In the last article we started thinking about the web site’s mission, and just asked the question, “how will they find your website?” It’s not like I didn’t think about the purpose of the websites I previously worked on. I just thought it was rather obvious. We wanted it to be a resource for members and an advertisement for our church. Realistically, members will rarely visit your website, even if you have a wealth of information available for them. So, it really comes down to making it an effective advertisement. When I started my first website, things were simpler. You could just create a website, list it in the Yahoo directory and people would find it. It’s not that simple any more. Yes, there are directories, but when was the last time you used one? What is that? You can’t remember. Me neither. I search for things. I bet most people do. So if your website doesn’t come up when they search, they probably won’t find it. And that returns us to that question:
How will they find your website?
You really do have to think about that. The most basic search would probably combine “church” with the city or region where you church exists. Getting listed there is a challenge–one that I haven’t accomplished yet for my own church, but am actively working on. Doing so is going to require getting listed in the “places” directory for Google and Bing. That requires filling out forms, and getting a code, usually by mail to the address where your church meets, and filling that code into the verification page that they send you to. I managed that for Bing before our church moved. Now I’m struggling with trying to collect a postcard from a business that doesn’t want me to use their address for mail. You may struggle with that too, but it’s worth effort if it can be done. So here are the two places you need to do that:
But there’s more. What if the person searches for “christian church” or “community church”? Those searches are going to pull up websites that use those phrases in the text and headings and in the title element of the page. That brings us to the next big concept:
Writing text that supports the mission
Your home page–where your website begins–must have a prominently placed paragraph that defines your church. Yes, it’s nice to have a warm, welcoming message from the pastor, or beautiful graphics, or whatever else you think makes your site stand out. But if you church isn’t defined right near the “top” of the page, it won’t matter what the rest of your site looks like or says because people won’t find it without you personally telling them where it is. Once you get over the shock of this, the real work begins–writing that paragraph.
Don’t try to do that alone, even if you’re the pastor. People see things differently, so you really need a few church leaders to discuss the whole idea of defining your church in a paragraph. It requires an honest look at your church. What is your church good at? What makes your church different from other churches? What does your church emphasize? There’s no real formula for defining your church. But there are things that this paragraph will need, and those things need to be worked in so they sound right. Those things are the key words and phrases that people will search for to find your church.
Bret Miller is the Manager of Information Technology for Grace Communion International. He developed the original website for the international headquarters and continues to provide technical support for the current website. In addition, he has led the development of web sites for three local churches.