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5 Tips to Boost Your Church’s Local SEO

Are you a church looking for good local SEO tips?

There are currently 27.9 million small businesses in the U.S., and yes, if you’re a church, you’re counted in that mix. 70% of local spiritual seekers use the Internet to find information about local churches–and they all use search engines.  That means, local SEO one of the bigger factors in your church’s exposure to the local community.

So here are five things you can do to optimize your website and attract local seekers.

1. Claim your listing profile

It’s as simple as logging into Yelp, YellowPages, Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local and claiming (or creating from scratch) your business listing. Yes, you’re a church. You’re also in the business of connecting the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do it today. Follow instructions through the verification steps, which might include phone calls or some sort of address verification.

2. Ask for reviews

Most listings sites encourage listing owners to tell their communities to review your organization. So practice it constantly. Do it on an everyday basis. The more reviews you have (whether good or bad, but hopefully more good than bad) will make your organization more visible to future seekers.

Tip: On your business cards, exit door posters, receipts, thank you pages, invoices, or email newsletters, make a note and say “Hey we’d appreciate it so much if you gave us a review on YellowPages / Google / Bing / Yahoo [whatever].”

3. Upload pictures

All local listings have picture featured for your organization’s profile. Take advantage of this. To ensure they see great pictures, upload your own. You don’t have to hire a professional to take photos, but make sure the photos you upload are solid and represent your church properly.

4. Have a full mailing address in text

Your email address is important and it should be in plain text. Some organizations seen on listing sites have placed their email address in an image–which doesn’t work so well with church-seekers wanting to easily reach out. It’s a small barrier, sure.

Tip: If you have the option, just leave your email address off your listing but make sure your website’s address is offered. If a shy seeker needs to email you, they can at least email you through the contact form on your website.

5. Concentrate on local location keywords

Say you operate a local Baptist church. Instead of just promoting your organization as a “Baptist church”–try local keywords instead, e.g.:

  • Baptist church Denver
  • Baptist Denver
  • Denver Baptist church services
  • church Denver

As you’ve already noticed, these keywords won’t serve your purposes if you’re wanting to connect with someone looking for a church in New York. But Denver citizens are looking for good, Bible-believing Baptist church? So try inserting your geographical location along with your keywords.

Go forth and conquer

So there you have it: five local SEO tips to further you along on your journey to cast a wider net. Follow these tips and you will grow in community visibility and reach more people.

Don’t forget: if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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nonprofit seo case study

Joshua Memorial Foundation: SEO Case Study

Client: Joshua Memorial Foundation
Product: Nonprofit that teaches water safety awareness and supports other nonprofits in the same.
Campaign: Web development, web design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing

Background

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states the number one cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 years of age is drowning. The Joshua Memorial site provides information about water safety and drowning prevention. The foundation’s main objective is to prevent drowning accidents through early childhood education and the promotion of infant and toddler water safety training courses.

Challenge

What do you do when you’re a nonprofit just starting out and have a great new website but not enough online traffic? We can tell you what the Joshua Memorial Foundation, a Nebraska-based nonprofit specializing in water safety courses, water safety literature and drowning prevention awareness did. They asked for help with their search engine optimization.

Their site was fairly optimized when their SEO campaign began. Since we had designed and developed their Joomla-based web site, we knew it had been built to be “search engine friendly” and wouldn’t run into the roadblocks of a poorly developed web site. Still, their web site had the following issues:

  • Low link popularity and search engine saturation (pages indexed in the search engines)
  • Not enough conversion points
  • Low or no rankings for keywords that searchers might use to find their site

SEO Strategy

Over several months of optimizing their web site, we now see dramatic results. We targeted their web pages to go after local search terms like “water safety courses nebraska” and “water safety nebraska”. We also completed a link building campaign, which improved the site’s link popularity (or “votes”) for the site which results in more traffic and higher rankings. Use of social media, blog posts and article marketing has also been part of our strategy.

Results

The search engines are now referring half of the overall traffic to the site. Take a look at the numbers:

  • Unique Visitors +33%
  • Number of Visits +182%
  • Repeat Visitors +56%
  • Total Page Views +100%

Keyword: water safety courses nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 5 & 6 (out of 289,000 results)

Keyword: water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 3 & 4 (out of 281,000 results)

Keyword:  water safety book
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 6 (out of 9,880,000 million broad results!)

Keyword: child water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 4 (out of 137,000 results)

Interested in seeing how we can help drive more qualified traffic to your website?

More SEO case studies here! »

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linking

5 Link Building and SEO Tips to Promote Your Church

Link building has always been one of the most important element in the success (or failure) of a website. When it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), it may be the biggest element of all.

Links are like ratings that point to a page in your website, signaling the search engines that your website might be highly sought after and deserve a higher placement in the search results.

With that in mind, here five tips to help you with your link building efforts:

1. Quality over quantity

As much as SEO experts want to build a lot of links for their clients’ webpages, having a high amount of back links doesn’t necessarily mean long-term success in SEO.

In the old days, quantity was king, but not anymore. Quality is now the most important factor when building links for your website.

Remember: Backlinks from shady websites or articles that are not relevant to your site will do more harm than good. Your site’s overall health and search placement will suffer.

2. Hire help

Link building (and SEO in general) can be a very arduous task.  This is the reason why there’s a whole industry built around it. There are lots of SEO experts, consultants and professionals out there these days. SEO will take up a lot of your time, so it can be more efficient to leave this task to the professionals. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help in this department. We specialize in SEO.

3. Simplify your content

Make your articles simple, so that many people can easily understand and spread your message. It is a fact that the more complicated the content is, the less it is shared.

4. Submit to web directories

Submit your website’s links to as many web directories as you can. While this was once one of the best ways you could optimize your offsite link profile, web directory listings seem to have been reduced in importance in recent years. They still hold value, however.

Web directories will not know about your site unless you submit to them directly. This takes a lot of time, but it is a very important part of SEO. To save yourself time and work, hire an SEO expert to help you with this task, so you can just concentrate on your church mission. Contact us if you need help.

5. Develop high-quality content

Google’s “Panda” update pushed pages Google considered to have been poorly written and/or have spammy content way (WAY) down its rankings. As an aftermath, websites need to focus on creating high-quality content that’s useful, informative and shareable to stay in Google’s good graces.

Low-quality content will land you in Google’s cross-hairs, but high-quality content will help you attract precious inbound links and targeted traffic. However, producing a regular stream of constant, high-value content can be difficult. Get help in this area and hire content-writing experts.

Go forth and conquer

So there you have it, five tips to help you with your link building and SEO efforts. Implement these tips and you will be on your way to achieving greater online visibility in your community.

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ranking in Google

Learn How to Rank a Site in Google

Setting the Stage

According to comScore, the leading source of analytical data about the internet, Google has cornered sixty-seven percent of the online searches done in the United States, as well as the majority of searches done internationally. Furthermore, several e-commerce studies have shown that search engine traffic coverts better than any other source of online traffic. People searching for something specific in a search engine already know what they want, and if they find it at the site they click on, they are more likely to buy it. For online businesses, this means that ranking well in Google is an essential part of any online marketing strategy.

Businesses building a new website, as well as businesses trying to create a better presence online, often don’t understand all the steps that are necessary to rank well in Google. The owners of these businesses may read about various search engine optimization strategies but whey they try to apply them, they may miss crucial steps to make them succeed. To rectify this situation, you will find a step by step tutorial below on how to rank a website in Google.

Step 1: Get a Good Domain Name with Good Web Hosting

Yes, “free” sites are available from Weebly.com and from Google’s Blogger.com. However, to rank well in Google, you will need to register a domain name and find good web hosting for your website. Don’t worry, this is quite inexpensive. Check with Levaire.com for reliable web hosting. (Oh WAIT!! That’s US!!) Be sure to register your domain name with a reliable service. Often, it’s easier to get your domain name through your hosting company where everything can be managed by one entity you trust.

Don’t worry if your target keywords are not in the domain name as Google no longer gives this much weight. However, you should try to get a domain name with a primary common extension like .com. You can also use .org if your business is a non-profit or .edu if you plan to run an education site. However, Google no longer gives a ranking advantage to sites with domain extensions like .biz or .info. You should also keep your domain name as short as possible so that people looking for information in a search engine will be able to view the entire domain name as well as the directory structure of your URL. Google will truncate a URL if it is too long.

Step 2: Create At Least a Dozen Pages Initially

When you put up a new website, make sure you create a minimum of a dozen pages right away, more if you can. We’ve heard one-page websites almost never rank well in Google. (Yes, that’s what we’ve heard.  Ehem.) Also, with a dozen pages, you will have eleven internal links pointing to your home page right away. Google counts internal links pointing to a page, similar to how they count external links pointing to a page. The more links pointing to a page, internal and external, the higher Google will rank that page. Some people call links to a website “link juice,” with more links pointing to a website equaling more link juice.

Step 3: Add To Your Content Slowly and Steadily

Many business owners put up a website and then just let it stay stagnant. They do not add additional pages for months or even years. However, you should keep in mind that Google strongly favors sites that add a steady stream of new pages. In fact, if you add a slow constant stream of new webpages, this is better than adding a large number of new webpages all at once. Once a site is indexed by Google, it sends out its Googlebot spider frequently to see if new pages have been added. If the spider detects that new webpages are consistently added over time, Google will reward the site by ranking it higher in the search results for relevant keywords and key phrases.

Step 4: Be Sure to Change Your Webpages Regularly

A good gardener regularly tends to their garden. They pull weeds. They prune plants. They till the soil. In other words, they maintain their garden so it will grow more beautiful and prosper. Google favors sites that are tended to on a regular basis just like a good gardener tends to his or her garden. Google determines how regularly a website is maintained by checking to see how often pages are modified. This doesn’t mean big chances necessarily. Make sure the changes you make add something of value and make sense. Some websites have a special message that they change with the season and/or holiday. Also, you don’t have to make big changes. You can just make small little tweaks on some of your pages to see a huge improvement in your Google search engine rankings.

Step 5: Design Your Website as a Magnet for Natural Links

While link juice is great for improving your Google ranking, not every link provides the same amount of link juice. Google’s engineers constantly modify their algorithm to distinguish between the highest quality links, quality links, and poor quality links. If you can achieve a natural pattern of quality links, plus get a few high quality links, you can seriously improve your Google rankings. This assumes, of course, you don’t have links in bad neighborhoods, i.e. you don’t have links on websites Google has identified as suboptimal pages, pages with spam and/or thin content.

To achieve a natural pattern of quality links, you need to remember that achieving quality links in a natural way takes time. Therefore, if you pay for instant or automated link building techniques, you should not expect to get your money’s worth. In fact, as a matter of point, if Google’s spider discovers multiple new links that point back to your website that don’t follow a natural pattern, this may result in your website being demoted in Google’s search engine rankings. It may also result in your site being banned from Google. Alternately, if you provide useful resources on your website, users of these resources will build natural links to your website that will show up as a natural pattern in Google’s eyes. Surfers who discover good resources often post the URLs to these resources in online forums, on their personal blogs, on their social medial pages, and on their websites. A link to your resource(s) could even end up in a print magazine that then gets hyperlinked and archived on the print magazine’s website.

Website resources that draw natural links can be in a variety of forms. These include original articles that provide useful hard to find information, tutorials and FAQs, fun and quirky content that makes people laugh, original photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, honest and informative reviews, useful YouTube videos such as product demonstrations of cooking demonstrations, “how to” tips, a fishing report, a surf report, a real estate forecast, or anything else you can think of that would be useful and/or fun and that people will want to recommend to others. Ask yourself, “If I discovered this resource, would I want to tell others about it?” If in your heart of heart you know the answer is yes, then your resource will likely attract natural links but you’ll have to be patient for this to happen.

Final Thoughts

While it may be difficult to be patient and wait for your Google website rankings to improve naturally, methods that focus on the long-term cultivation of a website will ultimately rank a website better in Google than almost any quick method you come across. Although some fast methods do deliver high Google rankings right away, this is almost always short-lived as Google usually views these methods as a form of spamming. Thus, the next time Google updates their algorithm, they will usually deflate any ranking advantages obtained by fast methods that are not earned by building a quality website. Sticking to the five steps outlined above will put your website in good standing over the long-term which is ultimately the best thing for your business.

Cindy

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history of seo

The 20-Year History of SEO

Full text search engines got their start with WebCrawler, created by Brian Pinkerton in 1994. It was a desktop application to start with and had 4,000 hand aggregated websites for its database. That’s a far cry from the 3.5 billion webpages that World Wide Web reports today, with fancy talk of organic search engine optimization, cloud-based software such as www.netsuite.com‘s, and more apps than you can shake a stick at these days. Search engine optimization has evolved over the years alongside the influence of the search engines they utilize for traffic in a fascinating historical journey.

SEO in the Beginning

It took a few years after WebCrawler for Yahoo and Google to come onto the scene. Yahoo had its portal website set up in 1995, providing links to many categories of web pages. Google didn’t show up until 1998, along with the DMOZ. Search engine optimization didn’t get into full swing until there were more search engines and directories that used algorithm-produced results, as opposed to human-selected listings.

Marketers took advantage of Yahoo’s dependence on alphabetical sorting in 1995, and began looking at the way search engines sorted their machine-generated listings in 1996. Keyword density was a major factor then, along with website age. Marketers used a variety of techniques to put as many instances of their keywords on their page as possible, using white text on white pages, filling up meta data and taking other actions that are considered spam today. Excite’s algorithm was cracked and revealed the 35 different factors that went into ranking those pages.

SEO Over the Past Decade

Google makes hundreds of algorithm changes these days, but it was a simpler time when Google came up with the PageRank algorithm. It got updated monthly and adjusted the rankings during that time period. Most search engine optimization was still centered on spam techniques, such as buying massive amounts of in-bound links, filling up footers with links and any other technique that could be thought of to bring in more inbound links.

Google took a stand against spammy sites with November 2003’s Florida update. Many top sites vanished from the face of the search engines, and webmasters around the world panicked. Google specifically focused on websites that went too far with search engine optimization, and took them out of the index. As time went on, Google continued to adjust their search engine rankings to reward sites with good content. Content-based marketing became popular as a way to increase relevancy, although it wasn’t always useful content for readers. Instead, it stuck to strict keyword percentages to stay out of the spammy range.

The year 2005, was the first time personalized results were introduced to the search engine. It changed the results shown in the search engine rankings by whether or not the person was logged into their Google account. That made it harder for webmasters to figure out what ranking everyone saw them as.

These days, video and social media marketing work well, as Google’s unified search brings together results from all of their channels. Go forth and conquer!


Benjamin C is a technology reporter who covers Internet-related topics.

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nonprofit seo myths

3 Nonprofit SEO Myths

Nonprofit SEO has obtained a number of myths and legends over the years. As the search engines change their algorithms consistently, nonprofits who don’t keep up hold onto past truths which are no longer valid. Nonprofits need to review the myths then reposition their marketing to avoid falling into these pitfalls.

Myth #1. Domain Age is an Essential Ranking Factor

This is the first myth nonprofits should throw out the window. Often, smaller organizations are start-ups and haven’t had a chance to grow, which means the domain is still quite young. Nonprofit organizations only need to wait a couple months before the impact of the domain age no longer matters to search engines.

Some agencies swear by domain age as a ranking factor because older domains are ranking higher. Older domains have had time to build on themselves and include items which do matter to rankings. A beginning nonprofit site holds as much competitive SEO clout as an older site after only a few months on the search engines.

Myth #2. The Only Way to Grow Traffic is to Increase Ratings

Every nonprofit needs to grow their site views, and while links, relevance and content matter, they aren’t the only way to increase rankings. The top sites on the search engines will claim that traffic estimates for keywords are touch and go most of the time. Pouring effort into a single ranking is a massive waste of time; there are better ways to increase rankings and grow traffic.

The best efforts put forth by nonprofits include concentrating on promotional materials while composing content built around low-competition keywords. If promotions don’t work right away, nonprofits should focus on producing more content. Increased content will help push rankings.

Myth #3. Links Rule Above All Else

Links are great, and certainly encouraged, but they’re not the most important SEO factor. People consider links to be essential due to their elusiveness and crucial traffic driving properties. However, focusing on links will waste valuable time which could be spent on other ranking efforts.

The magic word is not links; it’s relevance. How relevant are the links associated with the site? Google and other search engines need to recognize the relevance of the links on the site to match with the search terms. Therefore, links are great, but make sure they hold relevance to the content on the page and the nonprofit organization’s brand before allowing them onto the site.

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