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Case Study for First United Methodist Church of Belvidere

In this example we look at the SEO process from time of site creation through the optimization process.
First United Methodist Church of Belvidere, IL   Composite Image of Church Services

Background:  First United Methodist Church of Belvidere (FUMC) wishes to become better known in Belvidere and the surrounding Rockford area.  A new church facility was completed in mid-2004 that has allowed the congregation to grow moderately.  However, as is typical of many churches, it is difficult to reach young married couples and those who are unchurched.  The church has many activities during the week.  The vision and mission of the church is to "reach out" to the community and change lives.

While it is not important to be known on a national level, it would be very desirable to improve the church's visibility on a local level.  The church web site has recently been redesigned and has many resources.  While search optimization was considered in writing the content for the pages, a targeted SEO program was not undertaken at that time.  The church is open to online advertising using Google AdWords and Yahoo! Local Search.

Objective:  Improve the churches ranking in Google, Yahoo! Engine, and MSN when visitors to any of those engines type in words like:  church Belvidere, church Rockford, contemporary church Rockford, need Jesus, need help with  . . . , seeking . . . , and so on.  Obtain a top 20 or better ranking for Methodist Church Rockford, Methodist Church Belvidere, and Contemporary Church Rockford. 

A secondary objective is to discover popular phrases which could be used to optimize any of the remaining pages on the site.  Highly targeted keyword phrases could lead to elimination of some pages, and replacement of those pages with a gateway page to the site. 

Evaluation of Current Position:  We see that, although the web site has launched, there are no optimized titles, there are few heading on the pages, descriptions of the pages are incomplete, and keywords have not been placed in the html code.    To confirm the site has no ranking, we run a ranking report.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Screen Capture Sept 15 Indicating No Rankings

We determine it is necessary to go through the complete steps of:  1) Identifying Keywords; 2) Keyword Research; 3) Keyword Selection; 4) Updating Titles, Descriptions, Meta-Tags, Keyword Density, and Prominence; 5) Related Phrases; 6) Submission; 7) Rank Monitoring.  These steps are typical of an SEO project.

Pages To Be Optimized:  We will concentrate on the Introductory (Splash Page), and the Opening Page (Home Page).  These may not be the best pages to optimize for a particular keyword or keyword phrase, but we will discover that during the keyword research.  We may choose to optimize other pages, or build new pages to obtain the needed rankings.

 

Note:  The web site of First United Methodist Church has been changed to http://www.fumcbelvidere.com and has been moved to Boone County Sports.

We Now Begin the Optimization (SEO) Process Step-by-Step

Step 1:  Identifying Keywords

We think carefully about what words people search on to find a church.  We come up with the obvious "church" words.  We also consider emotional keywords - those not necessarily related to church, but related to life's problems which might cause one to seek a church or pastor.

Church Words:  baptism, bible, bible study, blood of choir, Christ, Christian, church, confirmation, denomination, devotion, devotional, disciple, evangelism, fear of, fellowship, first united Methodist church, God, hymn, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Methodist, Methodist church, ministry, non-denomination, praise, pray, prayer, salvation, Savior, service, serving, small group, spirit, spiritual, umc, worship
Related Words:   contemporary, coping with, counseling, counseling, daily, fear of, finding, free, help with, seeker, seeking, service, serving, small group, youth
Geographical Words:  Rockford, Belvidere, IL, Illinois
 

Step 2:  Researching Keywords

We believe that words or combinations of words might be what people actually use to find a church.  We use Wordtracker's database to find words or phrases that are appropriate.   The keywords in Step 1 are called "root words".  We may find that they are used very frequently, and that there are thousands and thousands of web sites that would be listed if we just used those words. 

2A:  To refine our list, we use a measure called Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI).  Wordtracker sorts through between 15,000 and 20,000 words and we determine there are about 4,000 words that might be worthwhile for us to consider.  We develop an Excel spreadsheet for the 4,000 words and prepare to narrow down our list.  Our spreadsheet looks something like this.

Spreadsheet Wordtracker Results for First United Methodist Church of Belvidere

2B:  We use the KEI index and the Count from Wordtracker results to set guidelines. For reasons beyond the scope of this study, we limit our Count values to those above 100. A Count of 120 means that a word is searched on about 2 times a day.  If a word is not searched on, there is no point in dedicating a web page to it.  From thousands of possibilities, we have now narrowed our search to about 500 rows of information on our spreadsheet. 

Spreadsheet of Top 500 Results

 
Step 3: Keyword Selection

Keyword selection for the pages being optimizing is dependent on several factors.  We want the KEI to fairly high number, we want the Count to be high number, and we want the competing web pages to be a low number.  These are ideal conditions seldom obtained.  We select our best keywords and keyword phrases remembering what the content of the pages is about.  The keywords and keyword phrases must be relevant to the content of the page.  We can adjust the content on each page.  However, it would be foolish for us to select a keyword such as "devotional" if there are no words or content related to "devotion" or "devotional" on that page.

Based on our research we find that root words like Rockford and Belvidere are frequently searched.  The KEI values for these words is low, and the number of competing sites is high.  We would have great difficulty obtaining a high page ranking based on  these individual words alone.  We do not ignore them, but we see that combinations of words are needed to obtain targeted traffic based on relevant content of the pages. 

For the Intro Page or Splash Page (http://www.fumcbelvidere.org/index.html):  contemporary church, contemporary church Rockford, church, Belvidere, Rockford, Rockford church, First United Methodist Church, United Methodist Church, Methodist church Rockford, Methodist Church, traditional worship, worship
For the Home page (http://fumcbelvidere.org/default.aspx):  first united methodist church, united methodist church, contemporary church, church, belvidere, disciple, bible, prayer, pray, small groups
 
Titles, Descriptions, Keyword Meta Tags, Keyword Density, and Keyword Prominence
The title is what is shown at the top of the browser when one visits a web page.  Having a title is a necessity in any SEO program.  We write appropriate titles for our pages based on our keyword selection.  We place prominent keywords early in the title, and we try to keep our titles around 65 characters - or slightly less.
The description is what is displayed by the search engine in response to your search request.  It must be truly relevant to the rest of the content on your page.  We want to accurately describe the content of our page.  We want our prominent keywords to be displayed early in the title, and we want to keep our word density within search engine guidelines to avoid the possibility of spamming. 
Although many search engines no longer use keyword meta tags, we place them in the HTML code.  Done properly, they can help rankings.  Done improperly, they can hurt rankings.  We decide to use them since we believe they are highly relevant.
After some trial-and-error and "tweaking" of page content, we review our results and list them below.  Title is shown in line 4, the Description tag in lines 5-6, and the Keywords in lines 7-8.
Step 4A:  Updating  http://fumcbelvidere.org/index.html
4: <title>Contemporary Church Worship & Traditional Church Worship at First United Methodist Church of Belvidere, IL</title>
5: <meta name="description" content="Offering Contemporary Church Worship and Traditional Church Worship in Belvidere. Worship and fellowship with
6: others from Rockford and Belvidere. Friendly people, inspiring sermons, and prayerful support. Experience your spiritual growth at FUMC.">
7: <meta name="keywords" content="contemporary church, contemporary church Rockford, church, Belvidere, Rockford, contemporary church Rockford,
8: First United Methodist Church, United Methodist Church, Methodist church Rockford, Methodist Church, traditional worship, worship">
Type of Keyword Keyword Density, % Prominence Keyword Density, % Prominence
Single church 7.75 71.71 Methodist 5.04 60.88
worship 4.65 65.70 Rockford 3.49 54.87
Belvidere 3.49 58.53 contemporary 2.33 72.42
2 Words Phrases Methodist church 9.3 61.56 united Methodist 8.53 61.56
first united 4.65 65.31 church Rockford 3.1 63.76
church worship 3.10 95.50 contemporary church 3.10 88.08
3 Word Phrases united Methodist church 11.63 59.50      
first united Methodist 6.98 65.31 church of Belvidere 3.49 70.16
Methodist church of 3.49 70.54 contemporary church Rockford 2.33 79.65
contemporary church worship 2.33 96.71 Methodist church Rockford 2.33 50.84
4 Word Phrases first united Methodist church 9.3 65.31 Methodist church of Belvidere 4.65 70.54
united Methodist church of 4.65 70.53 the united Methodist church 3.10 30.43
This is a more difficult page to optimize.  Because it is an information page with worship schedules and activities, we can not write ideal content for the search engines.  Here we write the page first, analyze the page for popular terms we have written, and then set the keywords around the content that must be there.  This process is the reverse of that used in Step 4A.  Essentially we let the search engines give us whatever rank we can get because we have less control over contentThis page is frequently updated so the content and the search engines rank will be quite dynamic.
Step 4B:  Updating  http://fumcbelvidere.org/default.aspx
7: <title>First United Methodist Church of Belvidere Offers Contemporary Worship, Traditional Worship, Bible Study, and Disciple Study></title>
8: <META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="first united methodist church,united methodist church,contemporary church,church,belvidere, disciple,bible,prayer,pray,small groups,">
9: <META NAME="Description" CONTENT="First United Methodist Church of Belvidere offers contemporary and traditional worship, Bible study, Disciple Bible study, and many weekly activities. Join a nurturing prayerful community of disciples in praise and worship.">
Type of Keyword Keyword Density, % Prominence Keyword Density, % Prominence
Single church 2.94 52.38 worship 2.15 47.79
2 Words Phrases methodist church 3.13 63.28 united methodist 3.13 63.50
first united 2.74 59.46      
3 Word Phrases united methodist church 4.70 63.50 first united methodist 4.11 59.46
methodist church of 2.94 63.76 church of belvidere 2.94 63.76
4 Word Phrases first united methodist church 5.50 59.46 united methodist church of 3.91 63.95
methodist church of belvidere 3.91 63.95      
 
Step 5:  Related Phrases

In our keyword research of Step 2, we explored the possibility of finding phrases that people frequently search on that have a low number of competing sites. We used the Wordtracker database to find those terms.  We are not directly concerned with words like religion, christian, or methodist.  These types of words are " Root" words.  Instead we think about the reasons why people would search on those basic words. We wish to find words that are derivatives of those words.  We also are interested in the reasons people look for a church.  These reasons might have to do with life problems like divorce, counseling, need for support group, and so on. 

We know we will not be optimizing index.html and default.aspx for these keywords.  Our goal is to use related phrases in optimizing other pages in the site.  Our content for those pages will be specifically written for those niche phrases, and the phrases we select must be related to our web site.  Once we bring traffic to the site, our goal would be to keep them there and ultimately visit the Home page or the Guest page so that they would join us for worship on Sunday. 

To demonstrate this concept we use two root words:  "christian and spiritual".  We find that people are very interested in the Christian Meanings of Names.  We can guess that if they have a Christian name in mind for their child, they might be a candidate to view a Christian web site. Should First United Methodist Church choose to build a web page around this phrase, it would be entirely legitimate and not considered spamming. 

Likewise, the term "spiritual reunion" would be a good phrase if the church was planning a spiritual reunion.

In this manner we have used the power of our Wordtracker database to identify phrases which would drive traffic to www.fumcbelvidere.org.  This is a demonstration of lateral thinking in keyword research.  In the same way, we are able to find related words that will drive traffic to your business.

Indentifying Related Niche Phrases:  An Example for a Church

Search Engine KEI Count last 60 days Competing Sites on Search Engine Keyword Phrase Root Keyword
Google 855 700 573 Christian Meaning of Names christian
Yahoo_eng 565 384 261 Christian Meaning of Names christian
MSN 15960 379 9 Christian Meaning of Names christian
Google 306 175 100 spiritual reunions spiritual
Yahoo_eng 747 175 41 spiritual reunions spiritual
With such high KEI, high Count values, and low number of Competing Sites, we are very confident a high rank could be obtained with an optimized web page in at least 4 of the 5 possibilities above.

We file our keyword spreadsheet for future use when we wish to go back and expand the SEO process to new pages.  We now move to the Submission phase.

 
Step 6.  The Submission Phase
We do not believe our site has yet been indexed.  We run a Visibility Report on 4 major engines and confirm that the pages have no rank.

Visibility Report for Splash Page www.fumcbelvidere.org/index.html

Image Table for Visibility Report

Visibility Report for Home Page www.fumcbelvidere.org/default.aspx

Image Table for Visibility Report
We decide to list with Yahoo! engine, MSN, AllTheWeb, DMOZ directory, and Yahoo! Directory.  All listings are manual using the "free" submission process to each engine/directory. 

We choose not to list with Google because Google places a heavy emphasis on back links (links from others to your site).  We also believe Google awards higher ranks to sites when their "crawlers" discover a site on their own.  We decide to let this process happen on Google's schedule, even though we may go back later and add back links. 

We recognize the submissions to DMOZ and Yahoo! directories will take 6 months.  We may never get submitted to either directory, but our chance of being accepted are better than with Yahoo!.  We elect not to spend the $299 for Express listing with Yahoo!

We fill out the submission forms required for each search engine and wait for results.  We decide to set up a monitoring schedule and check search positions in 4 to 6 weeks.

 
Step 7.  Rank Monitoring and Review 6 Weeks after Submission (November 8, 2005)
We review our keywords and make slight adjustments.  For simplicity in tracking, we combine the report into one run for pages  www.fumcbelvidere.org/index.html and www.fumcbelvidere.org/default.aspx.  Our keywords are as listed below: 
belvidere, church, church of belvidere, church rockford, church worship, contemporary church, contemporary church belvidere, contemporary church rockford, contemporary church worship, first united, first united methodist, first united methodist church, methodist, methodist church, methodist church of, methodist church of belvidere, methodist church rockford, rockford, the united methodist church, united methodist, united methodist church, united methodist church of, worship, worship belvidere, worship rockford
For the 35 keywords, our Visibility Report indicates 4 first place rankings, and 25 top top rankings.  We have achieved a top 20 ranking on over 2/3 of the keywords.  These rankings are on 4 major search engines:  Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN, and Ask Jeeves. 

Screen Capture of Visibility Report for November 8, 2005

Looking further on a page-by-page and keyword analysis, our rankings are as follow:

Visibility Report Page-by-Page and Keyword

Selecting 2 keywords at random from the list, and checking 1 on Google, and 1 on Yahoo! Search, we discover the following:
 

Yahoo Screen Capture for #6 Ranking

Google Screen Capture for #3 Rank

Keyword 'church belvidere'; rank #6

Keyword 'contemporary church rockford; rank #3
Step 8: Conclusion
We have optimized 2 pages on the site for 25 top ranking keywords.  Rather than continue the optimization process for little incremental gain, we prefer to monitor traffic for several months.  We also may decide to optimize other pages including the Parent's Day Out pages, the Guest Information pages, the Disciple Bible Study pages, or other "emotional" keywords.  Those additional pages could provide unique and distinct entry points to the web site, and ultimately would drive visitor traffic to the church.
Note:  The web site of First United Methodist Church has been changed to http://www.fumcbelvidere.com and has been moved to Boone County Sports.
 

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