So 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.