Church Web Traffic Impacts Church Growth

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Church web traffic impacts church growth. A reliable way to see if a church is growing is to plot the curve on their web traffic.

Church Web Traffic Impacts Church Growth

If their web traffic is trending upward, then the church is likely growing. If the web traffic is trending downward, the church is likely shrinking. In fact, web traffic is as important a measure as actual church attendance. The Interweb has profoundly impacted church growth communications, much like other technology such as the Gutenberg press did so earlier in church history.

Google’s algorithm favors websites with a lot of visitors. The more web traffic your church has, the more likely it is to be organically served to a searcher. As an example, let’s say your church has a children’s sports ministry and an unchurched mother searches for “local children’s soccer”.

If your church has content on it’s website about children’s soccer, and the website is “optimized”, and has a lot of web traffic, then your church is likely to be served to that mother. Here is a formula that captures this:

Relevant Content + Optimization + Web Traffic = Inclusion in Search Results

There are a variety of internal church activities that can be positioned to positively impact church web traffic. These are related to church programs, ministries, events, generosity, sign-ups, sign-ins, registrations, and community involvement.

Creating online content about internal church activities should be a priority in a church’s plan to maximize their web traffic. Churches should also take steps to ensure that their website is technically optimized.

The reach of a church’s website can also be extended through paid online advertising. This is also discussed further in this article.

We also take a look at the church growth movement in order to provide context to how church web traffic impacts church growth.

The table below shows the main sources of church website traffic.

[table id=6 /]

 

Different Kinds of Church Growth

In The Book of Church Growth by Thom S. Rainer three types of church growth are discussed:

A church may grow by one or a combination of three sources. Biological growth takes place when babies are born to church members…Transfer growth occurs when one church grows at the expense of another church…Conversion growth takes place when a person makes a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Thom S. Rainer

 

Conversion growth is the goal of healthy Kingdom minded churches. This is the kind of growth that we are dedicated to helping churches achieve.

Transfer growth is not good and should never be pursued.

What Drives Traditional Church Growth?

Several authorities agree that the three most important church growth drivers are:

  1. Personal invitations
  2. Small groups
  3. Programs that meet needs

We agree. We also believe that digital outreach can be very useful in supporting these three things. For example, people can use social media to extend invitations. In addition, online banner advertising can be effectively utilized to get the word out about programs that meet needs such as your marriage ministry.

Just to be clear, there are other hugely important things that contribute to church growth including:

  • Strength of leadership
  • Quality of sermons
  • Talent level of worship leaders
  • Quality of internal communications
  • Location(s)
  • Financial fidelity of church leaders
  • Community involvement
  • Charitable support

Advertising and marketing could never take the place of these functions and activities. However digital channels can be very important part of disseminating information and leadership messaging.

This article is about the importance and the methods of building church web traffic to promote church growth in a way that supports the traditional growth drivers and leads to conversion growth.

So what can a church do to build their web traffic?

Content Based Church Web Traffic

Content is made up of things like Blogs, Lessons, Videos, etc. A church should be constantly building up their web based content. The content should support the strategic programs that the church leaders have identified.

For example, a church that is committed to small groups should make it a priority to develop content about small groups. Andy Stanley of North Point Church describes how small groups are a huge part of his church’s growth in his book entitled Deep & Wide.

Church Blog Web Traffic

Why should a church blog? Here are several reasons:

  1. Blogging adds additional content to your church’s website that can generate additional web traffic to your church.
  2. Blogging is an affordable way to communicate your church’s mission and vision to your members and your community.
  3. Blogging is an effective way to expose your church to some of the deeper aspects of becoming a disciple of Jesus.

It is advisable for a church’s blogging infrastructure to be set up in a mainstream blogging platform such as WordPress.

Aaron Linne wrote a useful article for LifeWay entitled How Should Your Church Blog? 

Jeffrey Kranz’s article entitled 11 Church Blogging Mistakes to Avoid is also worth reading.

The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey and Terry Storch is a book that provides some solid guidance on how to use your church’s blog to share Christ’s life changing message.

 

Church Video Web Traffic

Many churches record their Sermons and publish them to the web. Video is also a great way to share information with the church’s small groups.

Video ads are effective for building church web traffic. You can show videos that play longer than 30 seconds, and you can experiment with different formats. For example, you can show a video of a testimony of a person who found faith in your church. Or you could show a video of your church’s leaders explaining what your church stands for. It can also be effective to show a video about an upcoming event or sermon series.

Church video ads appear on both YouTube and other publisher sites in the Google Display Network for desktop computers and high-end mobile devices.

Online Lesson Web Traffic

Churches can make their sermons and lessons available on their websites. This is a convenient way for their attenders and members to access this valuable material that helps them in their Christian walk.

It is better to post this kind of content on the church’s website and link it to emails than it is to email it as attachments. This is because it builds the website’s traffic, and is more convenient for the reader.

Google searchers

Every day people who live near your church are searching the internet to meet their needs. Here are some examples of things they are searching for:

  1. Children’s sports
  2. Bible studies
  3. Vacation Bible School
  4. Marriage
  5. Parenting
  6. Addiction
  7. Singles events
  8. End of Life support
  9. Christian church

This is only a partial list. Here is the point; your church website should  contain keyword rich content that is optimized so that content is offered to those who are searching.

Google aims to provide searchers with only the most relevant possible search results. Their Panda Algorithm examines the content that sits on your church’s website and determines whether quality content truly matches what the searcher is looking for. Google then ranks your website accordingly to this quality criteria.

Elements of a site that Google sees as ‘low quality’ include duplicate content, or content that has little value to users such as pages that are too short or do not offer enough information.

Getting authoritative websites to link to your church’s website can improve your rankings because Google will see your site as being a source of valuable information, that are trusted by other reliable websites. However, beware that buying links, or having a suspiciously high number of links point to your church’s website from low quality websites,  will probably result in harming your church website rankings.

Google’s algorithm seeks to understand what a user might actually mean when they are searching with certain keywords, and it aims to provide results that are the most relevent. Web content which answers these queries is ranked higher than content which simply tries to rank for a specific keyword.

Email click-through Web Traffic

It is better to send emails with links than attachments. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Links generate traffic to your church’s website but attachments don’t.
  2. Most email servers can track who clicks on links and this provides valuable feedback regarding how many people engaged with the email
  3. Convenience to the reader

The takeaway here is use links, not attachments.

Click-throughs from Linked Websites

Google’s algorithm favors websites that are linked to from other websites. They see this as a sign of authority and importance. Therefore it is advantageous when other websites link to your church’s website.

 

Social Media Church Web Traffic

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels can contribute a lot of traffic to the church’s website.

Facebook Page Traffic To Church Website

Your church’s Facebook page is a powerful web traffic generator. Your Facebook page design should include links to your church’s website in the ‘About’ section.

In addition, you should post content to your Facebook page that links to your website and post content often.

Other Social Media Traffic To Church Website

Your church’s Instagram and Twitter accounts are also web traffic generators. Your social media home page designs should include links to your church’s website.

In addition, you should regularly post content to these social media sites that links to your church’s website.

Transactional Church Web Traffic

It is wise to establish online giving at your church. Not only does this open the door for automatic giving, but it also can cause the giver to visit your church’s website.

It is also a good idea to generate traffic with event signups and registrations on your website.

If your church has a bookstore, that can be a good source of web traffic as well.

Paid Church Web Traffic

Google, Facebook, and Instagram can reach a very targeted audience at affordable prices. Church Holidays are a good time for churches to expand their reach. These paid channels are described below. This can produce a very significant volume of web traffic very quickly.

Google For Churches

Google’s incredible platform offers Search Campaigns, Display Campaigns, and Google Places. You can read a comprehensive article about Google Display Advertising for Churches here. You can read a comprehensive article about Google Search Advertising for Churches here.

Our Google Certified AdWords specialists are highly experienced at building church web traffic and are ready to help your church.

Facebook For Churches

Facebook is to the modern church as the Gutenberg printing press was to the Reformation. Church Facebook Advertising is a revolutionary communication tool that reaches people.

Facebook is required for communications within the church body and is also an incredibly effective tool to reach outside the walls of the church. You can read a comprehensive article about Facebook for churches here.

Our certified Christian Facebook professionals are able to help your church effectively utilize Facebook’s powerful advertising platform.

Instagram For Churches

Instagram reaches a younger audience than Facebook. It’s photo-centric platform is an excellent communication tool for churches.

Advertising your church in Instagram is a great way to invite younger unchurched locals to a service or event. This age group can be especially receptive to music events.

Any time you have any questions about Instagram advertising, our expericned Church Communications Specialists are glad to help.

 

Church Retargeting Campaigns

Church retargeting brings visitors back to your church’s website. In turn, website traffic helps your church grow. Retargeting and remarketing are synonyms that describe a technique for showing ads to people who have previously visited your church’s website when they are surfing the web or in Facebook. This is accomplished by placing code on your website that “cookies” visitors.

Generally, a small percentage of people who view your church’s website will convert by filling out a form or taking some other action on their first visit. This is why retargeting on the web and in Facebook is so important. Getting in front of the people who have already viewed your website increases your chance for a conversion because they are gaining familiarity with your church’s brand through repeated exposure.

Church Search Engine Optimization

On average, people who search for something on Google are more motivated than people who happen to click on a banner ad that catches their eye.

For example, a person who is actively looking for a church to attend will often search Google using keywords such as ‘LOCAL CHURCH’. Similarly, a person who is actively looking for a Christian Marriage Ministry will often search Google using keywords such as ‘CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE COUNSELING’.

Because of the importance of this, it is vital that churches optimize their websites.

Measuring Church Web Traffic

Church web traffic growth can be measured by setting up Google Analytics and tracking social media analytics. We have a wonderful all-in-one Church Web Traffic Dashboard that summarizes all of this information into one informative view.

Traditional Church Growth Metrics

In his book Effectiveness By The NumbersWilliam R. Hoyt identifies how to “count what counts” in the church.

He starts by declaring if you could count only one thing, you should count conversions. He then goes on to lay out a method for counting these church growth metrics:

  1. Attendance
  2. Visitor Retention
  3. How Many Serve?
  4. Leader Identification and Development
  5. Small Groups
  6. Tithing
  7. Discipleship

You can download Mr. Hoyt’s Excel spreadsheets here.

Is Church Advertising Biblical?

Online advertising is one way to generate traffic to a church’s website, but is it biblical to do so?

Many things in ministry can be either good or bad based upon the motives of the people. On the bad side of the ledger there are examples where church advertising is based on an unseemly motive such as taking people away from another church in order to facilitate transfer growth.

On the other hand the majority of churches we’ve worked with are pursuing conversion growth with a heart for Jesus and the Great Commission. Their advertising efforts are carefully created to appeal to and are also targeted to the unchurched. The pornography campaign we ran for Celebration Church of Jacksonville Florida is a great example of a campaign aimed at people in need of conversion.

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church believes in appropriate use of tools such as advertising. Here is what he said about it in The Purpose Driven Church:

A church cannot be built by human effort alone. We must never forget whose church it is. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). On the other hand, we must avoid the error that there is nothing we can do to help a church grow. Some pastors and theologians believe that any planning, organizing, advertising, or effort is presumptuous, unspiritual, or even sinful, and that our only role is to sit back and watch God do his thing. You will find a lot of this teaching in literature on revival. In a sincere desire to emphasize God’s work in revival, all human effort is disparaged. This way of thinking produces passive believers and often uses spiritual-sounding excuses to justify a church’s failure to grow.

 

In 1988 George Barna wrote a book entitled Marketing the Church. At the time there was a bit of a backlash from some Christian leaders. Here is how Thom S. Rainer describes it:

Some Christian expressed concern that the church was selling out to an unbiblical, secular model for reaching the unchurched. The very use of the word “marketing” seemed to man inappropriate in the context of the church.

Thom S. Rainer

However Barna explained:

We must first think of marketing as the activities that address the needs of the target audience…

George Barna

Rick Warren says “Never confuse methods with the message. The message must never change, but the methods must change with each new generation”.

On the other hand there are those who feel that marketing the church is dangerous. For example Phillip D. Kenneson and James L. Street present an argument against church marketing in their book Selling Out The ChurchHaving read their book we think they make a good argument for being careful to evaluate the motives of church marketing, but fail to convince us that church marketing is at odds with the Great Commission.

In an interview with Pastor Timothy Keller, Christianity Today asked “What role should marketing play in the church?” Here is his answer:

The critique is that the church has overused, maybe unconsciously, business marketing techniques. And I think that critique is probably half right. Whenever people talk to me about marketing, I say, “Tell me what marketing is.” Some of what they usually describe seems like common-sense, wise communication. Some of it seems like manipulation. I commend wise communication, not the other parts that make me cringe.

The only defensible motive for outreach church advertising is to reach unchurched people with the aim of sharing Jesus’s Good News.

In addition, church advertising can be used to communicate with people who are already attending the church. This can be helpful in the modern age where people are tuned into many different messaging channels. As an example, a church could run an online retargeting campaign about an upcoming sermon series that is shown only to people who have visited the church’s website.

 

The Bottom Line Is Church Web Traffic Impacts Church Growth

Church Communications professionals should maintain a high awareness of the importance of how church web traffic impacts church growth.

Here at Missional Marketing we provide a variety of services that impact church web traffic. For more information please contact Jason Hamrock or Karen Fitzgerald.

Karen Fitzgerald – Phone: 602.427.0990 | Email: kfitzgerald@gdirect.com

Jason Hamrock – Phone: 480-773-9115 | Email: jhamrock@gdirect.com

Missional Marketing by Gdirect, 4801 E. McKellips Road | Mesa, AZ 85215

 

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