How Google will bury your church website

YourChurchWebsiteOn April 21st, a new update from Google will bury your church website from MOBILE search listings if your website isn’t ready for their new requirements.

It won’t matter if you’ve had your domain since the beginning of the Internet age and had a church teenager put a basic website together with iFrames.

If your church website is not up to Google’s new mobile-friendly requirements, they will bury it when a user is looking for a church via a mobile device.

Your potential church visitors will not find your website (nor see these 2 important web pages).

Your potential new members will not locate your church under Churches in your town.

But you can fix your church website so that visitors can find your church from their mobile devices and computers.

Is Your Church Website Mobile Friendly?

This is the criteria that will affect your church website rankings:

Is your church website friendly to mobile devices?

Can a person use your church website without having to zoom in to tap a link, read the text, or accomplish other simple tasks?

My friend Paul Steinbrueck , using the term Mobilegeddon, writes

Google will start factoring mobile-friendliness into its search ranking algorithm on April 21. Google itself has called the update “significant,” bigger than the Panda or Penguin updates.

Websites that are not mobile friendly will be penalized.

Google will not drop your church website from it’s search engine.

You won’t see your website deleted from their searches.

But it will be booted further and further down in the rankings.

Being mobile friendly is one of over 200 signals that Google will use to determine where your website will appear in it’s listing.

Google decides what mobile friendly looks like.  If Google’s automated bots think your website is not mobile friendly, your website will be penalized.

In the past, mobile friendliness was a minor criteria.

Now, it is a “significant one.”

Can my church website be fixed?

Paul goes on to write:

If you have not started working to make your website mobile-friendly by now, it’s unlikely you will get it done by April 21.

But all hope is not lost. Unlike other penalties that took weeks to resolve and remove, Google says the mobile-friendly factor is updated in real-time.

That means as soon as your website is mobile-friendly your mobile search rankings will improve.

You may not get it done before April 21, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will recover.

Even in recent weeks, I’ve seen church websites that are not mobile friendly.

The church I visited on Easter Sunday in 2015 is horribly useless and looks like something designed in the early 1990s with frames and awful colors.

Depending on the complexity of your website, the fix may take some time.

Option 1: Talk with an Church Website Expert

If you are HTML dependent for every page, you’ll need to work at making the coding changes necessary to make your website mobile friendly.  That is beyond what I can write here.   In fact, Paul gives you an invitation to talk with someone on his team:

If your website still is not mobile-friendly, don’t freak out. But don’t curl up into a ball or put your head in the sand either. Move forward. Decide as soon as possible whether you’re going to make your current website mobile-friendly or get a new website. Decide as soon as possible who is going do the work.

If you’re not sure about these decisions and would like to talk them through, schedule a free call with one of our experts.

Tell Paul’s team I sent you.

I’ve known Paul for several years from OurChurch.Com.  You can find him on

I’ve done a webinar with Paul, plus an interview on Church Websites (though recorded in 2009, it still has some good conversation starters)

Option 2: If you use a CMS, change your Church Website theme.

If you use a CMS like WordPress or Joomla on a self-hosted domain, you can search for a mobile friendly theme.

I personally use professional themes for WordPress from the Genesis Framework by StudioPress.  All of their themes are mobile friendly.   I have personally found that using WordPress to manage the content on my site to be the way to go.

A theme change (or new setup) for your mobile friendly website is not that hard.

You can change a theme in less than 2 minutes after you find the one you want.

Most of the work will be involved in making sure that all your content and sidebars reappear in the new themes.

I have had to change a few WordPress themes on some of my other website to make them mobile friendly.  It took me a few hours to make sure everything transferred into the new theme that I bought from Genesis.

Option 3: Use a Church Website service that does it all for you.

Here is one solution to turn your clumsy embarrassing church website into a awesome front porch for your visitors to come and see you before coming to see you.

Sure, you could do it free in WordPress or Joomla, but has anyone fixed your church website site in 10 years?

Clover Website is one solution to a church website that works.

I subscribe to a email list of church administrators and this one has been highly recommended in that list.  You can read those recommendations here.

We just switched to Clover Church Websites Sites last month. Our Youth Pastor maintains it and loves it. They even have a live person that answers the phone if there are any questions!

Definite limitations due to the fact that they’ve designed it for easy use by non-web designers but the benefits, in my opinion, far outweigh the limitations. We haven’t been backed into a corner by any of the limitations.  Most have an easy work around.

Your church website should not embarrass you.

Look into Clover for your church website.  This is an affiliate link which will benefit our ministry work in Latin America.

Read here if you need to convince your leaders about getting a church website.

Note: Links to Ourchurch.com, Studiopress, and Clover.com are affiliate links.  Any purchases made through those links will benefit our ministry in Latin America.

Is your church website an open door or barrier to your church?

Today, Yvon Prehn allow me to share her guest post about your church website.

Yvon is an excellent writer and shares frequently on church communications – in fact, that is her ministry.

I’ve benefited much from my conversations with her and her regular newsletter provides all sorts of great snippets.  She also runs a membership site that is extremely affordable for churches and ministries.

Guest Post: Is Your Church Website an Open Door or Barrier?

Today, if we have a question about anything, where do we look up information?

If we want hours of operation, products offered, staff bios?

If we want to know what movie is playing, what time a concert starts, what classes are offered at a college where do we do to find out?

Obviously, we go to the website.

It’s the same whether we are looking up information about what computer to buy or what church to attend.

We judge the organization, its people, and its products based on the website.

If the website gives us winter hours and it is spring; if the sale has been over for weeks or if the hours of operation are incorrect, we aren’t likely to visit the business or have confidence in it.

If the business is a franchise and the website is an obvious template, with little local personalization, we won’t think much about the technical skills (equated with competence overall) of the staff.

Again, we judge a church the same way.

Unfortunately many church websites don’t meet the minimal standards.

Though lost customers may be bad for a business, the consequences for a church are much more serious. Following is an example of what can happen and then some suggestions for change.

Read more:

Excellent Church Website Tips

The article goes on to give excellent tips to keeping up your church website.

  • Keep it current.
  • Learn how to create one in wordpress

In my experience, I still see a lot of churches that make dumb mistakes on their website – stuff that should easily be fixed:

Help your church visitors find you this coming Easter

Easter is right around the corner.

Does your church website reflect your Easter services?

Does it promote the post Easter sermon series to help your visitors decide to return?

This Easter, some people might want to visit your church.

This Holy Week, some out of town guests may want to visit your special services for holy week.

You don’t know who they are.

They don’t know where they want to go.

God has given these first time church visitors spiritual thirst that propels them to seek a church.

So what do they do?

They likely search the internet first to find a church website.

Read more:

Coaching Corner:

Take a good look at your church website.

Would a potential Easter visitor find the basic information needed to attend your services?

More Church Visitor Packet Ideas

What to put int a church welcome folderChurch welcome packets are a great marketing tool to put in the hands of your first time visitors, particularly those who stay anonymous.

I recently put this question out some of the networks I am a part of:

What sorts of things do you put in your visitor welcome packet /folder to give to first time church visitors?

Here are some of the answers.

Add your helpful suggestion of ideas for church welcome packets in the comment field below.

What do you put in your Visitor Welcome Packet?

Justin – When we create Welcome Packets for churches we recommend including information about your beliefs, a list of ministries/opportunities your schedule of services, and pictures of your pastor/staff.

Deborah – Hi Chris, We ask for info such as: Are you just visiting or looking for a new home church, or have a prayer request.  Basic info, address, phone number etc. Would you like to be contacted by the pastor or home visit. Office hours, service and Sunday School times. Phone numbers etc.

Lawrence – The gospel of John, welcome notes with the pastor’s and church leader’s address and phone numbers to contact in case of needs, the church activities and motto.  A gift token and hope to see you again note with Jesus love you.

Matthew – When I was at one church we made a DVD that had people if church talking about the missions vision and values of the church. We also showed pictures and videos of other things we did in the community.

Christopher – Tracts, a contact information sheet, and a church events schedule for the current month.

Nodela  – We give our first time visitors gift bags that contain: visitors card to fill out and return, ministry brochure, church administrator business card, pen, pad, candy, monthly calendar, a thank you and invitation note card, prayer card written by my Bishop, a sermon CD and one of my Bishop’s books.  On the outside of the bag I place a portion of our mission statement. I then follow up with more information about our ministry and then a “hello” note card for those that do not have a church home. Many have been receptive of this method and pleasantly surprised to receive it. Some have come back and purchased additional CDs or DVDs.

Richard – I’m partial to the Pocket Testament League’s Gospels of John which have the plan of salvation on the first few pages. They’re especially good for New believers Packets.

John – We used to put in a magnet with the church’s name and address and church times for the fridge. Some good candies (Wurthers), a $5 gift card to Tim Horton’s ( or Starbucks for some of you), and a church pen (only use good quality), and a simple short relevant tract.

Nick – I wish churches would include the pastor’s theological positions so you can determine at the front end if you’re a good fit.

Tom – Our packet includes the Folded Cover with Welcome on front, Church Name & Location, Inside: Information card for visitor to fill out and a Thank you card is mailed later for visit.  Also, card inviting them to a Daily Telephone Scripture Message, A Bic Clic Stic pen.  Many churches give imprinted pens to their visitors.

Lisa – From the perspective of someone who has visited many churches, I appreciate when the packet includes a current church newsletter (so I’m aware of events), a statement of the policies of the church, a bulletin, a name tag, and a snack (one church I went to, Sts. Martha and Mary Episcopal Church in Eagan, MN, offered a snack of M & M’s, perhaps a play on its initials).

Michael – Besides the usual items describing the church, CD of the message and some fun things like coffee mugs and pens with the church logo and some goodies one church includes a $5.00 visa card so the visitor could buy gas for a return visit. This church also hand delivered the welcome packet to the home the next day after the first visit

Your Turn

What sorts of things do you put in your church visitor welcome packet?  Add your comments or ideas for church welcome packets below in the comment field.

Does your church website answer questions for potential visitors?

This question came across my twitter feed (@EvangelismCoach) this past Sunday:

“It’s 2nd Sunday .. I’m visiting a new church .. Heels or Tennis shoes ? I never know how to dress when I’m a visitor”

This brings up the point:

Can potential first time church visitors find out the information they need on your church website landing page?

  • Where is the church?
  • What does the building look like so I can recognize it?
  • Would I fit in with these people?
  • Who is the pastor?

Church websites lead people to your door.

I once visited a church website and couldn’t find an address, so I didn’t even know what state or country it was in.

Then it took me several pages to discover what time was their meeting.

I visited another church website and couldn’t find the time of their Christmas Eve services, so we didn’t go.

That shouldn’t be.

How is your church represented on your church website?

Here are some quick questions a potential church visitor might want to know:

  • What are these people like?
  • What is appropriate to wear?
  • Will I understand the message? (Do you have your sermons easily online for people to hear examples of what they might hear at a service?)
  • Where is this church located?
  • What does the building look like so I will recognize it?
  • What is done for my children?

You can fix some of these issues quickly by:

  • Sharing photos of church life, of some worship settings
  • An frequently asked questions page for church vistors
  • Address and service times on every page.
  • Real life photos of pastors vs formal studio photos

Do you need help with your church website?

Look into Clover for your church website.  This is an affiliate link which will benefit our ministry work in Latin America.

I subscribe to a email list of church administrators and this one has been highly recommended in that list.

We just switched to Clover Church Websites Sites last month. Our Youth Pastor maintains it and loves it. They even have a live person that answers the phone if there are any questions!

We compared Clover to Bridge Elements which had a cheaper upfront cost, however the Clover Church Site was much easier to work with and edit. They are also going to be rolling out an on-line giving platform we may also switch to.

We use Clover Church Websites for the exact same reasons that you mention and absolutely love it. I have been responsible for many different websites over the years from designing them from scratch to taking over other people’s designs and Clover has made web site administration a joy again for me.

Very easy to use. I have several different staff who have no web experience updating various content. I mainly make sure that it stays within our graphic standards and make changes to structure when necessary.

Very good support from Clover. ­ Extremely helpful and friendly and responsive. But I’ve had very little to call them about ­everything just works.

Definite limitations due to the fact that they’ve designed it for easy use by non-web designers but the benefits, in my opinion, far outweigh the limitations. We haven’t been backed into a corner by any of the limitations.  Most have an easy work around.