The saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” In the age of Google and social media, your parish website is your first and best chance to make that impression. Taking the time to make it great will highlight the best and most beautiful things about your parish.
Show Up in Searches
Where does your parish show up in search engine results? If it’s not close to the top, chances are you aren’t being seen. Five More Talents says Google’s My Business program will bump your website to the head of the pack. More people will see it, which is the first step to better engagement.
Similarly, investing in targeted ads that connect to the website on Facebook and other social media platforms can do the same thing. A link to your website appearing in the news feed of anyone ages 20-55 in a 20-mile radius of your parish can generate more web traffic and bring more people to your church.
The home page is your impact moment. Use a lot of visuals here. Showcase a beautiful sanctuary or smiling parishioners engaging in conversation or service. Put a link near the top to engage new visitors right away. This can be a short welcome letter from the priest, testimonials from families, or anything beautiful and unique about your parish. Find a way to include important information — Mass times, Confession schedule, opportunities for adoration — on the home page.
Keep Your Writing Short
Writing for the web is different than print. The average person doesn’t engage with website content for more than a few seconds, and they are mostly skimming content. You don’t have much time to get ahold of their interest. So short, concise writing is key to delivering the most information in the least amount of time. Keep your paragraphs short and simple and your tone upbeat and casual.
The University of Maryland Baltimore has a set of style guidelines and best practices to help you tailor your writing for the web. Use commonly searched words within your website to help your search engine optimization.
Consistently Update your Content
Keep your website fresh by updating your content regularly. Any content from the bulletin can also be used on the website. Include communication from the priest, a calendar of upcoming events or group meetings, and photo slideshows or videos. Maintaining your blog schedule will help this, as well. If you don’t already stream Sunday Mass or upload recordings of homilies, doing so can offer an inside look at your church.
Remember that web visitors can see an out-of-date website and think the parish itself might be out-of-date as well, so it’s worth investing the time.
Check Your Analytics
The Daily Egg says the average web user visits a website for less than 15 seconds before leaving. This is known as the “bounce rate.” Well-designed and maintained websites will have a lower bounce rate. A high bounce rate can indicate a problem with layout, accessibility, user-friendliness, or other issues. Knowing these numbers can help you change course and get more visitors to your website.
What has worked for your parish? Let us know!