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December 16, 2019
Here are seven keys to optimizing your church’s website, which will help you to reach more people with your church’s website. These tactics are equally important, so plan on taking action on everything listed below if you haven’t already.
July 17, 2019
Your church’s website is the new front door.
Most people searching for a new church will search online first.
According to Grey Matters, more than 17 million adults who do not regularly attend a worship service searched for a church online.
In your community, right now, there’s a good chance someone is searching for a church.
They are in need of hearing the gospel.
They are craving Christian community.
They have an interest in raising their children in church.
To help visitors find your church, you’ll need to fling wide open your church’s (digital) door.
To do this, you’ll need to focus on what’s called search engine optimization (SEO).
In this post, I’m going to walk you through six keys to boost your church’s SEO:
Here are six keys to optimizing your church’s website, which will help you to reach more people with your church’s website. These tactics are equally important, so plan on taking action on everything listed below if you haven’t already.
A critical step you must take in church SEO is to claim your church’s local listing.
There are several factors that influence your church’s local SEO. But if you skip this step, you might as well not worry about reading the rest of this post. Claiming your local listing is that important.
To help you get started, here are the three listings you want to snag first:
Claiming your church’s local listing will provide you with three HUGE benefits.
First, claiming your listing will let search engines know how to display your information in search results. This will help people searching for local churches in your area to know about your church, such as your address, hours, and contact information.
Second, local listings will provide your church with a local citation (information about your church), which is an important component to ranking in local church search results.
Third, claiming your local listing will prominently display your church in certain results.
Here’s a search example from a desktop of Crossridge Church:
Let me warn you:
This isn’t necessarily an easy step. It will take time to work through this process. If you’re stretched for time or don’t have someone on your church staff who can help, consider outsourcing this to a volunteer or a professional to make sure this gets done.
Reviews can increase your church’s local ranking and provide legit social proof.
Think about it like this:
Positive reviews play a big part in influencing whether or not you’ll make a purchase. If you see a litany of bad reviews, then there’s a good chance you won’t buy the latest gadget you’re eyeing or bite into a steak at the local steakhouse.
The same holds true for your church.
What is more, reviews also play a big part in influencing local searches. It’s one-way search engines know that your church (listing) is active.
Don’t have any online reviews?
Here’s how you can get the ball rolling:
At first, ask volunteers and other people you know in your church to leave a review.
This tactic might make you feel uncomfortable. But there’s nothing wrong with asking people you know to leave a positive review.
All you need to do is send an email, ask them face-to-face, or make a phone call to encourage people to leave a review.
After you take this step, an additional idea you can consider is to place a sign on at your welcome center or one in a window encouraging people to leave a review.
Take a moment to place yourself in the shoes of someone searching for a church.
In a search engine, what words will they use?
What questions will they ask?
What phrases come to mind?
Whatever word or phrase comes to mind is what you call a keyword. It’s what you type into a search engine to find whatever you’re looking for.
Thankfully, you don’t have to guess at what people are using.
There are a few ways you can find out the most popular phrases in your community.
Do you have Google Analytics set up on your church’s website?
If so, you can get a really good idea of how people are finding your site.
For example, you can see:
Google does hide a lot of the keywords people use to find your church’s site. But you can use a service like Ahrefs or SEMRush to learn more. Both of these services offer a free trial you can use to find what you’re looking for.
Don’t have a ton of data you can use?
Don’t worry about it.
You can use Google Keyword Planner to search for keyword ideas for free.
Here’s what you need to do to find local searches:
At first, enter your church’s URL.
After you click “Get Started,” you’ll see relevant searches for your church’s site.
Here’s an example from St. Paul’s Anglican Church:
Don’t worry about the “Top of page bid” low range or high range unless you want to take out ads via Google. For now, all you need are ideas to use in a step below.
For this step, go back to the second step above, and enter “church near me” (this is the most used keyword phrase people use to find a church).
Next, click on “Locations.”
After you enter your church’s physical address, you’ll see a list like this:
This list will help you to start identifying additional keyword phrases your church should focus on in the steps below.
There are additional tools and ways you can go deep with the suggestions above. But this will help you to gather the info you need to increase your church’s SEO.
Pro tip: In your community, there’s a good chance most people will use a keyword phrase like “church in Spring Hill TN” or “presbyterian church in Spring Hill TN.” A common keyword phrase many people use is “church + city/region” or “denomination + city/region.”
Do you have a list of keyword phrases on hand?
Now it’s time to focus your efforts.
With your list of keyword phrases in hand, identify the keyword you want to focus on--e.g., “pentecostal church in Ithaca New York.”
Keep this keyword phrase in hand.
You’ll need it to complete the next task.
Now it’s time to optimize your website with your keyword phrase.
From your homepage to the individual pages of your website, it’s important to optimize every single page. Here are several important onsite search engine optimization (SEO) to update:
What is more, for the content on your individual pages, include your keyword phrase in H1 tags.
I understand this can feel overwhelming.
If you’re working with a shoestring budget or don’t have a volunteer who can help, there’s a tool you can use to help you optimize your site.
If you use Wordpress for your church’s content management system (CMS), then consider using these two plugins to help you optimize your individual pages:
Embed a Google Map with a marker of your local church.
The best place to include this is on your Contact Page. To do this, all you need to do is search for your church in Google Maps, click SHARE, copy the code from Embed map, and paste it into your Contact Page.
Bada bing, bada boom.
You’ll need to include your physical address all over your site.
Not a picture.
Not a map.
Not an image.
But the copy (words) of your physical address.
For this tactic, it’s important to use the same information and format as you do on local listings and local directories. For example, you don’t want to use an abbreviation like “blvd” or “rd” in one place and “boulevard” or “road” in another place.
Before you start copying and pasting your address, here’s one easy way you can accomplish this task: Add your physical address in the footer of your church’s website. This way it will appear at the bottom of every page.
Here’s an example from Rock Church:
Your church’s website can be a great evangelistic tool.
It’s one way you can digitally connect with people to lead them to meet you in person by visiting your worship service or to learn more about your church.
Connect with more people in your community online, lead them to your church gathering, and point them to faith in Jesus Christ by improving your church’s SEO.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.