1 Essential Thing Missing from Your Church Website

What do you want to happen when people visit your church’s website?

That seems like a simple question but one that is too often overlooked.

From viewing hundreds of church websites, I am confident most of them have not thought of this. With the exception of churches that have a true strategy for their website, churches tend to design websites in one of two ways.

  1. Assign it to a staff member or volunteer with no clear strategic direction.
  2. Design by committee, listening to the voices of a number of different stakeholders.

Rarely do either of these lead to a website that has any measurable impact on the life of the church. The reason they aren’t effective is that there is a lack of clarity of purpose. That lack of purpose leads to the lack of an essential element: The Call to Action.

The purpose of a church website is to encourage new people to engage with your church. Most of the time that means converting website visitors into church visitors. With more churches adding online worship and content, it may be more about getting website visitors to watch a worship service online or dive deeper into information about the Gospel or the church.

In order for your church website to encourage new people to engage with the church, it needs to be designed around that purpose and it needs to have a clear call to action.

What Is a Call to Action?

A website call to action or CTA is simply a prompt that invites people to do something. In an effective CTA, that prompt is obvious, specific, clear, and manageable. CTAs are usually written as a command or action like: sign up, buy now, download, subscribe, register, join, try, etc..

Let’s look at a website that gets this. The American Red Cross has great clarity about what they want to happen when you visit their website.

The Red Cross's website offers a clear call to action

The arrows are mine. I put them there to draw your attention to what their great design would have drawn your attention to if you had landed on the website on your own. The Red Cross has a clear conversion objective for visitors to their website. They want you to donate. You can donate money or you can donate blood.

You will notice that there are plenty of other things on the website. If the Red Cross is like any other organization, there have been meetings where different stakeholders asked for their content to be more prominently featured on the site. Stories were shared about people having trouble finding some page, form, or piece of information. However, someone must have stood firm and asked the question, “What is the one thing we want someone to do when they visit our website?”

What is the one thing you want to happen when someone visits your church's website?

What Do You Want People to Do?

What is the one thing you want to happen when someone new visits your church’s website? Different churches may answer this in different ways. That’s okay as long as there is an answer. Maybe you want people to come visit on Sunday. Perhaps you would like them to watch your livestream on Sunday or watch a sermon from the archive. You could be hoping they join you for a community picnic, or for a service opportunity. Honestly, what you want them to do may vary during different times of the year.

What is the one thing you want to happen when someone new visits your church’s website? I realize people may or may not do what we want them to. However, people are more likely to do what we want if we ask them.

So What is Your Call to Action?

Once you figure out what you want people to do, you need to invite them to do it. As you are developing your church website’s call to action, consider these things:

1. Make it the most obvious thing on the landing page of your website.

Look again at the Red Cross website. What are your eyes drawn to? It would be hard to miss their call to action. Here is the landing page for The United Methodist Church of The Resurrection. What are they hoping their visitors will do?

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection has a clear call to action.

2. Make it Specific

Focus, focus, focus. There may be many things in your head that you want to happen but pick one thing and stick with it. Give visitors one clear next step. Some examples (like the Red Cross and the example below) appear to have more than one call to action. However, they really show one call to action (donate, watch) with a couple of ways of doing it. (donate money or blood, watch live service or a recorded sermon).  Here is the current (as of March 27,2018) landing page for Life.Church. They have opted to ask people to experience the church right away via online church or a recorded sermon.

Life.Church has a call to action that invites visitors to check out church online or a recorded sermon

3. Make it Clear

This should go without saying but we in the church world love to use language to obscure meaning. Between theological terms and cute acronyms, we are likely to come up with a call to action that says, “A.C.C.E.L.E.R.A.T.E. with UMCLR today and gain a new love of ecclesiology!” Instead, stick with calls that work like sign up, visit, download, plan, etc.

4. Make It a Manageable Step

The best calls to action involve a step that can be completed right then and there. It may seem like a subtle clarification but it is important. A call to action that invites people to come to church on Sunday is not a manageable step – because it is not a step. It is a whole bunch of steps. Visiting your church on Sunday involves looking on the website to see when and where you worship, deciding if it is the sort of place I want to visit, determining if I am free on Sunday, getting up earlier than normal on Sunday, figuring out how to get there, finding a place to park, wayfinding my way into the sanctuary and deciding where to sit.

If we want people to act on calls to action, we need to break down the steps into something manageable. Scroll back up and look at the landing page for The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The call to action is bite-sized. All they are asking from me is to pick a place. If I click on that button, I get another bite-sized decision.

Church of the Resurrection uses their CTA to invite people to choose a location.

They offer a neat interactive map that lets me see all the locations. When I choose one, I end up on a page with information that would be helpful in planning a visit.

The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection's call to action leads to a series of small next steps.

5. Test and Evaluate

If you are not reviewing your website analytics, this is a good time to start. Whether you use the built-in analytics from your website provider or dig into Google Analytics, it is important to review how your call to action is working. This is simply a matter of checking to see if visitors to your site are clicking on your call to action and what they are doing next.

In case analytics feel to you like a mysterious world for hackers and mathematicians, in my next post, I will show you how to do this.

Want some more examples?

Check out HubSpot’s 31 Call-to-Action Examples You Can’t Help But Click.” No church websites here. They are all from business sites but they are really great examples of CTAs that are obvious, specific, clear, and manageable.

Have a great call to action on your website? Share the link in the comments below!

Want to review your church’s website? Download my free Church Website Self-Evaluation Tool.

 

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