It’s pretty simple; we live in a digital world. People rely heavily on the internet to provide information. That’s why your church website is critical for your digital hub communication strategy. If your website sucks, your communication strategy probably struggles too.
Want to improve? Check these 11 clues to assess how you’re doing — and I’ll give you suggestions for fixing them if necessary.
Before getting started though, here’s 3 church website axioms:
- People clicking on your church website want what they want, how they want it (simply), and as quickly as possible. If you don’t deliver, they’ll jump somewhere else for the information. And be disappointed in your church website.
- 90% of your first-time guests in your church will have visited your website first. The scariest statistic? The percentage who visited your website and decided not to attend.
- Many will “visit” your church and “attend” a service ONLINE before ever deciding to physically attend your campus. Especially post-COVID.
Let’s ensure your website is as good as possible! Be honest with these clues and make a list of improvements you can start today.
Here are 11 clues that scream “your church website sucks” and ways to fix them:
- Your location and service times aren’t clear on the homepage. When a guest lands on your website, they need to quickly identify where you’re located: are you within driving distance? Will it be an online connection only? If they want to visit, is there an easy link to directions? Then your service times become critical too. For members, it’s a quick reminder for times. This information should be quick to find — certainly on the homepage as high on the page as possible. Maybe in the header above your main menu?
- The user-interface (UI) is more than 3 years old. There have been many advancements in content management systems and interface that you’re missing out on. Like the realization that your kitchen is feeling old over time: the appliances, the colors, and decorating quickly screams “I need updating”. Your website UI does the same unless it’s experienced a makeover recently. This impacts the perception of your church. Do what it takes to renovate and update your UI now.
- You don’t have a brand thread. A what? There’s a lot of information on your website. People will quickly want to summarize. Do it for them! Decide what you’re known for and tell them. This 3-5 word tagline introduces your brand story. This thread needs to be woven throughout every ministry so the world sees what makes your church different from others in your area. It’s not everything you do but it’s what you feature. A great thread ensures that you’re known for something needed and relevant to a particular group: you solve something in their lives or help them reach a goal. It starts from identifying personas (people groups in your community who are represented in your congregation), understanding needs, concerns, and goals. This simple-to-remember and easy-to-use tagline needs to be on your homepage and used as a keyword throughout your site. Don’t have a thread? You’ll be known as a church, just like all the others. Then you’ll be assessed based on architecture, speakers, design, or other things. Or totally ignored since many aren’t seeking church stuff.
- Your content isn’t scannable. It’s rare that anyone actually reads web content. Instead they look for content snippets they need and are pursuing. So, call out tidbits that are relevant based on the persona and page. Here’s how: people seek “message match” to the headline (based on what they just clicked) and then scan the page for information. Most won’t read a story or a paragraph. That may come later. Instead capture their attention first. Concentrate on the first paragraph, then links and bolded information. Remember bullet points draw the eye!
- The content doesn’t change regularly. It should be easy to update your website. If yours isn’t, switch infrastructure systems. Consistently add current information so people know you’re keeping the website up-to-date. Make sure events that have occurred aren’t still promoted and your copyright date in the footer is this year. Those are the regular culprits!
- Your church management system (CMS) is restrictive. The website infrastructure system (discussed in #5) is your CMS. You should be able to imagine a type of website content your audience wants and be able to quickly and easily add and manage it. With the ability to create galleries, online video players with archives, giving portals, and filtering of events for a full-featured calendar. Bonus? It should be free or very low cost.
- Your personas can’t see themselves. Your website is for your audiences (internal and external). When they visit your website, they must see people that look like them: in pictures, on the staff page, in videos, and throughout stories. Sure, they won’t look exactly like them, but your personas need to believe they’ll fit into your group.
- Your team page doesn’t have current pictures or contact links. Regularly in church website top pages, the staff page serves two purposes: 1) internal audience seeks for who’s in charge of ministry areas so they can contact them and 2) external audience wants to see what you look like and if they’ll fit into your church. Therefore, ensure you have team members’ ministry areas indicated prominently, with contact information, and most importantly, a good head and shoulders (only) picture of each team member — taken in the last year with clothes that can be purchased today. Everyone should wear what you expect guests to wear when attending.
- The calendar of events isn’t filterable. Your audience wants to discover what’s available for them. Your calendar/event/meetings page is critical for that. To provide relevant information as quickly as possible, you must have an easy way to hide listings that aren’t important to the person. This demographic filtering allows people to see what they want to see in a shortened list.
- There’s no controlled metadata. The short paragraph that appears under the page title on google/search results is critical to get people to visit pages (and be found on search sites). The content for each page needs to be active tense so it’s picked in the sea of search results. Plus, it needs to contain key phrases that will be searched for by your personas.
- Call to Actions (CTAs) are non-existent. On every web page, you need to supply a “what now?” once someone scans the content. These CTAs can be a graphic, a link, or a button. But you need to decide who will be scanning the page and what they probably need next.
Mark MacDonald is communication pastor, speaker, consultant, bestselling author, church branding strategist for BeKnownforSomething.com and Executive Director of Center for Church Communication, empowering 10,000+ churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, & social media. His book, Be Known for Something, is available at BeKnownBook.com.
originally featured in Technologies for Worship