As a recent visitor to a church in a new town, I had the chance to see with fresh eyes the benefit of optimizing your church website for first-time guests.
Earlier this year, my family and I made a big cross-country move from Washington to Oklahoma. We were in search of warmer weather and better housing prices. The decision to move was difficult to us in no small part because it’d mean leaving behind the church we grew up in, served in, and helped lead through some difficult times. We now find ourselves in a brand new town and doing something I never saw myself doing: church shopping.
From the eyes of a first-time guest, church websites often suffer from a lack of content updates (except the regular sermon upload) and feel outdated. Other churches add events and articles geared toward the congregation with little information to help someone interested in visiting.
Here are 3 straightforward suggestions you can easily apply to optimize your church website for first-time guests:
#1 – Optimize Your Location For Visitors
The first step in serving your first-time visitor is to make your church and website easily discoverable. To do this, you’ll want to make sure your SEO is optimized for people to find your church and you’ll want to add your church to Google Maps.
SEO Optimization for First-Time Guests
There are many ways to optimize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and some of the techniques can be extremely labor intensive. Optimizing for first-time visitors is very simple, however. Make sure that the following is in place on your website:
- The website title includes your church’s name and city
- The website description should be your mission statement and include reference to the community you serve
- Add your church’s address to the footer of the website
- It is also helpful to include your church name and location in the header on your church’s home page, though this is not as critical as the other points
Following these instructions will help ensure that your church’s website will show up when a potential visitor looks up your church in a search engine. To verify, do a Google search of your church’s name to make sure it shows as one of the top results.
One of the first things we’ve done when looking for a new church is to pull up Google Maps to see what is close to us. You can follow these instructions to claim your Google listing if you have not already done so. Once you have it claimed, upload images so that visitors can get a feel for your church.
If you would like to list your church in other directories, you can follow this article to find the 12 best places to list your church online.
#2 – Set Expectations for First-Time Guests
Setting expectations is a vital part of making your guests feel confident and welcomed. Consider adding a page to your church website that helps a guest know what to expect when they visit your church. Here are some questions that a new visitor might wonder about:
- What do I do with my kids (I have 6 kids, so this is a pretty big source of anxiety for us when visiting a church for the first time)? If there is a children’s program, when should I take my kids there?
- What kind of worship service should I expect?
- Are refreshments provided? Can I bring coffee into the sanctuary? (Coffee is a big thing in the northwest where I come from.)
- How should I dress? Is the atmosphere formal or informal? Having some pictures of your church can really help with this.
- When should I arrive? Does it help to come early?
- How can I get involved, are there discipleship groups or serving opportunities?
- Is there wheelchair accessibility and seating?
- Are masks required, optional, or discouraged? This is an important question for many people these days.
You do not need to answer every question in the list, and there may be items not covered above that you want to address. But be sure to consider the needs of the community that your church is serving and help people know what to expect.
Looking for more ways to follow up with first-time guests? Check out 4 smart methods to welcome and follow-up with first-time guests.
#3 – Make a Connection and Follow Up With Visitors
Another way that you can make new visitors comfortable is to invite them to connect before they come. Creating a form or providing an email address gives people the opportunity to comfortably ask any questions prior to their visit. Having that small connection point also allows your church to plan a warm welcome for them.
Making a connection before someone visits your church also gives you a great opportunity to follow up with them. For many, receiving a follow-up email or call after attending a new church goes a long way towards making your visitor feel welcomed.
As you can see, optimizing your church website for first-time guests doesn’t have to be complicated. A few specific enhancements can make a world of difference for someone who is considering visiting your church.
If you have any other suggestions for ways to optimize your church website for first-time guests, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.