magine for a minute that you are new in town and searching for a church. Or for a variety of reasons (perhaps children or a life changing event), you find yourself looking for a new church home. Where is the logical place to look? I think we all know the answer to that question…the net.
Now keep in mind, that when you do a search, almost all churches these days has a website. So you need to narrow it down some. Sometimes, it is easier to discern what you don’t like easier than which sites might really be your next spiritual home.
With that in mind, what are the things that are going to immediately be a deal-breaker? Let’s take a look at the top 13 items that help to insure not only will the visitor not come to your church, but also give an unfavorable impression on your denomination.
> Easy to navigate – Sounds simple. But after you leave the home page, do I have to hit the “back” key to find my way to a page with navigation links? While I am at it, do I even know what page I am on? Does the link somehow distinguish itself from the others to tell me where I am at? No? If the site is this hard, what are my expectations for being accepted at the church? What if I run up on dead links? Deal breaker.
> Overwhelming number of page links – just as bad as few or no links within the site, I also don’t want more than 10 links on ANY page. Take me to another page to give me options. I don’t need to see every ministry on the home page. Take me to a page of ministries and provide those links for me there. This may be picky and you are right. But guess what? You have a lot of competition that makes going from page to page easy. You don’t? You lose! Deal breaker.
> Appealing for money! – If you have a link that is visible on the home page soliciting donations of any kind, you are heading for disaster. Unless you have some sort of disclaimer that this section is for members only, you are giving off the wrong impression. Still, keep the link off of the home page. People’s first thought is…”Oh this is how it is going to go here?” Deal breaker.
> Takes forever to load – This can be a result of too many graphics (especially uncompressed file types), video loading, or pages that are just too long. Your home page is NOT a sales letter (which can easily be 15 type written pages long). Keep it short. If the visitor has to scroll more than 1 screen, you just lost them. Keep your paragraphs short. Use bullets to get your points across. If not. Deal breaker.
> Splash pages or incessant music – I haven’t seen a splash page that adds value to the site. Whoever designed it thought it was cool, but it is annoying to the visitor. Almost as annoying as music that plays automatically every time I come back to the home page. The music may be soothing to the “churched”, but to the unchurched, this may be a signal that your church may not be right for them. Deal breaker.
> Your site wasn’t optimized for my browser – I will grant you that this is tougher with new monitors, but have you looked at your site on multiple monitors and in multiple browsers? Because if I come to the site and it looks out of whack on MY monitor, guess what? Deal breaker. By the way, have you been thinking of a mobile version of your site???
> Clear directions to your church! This may seem obvious to you and me, but you would be surprised how many church sites do not include a map. And you have a better chance of getting me to your church if you are linked to Yahoo Maps or Google Maps that allow you to enter your starting point. But if I have to look it up elsewhere, there are too many sites out there that make it easy for me. Deal breaker.
> First time visitor information: From setting expectations of service length to dress, you need to help out your potential guest. Think about it. If I haven’t been in church in awhile, I am already concerned how I am going to be received. The last thing I want to worry about is coming in shorts and everyone else is in suits. Deal breaker.
> Outdated information on the site – I am excited. I have decided to go to a church and want to be with like minded people. In this age of instant gratification (thanks to the web), we want to do so as soon as possible. Imagine how I feel when I see the next event was 2 months ago? I am quickly going to a church that I can get involved in right now. Deal breaker.
> Is your site welcoming? Your church isn’t just a place that you gather a couple of days a week to hold meetings. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Wouldn’t you like to be viewed as a community or family that gets together in joy? If I am a new or especially a person who hasn’t been to church in awhile, I want to know there are others like me. So a picture of the congregation doing activities helps to give me a better understanding of your church. And if your church web site is more formal in presenting themselves than welcoming? Deal breaker.
> Lack of pictures or videos – For one thing a web site that is mostly text and with few pictures is just plain boring. That is not the type of church I am looking for. Oh yeah, believe it or not, I want to see the inside of the church, where the children will meet, will I fit in, what I can expect from the facilities. Why? Because I can get that information with a single click of the button from a lot of other church web sites. You don’t have it? No problem. Deal breaker.
> Contact info that is a challenge: Is the contact info of phone, email and postal address with zip easy to find? Do I have to go through a bunch of hoops to find a way to inquire about this church? Am I forced to provide my personal information just to get some questions answered? Why do I have to give my name, address, phone number and birth dates of my children and pets (a bit of an exaggeration, but you haven’t seen some sites)? If so, that is a deal breaker.
> Get back to me in a timely fashion: If it is other than Sunday, it shouldn’t take more than 1 business day to get back to me! My needs have to be met. Otherwise I wouldn’t be inquiring of you. This may sound harsh, but guess what? Get over it! In this day and age, everyone (and with more and more smart phones out there, I mean EVERYONE) has to respond in a timely fashion and someone at that church needs to respond or have an auto responder that sets a reasonable expectation of when I should expect a return communication. If you don’t, that is a deal breaker.
Are you feeling beat up? That is not the point of this article. What is the point is for you to review your website and see if you are sabotaging your otherwise good marketing efforts. Somehow, either through good SEO work or other marketing efforts, you got these folks to your website. Make sure that you continue your good work and relationship that you have begun by committing the deal breakers listed above.
Want to learn more about church marketing? Or did you read something here that you want to discuss more? Perhaps you have a project that you need help on or at least want to bounce ideas off. We are there for you!