Best Practices for Church Websites – Interview With Brittany Wiggins, Church Growth Strategist

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Your church website is the true “front door” of your church. Brittany Wiggins provides some excellent best practices for an effective church website that will help your church grow.

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Jason Hamrock: Well, hey, I am here with Brittany. Thanks for joining us, Brittany. How are you today?

Brittany Wiggins: I’m good, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Thank you. You know, we’re talking about church websites, and every church’s website is in some kind of a state. Some you know, some of them are ancient the like four or five years old, and some are a couple of years old. But they may be thinking about redoing their website for some reason. And it could be just the way it’s outdated, or could be the leadership changes directions, or they got a new thing going on. Who knows why they’re thinking about it, but they’re checking this out. And so, I wanted to spend some time today to ask you some questions about what it is that churches need to know.

Jason Hamrock: Now, so you’re informed, Brittany is a church growth strategist, she oversees all of our church website projects. She’s been doing this for a while. She’s gifted, she’s talented, and so she is your expert when it comes to building a church website. And so, again, thanks for jumping on. Now, when you think about, you know, a church wanting to build their website, is there a is there one reason or another why churches want to redo their website?

Brittany Wiggins: I mean, there’s actually a lot of different reasons that a church could be ready for a new website. And most of them actually don’t even have to do with what a church website looks like, but it definitely can. And so really a good rule of thumb is that whenever your church website doesn’t really reflect where your church is, or who your church is at that time, it’s probably a good time to think about redoing the site.So, of course, that can mean things like if there’s a branding change, if your colors are different, fonts, you know anything about the look and feel. If it doesn’t reflect where your church is now, that’s a great time to redo your website.

Brittany Wiggins: But in most cases, churches come to us because they are having a problem with either the functionality, or the ease of use of their website, or the performance, and so that is a lot of different reasons other than just what it looks like. So, probably the most common scenario for us is, when a church is ready to move to a different content management system, or they’ve outgrown the one that they’re in.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, I see that all the time. Now, speaking of content management systems, is there one that you prefer over another?

Brittany Wiggins: Absolutely. In my personal opinion, I think that WordPress is actually the best choice for most churches. Now, of course, there can be arguments for something a little more robust, like Rock. But, you know, it’s it’s sort of in a very particular case that you would want to do something like that. WordPress, for a lot of different reasons, is just such a great choice because it’s extremely customizable, it’s extremely flexible, it’s really easy to use for people who are non-developers. You know, if you’re just generally computer savvy, it’s probably going to be pretty easy for you to learn how to do at least the most important things that you’re going to need to do on a regular basis in the back end of WordPress website.

Brittany Wiggins: And really, one of the most important reasons we love WordPress, is that it is by far has the greatest market share of all websites in the world. And that means that it’s really easy to find people who can develop in WordPress, and it’s more affordable to find people who can develop or fix a WordPress website. And additionally, there are tens of thousands of plug-ins for WordPress that can really give your website the functionality, just about any functionality you can possibly imagine. Oftentimes for free, or even as little as fifty to a hundred dollars for a plug-in there. If a church had to have somebody custom code that functionality into their website, it would be tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Brittany Wiggins: So for all of those reasons, you know, we love WordPress. That’s what we most commonly develop and deliver. And I think it also it means, you know, some longevity for your church website too. It means that maybe a few years down the line, rather than having to do a full rebuild, maybe you’re just simply redesigning a little bit, because WordPress isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, I agree with you. And to take a little bit further, it’s it’s also tremendously supported. I mean, you’ve got thousands of people constantly updating WordPress, their security features are top notch, and the theme that we choose typically is always being updated. And that’s kind of a thing that churches have to understand, that technology continues to advance, right? Phones keep advancing, everything keeps advancing. And so your website, you want a platform where your website’s staying up to speed. That sounds like WordPress is the one that does that.

Brittany Wiggins: Absolutely, and to your point, it’s also about the theme. You know, having longevity in your website really is about picking the right CMS, the right content management system, and also picking the right theme. One that’s going to continue to be updated, where you know the developers aren’t going anywhere, it’s not going to get left behind. You know, just as you said, technology is always updating. So really, you have to pick a theme that’s popular enough where there’s enough developers continuously updating it that, you know, you’re going to have those updates that make sure your security is inline. And, you know, a lot of churches over the years, I think fall sort of victim to that as well. They pick either a content management system, or a theme, that sort of gets left behind in the dust. Because it’s, you know, maybe a smaller, you know, less popular sort of niche, or a custom-built content management or themes. So, there are really important decisions to make that affect your church website for a long time.

Jason Hamrock: So if I’m thinking about redoing my website, and I always say this, that I think the most important audience for your website are people who are not yet at your church, your website really should be developed for unchurched people. And so giving them that kind of experience when they find your website, and come to your website, is incredibly important. So from your perspective, what are the top two or three pages of a church’s website?

Brittany Wiggins: Yeah, I mean, you’re so right that the website really has to be built around, you know, people who don’t come to your church. And for that reason, the most important pages are definitely the home page, because of course, that’s our first impression, that’s the first place that someone who’s never been to your church is going to land. That’s the first time they’re going to see, you know, any of the reasons why they should come to your church. Any of the benefit statements that you want to provide should be very clear there, and it should really give a welcoming, warm, inclusive feel for your church.

Brittany Wiggins: The next most important page, because really this is the main goal of a church website is, the plan a visit page. So to plan a visit is the most important action that we want somebody to take by visiting your website. So, on a plan a visit page, we recommend that you answer every question a person could possibly ask about what it’s like to come to your church for the first time. And that can be, you know, where they should park, where they should sit. If it’s their first time there, they don’t know anybody, who they might be able to ask questions to.  What sort of music they can expect. Are they going to be expected to do anything, to say anything? And, you know, answering all those questions so that somebody feels very comfortable the first time is really the goal of that page. So that they actually will plan a visit.

Jason Hamrock: That’s the whole goal.

Brittany Wiggins: That’s the goal. And then I’d say probably the third most important page is the messages page, or page where you can link video sermons, or an archive of video sermons, so that somebody can check out your most recent sermon. And what they’re doing is, I mean, a first time visitor, they want to see what it’s like there. That’s part of what’s going to make people feel comfortable, is that they can see that type of message that the pastor gives, they can see the type of people that are also going to church there. And, you know, they know nothing weird is going on. And they can just say, you know, I think I can fit in there, I think that’s a place for me. So those are the three most important, in my opinion.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. So, thank you. So what would be…Mission Marketing, we build a lot of church website, and the course we’re always considering the user experience, the u-ex side of things that you’re mentioning. Well, what’s different about what we do, or maybe the focus that we tend to emphasize with the church website?

Brittany Wiggins: Sure. So, I’ll just say that one of the greatest strengths of Missional Marketing, is that we’re really experts in search engine optimization for churches. And I think there’s a lot of confusion about that with churches out there, is they know how to pick a beautiful looking website, or they know how to pick a company who can make a beautiful website. And truth be told, you know, just about anybody under the sun can develop a beautiful looking website. But what not everybody can do, is actually make your website seen very clearly by Google, make your website found by people in your community, for all of the felt needs that your church can possibly serve. So that’s something that we’re really experts in. It’s, you know, local SEO, it’s on page SEO. So, you know, putting in the proper meta descriptions, and title headings, image all tags, you know, sort of all the backend website stuff that goes into making sure each page is seen by Google for the right keywords.

Brittany Wiggins: And, you know, so deciding on who should build your website, or how your website should be built, you really should be thinking about that as even maybe a greater part than just what it looks like. So, that’s one of the greatest strengths in our website builds, is that we understand all of that. And that how it works together, actually in design as well, how design and development work together, along with search engine optimization.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, working with hundreds of churches, we get an idea of what they’re trying to achieve. So, I think you add all that together, plus some other strategies that go a little bit deeper with the church partners that we have, really makes for a powerful website. So, Brittney, what are the things that we don’t know, that if I’m thinking about rebuilding my website and maybe this is my first experience doing this at my church. You know, somebody else built the website, now I’ve taken over. What is it I don’t know, or I don’t even know to ask, that you would that you would share?

Brittany Wiggins: I think it’s just what I spoke on a little bit more. You know, it’s just is knowing that a website isn’t just what it looks like. Knowing that there’s so many layers deep of what a website is doing for you, and how that website will connect to unchurched people and the community. So, again, it’s not just about updating with beautiful pictures, and hoping that people will come along and find your website. There’s actually so many different things that you should be doing to make sure your website is found by people. You know, and again, that comes along with a lot of different products and services that Missional Marketing offers, including things like local SEO, our Google grant, doing digital advertising. You know, it’s not just about having the website, and making it beautiful, and keeping you updated.

Jason Hamrock: So, I was just going to ask when building a church website with you and your team, what’s that look like? What’s the process look like? How long’s it take? You know, that kind of stuff.

Brittany Wiggins: Sure. It’s actually a very fun process. We try to make it as easy as possible on our clients, because it can feel like a very overwhelming thing. But one of our strengths is really in project management, and we like to make sure our clients are totally comfortable that we’ll be handling the project management, they don’t have to be the ones to keep the ball rolling. That’s often a concern, and sort of a difficulty, when churches decide to build a website, is they have trouble sticking to their own timelines, they have trouble getting all the content together, or, you know, really figuring out how everything is laid out. But our team is really experienced and does a great job of setting everything straight in the beginning, setting out all of the deadlines and timeline, and all of the details of how the project will go.

Brittany Wiggins: We start with sort of an exploratory phone call, usually with a church client, to sort of figure out exactly where they are in their stage of growth. What problems they have had with their existing website, or what the challenges are, and what they’re really looking for in a new website.  And once we’ve sort of answered all of those questions, that helps us put together a website estimate. So once we have the website estimate, we have another phone call where we review the entire scope of work of the project, so that we’re all on the same page about what is actually being done with this website build. Sort of a general overview of how the process will go. And then, that’s really the kickoff call for our website builds. And, you know, our clients are provided with very detailed timelines of when everything should be accomplished. If there’s anything that we need from them, whether it’s, you know, photos or writing, they have an understanding of when we’re asking for those. You know, or it could be that we’re doing the writing. You know, website builds look very different in all different cases. But, you know, again, the process for us is actually where we shine. You know, we really make sure that everybody understands how things go, and we want it to go smoothly, and we want to be done on time and on budget.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, yeah. Well, there you go. If you’re interested in learning, talk with Brittany. Because she can go into some details to learn what it is that you’re after, and make sure that you’re, even if you don’t choose us, you can learn about how to best build your website. One of the foundations, the core values, of Missional Marketing is to educate and equip. Because we want you to be successful, when you’re successful, then the church wins and the kingdom grows. And so that’s pretty important from our perspective. But Brittany, what’s the best way to get a hold of you, and then have that conversation?

Brittany Wiggins: Sure. If you reach out to anybody at missionalmarketing.com, they can easily connect you with me. My email address is bwiggins@missionalmarketing.com, that’s usually the best way to reach me.

Jason Hamrock: Ok, I’ll add that link on there. Hey, thanks so much. I appreciate your time to spend, and update, and educate people. So, I appreciate it.

Brittany Wiggins: Thank you.

Jason Hamrock: All right, talk to you later.

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