Google Critical Update: Is your website fast and friendly?May 24, 2021
Last month, Google announced that their "page experience update" will go live in mid June. That means that you just have a couple of weeks to get your church website up to speed. The page experience update is a change to Google's ranking algorithm, which determines the order in which websites appear on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs). This latest update includes a suite of changes that Google calls "Core Web Vitals". In a nutshell, it is all about making sure that your church's website performs well on mobile devices and doesn't discourage people from visiting your website or your church.
How Fast Is Your Website?
The first performance metric has to do with page speed and how fast your website loads on a mobile device. Why a mobile device? Google is now using mobile-first indexing. The assumption is that everyone using Google to conduct internet searches is using a mobile device. So, when it comes to ranking your church website, Google ignores the desktop version. To test the speed of your web pages and to get insight on how to fix slow-loading pages, use the free tool provided by Google at developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights. It is important to test every page of your website as they will all load at different speeds.
To check all of your pages at once, check out the Page Experience report in Google Search Console. If you don't have a Search Console account for your church, I highly recommend setting one up. It is well worth the time and effort. Search Console is where Google communicates directly with you regarding the health and searchability of your church website.
How Friendly is Your Website?
Churches should have friendly websites, don't you agree? Your website might look friendly, but you could be unintentionally driving people away from your church. You might have a pretty design with images of smiling people, but your design and your images may be frustrating to someone on a mobile device. Google has put together a handy guide to mobile-friendly sites that will help your website to accomplish your goals for reaching more people with the Gospel instead of driving them away.
We don't want to frustrate visitors to our worship services and we don't want to frustrate visitors to our church websites. In 2019 BC (Before Covid), I discovered that 99% of the people who visit a church for the first time will visit the church's website first. However, typically only 1 % of the people who visit a church website actually visit an in-person worship service. Imagine what could happen if you increased your church website's effectiveness by just 1%!
How Accessible is Your Website?
Just as you would not want to block access to your church building on a Sunday morning, you will want to make sure that nothing is blocking or hindering your website's accessibility. In this digital age, if your church cannot be found online, your church does not even exist in the minds of most internet users.
One of the easiest ways for people to find you when they are searching for spiritual answers is to make sure that your website is properly optimized for search engines. Since 2001, I have been helping churches and small businesses with Search Engine Optimization. If your church is a member of Marion Baptist Association, I can offer this service to your digital outreach team at no charge. I will first conduct a technical SEO audit of your church website, compose a written report with suggestions for improvement and then personally meet with your digital outreach team to help you to improve your church's visibility on the web. If you would like to schedule an SEO audit and consultation for your church, feel free to contact me through the MBA missionary resource center - [email protected] or 352-622-6245.
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