SEO Works and Why It’s a Critical Outreach Strategy

| December 6, 2013

SEO - Search Engine OptimizationIn this article, we’ll introduce you to the concepts of SEO, explain their critical importance in your outreach program, and three basic principles to follow to make your website easy to locate.

How Search Engines Work

The Internet isn’t called the “web” for nothing. Just like an enormous spider web, it has strands or links that connect every piece of content to another. With upwards of 555 million sites online in December 2011, finding anything depends on being able to recognize clues. The clues come in the form of keywords, tags and page names, which the search engines “find” and index; listing or ranking them in order of reliability and relevance. When a user searches for a particular term, the engine publishes those results that match, in the preferred order or rank. Put simply, to have your company website included in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), you need to be ranked near the top of the list.

Optimizing for Search

Search engines use electronic algorithms called spiders to “crawl” around the web, finding and recording commonalities to reference when someone searches. Making your website searchable by the algorithms requires compliance with several factors, including:

  • Indexable content that contains appropriate, researched keywords
  • Search-friendly design, such as page headers, meta descriptions and alt tags
  • Regular publication of original material that avoids duplicating (plagiarizing?) anything else on the web.

If you’re starting out and want to make your website easy to locate, there are three basic principles to follow below, including:

1. Indexable Content

Keywords are the lifeblood of the Internet. They are the words and phrases people are most likely to use to search for your product or service. These can be single words or phrases of up to ten words, which is called a long-tailed keyword. The more information, or the longer the search term the user puts into a search engine, the higher his chances of locating the correct site, because there are more words to match.

Keyword research shows which search terms relating to your business people actually use, so you don’t have to guess. You simply type in the words you think are important, and the keyword tool (i.e., Google) will find matching terms and rank them according to the number of people who have searched for them.

2. Search-Friendly Design

Search-friendly design mainly applies to the technical aspects of the website, and affects your site’s layout and structure. The main issues that make a site search-friendly are:

  • Crawlable links – URLs need to connect logically to others. It’s one thing to create a page on your site, but if it isn’t linked to anything, neither users nor spiders can reach it. The more links a page has connecting to it, the more often it is recorded and the greater the number of pathways that reach it.
  • Meta descriptions – website design techniques enable you to create a short summary of the content of each page, which is not visible on the actual page. This description is used by search engines to identify and index the site, and if it’s missing, the site may be excluded from the results.
  • Alt tags – These work similarly to the meta description in that it is a short description of the non-text components of a web page, such as images and uploaded files. If the search engine can’t “read” a photograph, it needs to be able to read the description to index it correctly.

3. Quality Material

Yes, the Internet is full of junk. The good thing is, search engines have learned to recognize this and avoid websites that contain anything they can’t identify as being good quality, original, useful material. The algorithms perform this identification by analyzing the spelling and grammar used in the text and descriptions, checking for duplication elsewhere online, and determining whether certain words are used that are on the list of offensive materials.

The date of publication is also important, because every time a piece of “fresh” content is added it goes into the queue for the search engine. As it reaches the front of the queue, it is indexed and passes out of the queue. Updating a site regularly means it is constantly in the queue, and provided it complies with requirements, it remains at the top of the list on the SERPs.


The process of following these requirements is called SEO, and increases the chances that your organization’s website will appear on the first page of search results in a timely manner. SEO for churches and faith-based organizations is a critical online outreach strategy, one that requires research and maintenance to achieve its maximum value and impact.

Category: Marketing

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Email | Website | Terri Melvin is co-owner of the Christian Marketing Institute, a website design, internet marketing and online community learning destination for Christian business professionals.