The Internet. Most of us use it every day. Some might say they can’t live without it. But how many of us truly understand it? This simple guide will step you through the basics and give you a better idea of what it takes to get your church’s website noticed.
SEO – understanding how it all works
Have you ever noticed how, a few days after you searched for accommodation for a holiday, adverts for accommodation start to pop up whenever you go online? This is because of the predictive behaviour algorithms that Google uses. Google uses Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to match websites to your queries. On any given day, Google actually ranks the top ten queries asked of it. Guess what? Among the top ten queries asked on a Sunday are where can someone find a church.
Is your website engaging?
Go to your church’s website. Is it as engaging as the websites you use every day? Are the photos engaging? Is it easy to navigate? Does it look a little like a church newsletter from the 1990s? There are so many no-cost and low-cost solutions to this problem that if you have an online presence, there is no excuse for it not to be engaging and welcoming.
Make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices
People are much more mobile these days and so are their devices. It makes sense, then, that Google will favour websites tailored to these devices. Because what Google wants to do, to keep you using Google, is provide you with information based on your device. If your Congregational website is NOT mobile or tablet responsive, it will not be as highly ranked in searches. No matter how much you update the information on it. And this leads to the next point.
Keep your website current and up-to-date
There is no bigger turn off than going to an outdated website, with blog updates from 2004. By not having an active website, you are underutilising your most important marketing asset. We can no longer rely on the fact that simply because we have buildings in the middle of communities, people will walk through our front doors. Your church website is your best way to advertise.
It’s all about the hyperlinks
One of the important ways you can keep your website up-to-date (and, in turn, increase the likelihood of Google finding your site) is to regularly hyperlink to items of interest outside your webpage, even if it is just to your Facebook page.
The more complex the interlinking with other sites, the higher Google will rank your site.
Social media for community
Do you have a Facebook page? If not, why not? Millions of people share photos and items of interest on Facebook and if there is one way to encourage community, it is via Facebook. But, overall, most forms of social media are excellent for building community. By sharing photos of events, milestones, anniversaries and the like, you are creating and encouraging community to happen. Plus, if your Congregation doesn’t have a website, Facebook is the perfect no-cost alternative. All you need is an email address and you have the ability to set up a community!
Develop a social media code of ethics
Anyone who is on social media understands that conversations online can quickly devolve into unhelpful dialogue. Coming up with a social media code of conduct and usage is imperative, particularly if you are running an active social media feed like Facebook. Working upfront to establish boundaries is important because, when they are clearly stated, people are more likely to self-moderate.
How do we navigate the questions of internet access at church?
A lot of people have the Bible on their phone, so should we restrict them from using it in church? No way! Sure, people are able to check out and not listen to a sermon… but perhaps this is something we should take on board. If the sermon isn’t engaging then what are we doing to make it so? Also, perhaps not allowing phones in church is discounting its value as an evangelism tool. Think for a moment if you allowed people to “check in” on Facebook on arrival at church. All their friends would know where they were spending Sunday morning!
Would you like more information?
Searching for help with any of these suggestions? Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and the Synod of NSW and the ACT Communications and Marketing Team will be able to assist you.