Great church websites are defined by strategy, not design. This means that you need to have your church website strategy figured out before you build.
Discover my top 2 church website strategies to convert web visitors to church visitors…
Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming, “what if?” What if I had saved more money? What if I had gone to a different school? What if I had learned good church website strategy sooner?
There are many days I wish I could go back and tell young Justin a few things. Don’t spend so much money on guitar pedals. Don’t go out to Taco Bell every day that ends in Y. And boy, study, Study, STUDY!
There’s no magical time machine to warn our past selves. But there is one thing we can do…we can help others along the same path.
I get to work with college students during my day job and share my lessons-learned with them. You too get to share what you’ve learned with the people that come through your church.
I’ve been designing church websites for 10 years now. Over that time I’ve learned and seen shifts in how what great church website strategy looks like.
At first, church websites were pretty brochures with service times and directions. If you wanted to be seen you just had to have one.
But then everyone got online and the world shifted to mobile.
It’s no longer enough to have a “pretty designed” church website, there are new standards for execution.
It’s like backup cameras.
Image from Auto Mobile Mag
I remember getting a backup camera in our first family car. I never used it for the first few months. It felt weird not to be looking back. But now I find myself wishing I had one in my “dad car” (2009 Dodge Charger R/T).
Expectations were set for backup cameras and manufacturers met them. Backup cameras are standard on most cars now, even low-budget cars.
Website visitors have a new set of expectations and churches don’t get an exemption.
I can’t go back in time and teach proper church website strategy to Justin from 2008, but I can deliver it to you.
It’s Not About Design, It’s About Strategy
Have you ever delivered a sermon introduction so perfect and concise you felt like the sermon could just end there? Like, “I said what I needed to say in the intro, I spoke the truth, let’s go home!” If only right?
That’s how I feel about this statement:
A great church website is not about the design. It’s about the strategy used to convert web visitors to church visitors.
That’s it, sounds easy enough right?
But, just like you can’t end a sermon with a broad-stroke intro, I can’t end this post here. We need to dig into the meat of this.
So what is a good church website strategy? How is it that someone can visit our website and not want to visit?
Here’s the deal, the church no longer sets cultural expectations. It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know. I don’t like it either.
Digital culture has set the expectation of 24/7 easy-to-digest information. How you make your information easy to digest is the strategy.
It’s the difference between putting a bowl of spaghetti in front of a toddler versus showing her how to eat it.
A great church website strategy will guide your visitor to learn about your church and take action.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty!
1. What Journey Do You Want Your Website Visitors To Take?
Web visitors want to be told what to do.
So plan the first step of an excellent church website strategy is to play a journey for your visitors when they land on your page. What is the first thing you want them to see and do? How can you guide them to visit your church in person?
Some Examples are:
Homepage > plan a visit > get service information and directions
Easter Landing Page > listen to a sermon > plan a visit
Homepage > learn about small groups > sign up for a group leader to contact them
You can have more than one journey per website. In fact, I include 2 to 3 of them on the sites I design.
But you have to know what action you want your visitors to take.
No more spray and pray. By that I mean, putting up a bunch of information and hoping your visitor acts on it.
It’s like if I were to hang my clothes on the bedroom door and hope my wife irons them in the morning.
Just because something is there doesn’t mean they’re going to do what you want. Guide your visitors to take action.
(By the way, we don’t even iron clothes in my house…is that weird?).
Vertical Community Church Journeys
Here are three examples of this church website strategy on a recent site I designed.
Vertical Community Church wants to appeal to people who’ve been burned by church or religion in the past. They want to build the relationship before the visitor ever steps foot in the building.
Their next steps are to get the visitor’s phone number and make a call to set up a meeting at Starbucks.
The church wants a simple clear message at the top of the website to communicate it’s a safe place for all people. So the call-to-action is simple: “discover more” about the church.
The first visitor journey looks like this:
homepage > discover more > get a phone call from a pastor
A little further down the homepage and there’s a brief introduction to the church and the Pastor. Very brief.
Again, the church wants to build the relationship before Sunday. So we included a call-to-action to introduce the staff.
The second visitor journey looks like:
homepage > meet the staff > get a phone call from a pastor (this one the visitors can choose a specific pastor they want to contact them)
This final journey is a brief introduction to the biggest ministries of the church.
Each image will lead the visitor to that specific ministry page, but there is a button to view all ministries. The journey looks like this:
homepage > view all ministries > find a ministry for you > get a phone call from a ministry leader (includes more than pastors)
Just like the church above knew who they wanted to reach out to, you also need to consider what type of potential member you want to invite. Then create a website that caters to them.
Who is your church website for?
Do you want to serve families? Blue-collar workers? Military families?
Your church website needs to show what your church offers and how you can serve those members.
You are not excluding others, but you are focusing on who you feel called and equipped to serve. This will attract more visitors than trying to appeal to everyone.
Evaluate your ministries and tailor a website journey for who your church is equipped to minister to.
2. Leave An Impression
This church website strategy comes down to one question…How do you want your church to be remembered?
When someone puts their phone down and goes on with their life, what do you want them to remember about your church?
“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Church loves families” or “Fifth Baptist Church won’t judge anyone based on their past.”
Your website copy needs to hone in on that impression you want to leave.
For example, if you’re a church about bringing hope to the hopeless, every page needs to communicate that:
Staff page: Too many families are splitting. More and more people are giving up on life because of the economic downturn. Pastor Doug believes with a little hope from Jesus our city can thrive again…
Youth Ministry Page: Growing up is a lot of fun, but we understand that it can be tough too. Social pressures and self-doubt can cause depression down the road. But we know that the hope Jesus Christ provides can overcome all our worries and doubts. Together we’ll learn what God has for your teen and where true fulfillment comes from…
Repetition makes your visitors remember what you’re about. Include how you want to be remembered inside of each page.
I wish I knew these church website strategies years ago. The churches I’ve worked with would be even further along in attracting visitors. But alas, I cannot time travel…yet.
So take what I’ve learned and evaluate your own church website for these strategies. Do you have contact forms on every page so you can follow up with web visitors? Are you leaving a correct impression on who your church is and how you want to be remembered?
What do you wish you could travel back in time and teach a younger you? Leave a comment below!