Catholic SEO: A Failing Grade?

Search Engines

Image by Danard Vincente. Creative Commons License.

Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) an important part of a successful web strategy? Absolutely. Are Catholics taking advantage of SEO? It doesn’t seem so.

Observations

Let’s start with raw search-engine results.

(NOTE: Results will vary. Google uses multiple criteria to create a search engine results page customized just for you.)

Search term “Catholic” – 234,000,000 results
Search term “Christian” – 1,270,000,000 results

Interesting, a billion more results. Lot’s to chew on there. Should webmasters target the ‘Christian’ keyword more? Probably.

Search term “Church” – 1,030,000,000 results

Only 1 Catholic website on the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page)? That’s not good.

Let’s narrow things down

Not even 1 Catholic result on the first SERP? Ouch. I did some keyword research on that phrase – there are 40,500 searches on it each month.

Here’s a punch to the gut…

Search term “how to pray” – 99,600,000 results

Only 1 Catholic result on the first SERP. I did some research on this – there are 5,000,000 searches on that phrase each month. For you non-techies, that’s A LOT.

What Does This All Mean?

Catholics need to make a concerted effort to get better results on key search terms. Sure, it IS important that you get your Parish or School website listed in Google search results – but who’s building Catholic websites that answer questions like “how to live a Christian life” and “how to pray”?

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Author:Craig Berry

Craig Berry is a Catholic web developer and musician.
Connect with him online.
  • Timothy Sheedy

    thanks Craig.  Good research

  • Brian Killian

    Nice illustration that the new evangelization requires new tools and new skills.

  • Andrew

    I’d like to know more about SEO. Can you point me to an SEO how-to?

  • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

    @d1136df2a56c961253db2fc20bbdc76c:disqus 

    I found the book “Art of SEO” to be a great resource - http://www.amazon.com/Art-SEO-Mastering-Optimization-Practice/dp/0596518862

    Here’s a decent overview on SEO keywords - http://www.wordstream.com/seo-keyword

    Otherwise, if you Google “SEO primer” you’ll find a ton of stuff - http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=seo+primer

    If you’re using WordPress, a good plugin is All In One SEO - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/

    Good luck!

    • http://twitter.com/NewMediaCathlic William Ignatius

      Craig, out of curiosity, why would you target the word “Christian” more? It seems to me that if your audience is Catholic, then the word Christian wouldn’t make sense. Also, even if your website is specifically “Christian,” you would be competing with a huge world of Christian websites. The amount of time invested in reaching your audience through a more general term would be astounding. If, however, you take sub-segments of your audience and targeted them, then you would be competing against a small group of people for the attention of your audience.

  • http://marccardaronella.com Marc Cardaronella

    Very well said! I’m a little disturbed too by all the startups marketing these plug and play, easy, no muss or fuss kinds of websites for parishes. That’s just perpetuating the problem. Sure, they’ll have a website but it’s just a bunch of static pages that tell the Mass times and when the senior potluck is meeting. They don’t have any SEO at all. They won’t rank for anything.  

    • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

      Unless of course the vendor has built in some sort of SEO support. (Not likely, but possible).

      Also, I didn’t mention this in my post…

      I currently administer about 5 websites and search engine traffic accounts for 50% (in some cases even more) of ALL traffic to the site. The lesson there is: Make sure your site is playing nicely with Google/Yahoo/Bing/etc.

  • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

    Craig, thanks for posting this (I am an SEO junkie). I have to respectively disagree with your assessment.

    If our website provides content for Catholics, we should be focusing on the keyword “Catholic” and not “Christian.” I would rather rank for a keyword bringing 100 visits with a 10% bounce rate than a keyword bringing 1000 visits and a 90% bounce rate.

    I am building a website targeting “how to pray” as a long-term goal, but most of the individual blog posts and pages target Catholic-specific keywords because that is the primary audience and the most likely source of subscribers and goal conversions.

    I also think parish SEO is a whole different animal than sites like Catholic Tech Talk. Parishes need to focus on local search results and traffic.

    Thoughts?

    • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

      @jareddees:disqus Glad you brought it up..

      You said “if our website provides content for Catholics”. If that’s all it wants to do…you are 100% correct.

      Outside of a couple large sites, Catholics are not penetrating the mainstream web.

      Case in point – Catholic.org, possibly one of the largest Catholic sites in operation…is crushed by beliefnet.com. 

      The inspiration for this post was the recently released CARA study on how New Media is failing to reach Catholic Millenials – miserably. 

      • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

        This, I think, is a great point! Beliefnet has really done a great job of recruiting some of the most talented writers from many faith backgrounds. The same goes for Patheos.com. Catholic.org and Catholic.com have their niches, though, and their audiences crave the purely Roman Catholic.

    • http://catholicservant.com Craig Berry

      @jareddees:disqus One more thing…the niche long-tail keyword stuff you’re talking about is great and awesome. But, how many ‘Catholic’ techies are even doing that much? IMO…not enough.

      • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

        Great point. I’m glad there are people like you and the others on the Google+ conversation(s) willing to help up and coming bloggers and online entrepreneurs!

  • Lisahendey

    Nothing to add in the way of knowledge but I just wanted to thank you for this post – I need as many DIY tips on this SEO stuff as possible!

    • http://www.thereligionteacher.com Jared Dees

      Lisa, you have been dominating SERPs for years!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Marshall/649358473 Ray Marshall

    Are websites dying?  Soon after Rocco of Whispers got the great pub from the Baltimore Sun newspaper, he has virtually disappeared from the web. Mostly Tweets right now.  Is that where people are going?.

  • http://twitter.com/conversiondiary Jennifer Fulwiler

    This is an excellent, excellent point. I have a background in SEO and have seen first-hand how powerful it can be to come up on p. 1 of Google for key results. Hmm. I would love to see someone start an organization for Catholic SEO people. Great post.

  • http://twitter.com/aquinasnmore Aquinas and More

    I think that the focus on SEO should be on what your purpose is. If your purpose is to talk to Catholics about Catholic stuff or to talk to people who are specifically looking for Catholic things then definitely target the word Catholic.

    If you are trying to evangelize those who aren’t even sure about Christianity, let alone Catholicism, then targeting Christianity would be the way to go. You can have plenty of internal content explaining why Catholic = Christian but you need to get those searchers who are trying to settle on Christianity or something else first.

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