Promoting Your Church Website
... increasing your website's visibility
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 may 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 and government websites maintain public lists of places of worship within their area. Local papers often run information listings which are easy to get included in. Local community websites may be happy to list your church and could also be helpful for promoting specific church events. 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 lost and hurting so if your site has appropriate content and your church is ready for the intake why not get your site listed in some of the more obscure places!
If making links sounds technical, don't worry. It is straight forward within the Church123 system; just click the link icon.
Paying for Adverts on the Net (PPC - Pay Per Click)
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 may only pay approximately 15 cents (10p) 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) and it's far more targeted than a listing in a newspaper. You can also limit the amount your church is willing to pay per month so you are in control of your advertising spend.
If you have already seen the fruit of an Adwords account you may also like to consider the advertising options on the Yahoo Bing ads network. It's not as big as Google but if you have the time to run two advertising accounts it should be your next stop.
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. It's worth measuring any paid for adverts. If you stop the adverts do you get less people making contact?
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.
Email signatures (footers)
Certainly all emails from the church office and church staff should have signatures. 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, etc 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 address on that. Make a large sign that is clearly visible. One church we know sponsored 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). Many universities have Christian Unions or other Christian societies and it may be best to talk with them first about how you can work with them to more effectively serve the student population.