Whether we manage a website for a parish, diocese, religious community or Catholic organization, one of our biggest concerns is how to get people to visit it. Just because we built it does not mean they will come. This comes as a surprise and disappointment to many website owners. It is good to remember that disappointment is often the result of unrealistic expectations.
One of the respondents to our recent reader’s survey put it this way:
I really want to drive more people to our website. We are a Catholic parish with 1700 families and getting only about 225-250 hits/week. The activity has not been what I thought it would be when we launched a new website.
From the above comment, it seems that this writer is comparing website hits to the number of families in the parish. If this parish is like others only 24-30% or 408 to 510 of these families ever come to Church on the weekend. When using these numbers 225-250 hits a week is pretty good. (However, we do not know how many of those hits are from active members.) Expecting people who do not visit the Church to visit the website without any outreach is unrealistic.
Another point to consider is that people visit websites when their interest in the organization is heightened. For parishes this is usually around Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter, opening of school, need for a sacrament such as baptism or marriage, and any major events known to the community. Knowing that, webmasters need to make a special effort to provide what visitors will be looking for i.e. the schedule or how to arrange for a sacrament and a welcome. If the visit to the website is satisfactory, it is possible that the visitor will return.
Audience and Goals
Stepping back, it is important to examine whether or not members are the only audience we should be addressing and what the goals of the website are. Looking at many parish websites, it appears that the goals range from putting basic contact information on the web; repeating what’s in the bulletin or on other print resources; to posting additional information about upcoming events, and downloads such as fliers or schedules; registering for events; to letting viewers know how many organizations or activities the organization is engaged in so they can volunteer. These are not goals that will generate a lot of traffic. They only address insiders who already have the information from other sources i.e. the bulletin, announcements and word of mouth.
Members will always be one of the audiences of a church website, but not the only audience. If you are concerned about web traffic, you need to examine your expectations and reconsider your audiences and your goals. I will have more to say about that next week.
Please tell us the type of website you have (parish, diocesan, religious community, etc.). What are your expectations in terms of visits?
P.S. I am also wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is a good time to add a thank you for subscribing to and reading the Catholic Web Solutions blog. Your interest keeps me posting. I appreciate your comments as well as your shares on social media.