Internet Searches and Your Church’s Website
Internet searches are a daily routine for an almost countless number of internet users worldwide. And your church’s website is one among an almost countless number of websites that can turn up in those searches. Assuming your church chooses to budget the time and money to have a website, drawing visitors to that website – and ultimately to your church – is a major focus. In other words, your church’s website isn’t there only as an electronic bulletin board for current members. Your church wants to leverage its website as a helping hand with casting a net to draw in people needing to hear and experience a life-transforming message. But, in order for your church’s website to be effective in drawing people, the website has to be found. The amount of success people have with searching and finding your church’s website, as well as the number of people who find it to begin with, comes down to something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Laying the Foundation for Understanding SEO
So, what is SEO? Maybe you’ve heard the term before or maybe not. For those of you who don’t have a clue, this SEO Primer is especially for you. SEO is a big topic of discussion in the internet world, and the discussion is constantly evolving. In discussing SEO, there’s a lot to say about methods or tactics (I’ll explain that in Part 2). Meanwhile, it’s important to lay a foundation on which to build your eventual understanding of SEO. I want you to see and grasp a bigger picture here than just a discussion of SEO methods. The first step is to see and grasp some basics.
What are Internet Search Engines?
To properly understand SEO, it’s necessary to define and understand something of internet search engines. Most of us use popular internet search engines every day – sites such as Google™, Bing®, Yahoo®, and Lycos®. If asked, though, how would you define a search engine? A search engine is a software program dedicated to helping people locate specific information stored in websites on the internet. Simple enough, right? But, how do they do that?
Spiders that Index for Search Engines
Yes, spiders feed information to search engines. After all, spiders should have a prominent place among an environment commonly referred to as the World Wide Web. Right? Seriously, though, you don’t have to fear these spiders. In the context of SEO, spiders are computer software programs dedicated to helping search engines yield some amazing results for internet searches. By the way, if you don’t like the word spider, they’re also known by other names such as robots, bots, and web crawlers.
These spiders act as “web crawlers” traveling throughout the internet. They visit websites and index all or most of the words that the websites contain. The spiders index words? That’s right. This kind of index is a list of words categorized by topic with notations of all the websites where they’re found on the internet. Over time, the web crawling process covers millions and millions of websites. As a result, the indexes are enormous. The spiders also verify the links within each website to make sure they’re functional and reputable. New webpages are published every day, so the necessity of web crawling never ends.
Your Search Engine Results
When you type words into a search engine, the search engine program performs a lightning-fast search through its enormous index of words and displays the search results in the form of internet links with brief descriptions. If you consider the millions of organized index entries that are searched and ultimately delivered to you, typically within a second or two, it’s really amazing to ponder. The pages that display your search results are commonly referred to as Search Engine Return Pages (SERPs). Depending on the popularity of the terms you searched, a search can yield multiple SERPs for you to browse, and each SERP can display multiple internet links for you to choose.
Whenever you use a search engine, how often do you view a link on page 30 of the search results? SERP number 30 probably isn’t going to get your attention in most cases. Where do you typically find a searched link to click, especially if you’re in a hurry? For most people, it’s search page number 1. In fact, MarketShare reported in 2010 that approximately 75% of search engine users never scroll past the first page of the search results.
So, what determines the search page that your church’s website appears on? That’s exactly where SEO enters the picture.
Why is SEO important to your church?
First, I’ll recap a few points:
- Your church website needs to be found.
- SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
- A search engine is a software program dedicated to helping people locate specific information stored in websites on the internet.
- Search engines make use of enormous indexes of words in delivering the best quality search results for you.
- Spiders are computer programs that constantly search the internet for words that they add to the search engine indexes.
- When you use a search engine, it delivers its findings for you in the form of Search Engine Return Pages (SERPSs).
Pay particular attention to the first and last bullet points above. The first one is a short but incredibly important summation of why SEO is important to your church. It’s the bottom line. Do you want your church’s website to be listed way down on page 30 of the search results? If your answer is “No,” then you’re ready to learn more about SEO.
In Part 2 of this blog, I’ll give you a few basic tips to begin your church’s SEO efforts.