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Five Practical Steps to Improve Your Church’s Digital Presence

The church is lagging behind the culture in the area of technological adoption. Taking advantage of the online space to spread the gospel is chief among those missed opportunities. But it's not too late.

The world lives online. Everyday things like communication, shopping, and even relationships have all gone digital.

Yet, when the church is left to its own devices, it too frequently lags behind the innovation of the culture.

Churches are missing out on significant opportunities. However, there are simple, practical steps that churches can take to improve their online presence and connect with their local community:

Step #1: Enhance Your Church’s Profile on Google Search and Google Maps

Thirty years ago, people found a local church through the Yellow Pages.

Today, they find you through Google. In fact, almost half of all Google searches are searching for local information. That means people are searching for things like restaurants, theaters, local concerts, and, yes, churches.

These are the same people you seek to reach with your bottled water giveaways each summer. You connect with them through your postcard mailers each Easter season…

But they are most likely to find you through Google. For this reason, local search engine optimization (SEO) is increasingly important for churches to address.

You can start by creating a Google My Business profile. It allows virtual visitors to get a glimpse of life at your church, read reviews from members and other visitors, and provide easy access to directions and essential information needed to visit.

What's a simple, practical next step?

Creating or upgrading your Google My Business account is easy. You can set up the basics in under 30 minutes.

When you’re done adding pictures, descriptions, and few other pieces of information, then people in your community searching for your church will see this:

Step #2: Invest in a Quality, Engaging, Visitor-Focused Website

Imagine if a new-comer arrived at your church to a lawn that hadn’t been cut in 7 weeks, cracked sidewalks, and doors hanging off their hinges. Inside, the ceiling is coming down, half the lights don’t work, and there is no one there to greet them or answer their questions. No pastor would allow that level of disheveledness to occur.

However, that is often the functional condition of many church’s websites. A visitor knocks on the virtual front door of your church and they are greeted with disheveledness: awkward church member language that visitors don’t understand, poor imagery that’s not reflective of church life, outdated events, etc. It’s time to remodel.

A well-designed, clean, easy-to-navigate website is worth the investment. It will provide a good and right first impression of your church, making the visitor more likely to cross through your actual front door.

Don’t underestimate the evangelistic power of a good website.

What's a simple, practical next step?

Remember that a church website should primarily be aimed at new visitors. **Note: members should have a hub for them but that’s beyond the scope of this article.**  With that in mind, review this webpage.  This page has been seen by thousands of prospective church visitors and has undergone significant testing to find what new visitors are looking for.  Make sure your homepage has each of these critical sections:

Step #3: Digitize Your Welcome Card and Automate Your Visitor Welcome Process

Most churches have a wonderful tradition of welcoming visitors. This is right and good to do. However, some fail to use that opportunity to make a connection with them, to capture their contact information for follow up visits and provide more information about the church. And many who do capture that information are still asking them to write it down on a postcard.

Remember, the world lives online. More and more, visitors have increased comfort using their phones rather than a postcard. And not only is using a digital welcome card in keeping with the times, it also eliminates manual data entry for church administrative staff.

Furthermore, the use of a digital welcome card allows you to easily automate your visitor follow-up process. Using an email platform like Mailchimp, you can automatically kick off a welcome email campaign, so the visitor receives an email just minutes after leaving your service. Through this and other follow up emails, they’ll have ways to connect and next steps to take at their fingertips.

What's a simple, practical next step?

Start by reviewing your physical welcome card to assess what information is 100% necessary to capture for a first time visitor.  Ideally this is 4 fields or less.

Why is this important?  People are increasingly hesitant to share personal information. A recent study conducted by Barna asked millenials what information they are willing to provide a church when they first visit a church. Here’s the results:

Step #4: Develop a Creative Ministry Team

The digital world in which we live is a machine that consistently needs to be fed content

To have an effective website and a social media presence that does more than announce upcoming events, you need fresh content that provides an authentic view of the church for visitors.

And while pastors can often be creative people, their time is needed to counsel the flock and prepare sermons. Fortunately, often contained within the congregation are many volunteers who can be brought together to form a Creative Ministry Team.  Here are the important positions on the team:

At a minimum, all that you need to start this team is to find a person in your church with a quality camera and an eye for a good shot.

Having a team like this in place will help bring your church’s digital presence to life. They become another front-line team giving the digital world its impression of your church, as well as a service ministry that fundamentally impacts outreach into the community.

With the right person at the helm of this team, the pastor can still be a shaping voice in the messaging process, without being bogged down by the workload.

What's a simple, practical next step?

Send an email to your church with a sign-up form. Ask who’s interested in volunteering to take photos on Sundays mornings and special church events.

Step #5: Tap into the Power of a Digital Marketing Partnership

Many churches approach evangelism in one of two ways.  The first approach is rooted in a general discomfort with outreach, which results in sporadic efforts at best and passivity at worst.  The second approach focuses on more traditional promotional methods such as print invitations and mailers, but these are increasingly less effective methods that yield little fruit in comparison to the reach and effectiveness digital advertising affords churches. 

With digital advertising you can target who sees your ads and how frequently your church is viewed. You can also evaluate which ads are working and why. Furthermore, you gain the ability to spread the Gospel in your community at an exponential scale. Because digital outreach campaigns run day and night, you can be found when it matters most.

However, many churches do not have this sort of expertise in-house and lack the ability to take advantage of the powerful tools now available. What’s needed is a partner with the fervor and passion for spreading the Gospel to walk alongside your church, helping you harness the power of digital marketing. 

Here at Digital Outreach, we can help you fundamentally transform how you do outreach, so you get the most out of every dollar you spend. We’ll help your local outreach by targeting your events just to the people they’re designed for. We’ll craft search ads that will ensure your church is seen by those looking for the very things your church provides.

Digital Outreach will improve your outreach potential and your outreach effectiveness. Nothing will ever replace the role of the church, the gospel, or the preaching of God’s Word. 

Digital Outreach is simply there to partner with you to help others benefit from these irreplaceable functions of the church.

What's a simple, practical next step?

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