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    The Perfect Church Website (Secret #7)

    The Perfect Church Website

    (Secret #7) The Funnel – 10 Secrets of Extraordinary Church Growth

    This is a 10 part teaching series that covers all of the chapters (all 10 secrets of extraordinary church growth) from the influential book, The Funnel, written by Ross Turner, CEO & Founder of Vibrant Agency. This book shows the proven methods for using digital marketing for churches. Using branding, team leadership, social media, website, and paid ads to help a church bring their message to their community.

    If you would like to learn more about Ross, or to contact us, please do so using the following:

    Ross Turner Instagram: @ross.turner.official

    Vibrant Agency Instagram: @vibrantagency

    Vibrant Agency Website: https://www.vibrantagency.com

    Email: Questions@VibrantAgency.com

     

    Secret 7: The Perfect Church Website

    Does our church website need help?

    Most pastors would love to have an amazing website. One that has all the bells and whistles, and more importantly, one that gets people in the doors on Sunday! But most people dont have a full-time web developer on staff, nor do they have $15k to drop on a custom-built website. We have had years of experience developing completely custom websites for churches all over the world. With this experience I have been able to identify some areas that can really make or break a church website.

    First things first. Who is your website built for? Yes, there are key pages on your website that your current church members need to use. They will want to register for events, give online, or even listen to messages that they missed. But primarily your churchs website is a tool for reaching people who dont already attend. People who dont know Jesus. You should be speaking to the non-member when choosing the hierarchy of information, the colors, and the calls to action. Every decision regarding page order, content, and verbiage needs to be pointed towards reaching the lost and those seeking a new church home.

    My family and I live on the Central Coast of California. When we first moved here, we knew that we needed to find a church family. What was my first step? I got out my iPhone and did a quick Google search for churches in the area. There were seven or eight results that seemed like a potential fit, so I pulled up each of their websites to check them out. Some of the websites looked like they were built fifteen years ago, which gave the vibe that those churches were totally outdated. Some of the church sites didnt even work well on my phone, so I couldnt really see much about them. And some of the websites took so long to load that I just gave up on them. 

    We did eventually find a church online that seemed pretty good. We visited for a few weeks, and really enjoyed it! We had found our new church. I was very glad we found it, and quite thankful that their website gave us such a good first impression. If it had not, we may have never attended. We didnt have friends in the area at the time, so searching online was really the only way that we knew how to check out our options. The truth is, I probably missed out on some great churches by only making my judgment based on their websites. I know that. But how many other people were turned away because of their bad websites too? You have to assume that many other people will go through the same exact process that we did when they are looking for a church. This is why your website is a big deal. 

    Today is different than it used to be, and now first impressions happen online, not when people just show up on a Sunday morning for the first time. That rarely happens. If you are not careful, you could have a first impression of your church that makes you seem unprofessional and sloppy, simply because of your website. This is why it matters. The scary thing is, you cant measure how many people you miss out on because of your website. All of those six or seven churches that I didnt visit will never know. There is no box to check or metric to read about how many people were ready to visit, but then were turned off by your website. This is serious business. In this chapter, I am going to give you the knowledge you need to ensure that you dont miss out on new visitors like those local churches did.

    Your church’s website is worth the investment.


    Custom vs. Template Church Website

    How do I choose the right church website type?

    There are tons of options when it comes to websites. It can be exhausting to try and understand them all, but dont worry, because thats where I come in. When most churches are starting out, they certainly would love to have a big, fancy, custom-built website that is designed by pros. But that is usually out of reach. A fully custom designed and developed website will range in cost from $10,000 to $20,000 depending on how large it is. This is completely out of the question for most churches. So what do they do? The next best option is to settle for using a website template builder program like Squarespace or Wix, or some Christian spin-off version. These programs have pre-built templates where you can just add your own words and photos. Sometimes this is sufficient for a smaller-sized church just starting out. However, keep in mind that with template programs like this, you cant add things that are outside of the template restrictions. This means that you wont have much freedom in the way your site is laid out. If you are like me, this is a big problem. I want my site to be the best it can possibly be, because I know how serious of a deal this is. 

    For the many churches who need to have a professional website, these template sites wont be the way to go. But for churches who are just getting started and dont have the extra budget, templates are a really good option. I suggest Squarespace to get started. It doesnt have a huge learning curve, and you can get it up and running for around $20/month. As someone who markets and designs websites for churches for a living, I will always prefer custom-built websites over templates, but I want you to know that sometimes using a cheaper template will get the job done in the beginning phases of your church. Once you grow and your budget allows for it, you can redo your website with a custom designer.

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    If you do have the ability to redo your churchs website, you are going to want to make sure it is done right. Lets start by talking about the design. The design is the most important part, so have a professional do it. You can assume that almost 100% of all first-time guests who visit your church have probably already checked you out online, thus your website is a big dealyou only get one shot at their first impression. 

    When having your website designed, think beyond just how attractive and fun it looks. You need to be strategic with the layout and calls to action. You can do things like adding unique pop ups, having an interactive Bible reading plan, creatively embedding your Instagram feed, or presenting your core values in a particular way. You can even have your website integrate directly with your database for events, registrations, online giving, and contact forms. Instruct your web designer to incorporate subtle animations and movement into your site that will really bring things to life. 

    We developed a website recently for a church in San Francisco that had a lot of unique features in it. We added some playful elements where certain parts of a picture would appear blurry until you put your mouse over it, and then it would appear focused. And there were hidden triggers, where if you put your mouse over a certain part of a photo, a different video would appear. It wasnt necessary, but it just added to an overall sense of excellence and uniqueness. It will be up to you and your team to think creatively and push the boundaries. Your website has succeeded if you can leave people feeling a sense of who you are, and they are compelled to take the next step.

    Since custom website design is out of reach for some churches right now, there are still ways to make your template-built website have a sense of wow. Use b-roll style video clips in the background of the top of your home page to really bring it to life. And make sure that you only use high-quality images that fit with the colors and style of your branding. Be sure to explore the different font type options that your template gives you, and choose one that most closely matches your churchs brand guidelines as discussed earlier in this book. Most importantly, make sure you keep things up to date. Have a system where your latest messages are added to the site right after church each Sunday. Always keep it fresh. Make sure events on your website are current, and update your website with each message series to include the new series design.

    When it is about the first impression, it should be a first priority.


    The Perfect Home Page

    Do we have the right message on our home page?

    Lets talk about what to talk about. Your website is filled with words and messagesa lot of information that obviously needs to be communicated. Things like your beliefs, contact information, event announcementsthe basics. But you must be sure that your voice and message speaks to the right person. 

    Saying things in the right order matters a lot. Dont just think about what looks pretty. Most church websites have way too much information on the first few sections of the home page that is totally irrelevant to a first-time guest. They have information about their upcoming VBS, their serve team, and other sections that are internal. Since you are putting valuable time and resources into the funnel that drives seekers to your website, make your website primarily focus on converting people into the next phase of the funnel. The internal information should be there, but not featured on the home page.

    In sales you are taught to have a clear call to action on your website, and it has to repeat on every page. Always make it obvious to the user. In the marketing industry, professionals have found that people need to know immediately what you want them to do, or they wont do it. You must never assume that people will know what the call to action is. Take the test: when you open your website, would you know what your next step is within the first few seconds? If users have to search for it, they won’t.

    Your website is not a scrapbook of pretty videos and pictures about your church. Its a tool for reaching people. Remember its purpose, and you will make the right decisions with its hierarchy of information. Decide what it is that you want people to do. What is your call to action? It has to be one of the first things that people see. Some churches have a button that says Join Usor Plan Your Visitor even Watch Latest Messageas their call to action. Each of these work. It simply depends on what your goal is. However, if you are using the funnel, then your call to action should probably be Plan Your Visitor something similar. Before understanding what I know now, I have been guilty of designing church websites with way too much irrelevant content on the home page. But never again, because now I know who it is that I am building that web page for. People visit your websites home page who dont know Jesus, dont know what church life is about, and they are hesitant about the whole thing. But they know they have a need, and they are looking. This is who your website is primarily built for. This is the why.

    Too many calls to action will hurt you. One or two should be the maximum. I have seen some churches have a Plan Your Visit button, and then a Give Now button, and then a Join A Group button, and then a Watch Online buttonthe list goes on. That is too many. The user needs to know what the main ask is. Once you know what your clear call to action is, make sure that it is on every page. 

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    The top of the home page is the first thing that most people will see, so put the call to action there. You should also have your main headline on the top as well. A great main headline is one that starts the user on a thought process. It is different than simply putting your church name; it is a sentence or two that immediately speaks to the user. In marketing, this spot on the website is called above the foldplacement. This term actually originated in the newspaper industry. It was crucial for newspaper editors to put a headline above the main middle fold of the paper that people would see when going by newsstands. It was a strategy to sell more papers with a compelling headline that people would want to read. In the land of e-commerce, above the fold now refers to what people see before they scroll, both on mobile and desktop. Make the headline and call to action enticing and clear, before people even have to scroll down to see more.

    This definitely applies to your churchs website. The headline on the top of your home page, before you have to scroll, must be strategic and compelling. Some people put their mission statement or their tagline here. This is a great start, but you could do even better. Our team analyzes the behavior on hundreds of church websites each month and we found a surprising pattern. Around 75% of all website traffic to a church’s site never leaves the home page of the website. They get the general idea from the first page, and thats as far as they go. They dont go to the About page, they dont visit the Im New page, they dont go anywhere but the home page. We also found that the average time spent on a church website is less than four minutes. What does this tell us? That for 75% of the people who visit your website, you only have four minutes or less, and only one page, to tell the story you want to tell. This is a challenge. You cant waste any space on your home page speaking to anything other than the main goal, which is to move them along in the funnel. Let your main thing, be your main thing.

    Take people on a journey as they scroll down your home page. Give people the questions and the answers. People best consume ideas in sets of threes. There should be three steps in the home page journey, and no more than three. These are the three questions that you should answer: Who are you? Why does it matter? What should they do next? Who are you is where your main headline goes. Make your headline enticing so people are curious enough to keep scrolling. Here are some samples that give you an idea of what would work:

    Your life is about to change.

    Orlando will never be the same.

    Are you ready for something different?

    The next step is the why it matters section. This is where your mission statement and core values section are explored. Talk about how much you love your city or how your church changes lives. Let people know that there is a purpose behind your church. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. The primary call to action should be repeated in this section as well, but you can add a secondary one if you would like. A great example of this would be if you choose the headline of Your life is about to changeon the top, you could title this section Take the first stepand have supporting content plus your main call to action button. A good example of a secondary call to action would be a Latest Message button which directs the user to the messages page.

    The final section is the Plan Your Visit or the call to action section. Although the call to action is also in the headline section of your site, it needs its own section on your home page that offers some further explanation to the process. Let them know why they should take this call to action, and walk them through the process.

    Obviously you need to prayerfully decide what your call to action is and what the three steps are for your church. But if you can stick to this model you will find that the 75% of people who only visit your home page will now know exactly what you are, why you exist, and what to do next. Certainly in the main menu you need to have links to all of the other pages on your website, but the home page should be devoted to the seeker. The funnel is built for them. Resist the temptation to go beyond the three-step approach, and make sure your headlines are clear and enticing. 

    Remember who your website is for, and the rest will fall into place.


    I’m New & Plan Your Visit

    What is the perfect page for first-time guests?

    While the home page is the main section for reaching new people, the second most important page on your churchs website is the Plan Your Visitpage. There are many different names that you can use for this page like Im Newor My First Time,but the purpose is the same. This page is crucial because it should be the primary call to action throughout your entire website. The main button on the home page, and every other page, should lead guests back to this page. Spend just as much time thinking through the design and layout of this page as you did your home page.

    There has been a huge explosion in popularity in the past three or four years in the use of a Plan Your Visit page for churches. Plan Your Visit is a contact form that people can fill out in advance for their first visit at your church. If they fill out this Plan Your Visit contact form, they are offered some resources, early childcare check in, and/or a personalized experience during their first visit. Churches have had a ton of success with this model, so some literally have a Plan Your Visit pop up on every page of the website. I dont recommend going that far with it, but I have found that a Plan Your Visit form does work. It works best when used with the funnel so people are already primed for an ask. 

    The churches that have the most success with Plan Your Visit forms have a clear and compelling reason why someone should fill out the form. There are too many churches who have a Plan Your Visit page that asks the user to fill out a contact form with little to no explanation of why they should fill it out. If you want this to work well, you need to clearly describe what will happen after they fill out the form. All of your funnel marketing has lead up to this big ask, so give them a convincing reason why they should fill it out. Tell them that they will get a personal experience, or text message, or something. Make it clear, and make it attractive. 

    Here is a bold idea that our team was the first to invent. Everybody has some sort of welcome gift in their church, right? You could actually allow someone to set up a personalized welcome gift using the Plan Your Visit form. Imagine being invited to come to a church for the first time, and you could actually pick what you wanted in your own welcome basket. For example, step one on the Plan Your Visit page would be to pick if you want a red t-shirt or a black one. Then pick your size. Then you would pick if you want a coffee cup or a notepad with the church logo on it. The point is, visitors get to customize a few options. Then someone puts it together for them before the weekend service, and writes them a welcome note. How cool is that? Now potential visitors have a compelling reason why they should fill out this form, because they get free stuff that they picked out.

    But wait, theres more! Saturday night, this person is going to have second thoughts about waking up early and going to church. You know how it is. But when they remember that someone has personally put together a whole gift basket just for them, they would feel terrible if they just didnt show up. So even if they have second thoughts, they feel obligated to come, and boomnow you have increased your conversion rate. You can thank me later for this golden nugget!

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    But as great as it is, you can’t stop with just a contact form. You need to have an organized system for incoming Plan Your Visit forms. You should have a team with an exact procedure of what will happen as soon as someone fills out that form. One of the churches that we work with in Seattle has an entire strategic system involving multiple volunteers for every Plan Your Visit form they receive. It is really awesome. With this churchs program, once someone fills out a Plan Your Visit form, the Guest Experience Leader gets an automatic text message alert. The Guest Experience Leader is notified by text message so they can reach out quickly, even if they are away from their computer. The guest will also get a text message notifying them that they are confirmed for their upcoming visit, and that someone will be reaching out to them very shortly. The churchs Guest Experience Leader sends a personal email and text message on Saturday (using a dedicated church phone number) welcoming them to church, and letting them know where to park on Sunday. It might sound like a lot, but if you keep it casual like this church does, it will be a really cool experience for the guest. The morning of the service, they get another text letting them know that a team member will be wearing a red Serve Teamshirt and will be waiting for them under the red Visitorsign in the lobby. Once they meet each other, the visitor gets a personal campus tour so they know where the kidsareas are, and where to find the bathrooms and the main sanctuary. They will also be given their first-time guest gift and introduced to some church leaders. After church is over, they have a follow-up system in place as well. This church has an awesome experience for the people who use the Plan Your Visit form, and since they clearly explain this whole process on the website, they get way more form conversions than most churches. Make it clear why people should plan their visit using this page, and make the entire experience an awesome one, so you can have the same kind of results at your church.

    Here are the three key sections that must be on your Plan Your Visit page: first, clearly list your service times and location, including a street map. You would be surprised at how many churches actually make this hard to find. Make sure your page mentions parking instructions, along with a map of the church campus, if you have one. Second, give an overview of what the service will be like, including a Frequently Asked Questions section that answers questions about length of service, denomination, dress type, and worship style. Finally, dedicate a section to your kidsministry. Parents want to know what your kidsfacilities are like, what your childrens ministry programming is, and what age groups are offered. Make sure to have great photos of your kidsfacilities along with action shots of happy kids and volunteers. You may have a KidsMinistry page on your website, but it should also have its own section on the Plan Your Visit page.

    Many churches film a short video specifically for the Plan Your Visit page on their website. These videos get incredibly high view rates, and they work wonderfully. Have the lead pastor or someone else who is the face of the Guest Experience department film the video, speaking directly to a first-time guest. Show short, b-roll style clips of the teaching, worship, and various Sunday ministries. This video tells the viewer what they can expect on a Sunday, and talks them through the process once they fill out the Plan Your Visit form. It is important that this video is really high quality. This video is for potential new guests, and the last thing you want to do is have a low-quality representation of what Sundays are like at your church.

    Your Plan Your Visit pagedone wellcould lead to a visitor this Sunday.

    Pro Tip – For the best Plan Your Visit results, use a contact form that only asks for one bit of information at a time. When people see a long contact form that asks for their first name, last name, email, phone number, number of kids comingthe form looks too long. People dont want to give you all of that information, and they might not fill out the form. You will see an increase in Plan Your Visit forms if you just ask for one bit at a time. Build your contact form to start by having visitors enter their names, and then they hit Next. A new field then appears and it asks for the date they want to come, and on it goes. Once the person has gotten three or four questions in, they usually will just finish it out. So have your contact form load one section at a time, because it really improves conversion rates. Since the person did not see a list of seven different fields to fill out initially, they are more likely to complete it.


    Mobile First Design

    Our website works fine on mobile, right?

    You already know that your website has to look good on a mobile device, but it is way deeper than that. After studying the analytics from hundreds of church websites, we learned just how important the mobile design of your site is. The average church receives over 80% of their monthly online traffic from a mobile device. Not a laptop or desktop. Over 80%! That is a huge number. There are so many more visitors from mobile phones than from other devices, so it is a must to rethink the design of your site. You should treat your website almost like you were designing a smartphone app. 

    Think of it like Instagram. Yes, you can technically pull up Instagram on a desktopbut what kind of weirdo would do that? The whole Instagram experience is built for a phone. The designers of Instagram first created an awesome app, and then made it work on a desktop. They went mobile first because they knew that almost everyone would be experiencing Instagram from their phones. 

    Imagine if we treated our church website with that same level of detail for the mobile design! Most churches created their website primarily for a desktop, and then adjusted and resized it to fit on a mobile screen. If thats you, then you are thinking about this whole thing the wrong way. If you were designing an app for your church, you would spend all of your time thinking about the mobile experience. So with statistics showing that at least 80% of your web traffic will be from mobile, its time to treat your churchs website design more like an app than a website. The primary design of your website is for the mobile experience, and then you make sure that it looks good on a desktop as well. Mobile should never be an afterthought.

    A term that many web companies use is responsivewebsite designs. If your web developer tells you that your site will be responsive, you might want to clarify exactly what they mean by that. The old way of building responsive websites was to design the entire page for a desktop, and then depending on the users screen size, it would automatically restack the different elements on that page so that everything would fit. This is not the most ideal way to have your website built anymore. When the content and layout is primarily designed for the screen size of a desktop, there is usually too much content to fit onto a phone screen. People on phones are tired of scrolling for five minutes just to get to the bottom of a page. People on phones are tired of having to scroll back to the top of the screen just to reach the menu. People on phones are tired of having to wait nineteen minutes for your website to load. This is 80% of your audience, and if you dont fix your website, you are going to lose your chance to meet these new people face to face.

    Top web development agencies create completely separate versions of the website specifically for mobile-, tablet-, and desktop- sized screens. Each version has a totally different design. This allows you to have a mobile design that operates similar to an app, instead of just being a resized desktop site. You can choose to have content like your beliefs, core values, or anything that is text-heavy to be split up into toggled sections. You can have your message player operate more like a podcast, and you can even have your menu on the bottom of the screen as seen on apps like Facebook and Instagram. The possibilities are endless.

    Tell your creative team to think first of the mobile experience when coming up with ideas for your website. 


    Church Apps

    Do we need to get a church app?

    I probably get asked about the importance of a church app around ten times a week from church leaders. Everyone has his or her own opinion about it. Sometimes having an app just because you want to is totally fine! But is it worth the financial investment?

    Lets talk about it.

    Just like with websites, there are two main worlds when it comes to app development: custom vs. templates. If you have a custom app created for your church, it will have capabilities and styling specifically built for you. You can have functions unique to each ministry, enable users to play an active part with the Sunday experience, and even have an interactive campus map. It would be awesome! However, the development for an app like this will have a starting cost of over $70,000, and it will take at least a year to develop. Not to mention the costs for ongoing maintenance and support. If you can afford this, you will see a high usage volume on the app, and it will become a central part of your ministry organization and communication. But will it be worth the investment? I would say probably not. 

    Whos got $70,000 to drop on an app right now? Not many. Until app development becomes more affordable, it isnt the right time to have a truly custom-built app. So the alternative option is to use an app provider that has a pre-built template. Lots of online giving providers will actually throw in a templated app as an incentive to sign up with them. The primary things that people use template-based apps for are giving, online messages, and possibly event registration. But keep in mind that you can already do all of this on your church website. So the issue with template-based apps is that there essentially is no difference between the app and your website. 

    There is only one differentiating factorpush notifications. You can only do that with an app. Although this sounds like a big deal, I have found that it is very rare that churches actually continuously use push notifications through their app. It takes a lot of upkeep to do it right, and people usually dont have time for that. It is just not as useful as it sounds in an ongoing, regular basis. If your church is one that uses it and really finds benefit, that is great, but the majority of churches would be better off leaving the app idea outside and focusing instead on their websites.

    So put your effort into making the mobile design of your website amazing, instead of adding a template-based app. Your app will become an additional item on your to-do list for maintenance and updating, and you probably dont need that. 

    Template apps are overrated. Let your website do its job.


    Podcasting Done Right

    How do we maximize our church’s podcast?

    It seems like almost every church has their own podcast. My advice: if you are going to do a podcast, do it with excellence. The vast majority of churches simply put the audio of their message onto their podcast, and thats it. I think you could go a step above and beyond that. Making your podcast actually feel like a podcast wont take much effort or time, but it will be a much better product in the end.

    First of all, if you need to set up your podcast for the first time, here’s how to do it. You will need to start with some sort of podcast hosting subscription. There are a few good ones out there to choose from. Most churches use either Podbean or Blubrry to integrate with their church website for their podcast audio. If you sign up with Blubrry, they will give you a plugin to add to your website which will create the podcast episode and RSS feed for you. 

    To make a podcast channel, you need to set up an admin account on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever else you want your podcast to be distributed. Each of these podcast players will need you to paste in something called an RSS feed. An RSS feed is a URL from your website, which the podcast player receives the media and description from. Apple Podcasts (and any other podcast player) is the middleman between the media on your website and the end listener. With this RSS feed, any time you add more audio to your website, it will automatically update all of the podcast players at once.

    Most churches just use the Sunday messages as the content for their podcasts and post one new podcast episode per week. This is the most common way to do church podcasts, and it works great. But here is how you do it with excellence: each week, before publishing the audio, your team should first add a compressor to the audio which makes the volume more balanced and crisp. If you want to have that professional podcast sound, the compressor is the most important tool. Next add a filter on the audio channel called a high pass filter.This cuts out all of the very low frequencies which make the audio muddy and unclear. The high pass filter only lets the higher frequencies through, which are needed for a crisp speaking audio quality. You can easily add audio effects and settings like this using the Adobe program called Audition. Try it out, and you will immediately hear the difference. 

    But let’s not stop there. If you really want to present your podcast messages in a highly professional way, add an intro to the podcast each week. Almost all of the top podcasts in the world use a consistent intro that is professionally done and is the same from episode to episode (although most podcasts update their intro around one to two times per year to keep it fresh). Keep your intro very shortunder thirty seconds is ideal. The best intros have some background music and the voice of the lead pastor welcoming the listeners. If you dont feel comfortable recording your own intro, you could easily outsource it with a company like Upwork for less than $100. They will do a voice-over and add background music for you. Its a worthwhile investment, just as putting a little time and effort into making your podcast look and sound great is also worthwhile.

    If you are going to have a podcast, make it excellent.


    Church Website Load Speed

    How do I make our site load faster?

    If your church website takes too long to load, you will lose tons of website visitors every month. When our team analyzes the performance of a website, one of the first stats we look at is called bounce rate.This is a web analytic term that refers to the percentage of people who visit your website but leave immediately. As in less than five seconds. You certainly dont want to have a high bounce rate, because that means people are leaving your site before they even see it. They never even consume the content of your home page because they leave right away. 

    Why does this happen, and how do you fix it?

    There are going to be bounce sessions every day on your website, and that is totally expected. If you are seeing a bounce rate somewhere between 20% and 30% you are actually in the normal range. Some people click on a link by accident, or change their mindsthere are many reasons why you will have some bounce sessions. They are simply unavoidable. However, one of the main and most concerning reasons for a high bounce rate is when the user wanted to view your website, but it took too long to load, so they gave up. This is especially terrible if you are paying for ads to drive people to your site, then you lose them before they even see it. The worst part is that a high bounce rate is totally preventable. You just have to care enough to fix it. 

    When we test a church websites load speed, the average time is four to five seconds on desktop, and six to seven seconds on mobile. This doesnt sound like a big deal, right? Wrong. In the corporate world, this would never be acceptable. They would know they are losing thousands of dollars because of a high bounce rate. The standard that is agreed upon by most industries is a three-second load speed, both on mobile and on desktop. I know that seems fast, but anything longer than that and you will see a drastic increase in your bounce rate. Remember, every second counts.

    I am obsessed with getting load speed right, because I know that people on their phones simply do not have patience. We know that 80% of web traffic comes from mobile, so you have to consider how people think when they are on a mobile device. Its different than when you are browsing on a desktop. When you are on your phone, you are usually using apps or browsing social media, and we get used to scrolling through photos and videos at a high speed. I literally get irritated when I click on a Facebook video and it makes me wait ten seconds as it buffers. It actually makes me mad. I assume the same goes for anyone when they have just a few minutes to be on social media. They want it fast. When your website takes longer than three seconds to load, the user simply leaves and continues on with their day. Certainly this is not the case for everyone, but when you start seeing bounce rates of 40% and higher, you know there is a problem. 

    The biggest culprit for a slow website is large media. When my company creates websites, we have a rule that no images can go on a site unless they are smaller than 200kb in size. When we analyze other churcheswebsites, it is very common to see images that are upwards of 2mb or larger. This will kill your load speed.

    Photos are a problem, and videos are even worse. Its popular for churches to have looping b-roll video footage in the background of the home page of their site. I love this because it really looks great when it is done right. But if your website has video footage like that, find a way to keep the video file size under 30mb if possible, otherwise it will take forever to load. If your video is larger than 30mb, there are a few things you can do. You can start by shortening the videothere is no need to have a looping video last any longer than forty-five seconds. Secondly you can use the Adobe program called Adobe Media Encoder to compress the video. Using this tool, you can reduce the size of the video by 70% or more, without noticeably losing quality. 

    Some churches try to use an embedded YouTube or Vimeo link in the background of their home page. Don’t do that. The YouTube branding cheapens the look of the home page. However, I do find it helpful to embed other videos on your site from YouTube, just remembernot the background videos on your home page. Sections like a welcome video on the Plan Your Visit page or any videos connected to special events or announcements are great to embed from YouTube. Anything that is not used as a background element should be hosted in YouTube to help increase load speeds.

    Another huge way to speed up your site is to use caching. Caching is when your website doesnt have to load the entire content of each page every time it is opened. Some of the site is preloaded so the user can view the site faster. Sounds complicated, but its not, and it will make your site load as much as 50% faster. If you are using a template-based website, you probably wont have any options to add caching on your site. However, if you have a custom site, or are using a program like WordPress, then you can add caching. Add a caching plugin from the WordPress plugin library and play with the settings until you are pleased with the load speed. You can also call your website hosting provider and ask if they can add caching directly on the server of your website. Most caching plugins also have a functionality called lazy loading,which is a term that refers to the way your images load. This really helps with your load speed because it only loads images one at a time instead of making them load all at once. This could take off one or two additional seconds of your load speed, which is huge.

    Your site might be perfect, but if it takes too long to load, people wont stick around to see it.

    Pro Tip – Do a Google search for test my website speedand type in your churchs URL. You will get instant data on the performance of your load speed on both mobile and desktop.