WEBSITE BASICS -- Promoting Your Website
Let me begin by defining what I mean by "traffic." I am not talking about the rush hour commute. I am referring to the number of people (or lack thereof) who visit your website. When you get right down to it, the reason you started a website was to get people to visit it, wasn't it? It certainly wasn't just to practice HTML, Java, ASP or some other technology—at least I hope that wasn't why you started a church website.
Anyway, there are thousands of experts, each with their own way to generate more traffic to your site. So I guess it's a thousand and one now. . . . The difference is, I am going to make this so simple even the newbie webmaster will be able to do this, AND most of these suggestions won't cost you a red cent.
Obviously, these methods of advertising will work much better if you have a good website with some unique content that is up-to-date. But that's for a different newsletter.
Off The Web
This may sound counter-intuitive at first, but one of the best places to advertise is offline. Think about. We live offline, most of us work offline, we spend more time offline than online. So why wouldn't offline be a good place to advertise your website? I can hear the chorus of "We are a small church, we don't have an advertising budget. How are we going to advertise offline?" It doesn't take a lot of money to advertise offline. In fact, most of these suggestions are free. Now I should have your attention. . . .
- The church bulletin. This might sound obvious, but you need to advertise your website every single week in your church bulletin.
- Flyers for events. Every single flyer for every single event that your church puts out should have your website address on it. This is especially true if you intend on your flyers being handed out to non-church members (Christmas program invites, Easter, etc...).
- Church newsletter. Make sure your website is listed in every single church newsletter. Just like you include a phone number and street address, you should include an email and website.
- Church letterhead. See #3.
- Pastor's and/or church business cards. Ok, this pretty much wraps up the church communications. But you would be surprised at how many churches miss these prime FREE advertising locations. These church communications have a surprising life to them. They get passed around and shared, and there is no telling who will see them and visit your site.
- The local paper. Run some articles in your local paper. They can be about almost anything. An upcoming seminar at the church, an evangelistic series, a unique ministry, a blood drive at the church, or the community service ladies who make lap blankets for the local nursing homes. Remember to include your website in the article with an invitation to find more information. Be sure you have a page the follows up on the story! Most local newspapers are anxious to have information like this, and it won't cost you a dime.
- Advertising in the local paper. Many churches will advertise certain big events (like the Christmas service—hint, hint) in the paper. Sometimes this is even free to all the local churches! But regardless of whether you get a free ad or you pay a small fee, make sure your website is listed. I can honestly tell you that I notice a spike in website traffic every time our church website is listed in the local paper in this manner.
- Don't ignore radio and TV. If you run a radio or TV ad (again this can be done for little or no cost on some public access stations), be sure to include your website.
- Talk about your website. Invite friends, church members and other people to your website. Sometimes I ask friends if I can see the church website on their computer. This kills two birds with one stone. It introduces my friends to the website, and I can see how the website looks on other computers. This works exceptionally well with friends at work (in my particular instance, these people are largely un-churched).
Sure, you can advertise online too. There are so many ways to do this I can't begin to list them all. Here are some easy and free ones.
- Guest books. Take the time to visit other Christian sites and sign the guest book. Be sure to leave an invitation to your website and the URL.
- Church directories. List your church in every single church directory you can find. There are literally hundreds of these listings. Sign up for all of them. Many of these sites do not get tons of traffic, but they get your site name out there to someone. Many denominations have at least one denomination specific listing —make sure you are listed in yours.
- Search engines. This is obvious, but try to get listed into the major search engines. Yahoo, Lycos, Alta Vista, Google and DMOZ are a must! Follow the rules to the letter. There are entire books written on this subject, so I won't say more than "get listed" here.
- Trade links. Most online directories are counting the number of sites linking to you to determine if you have a good site or not. Spend some time each week trading links with other RELATED sites. It doesn't do any good to trade links with some unrelated business. Be willing to list them on your site. I have had a large number of sites asking me to link to them, but they won't list me on their site. I don't think so...
- Web rings. Join at least one web ring of related sites.
There you have it —more than a dozen ways to advertise your website for little or no cash! That's a pretty cool Christmas present.
Primary Author: Bill Aumack