In the web development industry we have a saying. Content is king. When you strip away all of the graphic sliders, and parallax images, what you are left is the content of your website. The look and feel of the website is what catches peoples attention but the church website content is what actually engages people.
Before we go any further, we need to have a good working definition of what we mean by content. For the purpose of this conversation church website content is any information including text, images, audio and video that is created to communicate information to your church website audience. Often people reduce content to meaning just the words on the page but it is important that we have a more holistic view.
Content is king because we have to remember it is the sole reason why people get on to a website in the first place. It is always about finding information.
Think about how you use the web in your daily life. We don’t approach it like a work of art, but as a tool to gather the information we need. What time does that movie start? Where is the closest post office? How much does that car cost. These are the kinds of questions that people are asking online every day.
So in order to create good church website content, the first question we must ask is what do my website visitors want to know? This should be the foundation of any website redesign. If you don’t know what questions people are asking, you won’t know what to say. If you don’t know what you want to say, you are not ready to build a website yet.
So in order to help reduce the mystery, we have compiled a list of content that every church website must have.
I know it seems obvious, but I cant tell you how often we see websites without any easy to find contact info. This not a negotiable. You must have phone number, email and physical address on the website in a very easy to find location. People are used to seeing this information in the footer of the site so we suggest you put it there. Making this easy to find is imperative. If visitors can’t find it, they can’t come to church this weekend.
Also, consider having a simple contact form on the site. People are much more likely to fill out a contact form then they are to send an email. If you are trying to drive conversation, make it easy for them.
A map is a good addition to every site. It takes the contact information to the next level. Unless you live in a very small town or have a very iconic building, most people don’t know exactly where your church is. A map saves them the step of having to look it up themselves.
One of the goals for any website is to keep people on the site as long as possible. If they have to leave your site to find out where you are, that is a missed opportunity for them to engage with your church in other areas.
You are probably asking yourself, “Who would leave their service times off of their church website?” Well it pains me to say, lots of people would. Usually it is unknowingly, but this is a major mistake.
For most churches the ideal next step for a website visitor is to make a visit in person. You need to communicate exactly when the best time for that to take place would be. If you don’t tell them when to show up, they won’t start coming at the wrong time. They just won’t show up at all.
Every church has some kind of statement of beliefs and it belongs on your website. This is one of the most visited pages on a church website. What you believe matters, and people often want to know what that is before their first visit.
Some churches go with a an exhaustive approach, offering a very detailed statement of belief. Others keep it really simple and just hit the highlights. We have found that the best option is to do both. Offer a succinct readers digest version of your essential beliefs, and then give your visitors an opportunity to dig deeper on a sub page to learn more about the ins and outs of your doctrine.
Pastors are sometimes surprised when we tell them that site visitors will regularly visit your staff page. We have found that visitors typically want to make some kind of connection before their first Sunday. I pastor a church and can’t tell you how often our visitors tell me they have been on my Facebook page before their first visit. While not every visitor wants that kind of depth, answering some basic questions they might be wondering before they show up is important.
A word of caution – Don’t over do it here. You want the staff page to provide some info on your leaders but not to make the church feel Pastorcentric. This can be off putting to guests.
People want to know what happens besides the main service on Sunday morning at your church. For most churches the most important ministry to highlight is their children’s ministry.
Do you offer a children’s ministry? Is your worship service family integrated? You need to prepare your visitors for what they can expect during a service. If you church offers multiple services, be sure to outline the differences in each, especially as it pertains to children’s ministry.
The most visited page on your church website after your homepage is your sermons page. We believe that this is because people want to get a taste of what happens inside of those walls before they show up for the first time.
Whether you do audio or video of your services, making those available for church website visitors to see will go a long way in giving them an impression of what to expect.