Building and managing a church website can be a daunting task. There is so much to consider and there is a good amount of work that needs to take place to have a successful church website. Perhaps you already have your website built, or perhaps you are just about to get started. Either way, these church website optimization tips will help you to become successful and untimely have a stellar website.

While some of these may not seem like direct optimization tips, keep in mind that the end goal is to have a website that is user-friendly and encourages your visitors to browse your church website and stay on it longer. This will in turn help increase your ranking on Google and overall SEO power.

1.Do Some Recon Work

It’s okay to look at other church websites and see what others are doing well. In the business world, this is called market analysis. Competitors always have an eye on each other and see what new features are coming next. Your church website should be no different. While churches don’t have competitors, it is a good idea to look at well-known churches in your town and even big name megachurches and see how and what they are doing with their church websites. While you are doing your recon work, take note of how their sites are laid out, and how long it takes to load, how simple or cumbersome the navigation is. You’ll quickly find what you like, and what you don’t like, giving you a great starting point for your church website.

While churches don’t have competitors, it is a good idea to look at well-known churches in your town and even big name megachurches and see how and what they are doing with their church websites. While you are doing your recon work, take note of how their sites are laid out, and how long it takes to load, how simple or cumbersome the navigation is. You’ll quickly find what you like, and what you don’t like, giving you a great starting point for your church website.

2. Reconsider Sidebars

Once upon a time, sidebars were a great feature on church websites to help improve ease of use, display recent posts and important navigation links. Nowadays, sidebars create clutter and don’t really add to the experience. Try looking for a new theme or template for your church website that doesn’t use sidebars. While it may seem new or perhaps a hard change, over time you will find that it allows for much more breathing room.

3. Create More Space

In line with the sidebars, too much clutter isn’t a good thing at all. You don’t want to overwhelm you website visitors with too many features, widgets, links, images, etc. Keep in mind the focus for each page. If you have a contact page, let that be the main focus, don’t flood the page with information or graphics that can cause confusion or distractions of the purpose of the page.

4. Simple Navigation

After you have done your recon work, you may have noticed how other churches utilize their church website navigation. Try your absolute best to have only 6 or less navigation links that are your top main areas a visitor would want to visit. Examples are About, Media, Events, Give, Ministries, Contact, Visit Us, Social, or serve. From there, you can have many subpages or link directly to other pages from these main ones. Try to keep the navigation as simple as possible so anyone would be able to find the information they are looking for.

5. Mobile-Friendly Design

One of the most important optimization tips on this list is having a mobile friendly church website. More than likely, visitors will browse your church website using their smartphone or tablet. You will want to make sure that everything on your website is fully responsive with images that scale correctly and a nice mobile-friendly navigation menu. While you’re working on building or updating it your website, it’s always a good idea to test how your church website looks on different smartphones (Apple & Android) and even tablets. Ask a few of your church staff members to visit the site on their mobile devices and provide feedback. Some church website builders have a feature to test out how it will look and scale on mobile devices. This is a huge time saver and makes building your website that much easier.

While you’re working on building or updating it your website, it’s always a good idea to test how your church website looks on different smartphones (Apple and Android) and even tablets. Ask a few of your church staff members to visit the site on their mobile devices and provide feedback. Some church website builders have a feature to test out how it will look and scale on mobile devices. This is a huge time saver and makes building your website that much easier.

6. Increase Font Size

Big fonts and typography isn’t a new design trend, but it is something that has increased over the last year or so. Having large, powerful, easy to read fonts on your website help make a statement, grab attention, and gives focus to your most important content and message. Readability of your church website goes along with having a mobile-friendly design. Try using a minimum font size of 18 for your designs as the body text, then play around with much larger sizes for your header text. Keep in mind that you will want to use a nice, clean web-friendly typeface. Even though a fancy script typeface may look nice, you’ll find it’s harder to read, and it may not convert well for those using other web browsers. Try to use a church website builder that supports multiple fonts and even has them pre-loaded for you, saving yourself from going out and looking for them.

Readability of your church website goes along with having a mobile-friendly design. Try using a minimum font size of 18 for your designs as the body text, then play around with much larger sizes for your header text. Keep in mind that you will want to use a nice, clean web-friendly typeface. Even though a fancy script typeface may look nice, you’ll find it’s harder to read, and it may not convert well for those using other web browsers. Try to use a church website builder that supports multiple fonts and even has them pre-loaded for you, saving yourself from going out and looking for them.

7. Stock Photos and Alt Tags

One simple yet major way to increase your church website optimization is taking advantage of the thousands and thousands (and thousands) of free stock photos on the Internet. We aren’t talking about using Google Images, but major sites like Pexels, Adobe StockDeposit Photos, and Unsplash, Another great option is faith-focused images from LightStock. You’ll find stock photos for almost any need or occasion. This is a great way to make your church website have a professional look and feel.

Some church website builders even have stock photos and church graphics built right into the editor. One thing to take note of, when adding photos to your site, it is important to make sure the file name is optimized for SEO. You can do this by simply making sure your church name and location are in the file name of the photo and also adding alt tags for each photo using the same method. For instance, a great alt tag for a potluck photo would be Grace Bible Church Potluck 2017. By doing this, it will increase the SEO value of the page that has these images in search engines.

8. Use Compression Tools

When uploading any photos or media to your church website, using compression tools is a must. This will help your website load faster. All search engines rank your website on load times and overall speed. If you have large, uncompressed images on your site, it will take much longer for your website to load and can simply turn visitors away if they have a slower internet connection.

There are many compression tools out there such as kraken.io, but one thing you can do is always make sure that your images do not exceed over 72 dpi and are not larger than 2000 pixels. Since these photos will not be used for print and most computers don’t have a UHD display, your images will look great using these guidelines.

9. Embed Videos On Your Site

Another huge tool to free upload times is an embed tool for videos. Simply upload your sermon videos or other videos to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo and then use the embed code and embed those videos onto your church website. This will free up space on your website and cut down on load times as well. Plus, it is one more way that visitors can view your content, and in turn, boost your overall SEO value as a church.

10. Google My Business

If your church hasn’t signed up for Google My Business yet, this is a fantastic way for visitors and individuals in your community to learn more about your church. When they do a google search for your church name, a sidebar will appear in Google that will feature your location, office hours, contact information, photos, direct link to your website and more. This is a great resource to have and provides individuals with direct access to driving directions to your church as well. Plus, as a bonus feature, if Google has wrong, or outdated information about your church, you can get this corrected with a Google My Business account. It’s free and very easy to sign up.

11. SEO Plugin/Tool

Depending on your church website builder, you may have the ability to add or adjust your SEO settings with a plugin or a built-in tool. This is a very important tool and should be utilized to the full extent. You will first want to define the keyword you want to use on your site. This will vary depending on where you live, the denomination of your church, and church name.

For instance, if you live in a smaller town, you may be the only Baptist church. Your keyword then would be Baptist Church + Town Name. If you are in a bigger city with multiple Baptist churches, you will want to use a more specific keyword for your website to help your website stand out when individuals are looking for Baptist churches. Using an SEO plugin or tool will help you determine how many times this is used on your site, and where it needs to be added.

12. Create a Blog on Your Church Website

This last optimization tip might require more time than the others, but if done right could produce the most fruit. Creating a blog on your church website that has strong and valuable content that will help your church congregation grow closer to God, not only helps and grows your church but in turn, you give your congregation a reason to visit your church website. This is BIG. The more traffic you can drive to your site, the more that search engines will increase your ranking.

All of the above tips should be done before you start your blog because they all play a part in your blog. Having a SEO plugin/tool will assist you in writing your blog articles, making sure your images are compressed will make your articles load quicker, and having a user friendly site that looks good, is easy to navigation, and works on all mobile devices, will encourage your visitors to stay and read your blog. Come up with some ideas/topics for blog articles. Look at how other churches are using this feature. Consider taking your weekly sermon notes and outline and create a follow-up article for your congregation to read throughout the week. As your congregation finds articles they enjoy, they will be excited to share the articles with their friends and family which creates more traffic to your site.

We hope you enjoyed these top 12 church website optimization tips and that you are inspired and empowered to take your church website to a whole new level with these tips.

As always, there is so much more that can and should be done to a church website. Learn to be at peace, that as a website designer or manager, your work is never fully done. Websites will always require updating, tweaking, redesigns and new content.