Once you have your church site set up it is worth investing some time promoting your site. It will encourage visitors and increase the amount of fruit your church site yields. There are a number of ways of promoting you site and most are either free or relatively cheap.
Church123 register their customers' websites with the major search engines – but the church can take this further. Getting other websites to link to yours is a fantastic way to promote your church website. Not only will you get visitors through the links but also search engines will consider your church site to be more important (and therefore give it a higher listing). If you haven't read the page about search engines and directories then make sure you don't miss out on that valuable information.
First you should start by visiting other church websites in your area. If the church has a page on their website called links, and you feel it is appropriate, send them an email asking them to add a link to your site. In the spirit of unity there is something called reciprocal linking – if someone includes a link to you from their site then it is polite to make a link from your site back to them. Sometimes this mutual ‘back scratching' is a great way to quickly build up the number of links coming to your site (these are called incoming links). It may be surprising to you but you may find that it is good policy to link to other quality churches in your area that are very different to your church. For example, if you are a traditional church and do not currently provide a youth group you may wish to link to a church in the area that is running successful youth programmes. If you are a modern church you may wish to include a link to another church with a sentence such as "we are an informal and lively church, if you are looking for something more traditional then you may wish to visit St. Albert's" and of course you would make the word "St. Albert's" a link. As churches we need to work together trying to help direct people to the most suitable church for them.
Other great places to get links. A lot of local councils maintain lists on their websites with links to places of worship. Local papers often run community portals which are easy to get included in. Further to these you can also try schools, friends and any website where you consider people who should come along to your church might look – be creative, remember Jesus went out looking for the sinners – so if your site has appropriate content and your church is ready for the intake why not get your site listed in some more obscure places!
If making links sounds technical, don’t worry. It is straight forwards within the Church123 system; just click the link icon.
Paying for Adverts on the Net
Paying for adverts on the Internet sounds expensive but it needn't be. Google runs a very cost-effective option called AdWords. Try searching on Google for something like ‘books' you will see a range of adverts down the right hand side of the page. These advertisers pay for their advert to be shown whenever someone types certain keywords, in this case ‘books'. You can set up an AdWords account here. The trick is to only pay for keywords that are truly relevant to your church and will bring in quality visitors. There is no point paying for thousands of people to come to your site via the keyword ‘church'. You will certainly get a lot of visitors, but few of them will be in your target audience. You need to be strategic in your choice of words, so if you are a church in Bournemouth you could consider the words ‘Bournemouth Church' and if you have a youth group you could also include ‘Bournemouth Youth Group'. You can have as many keywords as you like and only pay approximately 10 cents (5p) for every visitor who clicks on the link. You know that these visitors are people searching for the things you are promoting – it's much cheaper than distributing 5000 leaflets door by door telling people you are running an event (although many churches would probably do that as well as advertising on the Internet).
Paying for other adverts
Lots of churches already pay for small adverts in local newspapers – if you do make sure you always include your church website address.
Everything you print
Whenever your church office sends a letter, make sure it has your web and email addresses on it. When you order your next church stationary include your web address clearly (you do not need to put the http:// just start from the www). When you print your church notice sheet, parish magazine, or anything else, always include the web address. If you have just got your site nicely polished and are launching it then consider including an article about it in your church magazine.
Certainly all emails from the church office and church staff should have footers – you have probably already seen these where people include their contact details at the bottom of an email. They are quick and easy to set up in programs such as Outlook and Outlook Express and will increase the number of visitors coming to your site. You can even encourage your congregation to put footers at the bottoms of the personal emails saying something like:
Come to Kings Church on Sunday – It's great – www.kingschurch.com
This means that every time they send an email they are advertising the church, of course depending on who and what they are emailing they may not wish to do this.
Notice boards, bill boards, banners and roundabouts
If you have a church building then you have the opportunity to advertise your website on that – make a sign and put it up. One church we know is paying for the flowers on a public roundabout, what a great place to have a church website address!
Almost without exception, university students use the Internet as one of their main information sources. Churches in university towns may wish to find ways to advertise out to students. Why not pay for a stand at the Freshers' Fair and give away free drinks mats or pens with your web address on (along with a complimentary chocolate bar to attract students' interest).