We Analyzed 53 Church Websites. Here’s What We Saw.

Your website is the first point of contact for anyone that is looking for more information about your church — or just a church in general.

As such, it deserves some attention.

As a digital marketing agency that centers on churches of Christ, we wanted to find out exactly how most churches were using their websites.

What did their home page look like?

What kind of information was on their About page (if they had one)?

What other kinds of pages were on their site and how well were they being utilized?

We wanted to find out anything we can use to figure out how to better serve the churches we work with (both now and in the future). Nothing was off the table.

In general, what we found was that while a lot of churches had a website, most weren’t using them as effectively as they could. There weren’t many pictures of the local congregation itself, the content wasn’t totally up-to-date, and in some cases, still had the generic lorem ipsum text you see on a website that has been activated, but not developed.

On the other hand though, we did find a lot of churches that were using their websites extremely effectively. Not only did they have engaging content, but their pages were thought-through and reflected the church itself.

In some cases, they even had effective lead magnets to try and build up a mailing list.

No matter what state your church website is in, we pray this study gives you some ideas on how to improve your own digital presence.

A Quick Note On Our Methodology

Even though Diakonos is based in Texas (yeehaw), we didn’t limit ourselves to churches in our home state. Or even churches inside the Bible Belt. We looked for churches across the country — one in every state, to be exact.

We also didn’t want to limit ourselves to “only big churches” (which have more resources) or “only small churches” (which have more time). However many members you have impacts what you’re able to do — or, in this case, not do — so we wanted to try and find churches that were representative of every type of potential client we would ever have.

The reason for this type of approach is to eliminate the dreaded Copycat Syndrome. In our talks with different churches, we know that many of them suffer from the “we want what they have” type of issue, regardless of whether or not it’s right for that church.

With every single church we work with, we try to maximize their distinct assets. Do they have a lot of people? Great. Do they have uniquely talented individuals in creative fields? Awesome. Are they in a small town with not many other churches to compete against for target keywords? Stupendous.

For that reason, finding a legitimate cross-section of churches in America was the real goal of this study. Once we found them and studied them, we know how best to help them.

How We Specifically Found the Churches We Worked With

Since we only work with churches of Christ, we went to a powerful church finder website called WhereSaintsMeet.com.

From there, we clicked through each individual state and found a church at random. If a website was listed, we clicked the link and went to the next state. If not, we backed out and found a different church in that state. We repeated this until we had gone through every state in America. 

If the state was large or had a lot of churches (like Florida or Kentucky), we clicked on a few until we found different ones. In the event that we clicked on a church that we already knew — or worked with as a client — we X’ed out of the page and chose again.

We then went one by one through each site and jotted down some observations of each one. Then, we compiled the list, compared notes, and created this list.

The beauty of this type of analysis is that at any point in time, any person reading this can do the same. We didn’t use some kind of elite-level software that’s only available to the chosen few, we simply opened up the website and went to work.

Additionally, there were some other technical aspects we looked at, such as load time and keyword ranking. We also ran a brief SEO audit on every site just to get a glimpse at how search engines actually viewed these sites.

As a side note, one of the things we were struck by was just how encouraging it was to digitally “meet” different churches across the country. Many of these churches we had never even heard of, much less visited in person, so it was encouraging to see pictures of saints meeting in different areas.

It’s just one of the reasons we love doing what we do. Not only do we get to serve Christians, but we get to meet them and get to know them on a deeper level as well. It’s a win for everyone.

***Would you like a free website audit for your church? Contact us using the form below and we’ll send one your way!

Here’s what We Found When We Analyzed 53 Church Websites

Let’s get down to it then, shall we?

Below is a list of some of the items that stuck out to us at the end of our analysis. We blocked out as much of the identifying information as we could so you could get a generic look at these churches without bias creeping in.

Does this analysis reflect your own personal experience? Drop us a line at Diakonos Marketing and let us know!

Most Use Either WordPress or Laravel

Of the 53 churches that we analyzed, 19 of them used WordPress (either .com or .org). 

That makes sense. WordPress is one of the most flexible options on the market today. It’s relatively cheap, allows for plenty of plugins to do a variety of different things (such as blog creation and sermon upload), and is blazingly fast, depending on the site itself.

It’s also almost completely customizable, which means that you can upgrade it and give your site a facelift whenever you want, instead of waiting for a developer to do it for you.

We use WordPress for all of our sites for these reasons. We love the options that it gives our clients.

By a slight margin, the most popular option was a custom management system (CMS) called Laravel, which is more technical to use but gives website owners an out-of-the-box solution. It’s not widely used, but many churches today favor it for its simplicity.

That’s probably also the reason that most of them prefer website builders like Squarespace, Weebly, or Wix. All three of those site builders can deliver a good-looking website in less than a few hours, which is all some people need.

A Quarter Had Claimed Their Google Business Profile

This one actually shocked me. In a world where almost half of brick-and-mortar businesses have claimed their Google Business Profile, only a few of the churches on this survey had claimed their’s.

Doing so is one of the easiest things you can possibly do in order to raise your online profile. It takes less than five minutes to claim your Google profile, and it gives searchers the ability to call your church, read reviews, or find quick information about your services.

A claimed profile also verifies your authenticity as a real organization (in Google’s eyes) and makes them more likely to list you when people are looking for churches in your area.

There is no question that claiming your Google profile is important. If you haven’t done it for your church, take a few minutes and go do it before continuing on with this article. 

Only a Third had an Updated Blog On Their Church Website

Here at Diakonos, we’re big fans of blogging. Content marketing is one of the best ways to get visitors to your website and teach the lost in a way that is non-intrusive and at their convenience.

In short, it’s a force multiplier when it comes to evangelism.

Blogging also helps with internal linking. By creating a “web” of interconnected articles on a given topic, a visitor is able to maneuver inside your website and find more information on what they’re already looking for.

Additionally, an updated blog (with a good internal linking system) sends signals to Google that this website is active and stands a good chance of answering searchers’ questions. That’s what you want if you’re an information-centric organization like a church.

For this study, we found that only about a third (37%) of churches had a blog that they updated regularly (by regularly, we mean within the last 3-4 years. That’s not “regularly” by most people’s standards, but it shows at least some intentionality).

This took various forms. Some had short devotionals, others had long-form articles that were 2000+ words, while a few had pdf downloads linked inside of a page on their website. 

Although each has their own advantages, it doesn’t really matter how a blog is added to a site — the main thing is that it’s there. It’s an investment, to be sure, but we believe it’s one that’s absolutely worth the cost.

17 Websites Had a Load Time of Under 2.5 Seconds

Load time is usually one of the last things that people think about, but it’s one of the most important ranking factors for Google. The faster a website can load, the faster Google can crawl it, and — in turn — the more pages it can crawl from your website.

Load time also has a direct impact on the user experience, as well. According to one study, if a site takes three or more seconds to load, 40% of users will abandon the site. On mobile, users want the site to load even faster.

To determine page speed, we used GTMetrix.com, but you could use something like Google’s PageSpeed Insights if you wanted. Both are trusted tools that will not only give you the page load times, but reasons why a page isn’t loading as fast and possible fixes as well.

Keep in mind that page speed theoretically can change from day to day. Depending on your location and the server you use, the times can vary a bit. Loading a site in the middle of the night also usually returns faster because of lower usage, as well.

Page speed isn’t an exact science, so it’s a good idea to check your site multiple times to get as accurate a picture as you possibly can.

33 Websites Only Had Stock Pictures on Their Website

Stock pictures are great. I love Deposit Photos and buy several credits every year when they have their massive Black Friday sale. If you’re interested in high-quality images for your sermons or Bible classes, I would suggest you do the same. (End commercial).

But for a church website, they’re just not good enough. You need to include at least some pictures of the church itself — whether that’s the church in the middle of worship, a picture of the preacher/elders/deacons, or even just something of the outside of the building.

People want to see what your church looks like before they step into the building for the first time. What can they expect (visually) before they enter? What does your foyer look like? Is the auditorium up to date?

This may sound like superficial, but they go a long way in making the prospective visitor feel more comfortable attending. Think about it: Are you more or less likely to rent a hotel room if you know what the interior of the room looks like?

You can use these pictures in multiple locations, too. Drip them on your social media or sprinkle them on your Google Business Profile — use them wherever and however you can. The more people see what your church actually looks like, the better.

2/3 of Church Sites Contained Links to Sermons

This one wasn’t really a surprise. For most churches, sermons represent the bulk of the content that they deliver to prospective audiences. The preacher is up there anyways, so why not record it and post it later for people to learn from?

There are two things to take away from this.

The first is the church’s emphasis on audio-based content. Sermons may be the most popular medium, but I’ve noticed a lot of churches putting out podcasts or Youtube videos to help get the message out (which is great!).

Second, too many churches are relying on people to listen to long-form audio content. That’s fine if it’s other Christians that want to hear what Preacher X has to say concerning a specific subject, but what about non-Christians?

Think back to your own listening habits. When was the last time you listened to a full sermon by a denominational preacher?

Chances are that most people are not as engaged with sermon content as you think they are, but that doesn’t mean that sermon content is useless. Far from it. In fact, here are several ways you can repurpose sermons in addition to placing it on your website:

  • Text-based sermon snippets for social media
  • “Highlight reel” quotes for social media
  • Sermon notes to put into a devotional and use as lead generation
  • Sermon transcriptions that can be edited and used as long-form blog content
  • Podcasts
  • Video broken up and placed as three separate emails in a funnel sequence.

That’s just skimming the surface of what’s possible. If you’re interested in letting Diakonos handle your digital outreach and repurpose your existing content into more mediums, let us know!

Only Four Sites Had Links to Social Platforms

The jury is still out on whether or not social media directly impacts a church’s website rankings.

On the one hand, nearly all social media platforms have links that are “no-follow,” which means that Google doesn’t pass any kind of authority from a site to a social platform (and vice versa).

On the other hand, a blog post that is posted on social can send a visitor to the website, which increases traffic and does help with SEO. In other words, social may not directly impact your website’s rankings, but it may indirectly impact it. And we’ll take what we can get out here, right?

SEO impact notwithstanding, social links on your website are super helpful when it comes to sharing possibilities. You want your content shared on social because that’s going to naturally increase its visibility (if the content is good, that is). 

A social link on your site gives visitors an easy way to do exactly that. As a general rule, less friction equals more engagement. And more engagement is exactly what we want.

More Than Half of the Domains We Checked Were Older than 2014

Like social platforms, there is still a healthy debate about whether or not domain age (the site URL) matters with regard to social rankings.

Does it matter? All anecdotal evidence says that yeah, it’s probably pretty important. 

Technically speaking, most agencies don’t care too much about it, especially compared to other ranking factors. You can take a new domain to #1 faster by focusing on other things. Everything else the same though, domain age seems to matter at least a little bit. 

Here’s why I care about this stat: It shows that most churches saw the power of the internet a long, long time ago. The very first domain that was registered from our list dates back to 1998 (!) — the same year that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased the home run title (remember that amazing summer?)

The fact that churches have newer domains really doesn’t matter much to me. People can buy new domains for their churches because they change addresses, want something more pertinent, or a host of other reasons.

But the fact that churches were buying domains in the 90’s before most people realized how big the internet was going to be? That’s amazing foresight, right there. It shows a desire to spread the Gospel any way possible, even by embracing technology that many were still afraid of.

It’s the same tactic that we need to embrace today if we’re to keep reaching people in the digital age.

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