Local CommunityWhen you’re building a church website, there are few principles more important than this one: think local. Most designers tend to build sites around organizational names or general keywords, but when you’re building a website for a church trying to reach a local community, you have to get inside that local culture as you design.

Think “Local” SEO

When you’re optimizing your pages for search engines, use location names whenever possible. So instead of a title like “First Community Church” try “Yourtown First Community Church.” Why? Because search engines will give the greatest weight to the first word in the page title. Also, always include the address of the church in either the sidebar or footer, site-wide, and if you can remember, put it in between “address” html tags.

Carry these principles down to the subpages of your site as well. For your children’s ministry page, instead of naming it “First Community Church Children’s Ministry” why not name it “Children’s Events in Yourtown.” People who live around the church are far more likely to search for this kind of term.

Think “Local” Culture

If nearby residents have called your town home for many years, they’re proud of their surroundings. And if they’re new to town, they’re curious about them. So using imagery from well-known landmarks is a good thing to do. You also might consider mixing in family-friendly local event listings along with your church events and finding ways to highlight local residents in stories.

Think “Local” Social Networking

Facebook and Twitter both serve big, but slightly different purposes. If I could only use one on a church website, it would definitely be Facebook (though I’d choose Twitter for my personal blog). Why? Because Facebook tends to connect people with real life friends who often live closer to each other. So allowing your church members to “like” an upcoming event allows them to spread the word about that event to their local friends.

And while you’re at it, think “check-ins,” especially on Facebook. When I check in at Saddleback Church, it tells people where I am and it also connects me to everyone else who is present and recently checked in.

Think “Local” Listings and Advertising

Eric Vreeland just shared on Hubspot an incredible list of business directories for local marketing. Peruse it and see which ones might be good places to look for potentially listing or advertising your church:

Business Directories For Local Marketing

1. Google
2. Bing
3. Yahoo!
4. Yelp
5. Merchant Circle
6. LinkedIn
7. YellowPages.com
9. Whitepages
10. Supermedia

Visit Hubspot for the other 40 (and you should probably read Hubspot regularly if you’re into any kind of online marketing).

Hint: Don’t have time to do all of that combing? Outsource it! Pay someone else to submit your listing to local directories.

If you’re a large church with regional campuses, you have to be creative in optimizing different areas of your website for different segments of the community. But chances are, you’re a single-campus church trying to target your local community. Get found. Be seen. Show up. Think local. In fact… think hyper-local!

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