Search Engine Survival Guide


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an increasingly significant factor when it comes to building websites that are successful in attracting a designated audience. Unfortunately SEO is also often overlooked or at best, an after-thought. While it’s never too late to evaluate your site and SEO strategy, it’s best to consider during the initial construction of your website and it’s key content. It’s a common misconception that there’s a “simple form submission” or a way one can seemingly magically get listed at the top of a Google search. In truth an effective and well rounded SEO strategy can take some effort on your part but the reward will be well worth it.

Why Is SEO So Important?

Search engines are an avenue for people to search a multitude of websites by given key words to come up with a list of best matches. With the internet ever expanding with the daily addition of websites, it becomes increasingly important that potential visitors can find your site. After all, there’s not much point spending your time and resources to put together a site if people can’t find it. With that said, consider the relevance of Search Engine Optimization at least on par with that of even maintaining a website.

Understanding How Search Engines Operate


Search Engines periodically crawl websites using “spiders” (or “crawlers”) in order to collect data from your pages and compile keywords.


The collected data is indexed in the search engines database and called upon when a search matches some/all of the page content. Each search engine has its own system of weighting and the algorithms are constantly being enhanced.


Search engines again have unique methods of determining how your website ranks in any given search.

On-Page Factors

This includes the content in your page itself (the copy), keywords, and search summery.

Off-Page Factors

This involves content outside of your page such as links back to your page found on other websites, blogs or social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Such “backlinks” help the credibility and relevance of your page.


Search Engines produce an ordered list of pages that are popular, credible and relevant to any given search terms/words.

Plan & Build

It’s helpful to be aware of the considerations listed below and plan your SEO strategy accordingly.


Not only is it important to use keywords effectively in your pages, it’s also important to have an idea of what people are searching. You can use free keyword search tools as Google Keywords (Google Adwords). Once you’ve determined what search terms are popular, you can align your keyword selection. Create a table to list your findings and ultimately determine what keywords you’ll implement on your site.

Domain Name

Domain names should be short (close to 9 characters), easy to remember and relevant to your ministry or organization.

Submit Your Site to Google and Bind

Submit new sites to the search engines for indexing. For Google, go to the Google Site Submission Page while logged into your Google Webmaster tools account. For Bing, go to the Bing Site Submission Page.

Web Addresses

Use relevant keywords in your webpage addresses. Example:

Page Titles

It’s important to use page titles that clearly identify the topic of the page and consistent with the content in the page. Also, keep page titles around 60 characters or less if possible to avoid them being truncated in the initial search results.

Meta Data

Meta Data is information that can be crawled by the search engines but is not physically visible on the page itself. The Search Summary would be considered meta data. The search summary should encapsulate the content of the page in one or two short sentences. Note: Thrive provides search summary containers so that you can add and update your page summary with minimal effort.


Keywords can be added as meta data but it’s important that you also use the keyword(s) in the content of the page. Note: Thrive provides keyword containers so that you can add and update your page keywords with minimal effort.

Page Content

Page content is often not considered important when it comes to SEO and page ranking, when in-fact it is of utmost importance. Consider some of the points below when you build your pages.

Keyword Use

Keywords should be used effectively but sparingly throughout the page content. If the Keyword(s) are used too often it can be seen as keyword “stuffing” and is equally negative.


The content appearing in the top-level Heading 1 (h1) tag should efficiently express what the page content is about. It should consist of at least 3 keywords preferably in the form of a sentence. Try to limit the use of heading 1 tags to one per page.

Image Alt Text Attribute

Images should have an alternate (alt) text attribute set that describes the image especially if the image is also linked. Note: Thrive provides an image properties dialog that allows you to effortlessly add alternate (alt) text to any images in your content.


Internal links are those within your website directing to other pages/files or links out to other websites.

External links (links on other sites directed to your page/site) are typically more valuable than internal links because they validate the authenticity of your site. It’s like a 3rd party endorsing your site.

Anchor Text is the text you decide to make the hyperlink from. It’s important that the anchor text has relevant keywords that pertain to the content on the destination page. Don’t just use arbitrary terms such as “click here” for your anchor text.

Listed links should be ordered by using a numbered list or a bulleted list (unordered). This will avoid your page/site being seen as a “link farm”.

Non-Indexable content

Remember that content in any of the following items cannot be crawled and consequently does not help your page ranking among the search engines. Avoid creating pages that consist entirely made up of one of these items; try to add html text to the page that transcribes content or keywords.

  • Flash
  • JavaScript
  • Video/Audio files
  • Images containing text
  • Content within an iframe

Site Maps

A valuable way to clearly present your page structure/hierarchy for the benefit of both site visitors and search engines. To submit a site map to Bing, go to the Bing Site Map Submission Page. To submit a site map to Google, go to the Google Site Map Submission Page.

Back Links

Try emailing owners of sites that rank within the first 10 results when you search relevant keywords and locality. Simply ask is they would consider placing a link back to your site somewhere on theirs. City and county websites often provide a list of links for local churches and businesses. Industry-related associations also often display a list of links (especially state and county denominational sites). If these organizations don't have listing pages, you might even consider volunteering to help set them up.


It’s good practice to measure how your SEO strategy fairs to evaluate your efforts and bring to light any unforeseen issues. There are several ways in which you can attempt to measure the effectiveness of your SEO strategy.

Google Analytics

Setup an account with Google Analytics to track detailed statistics in regard to page hits, time spent on pages and bounce rate (number of hits that visit one page and then leave the site altogether). Note: Thrive provides an array of statistics including website hits, new visitors, page views and popular pages.

Conduct Searches Using Google and Bing

(Google and Bing account for 95% of searches on the web).

Web Address Search

Search your web address on Google and Bing to check to see if your site is indexed. If your Site is NOT indexed on Google, submit it using the Google Site Submission Page. If your Site is NOT indexed on Bing, submit it using the Bing Site Submission Page.

    Industry Search

    Search your industry (e.g. Baptist Church) to see what position your site is indexed (Page 1, 2, 3 etc…).

      Location Search

      Search your industry and location (e.g. Baptist Church Birmingham Alabama) to see what position your site is indexed (Page 1, 2, 3 etc…).

        Keyword Search

        Type “site:” into a Google search to render a list of your indexed pages. In the results you’ll be able to see how your pages appear to be titled, the description of the page content (page summary) and the shortcut path to the page.

          SEO Review

          Axletree Media provides a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Review service for $98. The Website Search Assessment evaluates your site's ability to attract visitors by measuring your visibility within search engines and testing for SEO “best practices.” After a thorough review of your site, you’ll be given a report with specific actions you can take to enhance SEO performance.