How to make your website more welcoming
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In the middle of so much going on, the message and the work your church brings daily matters. Your website sits as the hub of your digital presence. A presence that offers the powerful life-changing gospel truth. A part of sharing that message includes having your website welcoming and ready for new people. You keep your front porch ready for guests – make sure you keep your website ready as well! Nothing says “so glad you’re here!” like showing that you’ve anticipated their arrival. You show you both expect and want them by having your site meeting their needs in function and message. Here are ways you can invite newcomers to spend more time with you by ensuring you have a welcoming website.
Which pages should you prioritize?
Ideally, any page with information created for visitors should be optimized. The reality is you only have so much time. Prioritize which pages visitors spend the most time so you can deliver the most impact.
For those of you who have visitor tracking on your site, such as Google Analytics, you can tell where new visitors to your site spend most of their time. That reporting gives you clues to where potential visitors go on your website and what pages you should tackle.
If you don’t have analytics (or perhaps not sure how to navigate the reporting), some pages naturally have more visitor traffic than others. In our experience, the most important pages for traffic are:
- Home page
- Staff/About Us page
- Visitor’s pages
- Livestream/sermon archive page
- Children’s Ministry
Once you get these done, then you can move on to updating the other pages.
What should you do to make pages more welcoming?
Now that you know what needs attention, you can get to work. To have a welcoming website, you’ll need to have two things: visitor-focused content and good functionality.
When someone goes to any of these pages, who are you talking about? Look at the pronouns, and see which you have more of: we/us or you/yours. It’s natural to talk about oneself when communicating. But it’s not exactly helpful or makes anyone want to stick around!
Talk about how they can engage—answer the why. Tell the story of your mission. What you are doing is unique and important! Lean into the mission and that they can be a part of it.
Show what it all looks like through photos of people smiling together and taking an active role in the task before them. If you have a video or can make one, even better! If there’s anything that we’ve learned through this pandemic, it’s that the church exists as a people, not the building, and your church has been at work despite gathering guidelines.
Visitors will have questions. Serve by anticipating and answering those most commonly asked. Keep what people would ask pre-pandemic that’s still relevant. And address these others:
- If in-person gathers are happening, what’s the procedure in light of COVID-19?
- For online worship, when and where does that take place?
- How can they get in touch with someone for questions or to get more involved?
Yup, even how your church website works can help it to feel more welcoming. People expect sites to load fast and for content to be easy to find. Especially on their phone. You know what it’s like when you’re waiting for a page to load, and it takes too long. That slow load time leads to frustration. Which leads people to “bounce” – leave the page quickly – and move on from your site.
What causes this? Some common culprits:
- Videos too large
- Photos too large
- No caching.
- Hosting issue.
How can you address these? For WordPress sites, here are our favorites:
- For video and photos, ShortPixel optimizes files automatically, saving you a ton of time and hassle. It works on credits, so you buy what you need.
- The free WP Super Cache plugin allows you to easily speed up your load time.
- Changing your website host can be a hassle. Should you need to, we recommend SiteGround.
Also, for those with WordPress sites, it’s important to regularly update your plugins and themes. Most of the time, this shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes, especially if you’re going into your site once a week to make other updates and tweaks. Keeping your site up to date also helps keep everything secure – double win!
A welcoming website is a guest-ready website
Your church has a mission. Your website helps you in that mission as one of the many tools in your toolbox. As far as your digital presence, it’s one of the most important. Everything else – from your social to email to everything else under the sun – all points people back to your website for the next step in their journey. Make sure visitors get a sense of what it will be like to be a part of your community by having a site ready and waiting for them.
Dust off the welcome mat – guests are coming!
SAVE TIME - AND HAVE A WEBSITE THAT CONNECTS YOU WITH GUESTS!
Your tired old site needs an update. And your to-do list is already a mile long.
Firm Foundations Marketing partners with church across North America to build quality, visitor-focused websites to help your church reach, engage, and retain people for the gospel.