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If you build it, they will come - but only if you nudge them

By Tracy Wood

SUMMARY: You’ve built your Web site, but no one is visiting. Should you throw in the towel? Redesign the site? Add and subtract articles? Heavens no!

If you build it, they will come. Yes, the proverbial they will come, but you need to help them along. Many people build a Web site and just expect that people will come. If it were that simple, I could have bypassed Web Site Marketing in college.

Since it’s not, and I got an A in the course, this article will focus on how to market your church’s Web site effectively – and I won’t charge you a tuition fee.

Get listed and linked up!
How will people find you online? An excellent place to be listed and linked is the National Find-A-Church database, maintained by Suppose a family is moving from Connecticut to Nebraska and is looking for a new church home. Being listed on Find-A-Church could sway them to visit your church. If you aren’t listed, how will they find you? Remember, people are turning less and less to a phone book for information. Bill Gates predicted at the Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit last spring that "Yellow Page usage among people, say, below 50, will drop to zero—or near zero—over the next five years." After all, it’s much easier and faster online! (Think of the amount of time you’ve spent just searching for the phonebook.) Also, it’s a great idea to get listed and linked on your district and annual conference Web sites.

And it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.
Keep in mind: the aim is to flood your target markets with information. You need to think outside the box.

  1. Positive publicity – Many local newspapers have a religion section that features a church each week. Call your local newspaper and request that it feature a mission project your church is doing. The paper will be thankful for the story lead, they will be more informed and you’ll enjoy having your Web site address listed in the contact information section.

  2. Signatures – I’m not talking John Hancock – he’s been in the limelight long enough. I’m referring to signatures you can create for e-mails you send and receive. Microsoft Outlook has this functionality, as well as popular free e-mail hosting sites like Hotmail and Gmail. You should include your Web site address and make it “clickable” so they do not have to copy and paste the text. Also, search for relevant blogs and forums, such as 7 Villages. With every post, include a signature that includes your Web site address (again, make it clickable). This will allow you to reach an even broader and more diverse they.

  3. Online advertising – Don’t neglect your local online advertising opportunities! Check out your local chamber of commerce Web site, the visitors’ bureau Web site for your community and the city government Web site. They will visit all of these sites when looking for community information. Create a simple banner and submit it to the webmasters of each site. Don’t forget to indicate you want it clickable directly to your Web site. This may cost a fee, or the advertising may be free. If there is a fee, use your best judgment on whether you’ll get an appropriate return on investment (ROI). In this case, your ROI would be visitors to your Web site that turn into visitors to your church and subsequent memberships.

Be Davy Jones and capture them!
But don’t make them walk the plank. We want to capture e-mail addresses. By doing this, you’re building a database of visitors to advertise to later. Think about the big picture: people forward e-mails to other people all the time. They could forward your e-mails to even more people who will then visit your Web site. To capture their e-mail address, require visitors to register or log in to read or subscribe to your e-newsletter, vote in a poll, listen to archived Sunday sermons or post in a forum.

Make it a game – like Clue, but no candlestick, library or Colonel Mustard.
Announce in the bulletin and during the worship service that your church has a Web site. Set up a scavenger-type hunt that includes information about your church, the Bible and so forth and award a prize to the first person (or first five, depending on church size) to answer the questions correctly. This will be a fun way to drive people to your Web site. Remember, they are thinking “what’s in it for me?” so make the prize worthy of their time.

And now, the basics.
What’s the easiest way to get the word out about your church’s Web site? Flood your target markets by putting your Web site on everything you print, send and sign. This means putting your Web site address on:

  • Church bulletins

  • Newspaper advertisements

  • Business cards

  • Church marquee

  • Newsletters

  • Letterhead

  • Radio spots

  • New-member packets

In short, anything that is produced by your church should include your Web site address. Do not assume they will “just know” your church has a Web site. By repeatedly putting the Web site address in front of their eyes, you reinforce it continually.

Yes, they will come, but never, ever assume they know the Web address. Flood the market with your Web site address, and your efforts will pay off.