Search Engines and Directories
... how to get your church website listed
Before we tell you about search engines we just want to say something very important. Some churches have individuals and families who are working in countries that are considered 'closed' or people carrying out relief work in very tense war zones such as Iraq and Syria. Please never put the names of these people on any part of your church website without their absolute express permission. YOU COULD PUT THEM AT SERIOUS RISK.
1. Search engines
Search engines are one of the easiest ways for people to find your site. However, if you're not listed with the right ones you won't see any increase in visitors.
As part of the Church123 package, we carry out registrations with the major search engines. For everyone else the information below will explain how to get your site listed. A word of warning... always beware of junk email offering to register your site with 20,000 search engines (or some other large number) – more than likely you will receive few visitors and a lot more junk mail!
If you found this site through a search engine you may like to consider the words you used to find us – more than likely the words will appear in the text of our pages. In exactly the same way, when you create your church website you should think about what words people will use when searching for churches in your area. Unless your church is an international resource it is likely that you will want to focus on reaching people in your area (who are probably therefore your website's target audience).
Think about what activities and services your church provides for the local area that people may use a search engine to find (e.g. Alpha Courses, Youth Groups, Mums & Toddlers and the like). When you create pages about these activities think about the words you use so that you include ones that people will be searching on (e.g. 'Alpha Courses in Canterbury', 'Maidstone Youth Group', etc.) This will help you to cast your net accurately (excuse the Internet pun) by helping your pages be relevant to a specific area. Church websites built with the Church123 system normally have the church address on every page this helps when people use words to search for churches in their town – e.g. 'church in Swindon'. You may also like to read the paragraph at the end of this page about seasonal events and 'search engine time lag'.
If you are interested in registering a site for yourself you can manually register with the following:
- Google / Google UK (Google also provides listings to AOL and others)
- Bing (Microsoft) note: Bing powers Yahoo / Yahoo UK (and AltaVista goes to Yahoo!).
There used to be about 8 search engines worth getting a listing in. Now if you submit to Google and Bing that will cover the vast majority of searches for the western world.
If you want to be listed in China then Baidu is the major player and for Russian speaking countries you need to be listed in Yandex. You need to have a reason for wanting a Chinese or Russian listing and if your church has missionaries working there then it may be you don't want to deliberately get listed. Even if you don't submit your site to a specific search engine you can, over time, still get listed.
Non-Western Nations: there are lots of relatively small regional search engines. If your ministry works in a specific area (such as a nation in Africa) then ask people living in that area which are the main search engines used.
You could also try and get listed in the relevant section of the Open Directory Project as well. A listing there may be picked up by other search engines and directories.
2. Church Directories:
To encourage visitors to your website it is worth getting listed in church directories. Being listed in an online church directory doesn't just enable people using the directory to find your church. It often creates a link from their website to yours, which in turn means that your website may be rated more highly by search engines. Therefore it is worth getting listed in all the large church directories you come across. Note as many of the directories have very low volumes of traffic (not many visitors) it is only worth paying to be included in the large, high quality, church directories (ask how many visitors, excluding bots, their site gets per year).
Find a Church (UK) Listing over 42,000 churches this is by far the biggest directory of churches in the UK and has a massive amount of traffic. You can check and update your listing free (or get a full premium listing). As a transparency declaration we wish to state that we have recommended Find a Church since 2001. In 2011 Find a Church and Church123 became sister companies.
Whilst there are many directories in the USA, quite a lot appear to be mainly advert vehicles so it is hard for us to determine which would be best for a US based church.
You may also wish to get listed with:
- A directory of churches run by your denomination, diocese or movement
- Your local "Churches Together" or "Area Churches Coalition" movement, or similar memberships your church may have
There are a number of 'Christian search engines'. These are different to directories and to be honest these have generally very low traffic and aren't likely to help your church grow significantly.
Search engine time-lag - a note on seasonal events
Once registered, the time taken for your church site to start appearing may vary from a few days to months (depending on the search engine). Once listed most search engines will automatically visit your site at regular intervals (some weekly, others every few months) to look for updated content they need to list. At particular times of the year, lots of churches make a special effort to invite local people to come to church services. For example, there may be an outsider-friendly Christmas carol service, an evangelistic presentation of the Easter story, or even an 'alternative' Halloween. Naturally, it is desirable to advertise these events on the church website so that they will be found by someone searching for, say, "Christmas services in Bristol".
So far, so good. But search engine time-lag creates a problem for the unsuspecting church webmaster. By the time your church minister gives you details of the Christmas services, it will probably already be November. If you manage to get the details onto the website by the 1st of December the search engines may not start to list the page until the New Year!
Solving the problem
Careful website design can reduce this problem significantly. The solution is to work out which special events happen every year (e.g. Christmas, Easter, children's summer holiday club, etc.) and then create a page for each of those events. Add those pages to your website now (but only put them on the menu at the appropriate season), so that they can be indexed by the search engines in good time.
Of course, you probably don't yet have most of the information you need for these pages. But it is still easy to write something based on what happened last year, and you can always go back and fill in the details nearer to the time. For example a church in Bristol could create a Christmas page at any time of year saying:
"Each Christmas we have a number of special services to celebrate the birth of Jesus. If you live in the Bristol area you would be very welcome to come to our traditional Carol service, or if you have children they may enjoy our fun Nativity service. For further details please visit this page again nearer to the time, or contact us."
If you can include comments from people about how much they enjoyed the event last year, or photos, then so much the better.
Remember that you need to create a link from the rest of your website to each of the pages you have written; otherwise they won't be indexed by the search engines. The easiest way to do this is to have a "diary" or "what's on" page, and then list them as "forthcoming events".