Writing Copy for Your Ministry Website is Different

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on October 4, 2010

in ministry, Uncategorized, website

Although many people seem to think that writing effective copy for the web is easy, it isn’t. It is its own unique writing form. One of the most important reasons why copywriting for the web is different from writing for traditional print publications is that the mindset of those who are going to be reading it is different.

More often than not, most web pages will be found via a search engine. This is very significant, as it means that the person reading your site has been looking either for you or someone like you. So that puts them in control. They will be focused on finding a particular program, service or piece of information.

Anyone visiting your site for the first time using a search engine will have a few questions in mind. “Have I come to the right place?” also “Will I find what I’m looking for at this page or site?” Finally, they would be asking themselves “Do I feel comfortable that I can achieve my goal here?”

What do visitors to parish sites want to know? Often, they want to know the Mass schedule. So why do so many parishes either not have that on their home page or disguise it under “Worship”? Please, post the “Mass Times”.

Visitors to the websites of religious communities want to know about your mission and how to locate members of your community. Is that clearly obvious on the home page?

Visitors to Catholic organizations want to know what services you provide. Can they get that information easily from the home page?

It is vital that you answer these questions on the home page or in just one to two easy clicks away from the home page. The website needs to provide an answer to the first time visitor immediately.

When writing copy for the web, always write to reassure any visitors that they are in the right place and that they should continue to read on.

What questions are you asking when you visit ministry websites? How often can you find the answer right away?

This article is taken from the free e-book Visitor-Friendly Copywriting for Ministry Websites, A Guide for Beginners. You can download the entire e-book (17 pages) at Catholic Web Solutions: Resources for You.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Pipitone October 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Sr. Susan,

Thank you for sharing this valuable information! Your e-book is easy to read, clear and direct to the point. God bless you in your ministry on the web!

Marc Cardaronella October 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Great ideas. Thanks!

Chris Buckley October 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

An absolutely essential thing that’s missing from most ministries & communities, online or in the real world, is the leading sentiment of “Welcome.”

Too often, especially as Catholics (though this was true during my Protestant upbringing as well), we assume everyone is already “like us” and so needs no context to cushion their arrival. The dominant sentiment is, “You’re here, so you MUST be Catholic. You know the drill.” In today’s culture, that’s a deadly mistake.

It is safer to assume (and more authentic to the Church’s call for an ongoing process of conversion) that anyone crossing your threshhold (online or off) may be encountering Christianity for the very first time. The very first concep tyou communicate will be their ONLY exposure to the Gospel, so you’d best make it count.

For anyone struggling with a strained past within the Church, for anyone raised in another tradition struggling to know if they are being called to Catholicism (me), for people of other faiths or none at all who (shock!) are actually exploring spiritual practices they may wish to adopt… they all come with preconceived notions reinforced by the culture at large that the Church, especially the part calling itself Catholic, is for the cradleborn only. Newcomers need not apply, since you’re not REALLY Catholic, right?

It is essential to combat this, to give everyone a soft landing, to establish the Church/ministry as a safe place to be, where they are not only tolerated but WANTED.

Therefore, whether greeters at the door, or copy on your page, the very first concept you need to communicate ISN’T the content of what they will find, but simply the reassuring notion that “You are welcome. You be long here. We are glad you are in this place.”

WELCOME first. ENROLL after.

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