When you talk to someone who has questions about Christianity; you do not spout off the entire Gospel, hoping to convert them right there on the spot. Unfortunately many websites do just this. They do not understand that just like an eCommerce site, you need to build interest, trust, and value before you can ask for any level of commitment from a website user.
As you work on your Content Gap Analysis, think about your click paths. A click path is an important route on your website from beginning to end. This might be someone hitting the home page and moving through the navigation scheme to submit a contact form. Another path would be clicking on a paid ad, visiting a landing page, clicking through the content tabs, and registering for an event.
Notice I said "path". You cannot simply put a "Buy This Now" button on the homepage of an eCommerce website and expect people to blindly give you money. You must lead users willingly down a path of content. The click path makes them aware of the product, tells them its features, creates a desire for them to own it, and finally alleviate their fears about the purchase and ownership. These same steps can be taken on your church website's content, so that it encourages new website visitors to become new church visitors.
Present purely informational content on some of your primary entry points, such as your homepage and more prominent landing pages and microsites. Start by clearly stating what your church's name is, any denominations you are affiliated with, and any branding or slogans you might have.
What does your church believe in? What ministries does your church have? Do you have any Bible study groups, support and/or addiction groups? What age groups do you cater to? Consider all of the possible problems people show up at church with. They could be children with broken families, teens with emotional problems, young adults struggling with lost faith, or parents that feel like they are failing. The list can go on and on, but be sure to create that list of features your church can showcase.
Show how a relationship in Christ with the help of your church can aid them during those struggles. Testimonials are key here, as you display how lives at your church have been changed. Their old lives, selves, and sinful desires died, and they found new life in Christ. Video, audio, and transcripts of these conversations should be displayed. This will account for all preferences, disabilities, and allow you to promote these on social media outlets. YouTube for video, Pinterest and Tumblr for images, and a multitude of others like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for text.
Reassure your prospective members what they can expect if they do commit to something. If they fill out a membership form, they will be contacted within the week by a trained staff member to answer their questions and explain their next steps. Let them know how and when they will be contacted, and there is no commitment involved.
As you move along with your content gap analysis, map out several click paths. Then prioritize them with your church leadership's guidance. Spend extra time creating those important paths of content, and even delve into some usability testing for them. The time you invest will delay your project a little, but the mistakes you find just might be the difference between filling your church's seats, and having to add an additional service time!
Inspiration and information came from a great episode of the Landing Page Optimization podcast; hosted by Tim Ash
Photo courtesy of Susan Detlefsen