The entire point of your church’s website is to reach more people, but you can’t do that if your church website isn’t performing well.
Far too often, churches, and any nonprofit or business, throw up a website and never monitor it to see how much traffic and engagement it’s garnering.
The best way to ensure your church’s site is making a difference is to monitor the performance and watch out for any red flags. Little tweaks make a major difference in how many visitors you get and how many come back.
1. Traffic Declining
A sudden decline in traffic is never a good thing. It’s normal to see fluctuations, especially around Christian holidays. For instance, a decline after Christmas isn’t unusual.
However, sharp declines for no apparent reason are a major sign your church website isn’t performing well. Some of the main reasons your traffic has dropped off include:
- No new content – You’ll lose repeat visitors if you don’t upload content regularly.
- Broken links – If your site is filled with broken links or links to spam sites, Google will penalize you. This means fewer people are seeing your site in search results, leading to less traffic. If you’ve recently gone through a site overhaul, check for broken links immediately.
- Misleading content – If you’re posting misleading content, your church site will get a bad reputation.
- Slow loading pages – A bad website update or even a malware infection can result in sudden performance issues like this. Check your loading times regularly to be safe.
- Page loading errors – If many of your main pages aren’t loading at all or lead to 404 errors, traffic will decline suddenly.
- Moved to a new host/server – Moving your site may cause a sudden decline as search engines re-index your pages. Prevent this by informing visitors of the move in advance so they’ll be aware of any downtime, problems in search engines and general moving glitches.
Sharp declines or noticeable gradual declines show you something is off. The quicker you fix the problem, the sooner your church website will start to grow again.
2. No Traffic Growth
If you just launched your church website, don’t panic if you don’t see growth immediately. It takes time for search engines to index your site’s pages and for your site to prove itself in search rankings.
However, if your growth has plateaued, it may be time to focus on marketing your church website. Thanks to Google Ad Grants for NonProfits, you can do this for free. You can also use Facebook Ads too. Social media posts, blogging more often and encouraging your members to share your site more are all great ways to market your church’s site.
3. High Bounce Rate
A bounce rate is refers to people who visit your site and leave quickly or visit one page and leave. No matter how great your church’s site might be, you will have a bounce rate. That’s normal for every single website.
For instance, someone may just want to read a single blog post and then move on. Maybe a friend referred them, but your site just isn’t right for them.
The problem is, a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, as ConversionXL points out, the average bounce rate varies greatly by type of site. For instance, a dictionary site has a bounce rate of 65% to 90%, while ecommerce sites only have an average bounce rate between 20% to 45%.
A good sign your church website isn’t performing is if your bounce rate suddenly starts growing. This is typically a sign you have an issue with a specific page, broken links, slow loading pages or other general performance issues.
Google further explains what a bounce rate is and a few ways you might improve your own.
4. Increasing Bounce Rate On Certain Pages
In keeping with bounce rates, a noticeable performance problem is if you notice your bounce rate increasing on certain pages. This is a clear sign there’s an issue. For instance, if your online giving page has an increasing bounce rate, it could be a sign there’s a problem with your form or the form is too complex.
Take page-specific bounce rate as an indication you need to tweak them to improve your site’s overall performance. After all, all it takes is one bad experience to make visitors opt for another church website.
5. Sudden Decline In Participation
If you have a fairly active website, a sudden change in participation may be a sign your church website isn’t performing well. For instance, if you have fewer blog comments, less forum participation, fewer new site member sign-ups or other types of interactions, there’s a problem.
In most cases, participation issues come down to one or more of the following:
- No new content to interact with
- Issues with forms or pages loading correctly
- Negative experiences (always have moderators for forums and comments)
- No feedback from the church (no one answering direct questions)
- Controversial blog or social media posts (easily pushes visitors away)
If you want more interactions from visitors, you have to ensure they have something to interact with. For example, something as simple as having a social share button after someone donates allows them to share their good deed and lead more visitors to your site.
It’s also important to have clear rules about what is and isn’t acceptable on your church website. Remember, your website reflects the values of your church. If it’s a negative experience for visitors, they’ll think your church is the same way.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep adding new content, encourage visitors to comment and ask questions, get your members involved and encourage more social sharing to increase activity on your site.
6. Few Repeat Visitors
While it might seem better to keep getting new visitors, you want to focus on retaining visitors too. In fact, loyal visitors are your church’s best marketing tool.
If just 10% of your visitors keep coming back, they’ll continue to pull in new visitors for you through word-of-mouth and social sharing. If you’re not seeing a high number of repeat visitors, though, it’s time to start improving your church’s site.
While the ideal percentage of repeat visitors varies based on your site and your church’s goals, 30% is considered good and anything over 50% is great.
A few things you can do to help boost return visits include:
- Blog regularly – Without fresh content, there’s no reason for visitors to return.
- Upload sermons – Many people try to find a dedicated online church experience and only return if they enjoy the online sermons posted.
- Offer online prayer requests – Allow people to post prayer requests and tell others that they’re praying for them.
- Introduce Bible study forums – Post a weekly Bible study and let church members and site visitors discuss the Bible study together.
- Allow blog comments – This makes people feel more involved, but discontinue if visitors can’t behave when posting.
- Ask visitors to submit questions for upcoming blog posts – Everyone loves coming back to see if their question was answered.
While you’ll never reach 100% when it comes to repeat visitors, the higher the percentage the better.
Typically, a low percentage means there isn’t much opportunity to interact. Or, visitors are having a bad experience when trying to interact. If it’s the latter, investigate to find and resolve the problem.
7. Few Signups
If you have a sign-up form for your church newsletter or a free resource and no one is signing up, your church website might not be performing as well as you might hope.
Typically, it’s not an issue with the website itself, but your call-to-action. Of course, the more people who sign up, the more people who you’ll be able to notify of upcoming church events. So, it’s important to boost your conversion rate.
If your call-to-action isn’t obvious or doesn’t explain the benefits, very few people are going to sign up. With all the spam we all receive every day, people aren’t eager to give out their email address.
If you want to master your call-to-action, use Sumo’s guide on common CTA mistakes and how to fix them.
8. Your Search Rank Is Dropping
This is probably one of the most frustrating problems since there are so many possible causes. However, you shouldn’t ignore a sudden drop in your search rank position. This is a major sign your church website isn’t performing well.
Before you just throw up your hands and quit, know that it’s easier than you might think to fix the problem and rank higher again.
First, check to see if your site meets any of Google’s most common reasons for a rank drop. If so, follow Google’s tips for resolving the issue.
If none of that applies to your church’s website, check Search Engine Journal’s list of reasons for a rank drop. Most notably, a sudden drop could be the result of a Google algorithm change.
When these new algorithms are released, sometimes even good sites are punished until the bugs are worked out. Or, it may be a case of needing to update your site to meet the new algorithm requirements. Search Engine Journal releases details on all major algorithm releases to help you stay on top of the changes.
9. Visitors Complain
You should always have a feedback form on your church website. Why? Let your visitors tell you when something isn’t working right. Instead of finding out after traffic starts dropping or Google penalizes your site, let your visitors give you a heads up when your site has glitches or performance problems.
It’s also a good idea to have a group of your church members test the site at least monthly on different browsers and devices to make sure things are still working right.
10. It Hasn’t Been Updated In Ages
Does it seem like your church website isn’t performing well at all? If you haven’t updated the site in a while, that alone could be the problem.
An outdated design, old content and even outdated functionality, such as Flash, all hurt your site. It makes visitors shy away and your search rank will drop.
Currently, there are over 1.6 billion websites worldwide, with 200 million of those being active. If you want to compete with that, you have to keep your site current in all ways. This is one of the ways Google distinguishes quality sites over others.
Make a point of having a regular blogging schedule, sermon posting schedule and overall website update schedule.
11. Little Social Sharing
Little social sharing is typically a sign that either people aren’t enjoying the content you’re posting or your visitors aren’t into social networking. Before making any drastic changes, poll your site visitors and your church members to see why they’re not sharing.
If it’s due to the content, listen to feedback as to why they don’t like it. Use this to create more engaging content. Also, don’t be afraid to check out content from other churches to see what they’re doing differently.
12. No Online Giving
If there’s little to no online giving, it’s a sign your church website isn’t performing well. Once again, there are two potential issues.
First, your call-to-action isn’t clear or persuasive enough. Second, your giving form is either too complicated or not working right. Take the time to revamp your CTA and test your giving form to ensure everything is working correctly.
13. Little To No Mobile Visits
Mobile users make up the majority of search traffic, making mobile visits a large part of your church’s traffic too. If you’re not getting much mobile traffic, it’s a clear sign your site doesn’t work well on mobile devices.
Test your site using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Also, ask your church members to test out your site on their mobile devices to see what’s going wrong.
Study Performance With Analytics
If you’re not currently tracking your church website’s performance metrics, now is a great time to start. Using analytics tools, like Google Analytics, is a great way to spot problems before they ruin your church website.
Ready to create a church website visitors and search engines love? Contact us today to see how our experience in church websites can help you.