Websites have a rather interesting history. At first, they were difficult to create and required a certain understanding of HTML. Then tools were introduced that made it easy to create websites. Then everyone had a website, which made it hard to get traffic. Then social media came along and made it seem like no one needed a website anymore.
That’s a rather over-simplified history of the internet, but the reality is that it’s never been easy to build a website and gain traffic, and today is no different. One interesting thing about today’s internet is that Google is its king. Over 63% of internet searches start with Google, an overwhelming majority in a previously competitive market. That means that while your church website is competing to gain traffic, it’s really only competing in one arena.
Google wants you to continue to play their game, and they want you to win. So they’ve developed a number of tools that not only help you gain traffic but also help you determine how to make a good website. Here are the five tools that everyone who manages a church website (or any website) should be familiar with and using on a regular basis.
The word “analytics” brings to my mind “statistics,” and as someone who almost failed statistics in college, I can understand if that makes you shudder a little bit. Don’t worry, Google Analytics is not hard to learn, and it has a ton of great information you can learn about your website.
While signing up for Google Analytics will not draw in new traffic to your site by itself, it will give you better insight into your audience, what they like on your website, and what changes you can make to improve your site.
Google Search Console
Though not the most intuitive software Google has released, Search Console gives you insight into how Google sees your site. It shows you what results are shown when people search for terms related to your site. It also monitors your site for errors, broken links, or improper activity, all of which could affect your search rankings.
Google Search Console also allows you to submit a sitemap to Google so the search engine has an easier time crawling your site. “Crawling” is essentially the way Google explores the internet and determines what sites it will show in search results. A sitemap is an outline that shows Google how to navigate your site.
Google My Business
This may seem counterintuitive for a church, since you’re certainly not a business. But if you want to show up properly in Google Maps and really control the experience your visitors have on Google when your church comes up in geographic search results, Google My Business is the way to go.
Unlike many directories, Google allows you to add your site for no charge at all. Not only can you manage reviews of your church, but you can also choose the contact information, photos, map location, and more. It’s important to review this any time you make a change, like to service times, so Google visitors always receive the most up-to-date information.
Google Tag Manager
To get started with Google Tag Manager, you do have to add a small bit of code to your website. (If you don’t have the technology skills to set this up, ask a tech-savvy person to install the code for you.) Then, you can enter new tags into Google Tag Manager, and the tool deals with everything from there.
While all the other tools are free, this one costs a bit of money. I know many churches don’t have funds available for advertising, but if you do, I would start by spending it on AdWords. This allows your site to stand out at the top of relevant Google searches.
AdWords can be a bit difficult to get started and it definitely needs to be monitored, but it’s a great form of advertising because you only pay for results. When a search term is entered, every relevant ad is placed into a bidding system. The ad with the highest bid is shown first, the second highest ad is next, and so on.
I recommend starting by bidding on terms like “churches in [your city]” to get some quick wins. Then move to more ministry-specific terms, like “VBS in [your city].” If you just use a general term like “VBS,” make sure your target audience is defined geographically.
Are you using any of these tools? Which do you think you’ll implement first? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the Author
Peter Frank serves as Senior Marketing Manager of Church Supplies at Concordia Publishing House. A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, his background in theology, business, and computers gives him a unique perspective on technology in the church. Married and the father of two children, he is frequently humbled when his 18-month-old shows him new things on the iPad.Follow on Twitter More Content by Peter Frank