The 5 Best Practices for
Successful Church & School Websites
by David Sharpe


Developing a website can be a daunting task. The huge amount of information available online can quickly become overwhelming, and it's easy to get bogged down in technical details that have little to do with a successful site.

Fortunately, creating a site that attracts visitors and brings them to your church or school does not depend on learning HTML, PHP, web server maintenance, or any of the other intimidating technical details. (Services like AdventistChurchConnect.org exist to do all of that for you.)

The success of your site depends on just five best practices. Four of them can be implemented by nearly anyone who is willing to put some time and thought into the effort, and Good News Advocates can help you with the fifth.

1. Focus On Your Visitors
One of the most common problems I see with business websites is the tendency to focus on the company rather than the customer. “XYZ, Inc. has been in business for 127 years, and is the thought leader in left-handed widgets....” and so on. Unfortunately, it's also a common problem for church and school websites.

- As you develop your site, be sure that all of your keywords and content are geared toward the way your visitors are thinking when they search online:

- What are they looking for? What words did they use in the search engine to find you?

- What needs are you supplying? What solutions are you offering?

- How can you help them in the most efficient way?

- Is it easy for them to learn more, find your facility, contact a real person, etc?

2. Be Consistent
Your site needs to be consistent within itself. Look at your site from a “big picture” perspective:

- Look for a smooth, logical flow that connects pages and messages to each other and to the rest of the site.

- Is the “voice” the same across all pages?

- Is the look and feel the same on all pages?

- Is the information consistent on each page? If the homepage says that church starts at 11:00 am, does another page say 11:15?

3. Be Clear
Each page should have user-friendly flow that is clear and easy to follow. Answer these questions from the visitor's perspective:

- Where am I (on the website)?

- Who are you?

- What do you offer?

- How does it help me?

- How do I navigate the site?

- Where do I go next?

- How do I learn more?

- Is the information accurate/current?

4. Remember That “Conversion” Has More Than One Meaning
Online marketers use “conversion rates” to measure how many visitors are persuaded to sign up for a newsletter, make contact by email or phone, make a purchase, etc. Your website has a slightly different purpose, but you still want people to do something when they visit your site.

Here's how to get them to take that action—be sure that every page has:

- A clear promise or message

- A presentation of benefits, not just features

- Proof and credibility that supports the message on that page

- A clear “call to action” which can be unique to each page, but must be consistent (see #5)

- Links for easy access to other pages on the site.

5. Think Competitively
Show how your church or school offers the best solution available. Demonstrate that you are unique, and provide value that other churches or schools do not offer.

In addition to showing how you are unique, your site should play by search engines' rules. This includes using keywords that help seekers find your site first in the search engines. Looking at your site from a search engine's perspective is a specialized process, and you may want to get some help to ensure that it's being done properly.

A Website That Works
It may seem a bit simplistic, but let someone else deal with the technical issues; if you focus on these five concepts, your site will look better and be more effective than others in your local area.

Good News Advocates (GNA) is available to help you implement any of these Best Practices. To make use of our free services, go to http://www.AskGNA.org and let us know: How can we help you?

David Sharpe is the Communications Director for Good News Advocates. To learn more about GNA and its services, email davids@goodnewsadvocates.org or 406-646-6070.

Note: David Sharpe will be presenting a workshop at Gladstone Camp Meeting this year on setting up and using a website for your school or church. To learn more about this seminar, visit www.OregonConference.org.

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