Much work is done to prepare for Sunday morning. People show up and it’s worth it. But how many people are not showing up because your church website left them wanting?
Grey Matter Research conducted a study two years ago and found that millions of non-churchgoers visit church websites every year. A huge number of people visit church websites before church buildings so let’s make sure our websites are effective.
In the last 12 months, over 17 million American adults who don’t regularly attend worship services visited the website of a local church or place of worship Grey Matter Research
Putting a church website up is not enough. It needs to create a good first impression, make the information being sought easy to find and work on mobile devices. If even one of these three requirements is lacking, you might be unnecessarily missing visitors on Sunday morning.
Does your church website leave a good first impression?
First impressions are important. You don’t get a second chance.
- Is your church website’s design outdated?
- Is the design unprofessional?
- Are your photos of high quality?
- Do your photos truly represent your church?
- Is essential information easy to find?
- Is your content up to date?
People are influenced by appearance. A “dated” website looks lazy and out of touch. Give your website a new design every three years (here’s some inspiration). If you use a platform like WordPress, this can be done at minimal cost by switching to a new theme.
Find a photography enthusiast in your church. Focus on a few high quality shots that present your church in a warm and professional manner. Avoid the misuse of stock photography. That $20 shot of beautiful, diverse people may be tempting but is it an honest depiction of your church?
The content you provide or don’t provide and how easy it is to find also factors into a visitor’s first impression. Out of date information can leave a bad impression as well. Let’s talk about content…
Read our Make Your Church Website with WordPress guide to learn how we can help you launch a new church website that leaves a good first impression.
Is essential information easy to find and up to date?
The visitor will never step foot through your door if they can’t find your location and service times. But that’s not all people are looking for. Encourage your website visitors to enter your doors by providing the following information.
- Location with address, map and directions
- Service times
- Contact information (address, phone, email, social media, staff contacts)
- About (location, mission, pastor, denomination, history, photo)
- What you believe
- What to expect (service length, style of worship, typical attire, child care)
- Staff profiles and contact details
- Events (up to date)
- Sermons (audio, video and/or written content)
Location and times are so critical that they should be linked to or shown on your homepage, your header and/or footer and in your main menu. Be sure that all of the content above can be found within a few seconds. Your navigation needs to be intuitive and complete but not overwhelming.
Treat your homepage as a portal for important and current information. Keep content on your homepage brief. Use other pages on your site for full details.
Read Content Your Church Website Must Have for more on this topic.
Is your church website mobile-friendly?
People will visit your church website on their phones or tablets. Does your website handle this gracefully?
I make church WordPress themes for a living. A few years ago, a small portion of themes were mobile-friendly. Today it’s tough to find a new one that is not. This is reflective of the incredible proliferation of web-capable mobile devices. The majority of Americans own a smartphone and about one-third of all web traffic comes from either a phone or tablet.
Responsive design is the most popular method employed to make a website mobile-friendly. The layout of a site reorganizes automatically in consideration of the device’s size. In other words, the design responds to screen size. Make sure you are getting a responsive design when having your website redesigned or when choosing a WordPress theme.
Flash is dead. A Flash-based website will absolutely not work on an iPhone or iPad. Web designers have newer, lightweight tools. Have your website redesigned if it’s using Flash. Never pay for a website solution that uses Flash.
Are people visiting your church website?
The greatest website in the world is useless if nobody finds it. Maximize the opportunities people have to discover your church website.
Use Google Analytics to find out how many people are visiting your website, how they’re finding it and what they’re looking at. You can check statistics from time to time to assess how effective your marketing efforts are.
Use an easy to remember domain name (.com is preferable, .church is coming soon and hyphens should be avoided) and share it in these places.
- Signs and banners
- Video screens
- Print (bulletins, letterhead, etc.)
- Everywhere you publish contact details
- Everywhere you currently advertise
- Email signatures
- Social media profiles
Some of these are relevant to potential visitors, some to regular attenders and others to both. The more aware your regular attenders are of your website, the more likely they will share it. Here are other approaches to helping people find your church’s website.
- Talk about your website regularly
- Use an email newsletter to announce new content (ask subscribers to share on social media)
- Be active on social media as staff and encourage activity among regular attenders
- Learn search engine optimization basics (but be wary shady SEO service providers)
- Use Facebook Ads to target people in your area (make sure your Facebook page lists your website)
- Use Google My Business for a local listing on Google Maps and Search
Help people enter your doors
Your church website can encourage people to hop in their car and drive to your church. But just setting up a website is not enough. It needs to be made known, create a good impression and have what people are looking.
You’ve probably discovered several things you need to do after reading this. Don’t worry about doing it all right away. Do one or two things now and set aside more time soon to do the rest. Eventually you’ll get things in place.
Let’s improve our church websites to see more people on Sunday morning hearing the Good News and worshipping the Lord.
“One-third of all web traffic comes from either a phone or tablet” – at present, Google Analytics are putting it for us at more like 45% of visits from mobile devices, with phones and tablets pretty much equal.
We’re a small-ish Anglican church in the middle of England; we’re not the sort of congregation whose current congregation is more-than-averagely technically savvy (though that’s changing!). I think the world may just have changed, again!
Thanks for sharing your stats. Truly there is a great need for every church, everywhere to have a mobile-friendly website!
These are great tips, Steven. Is there a reason you suggest .com domains for churches, rather than .org?
.com is more memorable so I recommend it if it’s available. If you tell a group of people that your website is whatever.org, some of them will probably mistakenly go to whatever.com.
The risk is even higher with something relatively unknown like .cc, .co, .ws.
I’m looking forward to the .church domains. I think they’ll be quite memorable.
Understood. Perhaps the best approach is to register the .com and .org, set up the site on .org (since it’s more appropriate for a non-commercial organization such as a church), and redirect the .com to the .org.
I’ll be interested to see how well-adopted .church domains become.
That’s a good approach.
Yeah, it’ll be neat to see how .church rolls out. I hope they’ll be priced affordably.
I received our .church domain from enom in September, and the registration fee was $34.99 for one year. At some point domain transfers should become available and with that some lower fees.
Our new site is still under construction, and I should mention that some plugins (e.g. Prayer Engine) that validate web and email addresses might not yet be aware of the new TLDs and produce “invalid address” errors until this gets resolved.
Thanks for the report, Fred.
Great post Steven, also 70% of website visitors never return so it would be useful to think of asking visitors to subscribe or fill in a form before they leave so you can stay in touch with them.
Thanks for this post and I hope to be your user soonest…
Thanks for giving it a read and checking out our themes. Let us know if we can help you with anything.
This is so true here my church website takes a look and tell me what you think http://www.strasburgumc.org
Thanks for commenting, Michael. I see you added “Find Us” below our service times since our exchange on Twitter. Good move! Let us know if you have any questions about switching to one of our mobile themes to make your site mobile-friendly.
Hey Steven –
Great post and just wanted to say I’m loving using your Resurrect theme for our new church which launches in January. Thanks for the great work!
Hi Danny. Thank you for using Resurrect. I’m glad you’re liking it! You’ve done a good job with your website.
Having a website and social media pages are a great way to make people aware of your message and lead people to your church. Many people usually browse online before choosing a church or place of worship. One of the most effective ways to reach the masses is a church website. A church that wants to grow must have an active website with fresh content.
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