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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimizing Your Catholic Website

Catholic churches and schools can benefit immensely from search engine optimized websites, which help potential visitors find their content easily through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  From potential parishioners new to the area to families with school-aged children looking for a quality private education, an optimized website allows your content to be found easily when folks search for terms such as "private school insertyourcityhere" or "mass times insertyourcityhere."

In this post, I'm going to provide you with five (5) essential ways you can easily optimize your website's content to be picked up by the major search engines, so you can be found!

1. Your Domain Name

Believe it or not, but the domain name for your organization has quite a bit to do with being found online.  Take this website, for example.  We are "Catholic Website dot com" because search engines take into account the actual words in the domain name and tie those words to search phrases.

For example, StMichaelLivermore.com contains the important search terms: (1) St, (2) Michael, and (3) Livermore.  Automatically, engines will promote this parish website in search results listings when a combination of those terms, in conjunction with other terms, are typed into the search box.

So, when determining which domain name to go with, think about what your constituents would type into the big search box.  If you're "St. Thomas Catholic Church in Paris, Texas" (a fictional parish name, by the way), then stccp.org would be a poor choice.  It's also hard to remember!  Rather, ParisCatholic.org would be a much better choice.

2. The Words in the Page Title

Most content management systems, including our platform, wrap the title of the page in a special invisible tag that looks like this: <h1>This is the page title</h1>  This is called the "Heading 1" tag, and search engines look specifically for the words within this particular tag and give them prominence when indexing your webpage for search result listings.

If you desire, for example, to have visitors find your page on the Scrip fundraising program for your school which is named "St. Michael's Preparatory School"... then an optimal page title would look like this:

How Scrip works at St. Michael's Preparatory School in Cityville, Texas

Boom!

You just included the following keywords: Scrip, works, St. Michael, Preparatory, School, Cityville, Texas.

3. The Page's URL Alias

Search engines pay close attention to the actual URL (that long address that begins with "http") when indexing your content.

Let's take the Scrip program at St. Michael's, from above, as an example.

If the website's domain name is something like "stmichaelcityville.org", then the following URL would be search engine optimized:

http://stmichaelcityville.org/scrip-program-at-st-michaels

The part of the URL above that is "scrip-program-at-st-michaels" is also called the URL alias.

On our platform, you can customize the URL alias for any page while editing the page settings.

You'll see in the demonstration above that our platform automatically attempts to optimize each URL alias using the title of the page.  However, you can go even further and override the automatic alias by unchecking the box next to "Generate automatic URL alias."

4. Serve Content Over SSL

Google has announced that it now gives a boost in search result rankings to website that serve content over a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection.

This means purchasing and installing a valid SSL certificate on the web server and forcing all content to be served over SSL, so that the URL for each page begins with https:// (Note that additional "s" after "http").

We've made it incredibly easy to get SSL for your website on our platform. Just ask us to do it for you! The charge is really, really low: $50 for a full year!

5. Great Meta Tags

There's a little hidden part of webpages that is invisible to the visitor, but is important for search engines.  It lies in the source code for the webpage and is called meta information, which is designated by something called meta tags.

Here's what the code actually looks like:

<title>Catholic Website Design: Parishes, Schools, Ministries</title>

and

<meta name="description" content="Free Trial. 100% Catholic. Accept credit card payments. Easy-to-update. Drop and drop interface. Mobile-friendly. Editor access control. And much more!" />

The is meta information exists within the code of each webpage for the sake of search engines, to help them properly index the webpage and display it in search result listings.

For example, on Google, the meta tag examples I listed above cause the webpage to look like the following in search results:


On our platform, we've made it incredibly easy to edit this meta information yourself, with a live preview of what it will look like on Google!

 

There are many more helpful tips and tricks to optimizing your website and its content for search engines, and I'll be sharing more of this valuable information in a future post... so stay tuned!

Carson Weber

Carson lives near San Antonio, Texas with his wife and four children. He directed adult formation on the parish level for three years in Brenham, Texas and new media evangelization on the diocesan level for five years in northern California. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2001 (BBA, Information Technology) and Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2004 (MA Theology).

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