Episode 1 | The Key Elements of Your Church’s Homepage and Plan Your Visit Page
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Katie Allred: Welcome to the Church Communications Podcast, the podcast that celebrates church communicators that are around the world. Our podcast offers practical advice for your church communication strategy needs.
Kenny Jahng: Well, hey everybody. It’s Kenny Jahng here with the Church Communications Podcast. Next to me, across the interwebs is my partner in crime, katie J. Allred. How are you doing, Katie? How are you doing today?
Katie Allred: I’m great. How are you doing?
Kenny Jahng: It is a fantastic day here in Jersey. I love the Sweet Home Alabama sign that’s new to your background. I got to get something about Jesus loves Jersey. I got to get one of those signs.
Katie Allred: Jesus loves Jersey. Is that even a sign? If it’s not, we are going to put it in the store later.
Kenny Jahng: We used to have those shirts for liquid church volunteers, and it was…
Katie Allred: That’s amazing.
Kenny Jahng: It was funny. We did a big outreach and went to Staten Island, New York to help with the hurricanes and had those shirts on going into Jersey and going into New York saying that Jesus loves Jersey. A little awkward there.
Katie Allred: He loves Jersey more than he loves New York.
Kenny Jahng: But he loves Jersey and Alabama, at least today. So, I’m really happy to join you for the communications podcast here. It is- [crosstalk 00:01:19]
Katie Allred: Yes. This is the first time, your your intro to the podcast, really.
Kenny Jahng: It’s my debut, right? I’m joining the party.
Katie Allred: Yes. I’m so excited. Not late to the party, fashionably on time.
Kenny Jahng: Well, one of the things I think I’m excited about is, look, we’re getting back to basics. And this whole season, I think, is going to be really interesting because I love what I hope our group is known for. It is tactical, practical help for the church communicator. Today, we decided to talk about specifically what are the key elements of our church’s homepage that, if you’re rebuilding it or if you’re building it for the first time… Kate, I heard a stat recently that 12 to 15% of churches don’t have a website still in 2019. Isn’t that crazy?
Katie Allred: And that’s wild. Yeah. I mean, but how many businesses don’t have a website too?
Kenny Jahng: That is true.
Katie Allred: How can people find you if they cannot find you online? There’s not the Yellow Pages anymore. So, if I was new to your community, how would I find out about your church? I mean, of course there could be word of mouth, maybe a neighbor tells me, but that is going to be very rare. More than likely, they’re going to go online and they’re going to search “Churches near me.” Okay. They might also search for a denomination, okay. So, they might say “Southern Baptist churches near me.” Well, if you’re a Southern Baptist church and you don’t have a website, then you’re not going to pull up in that list. So, how can we create websites that are compelling, and how can we just create websites at all? So, I think that’s what we’re going to kind of cover today.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s actually a great task while you’re listening to this podcast or watching along, I would actually try to do that Google search, right? “Churches near me” with or without your city name, and I think people would be surprised what actually comes up. Sometimes you’re happily surprised that your church actually does show up relatively high in the rankings, but many times, it’s not. But that’s what people are seeing when they’re actually Googling online, right?
Katie Allred: Right. Which something I would also compel our listeners to do is instead of using your Google, because your Google is going to be personalized to you, so you probably have Googled your church maybe in the past or something like that. Or just because you’ve gone to your church in the past, Google knows you’ve gone there because maybe you used Google Maps or something. What I would recommend doing is that… Because it’s going to sway where it pulls up in the speed because of that. So, what I recommend you doing is using DuckDuckGo and just seeing where it falls under DuckDuckGo just because that will… It is a completely secure search network and it will show you the universal actual global results in comparison to… Without taking in the account of your personal past search history or your geographical location.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah. I love DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t store your personal info, it doesn’t track you and it doesn’t give you ads. So, it’s a very clean way to figure out what results are coming up in the search engines. So, I think before we talk about what should be on the home page, Katie, probably talk about who you’re talking to, right? I always try to think you’ve got to target people, then you’ve got to attract them and you’ve got to engage them. What would you say are the core groups of people that we have to think about that we are bringing to our website?
Katie Allred: So, there are three audiences that you are bringing to your church’s website. There are people who already attend, there are people who are seeking a church, and then there are people who are just searching Google for help. Okay. So, really, there’s three audiences. So, there’s the a person who already attends, the seeker of a church and then somebody who’s just searching for help because they have a felt need. Maybe they are looking for a community for disabled people, or maybe they’re looking for childcare, or maybe they’re looking for a food bank. So, there is a lot of reasons that somebody might land on your church’s website other than they’re looking for church. So, those are the three audiences that are typically looking for a church website.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah, and I like the fact that you’re separating them out, because it really matters when you’re writing your copy for your website and from getting images and photos and videos, etc., that you have to remember who you’re talking to, right? You’re having a conversation, basically, across the web. And so we have to know who we are talking to. Yeah, that’s really important. So, let’s talk about the home page, right? So, that’s the most important page that you should really spend some time and energy on. From your perspective, what’s the first thing that people should be thinking about from the church’s expression on the web? What do we need to include on the church homepage?
Katie Allred: I think, first, you definitely need a big clear headline and call to action. And so I love good, crisp imagery. I’m not crazy about video. I think a lot of churches are overusing the video header, honestly. I think we can wind that back in a little bit. But good, clean imagery that just compels people to go to church. So, don’t show a picture of your building. I don’t think that is what people are going to church for. The church is in a building. The church is a people group, right? And so why don’t you do just some big image of some kind of shot of your people? And so you’ll have to think about “What do I want to show? People in worship? Do I want to show the guest experience with somebody shaking hands? Do I want to show a big group shot of all of our people?” There’s so many different ways that you can do that.
Katie Allred: Maybe you want to create a mirage of a bunch of picture… Not a mirage. What’s the word I’m looking for? A collage. A mirage. That’s not it. A college of a lot of different pictures together, right? Just showing the diversity of your church. There are so many different ways that you can do this, but of course, I just think having a clear headline, a tagline almost, of who you are as a church, but maybe it’s your mission statement. Maybe it’s something off of your mission statement because your mission statement is way too long. But something that’s just short, to the point, very clear that explains who you are.
Katie Allred: Kenny and I became StoryBrand guides. So, we’re really all about the, if you confuse people, you’ll lose people. And so we don’t want to lose anyone, okay? So, we have to compel them to scroll down. So, the above the fold content is very important. So, what we put above there is really important. So, you’ve got the tagline. Now we need a clear call to action. What is it that churches are going to do next? So, Kenny, what do you think the call to action should be?
Kenny Jahng: Well, I think many churches muddy the waters here where you have opportunities to go the other direction, have crystal clear clarity and helping people know exactly what you want them to do next. And typically, I would say for most churches, the general rule should be something around planning a visit to the church, right? If you are external focused and you’re trying to attract new visitors and being missional, you want to plan a visit. Something to that nature above the fold would be obvious.
Katie Allred: Right. Yeah. 100%, I agree. So, what I think, too, is the plan that is it really helps compel people to figure out, okay, this is what I’m supposed to do next right here at the church. So, what else?
Kenny Jahng: Well, I think if you got that done, then the only other thing above the fold really you have to think about is your logo has to be clear, and then there’s to be some intuitive menu options for people, right? I think that one is a place where people, again- [crosstalk 00:09:30]
Katie Allred: In less than six.
Kenny Jahng: The people clutter that navigation up, I think.
Katie Allred: Oh, yes, yes. And you should put your call to action not just here in the header, right, but also in your menu. So, it should be repeated. And I know it seems like that’s a lot, but it should be repeated so that people know this is clearly what I want you to do. But also, your header, your menu, it cannot be a ton of options. If you put so many options, people are going to be so overwhelmed and they’re not going to know what to do. So, really, I recommend honestly five or less. Six is okay too. I think six is pushing it, but you really need less than six options. And of course, people are like, “Well, we’ve got more than six ministries, Katie.” Well, you could drop-downs and that kind of stuff. I would try and stay away from traditional drop-downs, maybe use a mega menu sort of thing so people can see more full options or maybe take them on a path, right, of, okay, we click this page, now we click this page, that kind of thing.
Katie Allred: There’s a lot of ways you can go about doing that, but just creating a clear call to action so that everybody always knows what to do next. That’s especially imp it throughout your website. Not just on the homepage, but every single page needs a clear call to action so somebody knows what to do next.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah. It’s kind of like when you’re inviting someone into your house and they enter your doorway and you’re standing in the foyer with them. You don’t want to barrage them and say, “Hey, you want to look at the basement? You want to look at the garage? You want to look at the bathroom. You want to look at the second bathroom, the first bedroom, second bedroom?” You’re not going to barrage them with options right there. You’re going to welcome them into your home and kind of guide them, right, facilitate their visit. And so I think you’re right that five or less, six or less is definitely the… You don’t want paralysis by analysis.
Kenny Jahng: I think the other thing that, for me, which is I don’t see in many church website menus, I think it’s important to try to feature a link to watch a sermon or get to the messages quickly. People go to churches for the sermon messaging, right? At the end of the day, the church is a church and that’s what people want to be fed with. And so giving easy access to your sermon archive or a specific sermon series or maybe the best of, I think, is something that you should probably put in the navigation.
Katie Allred: For sure.
Kenny Jahng: What else, Katie? What else could we put in that nav?
Katie Allred: I think a value proposition would be good. And I know value proposition’s such a [businessy 00:11:56] Term, but what do people get by coming to your church that they wouldn’t get anywhere else? What is it about your church that is uniquely different? And you know what that is, right? Maybe it’s your small groups are awesome or your worship experience is really creative. Something about your church is uniquely different. So, what can we feature that can compel people to make a choice too? I think, also the most important things you can put on your homepage is very clear times and directions. If you don’t have clear times and directions on your website, how are people… Especially on your homepage, how are people supposed to find you? And so not only having it on your homepage, there should be a section for it, like “Come visit us this Sunday. Here’s the times and directions.” But then also, you should make sure that that’s always in your footer, right?
Katie Allred: So, the footer is almost the junk drawer of your website, but it should be consistent across your entire website. But you need to make sure your address and your phone number and everything is in the footer. I think that people come to expect and assume that this information, the contact information, will be in the photo and most of the time, it isn’t. I also recommend that you put your hours there as well, right? If you have weekly hours and then your Sunday hours, just put that kind of information in the footer. There’s definitely a lot of great ways you can display that information. But if you don’t put your times and directions, how are people going to find you on Sunday? More than likely, they’re going to just to look at your website and click all around trying to find where this information is, and that’s just going to harm you more than help you.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I think that’s a great strategic move, right? Again, you want to declutter the top of the page and kind of… I love that phrase. Think of the footer as your junk drawer where you can cleanly organize and put anything else. If people want to explore and you have them and you hook them and they’re not leaving, they’re going to explore that bottom of the page. But at the top of the page, you want to be clutter-free and you want to give the most important things, right? So, I think plan your visit, like you said, the message and sermons, the basic “About us” stuff, and then maybe some connections to ministry fronts that you have available that connect with felt needs, right?
Kenny Jahng: So, those are the things that if someone’s searching for your church, they might be going through some felt needs, some problem that has arisen in their life that they need some partnership with, and your church can be that answer, right? And so, again, intuitive navigation, clutter-free, and put everything else in the junk drawer. There’s other things that have to be on the home, though, Katie. We need to get people to have deeper engagement once they identify, hey, this is something of interest. What are a couple things that, in your mind, offer that deeper engagement, the pathway beyond the homepage?
Katie Allred: Like I said earlier, creating those clear calls to action that can tell people to keep going, right? So, once you’re on the plan a visit page, right? So, our clear call to action on the homepage is to plan a visit. Well, after they have finished that form, is that the end? You should probably compel them like, “Hey, now learn about our church. Watch some previous sermons. Do you have a kid in kid’s ministry? Let’s learn more about kids’ ministry. You have a student? Let’s learn about more about students. Do you have a need? Do you need help? We would love to help you. Click here for help or to chat with somebody” or whatever. And too, you were just talking about these felt needs, right, a lot of times will end up on our church website because they have a felt need. And so do you have a “Need help” button on your website? We had that in our menu structure at a church I worked at, and I love that.
Katie Allred: I love that there was this “Need help” and that there is an easy way to access it. And of course, people maybe abused it a little bit, but at the same time, what is the church there for besides to offer help? And so how can people reach you when they need help? And I’ve heard so many amazing stories of how people reached out online when they have needed help and the church had been able to help them because they have created this pathway, an easy way to communicate with a counselor, to communicate with a need to feed their children, those kinds of things. So, we just have to create easy ways where people are shame-free and guilt-free to communicate with us about their needs.
Kenny Jahng: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Katie Allred: As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a great first impression. Your church’s homepage is often someone’s first impression of your church. An effective homepage and “Plan a visit” page will drive traffic to your website and, ultimately, new visitors to your church. How effective is your church’s homepage and “Plan a visit” page?
Kenny Jahng: Well, Missional Marketing is a friend of ours. They’re devoted to helping churches grow in today’s digital age, Katie, and they’ve developed a checklist that I love. Churches listening today can use it to determine just how well their homepage is doing. So, they want to offer this valuable tool here to our listeners, which I love. So, hopefully they’ll get to use it
Katie Allred: Totally for free. So, all you have to do is go to missionalmarketing.com/homepage, and you’re going to be able to access this free tool for your church for free. Again, that is missional. So, missionalmarketing.com/homepage.
Kenny Jahng: I think the other big thing is programming, right? I mean, if you have a vibrant dynamic church, your community life probably has a lot of events, programs, not just on Sundays, but across the week. And I think if we go back to those three initial audiences, people who attend your church want to know about the events. People are seeking a new church. They know about Sunday worship, but you want to figure out how to get them involved in other avenues, and that’s probably… Events are a good way to attract them. And then people that are seeking something specific that the church can offer with those help needs. If you have affinity groups or support groups, publicizing those events on your calendar to make it easy for people to zero in and say, “Oh, they have a celebrate recovery, they have a new moms group, they have a newlywed couples group, they have a singles group,” right? All have these types of events make really good connection points [crosstalk 00:18:49] deeper engagement with the ministry.
Katie Allred: And too, you can make more than one call to action on the page. You could split it. You could have two buttons. You can be “Find a group, join us on Sunday morning,” okay? And then so when you hit “Find a group,” they see all the groups that are possible and how they can join them right then and there online. And then if you click “Join us on Sunday morning,” it leads to like a “Plan a visit” page where you can fill out information. So, let’s talk about “Plan of visit” just for a minute.
Kenny Jahng: Sure.
Katie Allred: So, this is a new concept. Maybe you have heard about it. I’m hoping that you probably have if you’re in our group, but maybe you haven’t. So, basically, a “Plan a visit” form is this way that you can gather information and be prepared for somebody to visit you on Sunday. It’s really great. It’s an easy way for people to… It’s low pressure, right? There isn’t a ton of pressure on the person. They just filled out a form on the internet. And so basically, what we can do is on the “Plan a visit,” of course, get name, email, phone number, address, get all this information that you want to get from them on Sunday morning, but most of the time you don’t have time to get, but also you can get information about, “Do you have children? Do you have special needs? Do you have students?” Like how can we get you plugged in? What service are you coming to? When can we expect you? And then you can be prepared with a gift and you can be prepared to welcome them and- [crosstalk 00:20:15].
Kenny Jahng: Greeters, yeah.
Katie Allred: Right. You can take their children and be prepared for whatever needs that they might have. And that’s so exciting, right, that we can do this up front, in a way. Also, you can put them on a drip campaign. So, once they have planned the visit, you might say, “Hey, can’t wait to see you this Sunday,” and maybe you have two different kind of drip campaigns. We’ll say this person did visit this Sunday and another one didn’t, right? And so if they did, you’ll say, “Hey, we’re so thankful that you came. Thank you for joining us. We hope that we’ll see you again next Sunday? Here’s what you have to go look forward to. Here’s what’s going on in our community right now.” If they didn’t come, you can say, “Hey, we missed you this past Sunday. We hope that it wasn’t us, and if there’s something that we can do for you, we’d love to help. Here are some things coming up again in the community.” So, very similar kind of structures. So, so many different ways that plan of visits can be used to just reach a community.
Kenny Jahng: Well, I love the fact, like how you conversationally just explained that, and that’s literally how you should be communicating with them over email or texting, whatever method you do. Because it’s a relationship, right? If you invited someone to church and they said they’re going to come and they didn’t come, you should not just go dark and not acknowledge it. You’d probably reach out. “Hey, I missed you on Sunday. I hope everything’s okay,” or catch up with them. And they probably were busy with life. They’re not used to visiting on Sunday, but you would follow up with them, and that’s the point is you want them to feel invited and welcomed, not pressured or obliged. And so this “Plan your visit” concept that has kind of blown up this past year, at least amongst our community, I think is a good thing because it not only lets the church receive information, but you are actually to serve… You’re able to serve that visitor, the prospective visitor, giving them information, which I think at the end of the increases the confidence of that prospective visitor of what they’re going to see, what they’re going to experience.
Kenny Jahng: So, I think it’s a place to give service times, really a lot of information about getting there and what to expect, right? Like parking is… Many times, we have parking lots that are on the other side of the building or across the street or… Right? Our churches are weird sometimes. Entering the building, what to do. After they park, how to get from the parking lot to the front door. Do you have greeters or not? Those are the types of things that I think you could put out there.
Katie Allred: Right, and there’s special parking for guests.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah. And Katie, what else… I’m trying to think, brainstorming. What other things would someone want to know what to expect as they’re walking in for the first time?
Katie Allred: I think, especially… So, I don’t know if this should go on the homepage or the About page, but I do think that special needs are really important. Just what you offer for people, especially maybe do you have a deaf interpreter? Is it blind assessable? Do you have a room for children and adults with autistic needs? And so do you have a calm room? I think that’s what they call it. And I think that’s so important, and I think a lot of churches are now investing in it, but it’s so important to talk about it online because if you’re not clear about it online, they have no idea if you do or not. And so especially to those parents who really are looking for a church with this, I mean, how important is that? And so if you could just make that super clear somewhere on your website, I mean, maybe even on the homepage or, again, you can put it down there and the footer. Special needs, question Mark.
Kenny Jahng: I think this is where imagery can tell the story without saying any words, right? [crosstalk 00:24:08]
Katie Allred: For sure. Yeah, 100%. And I just think it’s so important. We don’t need to negate it, you know?
Kenny Jahng: Absolutely. And then there’s the traditional thing. When I’m inviting friends on the sidelines of soccer, when I’m watching my son, you’re inviting other founders and friends. The conversation I like to pick up is that, hey, dude, church is not like what you thought it was back in the day. Our church gives out earplugs because the music is so loud. What? The music is loud? Because we actually have lights and smoke machines and contemporary music and it’s not the hymns anymore. A lot of churches today have changed, and so expectations of your Sunday best… Do you remember, everyone… I don’t know about your church, but used to be when I was growing up, you had to dress up to go to church. I would say the clear majority now, you’re not dressing up in your three piece suit to go to church.
Katie Allred: Definitely not. Yeah. So, what to expect, yeah, I think it’s important as well.
Kenny Jahng: And even the… So, the music is different. The people, what they wear is different. Like you said, the children’s ministries’ really important. I think giving is something that… I think it’s subtle, but it’s such a big part of baggage in people’s minds. What are the expectations to give? I think calling that out and lowering the bar so that people understand that we don’t expect visitors to actually contribute for the first time, if that’s your policy, use that to your advantage so that you can invite people in. All those little things that you have to think about if you’re visiting for the first time, and you might be a little bit nervous because you haven’t been to church in a while or you haven’t been the church ever. Those are the things I think you have to show up online.
Kenny Jahng: So, one of the phrases we say with our team is that you have to have paparazzi previews, right? Paparazzi are… The positive side is they leave no stone unturned, right? They don’t leave anything to imagination. And I think in a positive way, you want to give that decision maker in the family all the information that they can have about their visit and expectations so it can be a successful one.
Katie Allred: Yeah, for sure. Well.
Kenny Jahng: What else? Is there anything else that we’re missing from a big picture perspective, Katie?
Katie Allred: I can’t think of else. I think this has really been a great episode.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah, I… So, there’s one resource that I was Googling and I found this. It’s missionalmarketing.com/homepage. They actually have a link to a document. It’s like a PDF that has a checklist of, I think, most of the things that we talked about both on the homepage, above the fold, below the fold, and then even just the “Plan a visit” section. It’s a great little checklist I think that you can start with as a discussion point for your church and your team to figure out, hey, is this something that we should modify, revise, or even if you’re going to start from scratch with your website, what to do.
Katie Allred: Yeah. They’re our sponsor for this episode. So, you can go to missionalmarketing.com/homepage and learn more and just read more about it. So, yeah.
Kenny Jahng: Katie, what are we going to talk about next time? I feel like we’re… This episode, I think, is setting the stage for the next inevitable question about- [crosstalk 00:27:50]
Katie Allred: For the future.
Kenny Jahng: Yeah. Yeah.
Katie Allred: Okay. So, in the next couple of episodes, we’re actually going to jump into SEO, right? So, SEO is something we don’t talk about a ton, honestly, in the group. And then we also don’t talk about it a ton as a church, but it matters so much because like I said earlier, if I can’t find you on Google, where can I find you? So, SEO is search engine optimization, okay? It’s how do… Where do we write when we are searched for? And so we’re going to be talking about the importance of local SEO and Google My Business in the next episode, and I’m so excited for it. It’s going to be amazing.
Kenny Jahng: Awesome. Well, I think it’s that time, and I look forward to chatting it up about SEO and all the nerdy stuff about Google My Business, etc.
Katie Allred: Looking forward to it. Thanks, Kenny.
Katie Allred: Give your church’s homepage a checkup today and find out if it’s ready to make a great first impression. We want to encourage you to download the free homepage and “Plan of visit” checklist from Missional Marketing by going to missionalmarketing.com/homepage. Again, that is missionalmarketing.com/homepage.