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Rethink Your Online Strategy

Rethink Your Online Strategy

Church brand strategist Mark MacDonald offers up an overview of Web marketing basics.

While it's probably not reasonable to expect to every church leader to be Web savvy, it is imperative that each church have an Internet presence of some kind. Here we're providing you an introductory overview of Web marketing topics.

According to MacDonald, a functioning website is a church's lead marketing tool and marketing is critical for any church. "Thousands of churches close down their doors every year," MacDonald says. "This can be fixed if churches invest some time and attention to their websites."

Websites don't have to be expensive endeavors either. "Small budgets can build websites that attract people in their communities," MacDonald says.

Understand the Basics

According to MacDonald, there are a few critical components to building a decent website. By familiarizing themselves with these basics, church leaders will be in a position to find and hire an affordable Web designer or developer:

URL This is the domain (probably a .org, in the case of a church). Domains are cheaply available. "A website URL should be short and simple," MacDonald advises.
Hosting This is a computer server that "serves up" a website to the Internet via telecommunications systems. "There are a number of website hosting services," MacDonald says. "1and1 and iPower are two of my personal favorites."
Content Management System (CMS) A CMS stores a website's content in a database, making it easy for website owners to make edits to content or modifications to design. "There services can be used free of cost," MacDonald point out. "Or, paid premium services are also available."
Site Design A website's layout and visual appeal is created using stylized templates or customized "front-end" code. "The choice depends on a church's needs," MacDonald says.
Content The writing, imagery, and media (video, games, etc.) make up the content of a website. "Content is what matters most," MacDonald says. "Out of an entire website, the content is what determines whether the site is effective."
SEO / SEM Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) refers to the practice of "being found" by search engines. When someone uses Google to locate a church, you want your church listed among the search engine results pages (SERPs). "Through SEO and the proper use of keywords, churches can ensure they are found," MacDonald says.
Engagement Whether through social media, an online forum, or even a contact form, a website should engage its visitors directly.

The Personality' of a Website

Websites are, at this point, a basic marketing tool for any organization. They enable organizations to differentiate themselves from the millions of other organizations out there. MacDonald says, "Everyone is known for something. What is your church known for?"

To engage with your Web audience, MacDonald suggests churches focus on a three critical concepts: time, message, and control.

1. Time The website should be quickly accessible (whether through search or direct URL). The design should be intuitive and "convey the right messages upfront," MacDonald says. There should be no lag time as pages load.

2. Message Who are you? Why are you different? What do you offer? The message of your church should be clear to website visitors. MacDonald also recommends leveraging social media. "Using social media is really important, as it gives visitors the opportunity to interact in real time."

3. Control Churches should be actively using their Internet properties (including social media accounts) to spread messages in a cohesive manner. Use the website platform to continually hone and refine an effective message. Try new ways of engaging Internet audiences. Though the information presented by MacDonald only skims the broad topic of Internet marketing, it can and should nevertheless inspire church leaders to re-think their online strategies.

TAGS: Website
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