Your Website: Your First (And Only) Impression

outspoken bookThis article is my contribution to the new book Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication.

It’s estimated that as many as 80% of people looking for a church start their search online.

Typically it looks like this: A person starts by searching Google for churches in their community. They click through to the websites of those churches at the top of the search results. Based on the information and impressions given by those websites, they select which churches to visit in person.

What this means is:

1. If your church’s website doesn’t show up on the first page or two of the search results, people looking for a church will never see your website and thus never visit your church.

2. If people do visit your church’s website but it gives a poor impression of your church, people will also never visit your church.

Don’t misunderstand. This is not about competing with the other churches in your community. It’s not about having the best search rankings or the coolest website.

I’m talking about loving the people in your community enough to make an effort to meet them where they are—searching Google. I’m talking about loving them enough to make them feel welcome once they get to your website. I’m talking about authentically communicating who you are as a church and what God is doing through you.

Here are seven ways your church can do that:

  1. Optimize your website for search engines or hire a professional to do it.
  2. Give your website a nice design. It doesn’t have to be the coolest site in town, but it should be uncluttered, have a consistent color scheme and be easy to navigate.
  3. Prominently feature a “New Visitor” section on your website.
  4. Include a welcome message from your senior pastor—either a video or a picture and text welcome message.
  5. Include pictures or video of your worship services and children’s activities.
  6. Answer all the questions you would want answered before you visit a church: How does one get there? What are the service times? What are services like? How do people dress? What do kids do?
  7. Publish video, pictures and stories of what God is doing in your church: Stories from people in your church about how God has changed their lives, stories of how your church is impacting your community, and stories of how your church is changing the world through missions and giving.

When you love the people in your community enough to make them the priority on your website and authentically communicate the stories of what God is doing through you, people will be drawn to God and to your church through your website.

We’re giving away 3 copies for Outspoken today.  Find out how you can win!  Or buy a copy online right on Amazon.

Are you motivated by love for the people in your community to have an well designed website that is well optimized for search engines?

That’s why our team partners with churches to design church website and optimize church website for search engines. It’s all about love – loving God and loving people!

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

6 Responses to “Your Website: Your First (And Only) Impression”

  1. Paul, I would add an 8th point to your excellent list:
    8. Update it regularly with current information.
    I've seen beautiful websites that clearly cost quite a bit of money to put together, only to read content that was a year old, two years old, or worse. Even months-old is unacceptable. Don't negate your efforts in creating a website if it will not be maintained.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Sep 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      Absolutely, Ava! I see websites that have out of data content all the time too. One of the most powerful aspects of a website is you post something to it once and it continues to communicate hundreds, thousands or even millions of times as people visit it. But we have to be diligent to make sure what our websites are continuing to communicate is still accurate and relevant.

  2. I agree. I post a weekly quote and bible verse to let others know my site is updated.

  3. Paul ,thanks for your initial impressions.

  4. Great article! Though I am not searching for a church, when I visit the websites of churches, I often find that they dont express the heart of the church, but that of a generic template! In today's culture, sharing the heart of the church through their website is essential!