to drip that to everybody else. And they’ll drip it so much that it becomes something that’s a must-have, rather than just a nice-to-have. Again, not that it’s wrong. Seeing the honey, the sweet new features, that’s probably what it’s all about. That’s some of what the Moses-level clarity was all about.

But if we get too focused on something that’s too narrow and doesn’t benefit everybody for 12/4 buy-in, it can be problematic, if the honey drippers have too much voice. It’s really about balance. Gaining balance between looking back, looking at the basics, looking at new things, arriving at balance really helps manage this process in making a wise decision that has 12/4-level buy-in. Okay.

There’s another part here. It’s managing milk men, honey drippers, and also giants. Now giants are something that affects everybody. Once you go through this process, you’ve looked at a lot of demos, you may be even narrowing down to the software you think is the right fit, then caution starts to come in. How are we going to get our data into this new system? How will we ever learn all these new features? What kind of training is there out there? A number of questions. Did we research enough? Is it worth the money?

Those questions start coming in and they grow to the point that they become so daunting to think about that it could put a halt to the whole search process, and maybe it short circuits everything and we no longer are moving along with that Moses-level clarity, seeking buy-in, keeping everybody in balance, but now we’re facing these giants. So my suggestion for dealing with giants is two-fold. One is, what I’ve already pointed to, which is. . . That’s why I said in the first session, you need to get, some group of leaders, needs to get to Moses-level clarity because that will help you when you face the giants and those challenging thoughts.

The second part is on your software vendor though. If you’re seeing a feature set that you think is going to get the right buy-in and makes both of these people happy, that vendor needs to be able to help you get over some of the concerns and the giants that face you. You need to ask them about their implementation services. What’s available to help us get from point A to point B? What training is available? And the important question: does it cost? What costs? What doesn’t cost? And let me talk to somebody who’s used those services and is now successful. Managing giants will be just a vital part of the Moses Method of getting and making a successful software selection.

Okay, let’s move on. The final phase of the Moses Method is right here. You’ve just got to do it. You just have to make a decision. You’re taking into everything that’s lead up to it. You’re here on this side. This is where you are now. You have gotten Moses-level clarity. You’ve gotten a scout team together. You’ve managed this whole process. You think you know what the right decision is. And if this process goes well, this chasm between where you are now and where you want to be. . . This is where you want to be. You want to be over there. . . If you manage this process well, this chasm gets smaller and smaller and smaller. But ultimately, the chasm will not go away, and you’re going to have to take a leap to go from where you are now to over there, just having faith that here, here, and here helps you make the right decision. But ultimately, it’s just a seize it and do it.

Now one thing that will happen is probably what happened to Moses. When the time came, “Hey, we’re going to go into the Promised Land,” there were people who said, “Oh, but what about the giants? We were better off back in Egypt.” Moses dealt with that often, the lamenters, people who fought back and lamented, “Ah, this is too much work. It’s not going to work. We should just stay where we are.”

Going to say this. Please take it with a grain of salt in the realm of what I’m saying. You just have to kill off the lamenters. You just have to let that lay out there and really just leave them behind. So if you’ve got lament going on, you’ve just got to leave it, make the leap. Just do it.

Well, that is the Moses Method for selecting new software. It’s actually applicable for probably any big decision that you might make. When you’ve got to make group decisions, it’s hard to do it. Somebody has to get some clarity on a need. You’ve got to get a team of people together to make the decision, you’ve got to manage that team, but ultimately somebody has to be the decision maker and just make the leap.

That’s the Moses Method. We thank you for watching an Elexio Whiteboard.

5 Tips for Church Website SEO

Push your church website to the top of Google SERP

SEO strategies for church websites

I’ve not written for the Elexio blog before, but I’d like you to get to know me a little. Before starting at Elexio I spent the last few years working at advertising agencies, running design studios and managing digital strategies for many clients, some of whom likely have a few products parked in your homes. Elexio was a boon for a worship pastor like me, looking for a place to work while offering a faith family and a common mission in the growth of the global church.

With that background in website information architecture, SEO that includes a deep understanding of the mechanisms of the many Google search algorithms, and a passion for the church I am providing a few basic tips for church SEO.

1. Know what people are searching for in your area

This may sound like a pretty simple thing, but we all make assumptions about our audiences and the challenge here is the assumptions. We don’t always know what interests people in a church, though we might assume that we do.
Using tools like Google Webmaster Tools, Google Trends, Google Analytics and others both paid and free can give you the insight that you need based on your own web traffic, as well as traffic to other church sites.

2. Effectively plan your information architecture

Nothing makes a website, sacred or secular, work better in Google SERP than the context of the information. Google no longer cares about keywords the way it once did. Your information must be well organized and well written. Google now analyzes keywords, nested information, internally and externally linked sites and pages, as well as what is actually written in the page to determine how relevant that page is to the end user’s search query.

3. Local SEO is important, even vital

Yes, there is a difference. It’s extremely important if you are a multi-site church. We have a large, multi-site church in the central Pennsylvania region who does an excellent job of optimizing their campus websites. Ensuring that your homepage, or the pages for your various campuses include a broad keyword like “church in my town” in the following areas:

  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • H1

You should also include the address of your facility. If you have created a local business page in Google Maps and verified your church, you should ensure that the NAP (name, address, and phone) on the webpage matches your church information exactly. Even a small difference can cause Google to give you a negative mark, rather than a lift.

4. Don’t overlook Schema

Schema.org is a site that most search engines have partnered with to assist with the categorization of information that appears in search. Categories such as events, news, blog posts, etc… can help Google more quickly identify and categorize your content.

Schema even includes location tags, making it incredibly easy for Google to recognize your address, phone, and even hours of operation.

5. Consider your platform carefully

Yes, what your website runs on under the hood is actually important. Elexio has spent years developing a church website CMS that makes SEO relatively simple and managing content extremely easy.

WordPress is another great option, but you should walk into that world with your eyes open. Cost of ownership is higher than free with WordPress. A bevy of plugins are all but required right out of the gate with WordPress, just to make it more SEO friendly and secure. Then, someone must be willing to manage updates to the system, the plugins, and of course the content. And finally, don’t forget about an event calendar. Right now, a really solid, low-cost, easy-to-manage event calendar system does not exist for WordPress.

Finding the right SEO solutions & answers

In closing, there are many best practices and tips to consider for SEO, but these 5 represent some common problems where church websites frequently suffer. Optimizing by organizing your information, providing context, and ensuring that people within your local area can find you.

If you are looking for a new church website platform take a look at ELEXIO WEBSITE. And don’t forget to take a look through our help site as we have a great selection of SEO tips and tricks hosted within.

7 Tips for Using Forms on Your Church Website

church web formMany churches are ditching the sign-up boards and spreadsheets for easy-to-use online forms when they need people to register for events or join a small group. These online forms can be powerful and convenient when used effectively. Follow these seven tips to make the most of these tools for your church:

1. Collect all the key information

If you’re using an online form for VBS sign-up, make sure you collect the important details you’ll need—like parent contact information—when they register, rather than asking them for more information later.

2. Keep them short, simple, and sweet

While you should be careful to gather all the information you need, leave out the fields that aren’t necessary. HubSpot found that the completion percentages for online forms drastically decreases as the number of fields increases. Avoid long forms that require people to continue scrolling to complete or they might throw in the towel before hitting that submit button.

3. Make them mobile-friendly

People aren’t just accessing your church website from a desktop—they want to give and register for events from their smartphones. Make your online forms responsive so mobile sign-up and registration is easy.

4. Get creative

Don’t just use web forms for event registration—use them VBS sign-ups, ministry assessments, prayer requests, and mailing lists. Take advantage of this tool and all the ways you can put it to work for your church.

5. Allow people to skip account creation

Have you ever visited a website to make a quick purchase, but it required you to go through the inconvenient process of creating an account just to make a one-time purchase? To prevent people from abandoning event registration for the same reason, allow them to sign up without creating an account to keep the process quick and simple.

6. Accept event registration payment

Rather than having people sign up for an event online then bring payment later, allow them to pay as they register. Incorporate partial payments, timed pricing, and volume discounts, too.

7. Integrate them with your ChMS

Don’t go through the hassle of data entry if you can automatically have the information update in your church database. Integrated online forms will save your staff time and improve accuracy.

Check with your ChMS provider to learn what services integrate with your church management software—some even provide web form builders as a built-in feature.

How has your church effectively used online forms? 

3 Qualities of a Kids Ministry that Brings Families Back

kids ministryAccording to a recent Barna study, 42% of participants said that becoming a parent led them to reconnect with a church, become more active in the ministry, or get involved with a church for the first time. As families grow, many parents feel a responsibility to get serious about their faith and get their kids plugged into a church.

With children playing such an important role in the life of families, churches should also make kids a top priority. Does your kids ministry offer these three qualities and make your church family-friendly?

1. Invaluable 

Is your church preparing children to grow in Christ? The potential next generation of your ministry is currently sitting in nurseries and classrooms throughout your church. Take advantage of this opportunity to start them on the path toward discipleship at a young age. Don’t you still remember the Bible stories and Sunday school teachers from your childhood?

And remember to get creative and stay as current as possible. The tactics and teaching methods that worked 25 years ago might not work today. Flannel graphs and sticker books have their place, but most kids are now exposed to technology at a young age and will expect similar engagement from your church.

2. Fun

Children’s programs should not only provide spiritual and educational value—they should also be fun! With momentary attention spans, kids need stimulation after just a few minutes of listening to keep them interested and awake. Don’t be afraid to throw in a silly game or song to keep those youngsters happy and strike a healthy balance. Families will be interested in returning to your church if they know they’re kids are having a good time. In fact, the kids might actually ask!

3. Safe

Parents want their kids to learn and have fun, but their safety is even more important. Does your church run background checks? Do you use a secure check-in system? Do you effectively track medical conditions and guardian pick-up? Invest in a safe kids ministry to leave parents—especially visitors—confident in your church’s ability to keep their children safe and more likely to come back.

How does your church create a kids ministry that keeps families coming back?