The 9-Step Checklist for Building and Promoting Your Church Website
More often than not, websites have not been a priority until the onset of COVID-19.
By now, it’s obvious as to why your church should have a website. Having an online presence can help your church build a better relationship with your community, congregants, and potential congregants. Having a church website allows you to be better equipped to keep up with the changing of the times and reach people right where they are.
Having a presence on social media doesn’t replace the need for having a website. Sure, you may have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or maybe even Tik Tok. But how would you reach your audience if social media was no longer available or if there were major changes to the algorithms? During these unprecedented times, you should consider diversifying your marketing channels and methods to communicate with your congregation and community. It’s time to catch up and keep up with the changing of the times because all know that time waits for no one. So whether you need a website or already have one, this article is for you. We are going to give you a rundown of tasks to get started with creating a website as well as more advanced strategies to improve local search visibility in the search engines and provide valuable website content to your visitors. If you already have a website, then skip ahead to steps 5-9.
Step 1: Select Your Church Website Domain
Once you have decided that yes, in fact, your church needs an online presence, it’s time to select a domain. This is one of the most important things to get right. A domain name is what your congregants or potential congregants will type into the URL bar to find your website.
As a general rule, it is best to keep the name as short as possible. Your domain name should be easy to remember as well. For instance, let’s say your church is New Hope and you’re located in Columbia, South Carolina. You would want to search the availability for domains in the following order:
- New Hope.com
If none of these options are available. Consider adding “.org” at the end instead. In most cases “.org” will be available even the “.com” options are not available. However, if you have to have a “.com”, you need to get creative to come up with a name that isn’t already taken by another church.
Making drastic changes to the name such abbreviations will make it harder for people to remember your domain. Your domain name should consist of no more than 3 clearly understandable words.
Bad Domain: NHopechurchSC (*** this is considered a bad domain name)
Good Domain: Newhopecolumbia.com ( *** this is considered to be a better alternative)
When picking out the domain name, just make sure that it can be quickly and easily articulated and remembered. You really don’t have to spend a ton of time fretting over this.
3. Setup Hosting For You Site
Hosting is pretty simple, the concept can be confusing but all you need to know is that you will need to purchase website hosting in order to have a website and online presence. This is a rented space where you store your website. For example, when you type your church website address into your computer, this tells the internet where to go to find your website. Your website information isn’t stored online, it is stored on a hosting server. The bottom line, what you need to know is that you absolutely need website hosting and that this can be easily accomplished by purchasing from website hosting providers.
There are many hosting providers to choose from, our preferred hosting providers are pantheon.io and Dreamhost. Pantheon is recommended for revenue-generating sites and businesses. Pantheon is top of the line for Website hosting, it is great for business websites that run on WordPress and Drupal. There are a lot of security, multi-level development environments, and expert technical support. It’s slightly more expensive than a few other hosting providers, but the perks are amazing!
DreamHost is also another hosting provider that has the just the right features that your church would need for website hosting. They also have a great plan for Non-profit organizations and churches. Website hosting for nonprofit organizations is free with Dreamhost. It’s a little unknown and overlooked, but churches can get free hosting with select website hosting providers. To qualify for free website hosting with DreamHost you will need to meet their requirements and provide valid documentation. To qualify for free website hosting for your church, you will need to be prepared to present your hosting provider with the following information.
- Must be a US-based non-profit
- Must be able to present a 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS.
For more information, visit DreamHost to view their non-profit discount. In addition to their non-profit website hosting, the process for contacting customer support and setting up website hosting is super simple and user-friendly. One other thing that is notable about this particular hosting provider is that they offer a free SSL certificate. If you are not familiar with what an SSL certificate is, just know that your site needs one and is essential for safeguarding any sensitive data. To learn more click the link below to learn more about SSL certificates. If you rather pay for website hosting you can expect to pay anywhere from $4-10/month. DreamHost also offers annual pricing as well.
4. Gather Your Website Content
Before hiring your website designer, get clear on what the core pages will be for your website. To make your website project go over smoothly as possible, gather your images, content, calendar updates, and have it ready to hand over to your website designer. If at all possible, have your information proofread and supplied in the proper formats. For website text, supply your information in a word or Google document. Make sure that your images are saved as a jpeg file format, and your church logo in the png file format. The most important takeaway here is regardless of the technical details, gather all your content, programs, church history, bios, ministry information, calendar, and be ready to hand this information over to your website designer.
Now let’s get down to business. Here’s a look at typical core pages for church websites.
- Calendar page/ upcoming events, meetings, classes, bible study, and more
- About Us ( Mission statement, vision, church history)
- Pastor Biography
- Meet the staff
- Sermons (* Pre-recorded sermons)
- Live Stream ( *Page where website visitors can view Livestream services)
- Donation page
- Contact Us
- Church photo Gallery
- Church Blog
- Podcast page or designated page to view daily words of inspiration
5.Install Additional Functionality
Now that you have a website, there are some useful plugins that are specifically developed for churches that you can use to enhance your website performance. A plugin is simply a 3rd party application that can be integrated into your website platform. It allows you to easily add more advanced features to your website. This is the biggest benefit of building your website on WordPress versus some other website platforms on the market. Your website designer will install the required plugins based on the needs of your church website and the scope of the website project. In some cases there are additional costs associated with plugins, some are free with the option to upgrade to more advanced features. Below is a list of plugins that you may find useful
- The Events Calendar: Lists Church events in calendar format
- Series Engine: Archives and displays video series
- Blubrry PowerPress: Lets you podcast through WordPress
- Prayer Engine: Creates an interactive, digital “prayer wall”
- Google Analytics: Lets you see how people are finding your site and what they are doing on the site
- Yoast SEO: Helps you optimize your page for search engine visibility
- Bible Verse of the Day: Lets you display a new Bible verse each day on your site
This is just a small taste of what’s possible. Having a custom build website versus a typical website builder can provide for more value and opportunity to cast a wider net to engage with your congregants and potential congregants. You can truly make your website unique to fit the needs of your congregation and provide value to website visitors.
6. Optimize Your Church Website For Local SEO
Now that you have your beautiful new website, it’s time to start thinking about how to get new visitors to your website. At this point, you should be thinking about getting new visitors from search engine traffic. This means that you want people in your local area to visit your church website when they are looking for churches in your area. In order to do this, you will need to do a few things on a regular basis.
- Optimize your site for on-page SEO
- Add Google My Business listing
- Build citations
How Do You Optimize on-page SEO
In order to participate in SEO, you will have to put in some effort. This can be a bit advanced, and probably should leave it to the professionals or learn how to do this correctly. Here are the main points:
- Use the keyword in your meta title
- Use the keyword in your URLs
- Use the keyword in your content
Ranking your church website in Google results will not happen overnight, it will take time, consistency, and effort. Investing time and having a marketing budget is well worth the investment. However, if you don’t have time or the budget for SEO there are a few things that you can do to get found in the local search engines. Keep reading as we discuss this further in the next section.
7. Create a Google My Business listing
Next, you will need to create online citations for your church website. Citations are just places online that you can place your church’s information to be discovered online.
Before you start creating citations. The most important citation that you should create first is your Google My Business listing. The Google My Business listing ( GMB) is essentially a free business listing. If your church has been around for a long time, you may already have one, in this case, you simply just need to search to verify your account. Click here to learn how to set up your Google My Business listing.
When you place your church information on Google directory listing, this means that your church will show up in Google Maps and you will have the opportunity to show up in the top 3 results that Google displays for certain search phrases.
8. Go The Extra Mile, Explore Content Marketing
Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to develop and promote a website. It’s time to take it to the next level. This is where we are going to use a play from the digital marketing playbook. Content marketing is a type of marketing that is traditionally used in the marketing world, it is focused on providing users with valuable information, it’s user-focused, instead of self-focused. This strategy provides value and solutions to people who are searching for solutions to their problems or simply need more information about a subject matter.
Why not apply this same strategy to your church marketing? By doing so, you are providing value to your congregants, potential congregants, and getting people to your website. You’re probably thinking, sure that sounds good and all, but how does it work. Here’s how you can make content marketing relevant to your church marketing strategy.
Below is a quick simple process:
1. Find keywords, topics, and search phrases that people are searching for. You can accomplish this in many different ways. The simplest way is to use a tool called “Answer The Public.” This is worth taking a moment looking into and sharing with leadership. To use this tool simply head over to the website and enter a phrase or terms that come to mind, you will then get a list of popular phrases and search queries. Having this information will give you an idea of how to better serve the needs of your congregants, and potent congregants by providing helpful information on topics that they are searching for. Below is a broader example that would be relevant to connect with new visitors.
Here’s an example of how you can put content marketing to use.
By now you’ve done the research and determined what topics you need to address. Let’s say, for example, you discovered that “ Fun family events Columbia” is a popular search phrase, you would then create a blog post that displays a list of fun family events that are happening in your community. You could then share it with their friends on social media, email, or direct users to your website via word of mouth. By strategically promoting relevant and helpful church content, you are able to reach new people that otherwise wouldn’t have visited or discovered your church.
10. Last But Not Least, Use Facebook Ads
Hopefully, you’ve made it this far. We’ve covered so much in just a small amount of time. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now let’s explore utilizing Facebook Ads to promote your church. This section is meant to show you ways that your church can use Facebook Ads to meet your church objectives.
Facebook has the ability to target Facebook users that are within a physical radius from your church. This means that you can send highly targeted ads to people that are most likely to visit your church. This means that if your goal is to stretch your outreach efforts to get more people in your community engaged with your church, then you can reach those people right where they are. This means that you can advise only people who live within a specific mile radius, city, state, or even zip code.
This isn’t a complete list of ways targeting possibilities, there are endless targeting possibilities by utilizing the power of modern-day technology and Facebook. Facebook advertising is fairly cost-effective, you don’t need a large budget, you can simply start small and monitor your results over time.
Yay! You’ve Made It To The End
I hope that you’ve found this guide helpful to your church ministry. Don’t worry, if you’re not technical and rather not deal with the technical stuff that comes with website design.
We know the idea of tackling church website design can be overwhelming. However, the bright side is that you now have the knowledge to successfully delegate or outsource this task to the professionals. Follow this checklist and put your website to good use. Need assistance with planning your upcoming website project? Contact me to request a free website audit or schedule a no-obligation free consultation.