Saturday, August 3

Dude, Where's My Church?

jacksonville church website design
As a web designer, I know that it's a problem when you lose your website. I'm not talking about getting hacked. What I mean is when search engines can't find your site. It's kind of weird when it happens, since you'd think Google and other searches would be able to adjust to all kinds of changes online, but there are times when your site just isn't found. I'm going to discuss two scenarios like this that I've been part of in the past year, and maybe it will help you not lose your church or small business website.

Church 1 - The Misguided Change

The first case was that of a very good website I designed. I also indexed it with Google. The website even had the menu indexed as part of Google search. This was partly because I made sure to use the old website's pages when I redesigned the site, so Google didn't really see much of a difference. It was number one on Google for people looking for that church, but it was also in the top 10 for other church-related queries based on location or synod. While it's true that the owners of the site had done nothing in the year to enhance the site, it was still doing its job.

The church decided to go in a different direction, focusing on an app that would also publish to the internet as a website. That's not a bad idea, in some ways, if the staff actually decides to update the content because of the new system.

However, when I checked back several months later, I could not check back. The website was de-listed from Google. Something was terribly wrong. The link that I'd added to Google Maps still went to the right page, and a lot of other pages out there still linked to the right url, but Google search would not put the website as #1. In fact, the ONLY page in the top 10 of Google was a cached page from my older design.

I assume the app company, which probably does website design as a hobby, has the site hosted in some weird way that Google does not like. Maybe on a server shared with security risk websites. Or it's seen as a subdomain rather than a primary domain. I'm not in a position to care enough to help them figure it out. The point is that the website disappeared for several months, nearing six as I write this, and it's likely no one really knows it's gone (except the people out there trying to find a church).

I actually spent five minutes trying to figure out what happened to what's left of my wonderful creation, and it looks like the website IS now seen as a subdomain, and it also doesn't redirect properly from http to https, and there's something wrong with email configuration, and probably more. Mostly, what's wrong is that a group of rich millennial-types stole my design and then botched the heist because, dumb.

My advice for a church or small business that gets a website redesign is to search yourself before and after the work. If it's the same url, the new website should take over in searches immediately, and it really should be the top position if it was before. If it's a new url (like you only had Facebook before), then link all of your other resources to the new site, index it on Google, and give it a few weeks before worrying about it being #1. It will still generally register in the Top 10 from the first day. But if you have a problem like the one described in this article, with Google refusing to list your new website, it's time to have words with your web designer.

Church 2 - The Missing Link

The second example of a missing church is one that I designed recently. The problem isn't that I did anything wrong. It's more that the old-school version of a website can be hard to kill, especially if you've decided it's time for a new url. The church did not have a modern website, and the staff (and webmaster) knew it was time. The ONLY problem (and this can be big) is that the old url was and is so well-established that it's going to take some time to make the transition.

If you search for "christ the king ishpeming" in Google, as of three months later, the Official Christ the King - Ishpeming church website I built is now finally up to #2, but the original website is still #1. And it took some time to get my new site up to #2. That's because every listing agency out there has the original url. Also, the LCMS search page and Facebook pages were still linking to the original url. It's pretty tough to fight against all the top-ranked links with nothing more than my changing of the Google Maps url.

If you own a small business or church and decide to get a new website with a new url, you are going to have to realize that if you don't delete the old url (maybe email is tied to it), then you are going to have to do a little extra work to not lose your new website. Google uses all the best information and links to the site to determine which site to use, and you need to make sure the search engines know which website url is the official one for your organization.

Here I am

If you want an honest assessment of your church, school, or small business website, let me know. I can tell you why no one is finding you on Google or how hundreds more could be. If people aren't finding your church in the Jacksonville area, I can help with the online portion of it, and I can do it for about 1/10th the price of an inept app company from California.

Pretend you are a potential customer and look for your own organization. Do it right now. All five-star reviews, all links to your main site, and all your own controlled content in the top 20 of Google, right? If not, let's talk.

Passive Ninja Web Design
Brave New Church Web Design
Luthernet Web Design

Thanks for reading. See more of my content:

Satisfamily - Articles about being happy as a family
Passive Ninja - Web Design in Jacksonville
McNewsy - Creative Writing
Educabana - Educational Resources
Brave New Church - Church Website Design
Voucher School - Pros and Cons of School Vouchers
Luthernet - Web Design for Lutheran Churches
Sitcom Life Lessons - What we've learned from sitcoms
Mancrush Fanclub - Why not?
Epic Folktale - Stories of the unknown
Wild West Allis - Every story ever told about one place
Educabana on Teachers Pay Teachers (mostly ELA lessons)
Real Wisconsin News - Satire from Wisconsin
Zoo Interchange Milwaukee - Community website
Chromebook Covers - Reviews and opinions

Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

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