SEO and the Modern Church.

This morning, I was thinking about how SEO has affected my views of church. Don’t laugh at me.
In a certain way, the church is the king of content marketing.

Image Credit: Jive Turkey

The meat of its products and services (pun) has not changed much in decades, or even centuries. But that hasn’t stopped or even slowed down the machine of christian media from rewriting, re-spinning, redesigning, retargeting, researching, and redeveloping the same content for a constantly shifting set of different audiences.

How drastically different is the best way to live the christian life for the different walks of life?

Seriously. We boil it down to its simplest truth (which we love to do) and it’s what?

“Love God. Love People.”

And that’s fantastic, really. I get it. Simple, Succinct, Strong. It is the “Consistently Develop Amazing Content” of Christianity. Of course that’s the key to all SEO, but if you leave it there, what’s left to discuss? What content about SEO is left to even develop?

How odd would church services be this weekend if every pastor in America walked to the pulpit (or stool and high table— for the truly relevant), and uttered a four word sermon. “Love God, Love People.”

As a personal aside, I’d say that it would reduce the amount of “thin content” being produced at churches every week that a Parochial Panda would probably pummel. Joel Osteen, I’m looking at you.

So, what are churches to do? Well, I’m not sure. A lot of SEO advice simply eliminates a lot of what you’re doing. Remove duplicate content. That’s one of the ten commandments of SEO. Here’s how you might recognize it better:

“Avoid vain repetitions.” – Jesus

Why take the same great content, say a fantastic, biblical teaching on good morality, and muddy it up with countless, slightly different versions of itself? A great piece of content will work for almost any age. It’s not necessary to repackage (and in many cases re-sell) the same exact material. But the church loves to make a version ever so slightly altered to “best connect” with a 5/8/10/12/14/16/18/21 yr. old. Oh, and a slightly different version for 20 something, 30 something, 40 something, and 50 plus, then another set for each of those with children. I know a content farm when I see one.

On to User Experience. Don’t bait and switch. No gateway pages, that’s a SERP penalty waiting to happen. If I invite my friend to a singles event, he is going to be expecting to be able to chat and hopefully meet a nice girl. He is not expecting to be faced with the question of where he will spend eternity.

It’s getting late, so I’ll end with this kicker.

The future of search is social.

The future of church is social.

Relationships drive us. To the best content on the web, and to the best our faith has to offer.

We share the videos, blogs, images we like to those around us, so they can enjoy them. Do we not owe the believers around us the same with how to walk out this faith we claim to follow?

I absolutely refuse to use a keyword that doesn’t work. So, “small groups” (which DOES work) is what I guess I’m putting a plug in for.

And I don’t mean just one at your church. I mean the concept. Faith in community. The greatest story ever told, has yet to be told best through advertising or even keyword targeting or anything other then it going viral. People encouraging other people in their faith.

And that’s how christianity should be doing SEO.

Next week, Altar Call Analytics: Redefining “Conversions” and Reducing “CPA”