The Ultimate Church SEO Guide: External Marketing

The Ultimate Church SEO Guide: External Marketing

January 19, 2015 by

In the first part of this series, we discussed the most important aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, including best practices for URLs and page copy.

In this second installment, we will discuss the off-site things you can do to positively impact your website’s SEO value and help it rank higher in search results.

Name, Address, Phone Number

As a church, implementing a local SEO strategy is the biggest step in ranking in search results among other churches in your area. The most important part of local SEO is called “NAP.”

NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone Number” and it refers to the vital importance of maintaining the same name, address and phone number on your website and anywhere you are listed online

Even though Google is a pretty smart search engine, it still needs a little help. By having the same NAP information everywhere, Google will be able to easily recognize your organization.

Local Data Aggregators

No one wants to spend hours creating profiles for your church on hundreds of websites like YellowPages, WhitePages, MerchantCircle and FourSquare.

Save yourself the time and effort and choose a local data aggregator like Moz Local or BrightLocal. Not only will you save time and effort, but also an aggregator will help fix problems with NAP information and ensure that only the best websites get your information.

Don’t leave everything to an aggregator. You’ll still want to make sure that you’ve set up your Bing Places, Google My Business, Yahoo Local (the free version is at the bottom of the page) and Yelp listings.

If it’s already in existence, claim it, fill it out to completion, add pictures, contact information and finalize it. These three are the most important local listings you can have for your business, and it’s imperative that they are correct.


Did you know that the events you’ve hosted for the community could benefit your SEO? Did you know that your annual Christmas service could contribute to better rankings?

Do a quick Google search for “submit your event” + your location. My guess is that you’ll see at least five to ten different websites pop up with event pages and calendars for your local area.

Some might not be great opportunities for your specific event, but you could add your event to the event calendar for your local radio station, newspaper or visitor’s guide! Just make sure to add a link back to your website with more information about the event.

Similarly, if your church is hosting a conference, retreat or well-known speaker that invites more than just your members—get it out there and send a press release and invitation to every relevant magazine, website and blog.

Why Links Are Important

To generate search result rankings, search engines use algorithms. These algorithms and filters are complex and have many different contributing factors.

One easy way for search engines to rank websites is by looking at how many other websites are linking to them.  A link is sort of like a vote of authority in Google’s eyes—it’s like a friend vouching for you or a letter of recommendation.

But not just any link will help you out. Five or 10 years ago, it didn’t matter where your links came from and any old spammy website helped you out.

Now the landscape has changed so that only relevant, authoritative links will help your website’s rank. Here are a few initiatives you can take to get links.

Easy Links (That You Probably Already Have)

If your church is part of denomination or associated with a group of churches that already has a website, ensure that you are listed on their “church finder.”

Similarly, chamber of commerce and city government websites often have pages listing local churches and religious groups.

SEO Benefits From Your Current Initiatives

Your church is likely already a sponsor, volunteer, donor, host and supporter of lots of local and global initiatives. But are you getting SEO value from these?

I’m not saying that you should sponsor a local event to get SEO value. I am saying that you should consider taking the opportunity to tell people about your church if you’re already doing these things.

Just check and see if they have a sponsor page on their website and if you’re already listed or not.

Your Staff as Your Marketing Team

While I’ve yet to visit a church with a marketing team, your staff is already laying the groundwork to benefit your church’s search rankings.

Have any of your pastors published a book? Do they have a personal website? They could easily link to your church in their bio or from their website. These are often high-quality links!

Are you offering any internships? Post these job openings on the most relevant industry websites and link back to your church’s website for more information.

Pastors are natural communicators and usually excellent writers. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get your staff published in relevant magazines, blogs and websites.

SEO Isn’t Everything

While having an optimized website and implementing an SEO strategy might help your church to show up in more search results, it shouldn’t be a replacement for other outreach programs.

SEO is a valuable tool that can help your church communicate your message to your community, but it doesn’t replace inviting a new visitor into your home.

Like all programs and marketing initiatives, each one should be used wisely. Hopefully this series will help show you new ways to improve your online presence to grow your ministry and outreach to the surrounding community.

Post By:

Caitlin Gustafson

Having grown up as a pastor’s kid, Caitlin Dodds is passionate about helping churches make the most of their online presence. Caitlin is a writer and digital marketing specialist, and you can find her blogging and tweeting about social media and SEO.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

4 Responses to “The Ultimate Church SEO Guide: External Marketing”

  • Robin Ooi
    March 30, 2015

    Great tips Caitlin!

    I believe the NAP that you’re talking about is quite commonly known as “citation”.

    You’re definitely spot on when it comes to creating those citations from Google My Business, Yelp & Bing etc.

    Of course, as you mentioned, SEO isn’t everything, it’s a tool to get the church the exposure they need, then it’s up to the church’s website to convince them.

    Keep up the great work Caitlin.


    Robin Ooi

     | Permalink
  • Phil Locke
    May 24, 2016

    Thanks for the info!

     | Permalink
  • Terence Lim
    September 22, 2016

    Thanks Caitlin! Many of the tips you mentioned are overlooked by the digital marketers.

    In addition to community events, donations is another opportunity to get mentioned and brand exposure.

     | Permalink
  • Paul Steinbrueck
    February 7, 2017

    Hi Caitlin, good article. Not sure how I missed it when it was first published. :) Anyways, I just wanted to echo your statement about the importance of creating, claiming, verifying and updating local listings. There are sooooo many churches that not displayed in the search results because they haven’t done this. I understand why – it can be very tricky. Lots of churches have local listings that were created by staff or volunteers who are no longer with the church. Many churches meet in schools or theaters that already have an existing business listing. Many churches have changed meeting locations. And then there are the challenges for multi-site churches.

    IMO, this is the most important thing a church can do to reach people in their community. If your staff or volunteer web person gets stuck because of one or more of these issues it’s well worth getting the help of a professional SEO to help resolve the issues.

     | Permalink