Which is Better for Churches…SEO, Sharing Content, or Branding?

Choices-300

Updated: 6/24/13 at 10:25am.

There’s a great blog post over at Faith Context.  Darrel Girardier writes that his church is retooling their website and he’s thinking through whether SEO is important to do on the church site or if they would be better served spending their time and money on other things, such as branding or, especially, sharing content.

That’s a great question!

As Darrel explains in his blog post,

  • Branding is the things you do to create name recognition for your church or people talking about your church (“Hey, Bob, where’s a good church around here that I could visit?”).
  • SEO is what you can do for your website (both on and off your website) which will help your site to rank well in the search engines.
  • Sharing content involves creating content (blog articles, pictures, videos, etc.)  that people (hopefully) like and sharing it, primarily through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.

It’s all Connected.
The great thing about the three strategies mentioned is that they can all be closely related.

  • If you create great content to share and clearly identify your church on/in the content, you will help the church’s branding/name recognition.
  • If people search for a church and other ministries your church is involved in and they keep running across you, that will help with branding as well.
  • If your site and content is well optimized, more people will find your content to share it.
  • If you share content and people share with their friends or link to it, it will help with SEO (as Darrel points out).
  • Etc.

choosing-300Do you really need to choose?

My recommendation would be to take steps to do all three.  The church should be creating great content, branding it, optimizing it, and sharing it.

Here are some practical ways you can do all three without it overwhelming your staff/volunteers:

1. Optimize your content and your site: As you produce new content, just think about what search terms people may use when looking for it and use those terms in your title and text (if there is any).  Also, take a little time, even if it’s over several months, to optimize the site in general or hire someone to do it.  Add unique title/meta tags, using keywords in the content, create listings in Google, Bing, and local listing sites.  Encourage members to share their experiences with the church in reviews.

I’ve worked with lots of churches over the years and can tell you SEO works to bring in new members and make people more aware of your church.  It even pays for itself if you hire someone to do it.

Update: Google has been putting more and more emphasis on local in the past several years.  They created Google+ Local, have local results in their regular search results, and recently started putting an attention-getting carousel of local results at the top of certain searches.  You need good local SEO, both on your site and by creating listings and getting reviews, to show up well in Google’s local results (or Bing’s for that matter).

2. Brand the content you produce: Whenever you share original content, make sure the church name is associated with it.  This can be done in the title of a video and/or an intro slide for the video.  Include the church name when sharing articles.  For example, “A Study of Romans 6 – 1st Baptist of Somewheresville”. Have a name/logo image that can be added to any image.  Remember, if content is shared well or becomes viral, the further away it get’s from the source, the less likely people will know where it came from.  By branding the content, you ensure they will always know.

3. Use what you already have: The great thing is that the church is already doing so many things which can be shared.  The pastor preaches a sermon every week.  Shoot a video of the sermon and share it.  The church has Bible studies which can provide great content, whether articles on blogs, questions on FB, or image memes from a significant point in the Bible study.  I could go on and on and this is all content the church is creating anyway.  This will help the church to engage it’s members and potential members (everyone else), build branding, and improve rankings.

Conclusion:
If you pin me down and force me to choose between the three, I would probably choose sharing content, but then I’d immediately blurt out, “But do SEO, too!  It shouldn’t be one or the other.”

What do you think?

  • Do churches have to choose between SEO, branding, and sharing great content?
  • If you had to choose, which would you choose?

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .

4 Responses to “Which is Better for Churches…SEO, Sharing Content, or Branding?”

  1. These are all essential, but I would say 1 stands alone, while the other 2 are dependent on the 1st.

    An effective search engine optimization will start with the content on the site – is it clear what the site is about? Is the message consistent and specific (enough)? What will the search engine es point to?

    If you've got great content and the search engines are favorable, what happens when people now visit your church and find something completely different than what they saw online? Branding is about establishing your identity and living in that identity, both online and off.

    Branding – Content – SEO

  2. Sure SEO is important but this is my thoughts.

    We are not out to take people away from other churches. If people are getting the truth when searching for curtain terms then we are not going to invest in trying to outrank for those terms.

    1. Sharing content, this what it is all about and the whole point of the church.
    2. Branding, so people know who you are
    3. SEO, local SEO and for terms where people are not getting the real truth.

  3. Great post Kurt. I agree with your conclusion and that is more than likely where I land as well. I think one factor that plays into this is your community. Are you in a largely populated area with a lot of churches or are you an area where it's your church and just a few others?

  4. All three are important. I think all three are interrelated and dependent on one other. If you have good content and then you will be able to create a brand for yourself.