Don’t underestimate the importance of your church website. In a 2012 research study by Phoenix-based Grey Matter Research, it was found that 12 percent of all American adults (21.5 million) have visited the website for a church or other place of worship in the last 30 days.
Their activity breaks down like this:
- 43% check the times of services
- 29% peruse church activities
- 28% look for directions to the facility
- 26% watch streaming video
- 26% listen to streaming audio
- 22% read the church’s statement of beliefs
- 18% request prayer
- 15% download a podcast
- 15% confirm the church’s denomination
- 12% send an email to the pastor
- 5% post on a bulletin board or forum
If you’re wise, you’ll optimize your website to answer those visitor’s questions, give them plenty to browse around and discover, and get them to come back.
Here are six ways you can do that:
1. Keep your header navigation down to five options
You don’t want to fill your navigation up with too many options. That’s overwhelming, and the chances are higher that people are not going to find what they need. Instead, group pages in a way that makes sense and give people fewer options. This will help your navigation make sense and empower people to find what they’re looking for faster.
Pro-tip: Avoid dropdown menus in your header because:
- Studies show people find dropdown menus annoying (especially on mobile devices).
- You want to encourage traffic to higher-level pages.
- Using dropdown navigation can encourage the creation of pages you just don’t need.
2. Give them steps to take next
Have you ever visited Ikea? The floor plan guides you through the store, guaranteeing that you’re never left wondering, “Okay, where do I go from here?” When you’re putting together your website, think about it like you’re building an Ikea.
If a person visits your website to find your service times, they’re (hopefully) going to find them pretty quickly. What happens then? Don’t count on their curiosity to keep them on your site. Give them a reason to stay. Maybe that means a small call-out alongside the service times for them to check out your church activities, or it could mean giving them a link to a Google map for directions.
Every page of your website should be engineered to keep people discovering more about who you are and how you serve Jesus.
3. Keep load time short
There’s nothing worse than a website that loads slowly. People will give your website about three seconds to load before they bounce out. If you are struggling to understand the significance of load times, think about it this way: Amazon found that if their pages load 1 second slower, they stand to lose $1.6 billion a year!
Not to mention the fact that Google’s ranking algorithm punishes websites that load too slowly. So if someone is googling “churches in Charleston,” your site’s loading speed is going to be one of the factors that determines if you make it on that search’s first page.
Pro-tip: Images, video backdrops, and other kinds of media make up the vast majority of your site’s effort to render. Optimizing them to reduce their overall size will make your site load much faster. A good rule of thumb is to keep all image sizes below 300 kilobytes.
4. Disable mobile pop-ups
Google is constantly fine-tuning their algorithm. Recently Google cracked down on annoying mobile pop-ups. This change took place in early 2017.
An official statement from Google said that the crackdown would penalize sites that:
- Show a pop-up on mobile devices that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Display a standalone interstitial (pop-up) that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
- Use a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial (pop-up), but the original content has been placed underneath the fold.
For churches, the best bet is to simply turn off pop-ups that would appear on phones or tablets. Everyone will thank you anyway.
5. Display your physical address on every page’s footer
Since the goal is to get people to actually visit your church, people should be able to find your address on any page. But that’s not the most important reason to include your address on every page.
If you want your site to perform well in local SEO, you want Google to find your address on every page that it indexes. This way when people in your area search for a place of worship, Google’s going to serve up your site.
6. Use a social share plugin
People use technology to be social, and they want to share the interesting stuff they find. That’s a good reason to make sure that social sharing buttons are easy to find on your church website.
Everything has a purpose on a church website
When you’re creating or updating your church website, make sure every bit of information has a purpose and leads people to clearly defined goals. Your site isn’t simply a storage facility for random facts about your church; it’s a tool that’s bringing people into relationship with your church.
We’d love to give you some more information to help you get your website firing on all cylinders. Download a free copy of our book The Ultimate Church Website Blueprint and discover how to optimize your website to help your church grow!