1 Big Website Mistake That Your Church Could Be Making

in Websites / 30 Jul 2018

Church websites are supposed to help churches draw new visitors, engage with their communities and serve the Kingdom. However, many church websites are unable to achieve these goals. In fact, pastors often feel that their websites are not yielding any fruit in spite of the resources invested in them.  

Pastor, do you feel the same way about your church website? If so, it could be missing the one key element that most church websites tend to ignore. Continue reading this blog post to find out what that missing piece is and how you can use it to boost your website. 

mistakes-church-websitesWHAT USUALLY HAPPENS

When it comes to building a website, most churches usually follow the predictable route of considering only design and functionality. They take a few good-looking websites as samples and put them together in a brief with elements such as the about page, mission statement, contact page, etc. Based on this brief, the designer-developer builds the website. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 

WHAT GETS MISSED 

The problem with this process is that “the visitor” is not taken into consideration at any stage. As a result, the website ends up getting made for the people involved in building it, instead of serving the visitors that the church seeks to attract.  

This strategy needs to be changed, considering that 80% of first-time visitors check out a church’s website before deciding to attend. Ideally, your website’s goals should be to draw more visitors, increase engagement, promote church events and take your message outside the building. Does your church website meet these goals?

WHY IT DOESN’T WORK 

Google is one of the primary sources of traffic to any website. In fact, according to Paul Steinbrueck, CEO of OurChurch.com, “Google is the highway to your church”. Given the importance of this search engine, you need to understand the role Google plays in determining the visibility of your website.

Let’s imagine Google as a mall where each shop is a website. Google decides which shops are to be given prime real estate and which ones are to be put in obscure corners. This decision is made solely on the basis of what benefits the visitor.

When Google visits your store (website), it will rate the latter based on many factors. Is your store relevant to visitors? Do they come in and leave immediately or stay for a while? What kind of experience do visitors have there? What do they have to say about your store?

Based on your website’s rating, it is either given prime real estate (i.e. a listing on the first search page for your website), medium real estate or poor real estate.

HOW TO GET IT RIGHT 

The above example illustrates that you need to intentionally keep the visitor in mind when building your website. Thus, everything on your church website should be designed and curated for the audience that you are looking to draw. So, how can you make your website visitor-friendly and engaging? 

Well, here’s our compilation of 10 strategies to help you get started on planning an effective church website:

1. GET A TEAM IN PLACE

Put together a website building team who can plan and strategise for your website. The good thing is that you won’t have to look too far. In fact, “these talented members are hiding right in front of you and it may surprise you to learn just how much eager ability you have in those pews,” says Chris Wallace from Faithmade. 

As a team, you need to create a target date, set a budget and identify your goals. You also need to collate a list of features and benefits that your website must have. Do a thorough research to determine your church website’s look and feel.

Check out this blog post for helpful tips on how to create a website team using members of your congregation. Remember to include people from the target audience group in this team. 

2. HIRE THE RIGHT WEB BUILDER

Most churches make the mistake of hiring the cheapest vendors to build their websites. While that may be a tempting option, it is best not to compromise on the quality of your website and the way it represents the identity of your church. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a designer-developer who understands the vision and goals of your church and website.

3. CREATE AN AUDIENCE PERSONA LIST

This is a description of the various people who make up your target audience. They could be college students dealing with peer pressure, young married couples searching for a church or working professionals.

You need to figure out who needs your website the most and build it for them in an engaging way. The key is to put yourself in their shoes. “The more you make them feel like a real person, the more you will want to consider their point of view when crafting a feature on your website,” says Stephen Morrissey of Church Web Strategies.

4. CARVE OUT A STRATEGY

Being focused on who you are reaching allows you to create a much more effective strategy for your website. Think of how your website is going to cater for your primary target personas. Figure out what kind of content, style, tone, etc., will appeal to them

Remember that a 60-year-old pastor will not see the church website the same way that a teenager would. Therefore, ask for opinions while building the website and remember to incorporate feedback. 

5. ENGAGE RATHER THAN JUST INFORM

It is easy to fall into the trap of being informative rather than persuasive. This is something that many church websites are guilty of. Remember not to treat your website like a bulletin board full of information. Rather, see how you can engage visitors in conversations that would lead them to the door of your church.

6. MAKE IT USER-FRIENDLY

Good design and functionality are important but not enough in order to truly engage your visitors. You need to build your website keeping the users in mind. Consider what their needs are and how best you can meet their needs. 

Is your website answering all the questions that your visitors may have? Make it a pleasant experience for them by ensuring that your church website contains these 10 crucial elements.

7. INTEGRATE IT WITH YOUR COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

No matter how informative and well-designed your church website is, you cannot afford to treat it as a stand-alone tool. Rather, it should be a part of your overall communication strategy. This means that you will need to integrate your website with your online and offline church communication and media strategy. By doing so you will be able to increase its visibility across different media platforms.

8. BE CLEAR ABOUT THE PURPOSE

It is imperative that the designer understands the purpose of your website. Don’t just build a page because other websites are doing it. Think about every single element on each page. Build pages and sections that your target personas would appreciate and avoid anything that they won’t remember. 

9. UPDATE IT REGULARLY

Studies show that although 78% of churches have websites, 42% of them barely keep their websites updated. Websites tend to be treated as a one-time effort, but they require constant tweaking and updating to get the best results. Your website needs to be fresh and current in order to attract recurring visitors.

10. MEASURE THE METRICS

Finally, you can only manage what you can measure. How can you know if your website is doing well? By periodically measuring the effectiveness of your church website! If you aren’t already doing so, here are seven metrics that you should be measuring on your church website.

Did you find these 10 strategies helpful? Do you have any tips for churches that are building their websites? If so, we would love to read your comments below.

While we’re on the topic of websites, we’d like to share a resource that will help you identify and fix common mistakes on church websites. Our e-book 50 Common Mistakes on Church Websites is exclusively for churches and completely FREE. Download your copy below.

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