Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science and art of improving a website’s visibility, functionality and rank in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid clicks….
Learn how to make your Website USABLE and FUNCTIONAL!
How to improve your site content and SEO to better use the WWW to communicate the precepts and depth of God’s Love, Word, and Plan that connect people to Christ and Christian Living…
Build it (correctly), and they will come!
(Dr. Krejcir is an expert and speaker in SEO! He has been doing this since the mid 80’s, before the web when there were electronic B.B.’s and developed the very first Christian website in 1994 and has been active since…
Why? More and more people are going to the web for their Christian resources; fewer and fewer are going to a church, a class, a pastor, or a book. So, we need to know what works and what does not and how to place it better. What content is needed? How it can be used effectively for Christ’s glory?
I was at a web symposium recently where the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, said; The Internet is a “Cesspool! He was referring to the relevance and quality of the reference materials, the quality of content, lack of branding, and the huge amount of false information and dysfunctional layout residing on it. (And this is besides all the smut!) The question for us is, are we contributing to this cesspool or are we honoring our Lord by being as excellent with His Word and precepts as humanly possible? We, as Christian leaders and ministers (online or not), need to set the tone that shows Christ’s presence to the world. That way, they can connect to His way. If we do not, we are just playing around in a swamp rather than working for our Lord and His Glory!
How can I do Content Discipleship Better? (page layout sample too, except use 50% less wording)
First of all, I have made all the mistakes and invited many wrong ways, as we all may have done at times, so I come to you as a fellow learner and not as an expert. These are the things that I have learned that are true and that work:
The questions you need to ask your ministry are these: what is discipleship and how does it come through our site? How is it viewed and how does it impact a postmodern web person?
How to use content for web ministry
Your content needs to connect people globally to God, His call and principles, and to one another. The key is good content in a good layout structure that is consistent on all your pages. This means a standard with fonts and structure that is all neat and eye appealing. Be aware of the over use of colors, fonts, and images, as these can be distracting. A top-level website and/or newspaper are good examples to research.
Page layout is very critical
Your navigation (user interface) needs to be easy and concise to keep your visitors engaged! It has to be neat and appealing. Know your audience and demographics. Most people will not read more than 500 words per article. The exceptions are highly educated people, researches, teachers, or pastors who can take over a 1,000 words. Content for the thinkers can have up to 5,000. A rule of thumb is about half the word count for a web article as compared to a magazine of newspaper. It is best to divide and conquer—for Google and for better intake and application of your material. If you have a long article, divide it up into several smaller ones. Keep it streamlined and use bullet points. The page title or header, as well as article and paragraph titles, need to be your main key words; and they need to be well written.
Be wise with the stewardship of your content
Your content must glorify our Lord. Avoid anything that is junk or that dishonors Him. Do not just write stuff to have stuff. Your site is first and foremost a display case for our Glorious Lord. As a Christian site, your content needs to be true, and to follow the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5). How are you doing this? How can you do this better?
How to use html
How can you use Word docs, pods, PDF, forums, blogs, and communication? Having a variety of downloadable content will allow more people in more places to access it. This also gives your site higher SEO ranking. Duplicate content (same article uploaded and placed more than once) on a site is a BIG No-No; however the same content in different forms (up to three) is OK. So the same article as a Word.doc, a PDF and html is OK. You also need to have a printer-friendly version of your html content and/or Word and PDF docs accessible.
To sell or not to sell…
Is all your stuff for sale? Is this what God wants you to do to honor Him? Yes, the water is free but the plumbing costs. If you are a ministry (.org), none or very little should be for sale; if you are a business (.com) yes….
God’s Call versus Trends
Which do I follow? Be true to the Word, never compromise His message, and yet tell it in love and with care! Never put down your readers or come across as arrogant or superior. Watch how you use language and fonts. A lot of capitals, bold and underlining, or background images behind your text are very demeaning, unprofessional and distracting. It comes across as yelling and not caring.
Have a Newsletter
This is your connecting tool and dispenser of information, as well as your contact list. This needs to go out at least twice a month. This is where you tell of your highlights of ministry or products. Let them know what is new. Keep it neat and simple; also, sending out a devotional is good, either together or separate. Do not send out more than one emailing a week, most people will not like you. If you want to do more than one a week, have different ones such as a newsletter, advertisement and a devotional, but have them separate with separate sin ups and opt outs. Take a look at the big companies and ministries newsletters and glean your ideas accordingly.
Using your Site for Discipleship
Websites are basically tools to show who you are and what you offer, and to provide facts and information. However, they can be so much more. You can use online tools to help people find a small group or mentor, or have online spiritual coaches. Connect with the Social Media Web 2.0 networking tools like “Facebook” to promote as well as build a community to connect with people, forums for online Bible studies, mentoring, Q&A, and messaging for immediate access to help people in transitions, crises, and socialization.
Video is hot—and getting hotter
Make use of “Utube” and “GodTube.” People like to watch short videos; put together a skit, a clip from a church event, or be creative and “advertise” your product. Get ideas of “product placement ads” (embedding an ad) in sports on TV. This results in gaining people’s interest and engagement!
Monitor your Site
Who and why are people coming, where are they coming from, what are they looking for, and what is not being used? You need to have good traffic tools and check it at least weekly. This way you know how to improve on your site by knowing how much and where your traffic is coming from. Then you can make the tweaks of changes to optimize your site’s product, look, and SEO, and provide what your visitors need. “Google Analytics” is now a must.
How to get people to come back?
Give a reminder for your website visitor to come back and use you. Your web patrons will not always come back to your site. They will forget, not bookmark it, or get distracted elsewhere. Thus, you need to give them the invite opportunity. What can you do? RSS (really simple syndication)! This allows them to get your updated content via a web blog, email, or browser placement. Then, they will be able to see your ministry’s updates and perhaps connect and choose to use you. Thus, you need a newsletter, blog, and RSS to get your content into as many places as you can. If you have the funding, make use of “contextual advertising” like Google and about.com ads and social media ads to reach your target users. Do not bother with “pay per clicks.” It’s not worth the cost.
Every week, more visitors turn up at my church because of the website, lakeavefamily.org. They check us out online before they come to worship. Research shows that more and more people are coming to any given church now by the way of the web than anything else. As a ministry, churchleadership.org brings in 40 people a week to our research and study center and over 4,000 a day to our main website. Thus, a ministry or a church that wants to get the Word out must take the Internet seriously and do its content appropriately!
How to Improve your Site Content (500 word article layout suggestion)
What is the main point of your site and how does/should it play a role in your ministry?
Are you trying to dazzle your visitors? Or do you just have a brochure on a web page? You do not need to do a work of art; you just need them to stop and take a look. If all you have is a brochure, what is that impact to the people you are trying to reach?
Remember, the purpose of your website is to create a relationship with the people that God brings you and then connect their hearts, minds, and needs to the pertinent resources and people to help them in their journey of faith!
You are creating the tool for the next step of building relationships with Christ and others through what you provide. Your ministry’s website needs to be pleasing to the people with whom you want to help and connect. You also need to have the “connect” that is organized, searchable, and have the resources available. You want to have a layout that says, stop and look at me! I’ve got what you want and need! And then, you need to have the substance to back it up. It needs to be well written with no typos and a consistent organizational structure. It needs to have a level of attractiveness as well as your unique “signature” all through the website. You are seeking to attract people to your brand or product. Why should they come? What do you have that is important and that they need? How can you convince them to establish a relationship with you?
The Importance of Design
Research has shown that when a website visitor comes to a website, design plays a primary function to their inspiration and participation! Yet, the visitor is usually (this is not kind but true) selfish, apathetic, lazy, idiosyncratic, and ruthless, plus he or she has a short attention span. You have to catch them; if not, they will dump you like “road kill” and perhaps never come back!
Consider your website as like providing a dinner feast. Is it a buffet with old leftovers or is it a multicourse meal eloquently prepared with the best ingredients and served with courteous waiters? The meal provisions need to be prepared and presented with some degree of artistic beauty—and of course, love. Then, your visitors will not only have good food, but a pleasant dinning experience so they will be more likely to come back. You also need to remember not to overdo it; your visitor is looking for substance, not high-end art (unless that is your business mission.)
Your website is the “curb appeal” of your ministry. Your site should be presented as solid and professional looking so that your ministry can be trusted, and worth the visiting person’s involvement. Thus, make sure your visitor can find what they need easily without having to hunt and guess. Your search engine needs to be at the top right of the home page. That is where most people look for it. In addition, it has to be on every page of your site.
Keys to Effective Web Design to Enhance your Content (1,000 word article layout suggestion)
What can I do? Have a clear header across the top with a simple message about your ministry. You can also have a banner below it for a position statement, image, or navigation. Most websites have two or three main “bars” or columns, a thin left bar for navigation, a larger center bar for main content, and sometimes a thin, third right bar for ads, searches, and highlights. An alternative would be to have a wide top column and two or three smaller columns below that. It is best to only have one sidebar and it should always be on the left, where most people expect to see it. There are exceptions, such as huge content sites or research sites, where you need to divide up navigation and page links for a neater and more organized presentation. You do not want your pages too crowded. Keep your main wording in the center bar/column. Place your main navigation either across the top, or down the left side, with clear fonts. Only have both for mega sites (over 1,000 content items).
- Keep in mind most people use the Internet for fact-finding and jumping from site to site. Do not make your users work; keep it simple and friendly. Rarely do they stay in one place and dig. To keep them, you have to feed them the good food of good content. Maintain the integrity of your quality design structure!
- Make your top main header global on all pages, and make it eye catching and inspiring, without being jumbled, crowded, or messy. Use colors and color highlights and the frames you like and care for that attract, relate to your theme or brand, and are professional. Then, before it is published, have focus groups give you lots of feedback; do not be prideful. Be consistent on all your pages. Set up a test page and get more feedback. Enjoy this process and do not stress over it. Keep this in mind: your site and content must glorify Christ first and foremost!
- What not to do? There are popular things from which you need to steer clear. Don’t put patterns or watermarks behind your text, or over-use colors. I like puns and jumping hamsters, but most people do not. Black text on white works best; the only other option is white text on blue, but most people prefer the way novels and newspapers read. Also, unless your audience consists of kids, avoid animations, gifs, and oversized photos. These come across as unprofessional.
- Avoid using overly unique layouts and designs, unless you are selling art. Look how the top websites look structurally. They, like magazine and newspapers that are successful, have a similar structure that works. Your visitors will be able to connect with you and one another more easily with good structural similarity. Most web visitors expect certain rules and principles in web design, so they can find what they are looking for quickly. Unless you are a gaming or puzzle site, do not play guessing games with your visitors by being overly imaginative and have a confusing layout or design.
- Write your own content; nothing can help you more than having your own unique material. But do it right or hire someone for copy writing and editing or rewrite the material of others (with their permission) for your own unique content. You can use the content of others, with their permission; see if you or they can re-tool it—as in rework it, crop it, and/or create a new title and opening paragraph. Then, it becomes unique. Get the book authors of your ministry or one that has the same theme to write articles distilled from their books …Authors like to do this as it helps them out too. Or, find good authors and make a deal for cross promotion or pay them for content. (www.Christianwriters.com and www.faithwriters.com.)
- Be careful where you get your content. If it is not unique to your ministry, or not true, or just plain bad writing, do not use it! If you use a service like Go Articles, be aware that so do many, many others and Google passionately hates for sites to use the same article! Do not do that! Also, do NOT send your unique content to those article directories. Why? It will not be unique and you may get banned! However, such sites are good promotion tools for you. So rework your articles, shorten them, or write new ones just for them and submit those, so others can use them as tools and find you.
Keys to Effective Content Layout (1,000 word article layout idea)
This is called Information Architecture, “IA” and it is essential! Imagine that your ministries site is a busy train station. When you enter Grand Central Station you are lost, stressed, and confused. Then you are greeted with a doorman who will direct you to the areas of your need—destinations, arrivals, what platform in what area you need to be. There are big display boards of the schedules, signs, and several help desks and information officers (OK that is what it was like in the 40’s-lol), and you are relieved and happy. Thus, when a visitor comes to you, he or she knows where to go to receive the content; your page links, layout and structure as well as a search, need to be the information officers who direct your visitors and deliver your message.
First of all give yourself an F! Eye-tracking studies (the science of the physiological process of how people read information on a screen as compared to paper using eye-tracking visualizations: http://www.useit.com/eyetracking) show that website readers do not always go top to bottom like reading a novel. Rather, most follow an “F” pattern, two horizontal stripes flowing from a vertical stripe. Other users move faster, making the pattern look more like an “E” creating a spottier “heatmap” on the results, and they do this fast! Thus, you have a few seconds to attract a onetime low fruit picker to become a harvester!
- These studies show how people browse and scan. They tend to first read a page in a horizontal movement transversely, starting at the upper left part of the content area. Then they move down the page a tad and then read across again in a second horizontal movement, but shorter than the first. Then they continue to scan down in a vertical movement to the top fold of the website (thus usually do not scroll down, so do not have your home page too long!) Thus, the prime real estate is on the top left side, and this is where and what your image and prime content should be!
- What needs to be in these places? Your top stuff—navigation, logo, prime product, about page, position and mission statements. People will go to the far right looking for your search engine. Under your search box is also a prime spot. So think carefully what you want your people to see and use.
- What does this mean for a web page? Your visitors may not read all of your page text thoroughly in a word-by-word approach. This also goes for web page layouts, while articles that are scanned use an “E” or “F” pattern. This means they read the first two paragraphs, the bold paragraph titles, indented text and bullet points. If they get a hook, they may stay and read more. Most people do not read web pages in-depth like a paper page; they tend to hunt for a fact or a product.
- What does this mean for a web article? Because your first two paragraphs are the most important, they must state the point. The rest is there if they want more information. Also, you can state important information on your bullet points. Some people will actually read all of your material, although the first paragraph is your prime content arena. Make sure your text is not crowded; give them some white space, margins…eyes need a breather.
- What should I do? Write your heads, subheads, paragraphs titles, and bullet points, using your key words that carry your prime information for that article. These are the words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the main stalk of their “F-behavior.” Most web readers also tend to read the first two words on a line most often, the reason bullet points work well. They also tend to skip large blocks of text, the reason short paragraphs work best. Remember, people get bored very easily and will be more likely to just pluck the low-hanging fruit.
- Uniformity on pages and articles is paramount! Your article needs a very short, descriptive title that should also promise to deliver your expert information on the topic. It needs to raise a question, present a fact, solve their problem, or make a promise. All through your article, specific is better than general. It should build interest and motivate, because you have two to five seconds of your readers attention before they decide to stay or hit the road. Thus, they need to read clearly the fact they are looking for or the answer to their question or the promise made in your title or promotion. Do not bait and switch or trick your readers. This dishonors God and destroys your credibility!
- Art and images are good, but use imagery sparingly and creatively. They are meant to attract and not distract. Make sure they are well done, professional, and unique to your site and theme. You do not want anything online that distracts your visitor from the feast you want them to eat.
- How do I write the content? Take a writing course at your local community college, and practice! Remember: this is not for everyone and there are a lot of writers out there!
The top and top left of your site is where you readers go first…what do you have there to attract and feed them well? For the web page itself, it is best to have short paragraphs at the top of the page, surrounded by white space. At least #10 font Arial or Verdana is best, while Trebuchet and Georgia #12 for text or bold #10 for links and main channel information are good too. Small type is bad for most people. Your articles or main content can be longer. To really get people’s attention, write like this handout (because for paper saving reasons I do not use short paragraphs or indent the bullet points.) Also it is best to have one idea per paragraph (I do not do that-lol) with short sentences, but do not have fragments. Remember to use bulleted or numbered lists, and only the sporadic use of bold for your heads and descriptive subheads—also to prevent skimming or looking unprofessional. Bold also is what the “bots (search engine spiders that hunt and index your site)” see first; too much smashes the spiders away.
Website Content – It is All About the Why! Your Relevance and Bran are what you provide; thus, why should they come and how you come across to them to connect…
SEO Tips: The fundamental way to increase your rank is to increase your relevance!
(1,800+ word article layout suggestion)
SEO, or “search engine optimization,” is very important because it attracts the “bots” and gives them good fodder that places your site’s search ranking so people can find your stuff. Research shows that SEO is between 1,000% and 4,000% more effective than PPC (pay per click)! This is also a mysterious, complicated, and ever changing endeavor as search engines are constantly changing their algorithms—the way they place and rank sites. This is a crapshoot, but these are the tools most main search engines will bow to. The big thing all major search engines look for and tweak their algorithms to is site relevance and branding! What do they hate the most? Tricks! Make sure you have good content, and you are consistent!
A BIG tip: remember the basics; this is called a “Web!” Your site needs to be linked, cross-linked, and back-linked with other relevant sites. Do not link with non-related sites. If you sell shoes, do not link with kitchen remodelers. Never use link “farms” that only worked in the 90’s, or hide your key words on your site like white on white; this gets you lots of demerits. The “bots” that rank us are also called “spiders”…know a little about how these insects work, then you will know a little better how the WWW works, same game plan… Content is king but not all content is royal…avoid the fools content…
- Content is King! The more you have, the greater web presence and ranking you will have. You build it they will come works on the Web! You can write your own articles if that is your skill set. If not, outsource the job to others. Do not write junk just to have a higher page rank!
- Domain Selections are critical and they are the first thing seen by the “bots;” your “brand” or main key word must be in the domain. If you have a Bible site, make sure your main key word “Bible” is there, such as “backtothebible.org” or biblestudynotes.org not “ontheroadagain.org”… you need to invest in your site’s future, and the money for a good domain is a far greater investment than any other expense. This is even more critical than design. If you spend 10K on a web template and only $100 on a domain, unless you got very lucky your money is wasted and so is the potential of your site! If you have a good domain that is not in use, park it so it is up on something, even pointing to just a page on your site or a static site. Longevity, called “trust rank” of the domain is also very important for SEO!
- Web Page titles are also a critical placement place for your key words. This is what the search engines and visitors see secondly, so choose and write carefully. Then, third in importance are your article titles. Remember, it is imperative that the relevancy of your content is in relation to the rest of your website theme and brand. If you have a big site with differing content themes, consider “Micro sites!”
- Key words, Use them smart and sparingly. Do not stuff your pages with keywords; this will get you banned. The research indicates that keyword density is optimal between 1 and 2 percent of the text on your pages; never exceed 2%. Thus, do not be “keyword fixated.” Rather, use words carefully and with some excitement along with good contextually related vocabulary. Page titles, headers, and paragraph titles all need to be your keywords, yet well copy-written, not just thrown on.
- Links are indeed very important. But they have to be relevant and never broken. Inter-link with like sites—not with unlike sites… so the spiders can craw web to web… your mega site will feed a small site and visa versa.
- Directory Submission is very important, especially for Yahoo. Use quality directories to submit your site content pages to; DMOZ is the main one.
- For optimum SEO, your site needs to have the Web 2.0, which is a connected blog (the Google bots love their own, i.e. blogspot), and social media outlets like Facebook that will help spread awareness of your ministry. This allows you to get to know your readers and them to know you! The sites need to be interlinked; each linking and back linking to the other for the SEO promotion to work, and this is Google gold! Thirty-five per cent of adults over 35 visit social networking sites at least weekly and 52% visit them on occasion. This is growing fast and is not a fad!
- Beware of the dangers of duplicate content, duplicate page titles, and article sharing. Duplicate content can get your site banned or put out to pasture. Instead of page two or three, you are on page 50…
- Web bookmarking sites (where you add your link and information about your ministry) like on Gospel.com are gold as well as Digg, Delicious, and Mixx… In contrast, “link farms” and too many dead links are grounds for Google dismissal…
- Do you have a really big site or different ministry categories? Make “microsites.” These are mini web pages with different domains pointed to them and slightly different templates, and of course, unique content, especially if it is a different subject or a promotion. For example, we have pastortraining.org in the midst of intothyword.org and many more because these are different themes and each site needs to have a unified theme and content thereof or it gets tossed in the wilderness of ranking. Google seems to love this, and so do visitors. They are treated as separate sites and save hosting costs.
- Create a Press Release, when your site goes live or at a major update or change. Make is sure to include a link back to your website. You can submit press releases to “aggregators” such as www.prweb.com. This will help get the word out, draw some attention to your website, and it is usually free.
- What about SES “search engine submission?” The spiders are more and more savvy and they go out more, sometimes many times a day to the same site, thus, this is no longer needed—a waste of time and money. You just need to submit to them once, or when there is a major site over-haul or a new micro-site or domain. If you feel you must submit your site often, realize that Google, Yahoo, and MSN will not like you!
- How do I get the spider’s attention? “Flies!” The most effective fly in terms of submissions and listing on search engines, is to create and submit an “XML sitemap.” This is easy to do for the non-techies, and is available at “Google Webmaster Tools.” If you do not have an account, create one now; it is free and essential!
- It is important to have clean and valid “html” for search bots to access all the web pages within your website, so write it fresh, hire someone to do it, or use a “code cleaner,” especially if you have a CMS. The bots will hit a wall in dirty code and they can’t index what they can’t crawl. Also use “Alt = “within the “img tags” and graphics, because bots can’t read graphics, and the Alt attribute will allow them to read the tag—and that can be a key word! Meta tags are still a good idea to use.
- The key of article content is this: do not overuse key words. Make sure the article theme is relevant and related to the channel/page header. The paragraph heading needs to be in bold; these are your key words that the bots (search engine spiders) archive.
- Search engine spiders love updated content. Your site needs to be updated at least once a week. Just move your content around to the main home page, where you have highlights and the latest news or product displayed. Look at your competition on Google and Yahoo; search your key words at least once a week and see what they are doing. Why are they on top? Research shows, besides having the above in play, that those sites have the most updated content.
- Examples, Q & A. What can you do to proclaim the “true-Truths” of the Christian faith on the Web?
- Resources to help you build an God honoring great website: www.netministry.com (they do the best work for the best price), on a budget, www.logicweb.com, www.3cstudio.com, www.UltimateChurchWebsites.com, www.ministryweb.org, for the big budgets, www.inspyre.com, www.trinetsolutions.com, www.silaspartners.com, www.agathongroup.com, www.5Qcommunications.com. Blogs: www.wordpress.com, www.blogger.com
A Quick Test for Your Website
- Can a new visitor to your ministries website find what he or she is looking for in less than two clicks and not more than three? (beyond three, they have gone to another site…)
- Can a new visitor to your ministries website get a thorough understanding of your vision and main product in three seconds?
- Does your website have a quality, friendly, uncluttered, eye catching, yet professional design?
- Does your website have consistently easy-to-read professional layout?
- Does your website have a domain that reflects your brand or theme?
- How does the relevancy of your content relate to the rest of your website theme and brand?
- Does your website honor our Lord by being one of quality as it highlights your ministry’s products and services?
- What is your main mission (discipleship) and how does it come through on your site?
- How would a postmodern web person view your site?
10. How does your site impact a postmodern web person?
11. How can your site be a better impact and connect to a postmodern web person?
12. Why would a visitor come back to your website?
13. How can your site be better at being a display case for our Glorious Lord?
14. Is your content true? Does it follow the Fruit of the Spirit? How are you accomplishing this? How can you do it better?
The bottom line is this: what are you doing online? How can God better use you in His job of transforming lives? How about to facilitate discipleship, spiritual growth, and small group and mentoring interaction? You want people to come to your site as they are, and then when they leave, to not be the same. Thus, it is very important that we build an effective web presence that can transform lives by His presence!
(Information gleaned years of research, from a Google web symposium (09/08), a meeting with a top Google executive in charge of SEO, and the heads of Yahoo. This is in addition to over twenty years of experience being online, a published author and writer of over 1,000 curriculums and articles as well as research information from many proprietary places.)
Be blessed!, Num 6:24 (BTW this handout is a 5,000 word article layout suggestion)
© 2008, Richard Krejcir, Ph.D., pastor, researcher and webmaster, www.intothyword.org; www.francisschaeffer.org; www.discipleshiptools.org; www.churchleadership.org; www.withtheword.org; www.biblestudynotes.org intothyword.blogspot.com and a bunch of others too…