At Tithe.ly, we've seen thousands of websites and church website builders. And we've seen thousands of really, really bad websites. So it's one of those things where many times churches are getting their websites built by maybe a volunteer. So they're trying to get a great website on a dime, which makes sense, but often they end up with something that's subpar and then it exists for a long time. A church may hold onto this website for 10 years without touching it. Church websites can be really, really bad.
It’s important to have this philosophy about your church website:
The opportunity in church websites is for the first time visitor.
We have a clear thought process on websites at Tithe.ly, which is that church websites are for visitors and mobile apps are for members. Your website needs to be built to engage the people that are looking to find a church in their community. A great church website can make it easy for community members to find upcoming events and service times, which will lead to growth.
A great church website can make it easy for community members to find upcoming events and service times, which will lead to growth.
Here, we’re going to look at a number of ways to optimize your website for visitors.
1. Optimize for Google.
The best church websites are optimized for Google. People are most likely finding your website because Google tracked their location and they searched something such as “Churches near me.” They're clicking on the top three Google results and they're visiting your website. And if they go to your website and your website doesn't respond, or it's slow, or it looks really bad, or it's hard to find some information, they're leaving in seconds. And they're going on to the next church. They find the next church site and it's bad, so they're going to the next site. This is why you want to have a site that does a few things really well. So let's cover what those things should be.
2. Optimize your church site for mobile.
Your site needs to be mobile friendly. Your church site must work well on a mobile phone. If it isn't easy to navigate and doesn't work on a mobile phone, you're missing half or more of the people that are going to end up on your website. So make it mobile friendly, and easy to navigate and find information.
3. Optimize your church site for speed.
If I'm on my mobile phone and in-between meetings, I'm rushing around and I'm looking for a church. If the website is slow, you’ve lost me. What do I do immediately? I just hit the back button and go to the next thing. Make sure your website is fast. Do things to make it optimized to load as fast as it can on a mobile device, which a lot of times means not using video, not using large picture files, etc. But good website folks know how to do that. So make sure to tell your church website point person to optimize the site for speed.
4. Optimize your church site for visitors.
Build your church website for the person looking for a church. If I’m a potential visitor looking at your church site on my phone, right there I should be able to see where the church is located, what times church meets, and on what day of the week you meet. It should be really easy for me to see that you meet on Sundays, you meet at the middle school down the street and it's at 10:00am. I should be able to find that right away. It shouldn't be complicated. I should be able to map it, click on the link and navigate there with Google Maps. Make it ridiculously easy.
5. Give people a sense of your church culture.
The next thing I need to be able to do is to understand the vibe of your church. I should be able to get to the website and get a real sense of:
How do people dress?
What kind of worship is happening there?
What do I do with my kids? Where do I park?
So give me a sense of what church is going to be like and help me to be comfortable showing up.
6. Put your sermons on your website.
The best church websites include engaging content. If I’m a prospective visitor, I might want to take a look and listen to 5-10 minutes of a sermon. I might listen to a few of them because I want to get a sense of what the preaching is like and what the church is about. Help me get a sense of what your church is focused on and what it’s like through your sermons. Give me those two things right away. Make it focus on the guests and you will increase the number of website visitors who become first-time visitors.
7. Add a “Plan Your Visit."
Plan Your Visit is a tool within your website where, if I’m a visitor, I can click “Plan My Visit” or” I want to attend” in order to schedule a church visit. It's a good way to guide the person to find information— service times, community church location, how to dress, upcoming events, where new visitors can park, etc. You can kind of walk them through that and you can capture their name, email, and phone number, completely bypassing the need for a connection card.
If they're willing to give you that information, they plan their visit and they’re in your church management system. You can follow up with them and make sure they come to church. Text message, email, or call: “Thanks for scheduling a visit! We’d love to buy you lunch after the service: [Link]” Make it as easy and unthinking as possible for prospective visitors to sign up and show up and plan a visit to your church.
8. Implement a text communication tool.
A great church website that has the Plan Your Visit tool has a text communication tool behind that. As a prospective visitor, I've planned my visit and then Saturday afternoon I get an automatic text message from the pastor saying: “Hey, really excited for you to come. I'd love to welcome you to church. Click on the link. It's a YouTube video from the pastor telling you about how excited he is for you to be there, what to expect, where to go, etc.” This is a great way for church community members to feel welcomed and also follow up with a call to action.
9. Implement a follow-up protocol for your church site visitors.
If a scheduled visitor attends service on Sunday, they could receive another text communication Monday morning—not a reminder, but you get a followup message from the pastor. It's another video. It says: “Thanks for coming. Really glad you came. Great to meet your kids.” This would be a more personalized message, but it's all done in an automated fashion. Your website should be geared towards first time guests, following up, getting them to church, and even saying “Thanks!” after they go home.
Read the full blog of this episode here: https://get.tithe.ly/blog/perfect-church-website
Today on Modern Church Leader, Tithe.ly COO Frank Barry explains how to optimize your church site for maximum reach and engagement.
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Tithe.ly is the global leader in digital giving, church engagement, and church management software. Tithe.ly serves over 12,000 churches in 55 countries, and is trusted by churches and ministries such as Hillsong, North Coast Church, Rock Church, and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
Frank Barry, a former youth pastor of five years, is a founding team member and COO at Tithe.ly. Prior to being at Tithe.ly, Frank spent nearly 15 years helping churches, charities, and nonprofit organizations leverage technology to advance their mission. When Frank's not helping churches use technology to advance the kingdom of God, he’s spending time with his triplet boys and their superhero mom.