Website Traffic, Part I: Forethought is Best

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on January 24, 2012

in Catholic, ministry, Uncategorized, website

Some years ago when Catholic parishes, dioceses, religious institutes and organizations first started setting up their websites, our goal was to “have a website.” It was the new phone book listing only with more content. We found someone who could create it for us, figured out what we wanted to post and put it up. We announced to everyone that we had a website.

Our websites have come a long way since those early days and many of them have gone through one or more re-designs. The whole science of websites has evolved—we can get statistics on visitors: how often they come, how long they stay, what they click on, and whether they return, etc. from free services like Google Analytics. We are putting a lot more work into our websites now and we want to maximize the number of visitors we get and the number that return. We understand that our websites are essential communication and ministry services.

The most common mistake in creating a website is to begin by talking about design and how it will look. Design is not the first step or even the most important step. There is a lot of pre-design work that needs to be done especially if attracting visitors is important to you. The most important point to remember is that our websites are for our visitors. It is easy (and a mistake) to let what I (we) want to say, get in the way of what visitors need and want. If we are not meeting THEIR needs, they will not come back.

Identify Your Audiences

Start by identifying your audiences. Thoroughly answer these questions with input from as wide a range of staff and potential visitors as possible:

1)      Who are the audiences for this website? Yes, plural. List all of the groups you want to serve.

2)      What common information might people in all or most of these groups want? (Contact info, directions, office hours, etc.)

3)      What specific questions might each group want answered? (Sacramental information, calendar of events, how to get specific services, how to participate, etc.) Who has the answers to these questions? They need to be part of your website team.

4)      What special services do you want to provide? (Links to resources, downloads, how-to videos, etc.)

5)      What key words might visitors use in searching for this information?

6)      How will your audiences connect to your site? (computer, mobile device, phone, etc.)

Do you have any other questions to include in the list above? Please list them in the comments below.

Do you already have a website?  Look at it now from the perspective of one of your intended audiences.  Does it answer their questions, meet their needs, invite them to engage, give them a reason to come back? If not, what can you do about it? Do the same exercise for each of your audiences.  What have you learned about your website from this exercise?

In next week’s post we will consider how we want to interact with these audiences through our websites.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen Spillane SND January 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Susan, good directives. Sounds just like what is happening for us. Thanks for sharing this information.

Kristi January 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Great list to begin thinking about it – or re-designing the site (as we are right now). When thinking about key search words, remember to include the name of your town, and the words “catholic” and “church”. No matter how we think of ourselves (parish, community, etc), the average person still thinks “church”. Don’t forget directions, either!

Also, whose job will it be to update and maintain the content? Just as we have a bulletin editor, or a newsletter editor, we need a website editor too!

I just learned those tips at the Interactive Connections workshop!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND January 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

Thanks for your additions, Kristi. It is so important that we look at our websites with the eyes our our audiences and that we use words that mean something to them. Yes, it is best that right from the outset we know who will be responsible for updating and maintaining the content. Websites can get “old” very fast if we don’t.

Marc Cardaronella January 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm

This is a great list.

I think these are really the things to know if you want to connect with people…especially what is the information your audience would want and what questions do they need answered. If you can provide answers to burning questions, you can reach people. The problem is, that’s often harder than it sounds.

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