The company I worked for right after I graduated from Clemson had a terrible website. It’s design, navigation and content all communicated it was an experiment from the early days of the Internet, and it had been forgotten in a corner of the lab.
This was a major problem for one key reason: We were a marketing/communications company.
On the surface, the fact that we were selling a service to help other companies improve their brand and marketing should have been enough of a reason to invest in a higher quality, current website. But it wasn’t, and the owner could tell you why.
“We don’t get new business through our website.”
That’s what he told me every time I tried to suggest we spend the time and money to update it.
There was a fundamental problem with his assertion, and it was that we didn’t know how many new business opportunities we lost because of the website.
We weren’t tracking the percentage of people who visited our website and never contacted us. He assumed because new clients didn’t come in through the website, that the website didn’t have any impact on new business at all.
I think thousands of churches make this same mistake. Otherwise, how can we explain how many early-days-of-the-Internet church websites still exist? (There may be a problem with actually wanting new people to come, but that’s another topic.)
Is Your Website Keeping People Away from Your Church?
There’s a simple way to begin answering that question. Start tracking new vs. returning visitors to your website, in addition to tracking new visitors to your church.
This metric — easily found using Google Analytics installed on your site, or even with many of the analytics that come free with sites like WordPress and SquareSpace — will tell you how people are using your website. You can use this metric to inform you of a few things:
Are people visiting your website at all?
If the combined total of new and returning visitors is very low, there’s a good chance you have poor search engine optimization and that you’re not leveraging social media or email in an effective way. It’s also probably a good indication that you aren’t maximizing the potential of your site, because even your church people aren’t using it.
Is your website traffic mostly returning visitors?
If so, that’s a good indication it’s mainly people already connected to your church visiting your site, probably for some kind of information you regularly share there, like a calendar of events.
Is the number of new visitors to your site vastly larger than the number of first-time guests you’re actually seeing on campus?
Unless you offer fantastic resources on your website and have a great marketing engine to attract people, new website visitors will mostly be made up of potential first-time guests, people checking you out before they come visit.
If the number of new visitors to your website is vastly larger than the number of people who walk through your front door for the first time, your website could very well be the reason they decided never to come check your church out.
An intern at the company I described above one day pointed out that at her last internship with a major retailer, her boss had regularly asked her to look up marketing agencies in cities around the country for special projects. She had Googled agencies, picked the three with the best websites, and her employer would select agencies from that list to request proposals. That story was one of the first things that compelled our owner to take another look at our site.
I hope digging into the data to find out if people are visiting your site and deciding not to visit your church might be that moment for you. In the meantime, prepare yourself with these articles and take another look at your website with an open heart: