Use these 7 tips to improve your Independent Baptist church’s website by making it more appealing and relevant to your visitors while providing the transparent appearance of a well-updated website to search engines. — Mark Sieler

Update any photos with date stamps

darkened photo with camera date stamp

Date-stamped photos are the enemy of a fresh looking website, even if they have a vintage look

The horror: no matter what the picture, with a date stamp it’s forever dated. Today’s internet audience demands fresh content and nothing gives away an unkempt website faster than a date-stamped photo — especially if the picture is located at or near the top of a photo gallery or in a prominent location. Even with today’s masses flocking toward vintage photo filters and styles, having those date marks at the bottom is a dead giveaway that your aged photo isn’t vintage. The fastest solution depends on whether you have access to the photo on the server and you are familiar with photo editing software that can crop out the date-stamp. If you’re hosting on a 3rd party site, see if they have any cropping tools. Some other photo cleanup options:

  • If cropping doesn’t work, try overlaying a caption box.
  • Another helpful tip: adding captions to your photos eliminates ambiguity for your website visitors and appeals to search engines as well, especially if you can add text to the image’s alt tag.
  • If you use a photo gallery, order the photos from most recent to oldest.

Fine tune your doctrinal statement

Fundamental Doctrine

Elaborating on doctrine fundamentals is vital to church marketing and distinguishes you from the competition

It’s not enough to just differentiate your church from different denominations but to thoroughly show how your doctrine differs from churches of the same denomination or those with a similar name in your community. Ever notice how just about every one is saying their doctrine supports being saved by grace? Even the cults are using this in their marketing.

Use Scripture abundantly and paint with broad, bold strokes to include prophetic events while also addressing other fundamental matters. By the time someone finishes reading your doctrinal statement, they should know your stance on most of the fundamentals like Scriptural inerrancy, the rapture, millenial and tribulation position, doctrine of worldly separation, marriage and so forth. (Faith Builders requires its church websites to display a thorough doctrinal statement.) Being specific with doctrinal concepts and delving into the breadth of a major doctrine such as worldly separation, can benefit your audience and clearly separate your church from the crowd.

Update your event calendar

Vertical abbreviated calendar

Rolling vertical calendar to the rescue

Remove past events from your calendar and show an emphasis on today-moving-forward calendar types. Unless there are memorable photos from the past events, they should be removed. Search engines reward websites with dynamic, relevant and current information by indexing them more frequently and giving them better search result positioning, and they know current information from old and precisely how long it’s been residing on your website.

If your church’s events don’t fully populate a typical monthly calendar and there’s more white space than events, try a rolling vertical list of say, 5 to 10 items, to which you can easily add events from subsequent months if needed. Although you may change this more frequently, search engines will see this as frequently changing content and your website’s visitors will see it as current and relevant.

Archive and organize sermon media

magnifying glass over hperlink

Using a pre-built search query inside a plain hyperlink can help when you need to move seasonal material front and center

Your church website will look current by moving anything seasonal — articles, videos, mp3 audios and pictures — to front and center. The magic sauce is not keeping it there. Christmas themes are good until New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving until just after Black Friday, and so forth. Helpful tip: If you use a blog, type a search for your seasonal material into the search box and press the submit/search button. Then copy and paste the web address (which now contains the search for your seasonal or targeted info) and use it for a hyperlink in your text or image. That way, when you want to promote a sermon or group of lessons on ____________, all you need to do is place the text/image link front and center as a call to action and it’s set.

Keeping a running commentary on current events is not only dated but also requires continuous upkeep, but if you can maintain regular and consistent output — along with the prerequisite maintenance — you’ve got a winner. Congratulations if you’re one of these types of publishing churches, because your website will stand out in everyone’s eyes and you’ll be a frequently visited resource.

Google Local Business for your Independent Baptist Church

Google’s Complexity

As a web developer and owner of products from both of these companies, I contrast Google with Apple nearly every day. One has the single most worst customer service on the planet along with some of the most complicated, labyrinthine systems known to humankind (and also conveniently RULES internet search), while the other has phenomenal, easy-to-use products and world-class customer service. Church website marketing means ranking well locally AND for the benefit of your traveling visitors, so you have to get your feet wet in Google’s local business listings. Unfortunately, it’s not Apple-easy…

There are multiple parts to this discussion, but the first way to get on top of this messy critter is to get a free Gmail account and then proceed here. You’ll then need to either a) claim any existing listing for your church (Google often auto-populates its business listings so it’s possible you might find your church listed without anyone’s direct ownership of the listing) and then complete some business details to gain full ownership, or b) start from scratch and build your profile inside Google’s local business system.

This is beneficial to marketing your church and its website, but it’s more than a little time-consuming especially when all you might want to do is edit the map marker to show your church’s true location inside Google Maps. Google has some verification processes that can be mind-numbing and did I say time-consuming?

Google maps

Google Local shows pictures, map marker and contact info. Photo courtesy Google Maps.

The payoff is you now own your business listing and can fully edit your listing in the Google business listing section, including phone numbers, hours of worship, business categories and other helpful attributes such as reviews and photos taken by your visitors. All of this builds your reputation with Google and is key to your online success.

Is there a plugin or an easier way to do that?

social media and plugin logos

Whether it’s hosting media or simplifying website maintenance, there are church website marketing solutions available from numerous 3rd parties

Sometimes your highest maintenance tasks can be solved with a simple plugin. Chief among these tasks are hosting videos and mp3 files, both of which can be solved by YouTube and SoundCloud, respectively. While there may be a loss of potential search ranking when simply embedding links compared to hosting media files locally, it’s usually far outweighed by the simple advantage of time and space — two seconds to embed a video link and ZERO storage and upload time.

Another high maintenance task is updating a website. The old fashioned way meant uploading info/files to a web server via FTP (which has its strengths and strong reasons for usage, no doubt, but that’s for another blog article) but there are numerous 3rd party solutions, one such solution being a WordPress blog where you can simply log into an admin and tweak your content. Copying and pasting versus having to learn numerous protocols can be a no-brainer.

Remove low content web pages

H1 and H2 tag hierarchy

Combine low content pages into one high content page with H1 and H2 tags

This one will require some elbow grease, but low content pages are parasitical because they literally take crawl “budget” away from your other pages and drain away link power. It’s analogous to 1/4th being greater than 1/6th. Every page should have a distinct purpose. If the thought strikes you that two or more of your pages would work better combined into one, then by all means proceed with that idea because it sounds like a typical H1, H2, H2, H2 scenario, where similar content builds upon the main theme as opposed to attempting a flimsy structure all by itself.

There are many ways to improve a church website. I hope this list gives you some fresh ideas on what can immediately improve your site by making it more appealing to visitors and search engines. Leave a comment or message if you’ve got feedback. – MS

Faith Builders helps Independent Baptist Churches and Missionaries achieve a greater online presence toward promoting the Gospel. Its ministry is web-based, Christ-centered and Bible-believing. You can contact us at 605-225-4258 or at faith.builders.websites@gmail.com or through our website at www.faith-builders.net