Putting the Truth-O-Meter to 10 SEO Myths

Last night John Saddington published an interesting blog post titled 10 SEO Myths Ministries Need to Avoid Like the Plague.  It addresses some of the common myths regarding search engine optimization.

But, wait a minute… we found some of the so called myths are actually true.

We love John & Church Crunch, but we felt it necessary to put a truth-o-meter to each of the 10 SEO Myths Ministries Need to Avoid Like the Plague.

1. The Better Your Content the Better Your Rankings. Truth-o-meter says… MYTH, sort of. We agree… “Content alone will not produce better ratings but it can certainly help.” While good content doesn’t necessarily produce better rankings, it is more likely to be linked to by other sites which certainly can improve rankings.  So, good content is very important, but it’s not a guarantee of high rankings.

2. Church Domain Names with Dashes are Awesome for SEO.
Truth-o-meter says… TRUE!  Having keywords in your domain name will help your search rankings slightly.  However, we don’t recommend selecting long domains like www.Grace-Community-Baptist-Fellowship-of-Spokane.com.  Because we believe usability – having a short domain that’s easy to remember & type – outweighs the SEO benefit.

3. Clicking on Your SERPs Increases Your Church’s SEO. Truth-o-meter says… unknown.  SEO experts are divided as to whether Google factors click-through-rate and bounce rate in their search algorithm.  But even if this is true, we don’t recommend trying to “game” Google with artificial clicks.

Another side to this myth is the introduction of personalized results in Google and other search engines over the last few years.  If you are logged into Google when you search, then your search patterns and the results you click on will absolutely change the search results for you.  It just might not change the search results for anyone else.  I only mention this because you could be tricked into thinking that the results are changing when, in fact, they are only changing for you.

4. Tons of Keywords on the Church Home Page. Truth-o-meter says… True.  Google does factor keyword density in their algorithm.  They also look at what terms are included in H1, H2, and H3 tags.  The article is correct that “Tons of keywords… makes your front page look like poo” but that is a design/usability issue not an SEO issue.  We don’t advocate overdoing it and “keyword stuffing” your homepage (for which Google could penalize your site), but every site faces a tension between including more text which is good for SEO and including less text which often looks better.

5. Jesus Cares About Our Home Page PageRank. Obviously… Myth!  After all, he’s got his own site to be concerned about, http://jesuschrist.com ;)

6. Paying to Register Your Church Site to 1,000 “Other” Sites. True.  While there are a lot of spammy directories out there, there are also a lot of legitimate directories on the web that don’t use the nofollow tag and therefore getting links in them will help your search rankings.  We offer directory registration services because we’ve tested them and observed proven results.

7. We Shouldn’t Have a Search Page or Box. Myth!

8. Leave Old Ministry Pages Up is Good. True.  Just like #2 and #4 this is really an SEO vs design/usability issue.  Time is a factor in the search engines as are links to a page/site.  If you create a page with info for a popular event and people link to it, when you remove the page, you will loose the value of those links and any traffic they send.  So, Leaving up old ministry pages will very likely bring you more visitors, however, it gives a terrible impression to those visitors so we strongly recommend against it.  What we recommend instead is either using a 301 redirect to another page of your site (maybe a page listing all the current ministries so it’s somewhat relevant) or repurposing the page for a similar ministry or event.

9. We’ve Already SEO’d Our Ministry Site. Myth!  As clearly stated in the article, SEO is a never-ending endeavor.

10. We Need A Lot of Social Media. Myth… mostly.  We agree with that you don’t “need” a lot of social media, especially, if your approach to social media is to set-up and then abandon a profile on every social media site on the web.  However, when social media is done well, other sites will link to the content you distribute through social media, thus improving your search rankings.

That’s our take on the 10 SEO Myths.  Agree?  Disagree?

More than anything we think these two articles reveal the tension that often exists between SEO and design/usability.  There are a number of tactics that are beneficial for SEO, but give the user a poor experience.  We believe there needs to be a balance between SEO and usability with a bias towards usability.  After all, our ultimate goals is to connect with a person, not an algorithm.

[Kurt Steinbrueck, who has served as OurChurch.Com’s Director of Search Marketing for the last 5 years, also contributed to this post.]

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

10 Responses to “Putting the Truth-O-Meter to 10 SEO Myths”

  1. Great post! I think you need to check your sources on the keyword density and h1 call. that's definitely not true.

    your point on #2 is not accurately reflecting what my myth was about. it was about dashes, not keywords.

    • Thanks. I enjoyed your article as well. There are certainly a lot of myths out there that need to be addressed.

      Our best source on the importance of keywords in the page text and h tags is…

      …the scores of SEO clients we gotten top 10 rankings using those techniques.

      But for those who would like a 3rd party source…

      Rather than keyword density I should probably have used the term “term weight”. Just to be clear, we don't believe there is a specific density to aim for, but using keywords in the text helps and so does using them in the h tags. Keywords in the h1 tag and first 50-100 words on the page are considered the #4, #7, and #8 most important on page ranking factors in that source.

      Thanks for clarifying the myth about the dashes in the domain. Sounds like we both agree keywords in the domain name are a factor. Hyphens, however, are an effective way of separating the keywords in a domain name, according to Matt Cutts:

      It is an older post, but it still holds true from other comments I've heard from him with the exception that underscores now are treated the same as hyphens.

  2. The battle has begun.

  3. great article. solved some questions for me. thanks a bunch. Cindy @notjustagranny

  4. Advantage, John.

    For #8 about old pages, you can also look at analytics to see how and why people are ending up on that page. In the case of a popular but expired event that isn't going to be repeated, there may be value in keeping it there to offer a bit of historical perspective. (Was the senior citizen hot dog eating contest in 2007 or 2008? And where was it held?) If traffic is getting there, there's either some interest or it's linked elsewhere on your site in a way that's drawing attention.

    • Mark, that's a good point about #8.

      I'm confused, though… In this post, we showed how 4 of the myths in John's article are actually true. You commented on ChurchCrunch "Paul — thanks for posting your rebuttal. I was shaking my head at a few of these and I like the alternative views you’ve offered." and in your comment you didn't disagree with any of our analysis in this post. So, what's up with the "advantage, John" comment.

      • D'oh! Disadvantage me. I scrolled up to get the author's name and somehow came back down with John's. For the record, I should've said Paul. Sorry about that!


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