Before You Pay Thousands of Dollars

Before you pay thousands of dollars to a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company, please read below. There are several things that you are able to accomplish on your own in order to improve your search engine results.

Some Things You Should Know Before Optimizing

1. SEO takes time. 

SEO is governed by search engines, such as Google and Bing. They find updates on your website using programs that "crawl" your website. Sometimes it can take a few days or even weeks for a search engine to crawl your website and recognize your updated content. So when making updates for SEO, be prepared to wait a while for search engines to find those changes. 

2. SEO is always changing. 

As search engines improve, the way they index your website is constantly changing. These changes are sometimes small, but sometimes search engines will make significant changes that can drastically affect your ranking. These changes are made to prevent web spam and also to make a better search experience for users. 

3. SEO never ends.

SEO is not a set of actions with a definitive goal, rather, it is an ongoing process. As long as you have a website to manage, you will be modifying your SEO (whether you know it or not). Every word you write, every link you set, and every image you add are all contributing to your overall search engine ranking. 

4. SEO is experimental.

There is no perfect SEO formula for every website. There are well defined guidelines, but the best SEO solution can only be found through experimentation. You can test which content box titles help your search engine rankings more, or test different page titles. Experimenting will allow you to find what works best for your website.

5. Search engines are smart.

As search engines improve, they are getting better at catching web spam (that is, the manipulation of search engine rules to falsify your website's status and credibility). Trying to manipulate search engines by packing in keywords, or writing content for the search engine rather than the visitor, will be marked as web spam. When a search engine catches this, your website will lose credibility and your ranking will drop. Remember, you are always writing for the visitor, not the search engine. 

How to Optimize

Companies charge thousands of dollars a month for SEO. While these companies provide expert advice and tools to analyze performace, many aspects of SEO are simpler than they seem. There are two keys to successful SEO. Continue reading to discover how content and link building are the fundamental keys to successful SEO. 

1. The Right Content for the Right Audience

Content is king. The purpose of your website is to engage your audience and to connect them with your organization. In order to do that, your content has to be clear, concise, engaging, but most of all, relevant. Search engines care about two things - credibility and relevance. So, if your content is presenting a clear and unified message, then your search engine relevance is going to soar. Below are some considerations for writing good, relevant content. 

1. Who is your audience?

To begin writing content, think about who you are trying to reach. Your target audience should drive your content style and diction. Visitors are more likely to return or engage with your organization if they find your content valuable and relevant. Additionally, when your content is relevant and unified, your rankings will improve. 

2. Is your content easily found?

If someone visits your website looking for directions or service times, how long would it take them to find it? If they want to learn about a specific ministry, can they get there in a couple of clicks? Your content should be structured in a way that is visitor-driven. Too many subpage levels will be hard to find by visitors and search engines. The deeper your child pages are, the harder it is for a visitor to find content. 

3. Is your content unified and meaningful?

A search engine will (in an oversimplified way) crawl your text looking for keywords. In order to rank higher for a keyword phrase, using that keyword phrase throughout your website is ideal. The more unified your content phrasing is, the more likely you will rank higher for keywords. However, overuse of keyword phrases can seem like spam to a search engine. That is, if you begin stuffing your content with keywords, the search engine throws a red flag. This can lead to a drop in rankings. So when writing content, ask yourself, "Is this meaningful; is it too wordy; is the content unified and holistic?"

4. How recent is your content?

How long has it been since you have added new content, new blog posts, or engaged your audience? Updated, fresh content can be a SEO gold mine. New blog posts or updated content can boost your search rankings, where a stale website can slowly lose search rankings over time. Give your visitors a reason to keep coming back to your website and you will be greatly rewarded.

2. Building Search Engine Credibility

Where content builds your website's relevance, link building builds your credibility. Below is an explanation of the types of linking that contribute to your overall search rankings. 

1. Linking around your website. 

The best way to give your visitors a simple and enjoyable experience is to give them what they are looking for quickly and easily. Linking to pages around your own website is not only valuable to the user-experience, but it is valuable to your search rankings. Linking from your main navigation, sub page boxes, and links within your content can help visitors and search engines alike find your content quickly and easily. When in doubt, just link to it. 

2. Linking to other websites.

Your website cannot be successful in search rankings without connecting with other websites. Whether you link to other ministries, products, communities, or blogs, these links to other websites can build credibility for your website. This also gives your visitors the opportunity to find even more relevant content. In order to keep them from leaving your website completely, try setting your external links to "Open in a New Window". This feature can be found in the Insert/Edit Link window in your content box editor. 

3. Other websites linking to you. 

This can be one of the most helpful elements of your SEO toolbox. When other websites link to your website (in a relevant way), it can significantly boost your search rankings. Note, these links must be relevant. Having an unrelated web page link to your website does not benefit you, and may actually hurt you. Bloggers can be very helpful in posting about your organization and linking to your website. Search engines will reward those types of links. 

4. Signal strength. 

In the same way you need to maintain fresh content, maintaining fresh links is also crucial. The signal strength of a link can diminish over time resulting in a fading search ranking. Make sure you are always seeking out opportunities to build links around your site and connecting with others.

3 Actions You Can Take Right Now

While SEO may seem like an overwhelming task, there are some things you can do right now to start off on the right foot. 

1. Write Really Good Page Titles

Under Page Properties > Basic, you can title a page of your website. This is one of the biggest contributing factors to your ranking. Google looks for relevant page titles. Writing good, brief page titles can be very beneficial (less than 30 or so characters).

2. Write a Meta-Description

Login to your website and go to Site Management > Site Definitions. Under Meta Description, type in a brief description of your website (less than 160 characters). While the meta-descripion is no longer used for SEO, it is still one of the first things a visitor sees on your search result. 

3. Write Image Descriptions for Every Image

Search engines are smart, but not that smart. When looking at an image, search engines can only see the image name and dimensions. They cannot read the text that is in an image. However, when inserting an image, you can write an "Image Description" that search engines use to interpret the relevance of the image. If done well, this can give you a slight edge in your search ranking. 

Helpful Resources

Below is a list of SEO resources. These offer helpful advice and useful tools to give you an edge in SEO. If you have any questions about installing some of these tools, please contact Support and we would be happy to help. 

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