If you are a pastor reading this, you are either interested in how your church can best utilize their digital footprint or a member gave it to you because they thought you should read it. You might be thinking, I don’t have time for one more thing. You have a sermon to write, Bible class to prepare, a worship service to create, people are in the hospital, there’s an issue at the food pantry, your kid’s band concert is tonight and your wife is in grad school. Pastor, that may not be your story but it was mine. I was a pastor before opening a digital marketing agency. I remember having a member come up to me to talk about creating a listing on Yelp and these were pretty close to my exact thoughts.
I don’t know how individual pastors can reshape their schedules and that of their churches, but I do know this – the entire world is online. Over the last 20 years, the internet has gone from that “new thing” to an established part of our world. Pastors use the internet. Church members use the internet. People you would like to reach with the love of Jesus use the internet, and the overwhelming majority of these people check out your church online first.
Church Website Essentials
What do you want people to do when they come to your church website? Do you want them to call you? Check out a new ministry? Subscribe to your blog or newsletter? Or ??? Whatever it is that you want people to do when they visit your website needs to be very clear.
Something else that should be clear is your church name, address, and phone number. Google refers to this as NAP. You should have this information in the header and/or footer of your website so it appears on every page. This is helpful for website visitors and has a direct impact on your ability to be found through Google and Bing’s search engines.
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but you need to make sure your website looks good on a smartphone. Over half of all internet searches today are done on phones and if people need to pinch and manipulate your website to be able to use it, they will leave it and find another church to learn about. Google has a free mobile-friendly test if you are wondering if your website is set up for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Your Google My Business listing
Google and Bing offer free business listings. Type your church’s name into the search engine and the business listing should pull up. If the listing has a line that says, “Own this business?” then you need to claim your listing. You can either have Google call you with a code or mail you a postcard. Once you have your code, be sure to complete your listing. Add photos of your church, staff, logo, and activities. You can also add videos and ask your members to review your church.
Social Media Basics
Every church should have a Facebook page. If you don’t have one, Facebook may have already created one for you with the pictures and posts that your members have mentioned your church in. As with your Google business page, fill in all of the information and upload high-quality pictures. To find your facebook page, type Facebook:Your Church Name and City into the search engine and a listing should appear in the list below.
You should post something on Facebook two to three times a week. It shouldn’t be all about your church. Most people remember those times when they’ve been locked in a conversation with someone who talked all about themselves. Most of us don’t like those conversations. We want to hear about other things going on in the world and have an opportunity to chime in. Social media is not any different.
Here are some ideas for your social media posts:
- Do you have special worship services coming up? Great, write a post with a good picture attached to it.
- Better yet, create a Facebook event and invite people to attend while also giving them the option of inviting others.
- Share the sermon series and other events going on.
- Share how your congregation is making a difference in the community.
- Post a thought-provoking article or blog you find online and ask a question for people to respond to.
- Create a poll or pose a question. It could be a poll about something serious (favorite Bible story) or something personal (favorite ice cream flavor) or something silly (which is the weirdest animal God made?)
- Pose a Fill in the Blank question – If money and time were no option, I would …
- Post a Bible Verse with a picture. The YouVersion Bible App posts a new one every day and there are other sources as well.
Getting Ranked on Google (SEO)
The process used to get a website ranked on page one of Google is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO services are typically beyond the average church budget, but there are some things you can do in-house.
One of those things is updating your website regularly. Make sure your website has a blog and write an article a week. This can be items left on the cutting room floor from your sermon preparation, an update on community outreach or musings from a recent mission trip. If you build a content calendar for your church newsletter, let that guide your blogging.
The second thing you need to do is to sign up for the free business listings available online. These are directories like Yelp, Superpages, Hot Frog and over 1,000 others. You can do this manually or use a service like Yext, Synup, or BrightLocal. These listings and Google reviews will help you get ranked in the map listing for searches like “church near me”
Most people who use smartphones have free apps on their phones. For instance, I use a weather channel app to keep up with weather changes in my area. Free apps aren’t completely free. They are paid for by advertising dollars.
Geofencing allows you to either pick up to a 5-mile radius around your church or up to 25 locations where the unchurched people you want to reach hang out (i.e. restaurants, gyms, athletic fields, etc.). When someone enters the target area, their smartphone is added to an advertising list. They will receive ads for your church in their free apps up to 8 times a day for 30 days. We can even set it up so we are only reaching people in those predetermined areas when you offer worship and education opportunities, so you are reaching out to the people who aren’t at any church when many church people are.
We provide you with a monthly report that tells you how many people saw the ads based on the location they were in when they were added to the advertising list. We also tell you how many of these people clicked on your ad as well as how many of the people who saw your ads came to your church campus.
If you would like to learn more ways to reach those you aren’t reaching as well as strengthening the ones you are, contact us for a free consultation.