God isn't bland. The Church shouldn't be, either.
Nobody cares about your website…

…but your content matters more than ever. I came to that realization a few months ago while I was sifting through our stats on Google Analytics.

We had just wrapped up a massive redesign of longhollow.com and were enjoying an influx of new visitors and renewed interest about our site. To take advantage of this momentum (and the launch of Facebook’s revamped “Pages”), I decided to launch an official fan page on Facebook where our folks could get together and interact in a place they were already spending much of their time. Our Facebook page turned out to be a huge hit, with more than 800 fans in less than a week.

After the launch of our official social presence, I noticed something different on longhollow.com… Our stats were down for the first time in months. It wasn’t a huge decrease, but it was noticeable loss of visits and a little startling at first. Then it hit me: some folks just don’t need our website any more.

An Unexpected Outcome

For years, I’ve made an effort to free up all of the content we produce at Long Hollow to be consumed in a variety of formats. We have about a dozen RSS Feeds and Email Lists. We’ve begun using Flickr as the engine to drive all of our photo galleries. We switched from a custom Flash video player to using Vimeo a few months back. Heck, we even have our own Dashboard Widget!

My efforts to syndicate all of our content are finally paying off, but in a different way than I initially expected. Once Facebook made it so simple to pump all of our content directly into our Fan Page, our “fans” had all of the information they desired from us right where they wanted it; any time we post a message online, link to a new photo gallery or promote an upcoming event, it’s funneled right in front of their nose along with everything their friends are doing. Going anywhere else for that information becomes redundant.

Our folks are better informed than ever without even visiting our website, and that’s a good thing.

It’s Not About Your Site’s Popularity

Your website should be the best one-stop shop for all of your content, but not the only shop in town. Visitors should be able to easily find the information they’re looking for on your site, but they should also be able to get your information in a way that’s convenient to them.

Too often we focus on getting people to our sites instead of focusing on getting information to our people. You’re not selling ad space on your church’s site (at least I hope you’re not), so in the scheme of things your site’s web traffic isn’t all that important as long as people are getting the information they need.

But what if nobody wants your content?

Rethink What Matters to Your Visitors

From time to time, it’s great to just throw everything out and start from scratch to evaluate what you really need to communicate. Ask yourself what information your congregation and new visitors genuinely desire to receive from you, and build your site around that information. Once that’s nailed down, develop a strategy for freeing up all of that great content into a convenient package that eliminates communication barriers.

Remember that your visitors aren’t looking to be impressed by your awesome design, but to get information and connect with the Church. Strive to make your website the best way for folks to stay informed, but not the only way; there’s a world of untapped potential online waiting just beyond your domain name.

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  1. Paul Steinbrueck (Reply) on May 21st, 2009

    Excellent article. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say no one cares about your website, but when it comes to news and information it is about getting information to people rather than getting people to the information. Make that info available using whatever medium is most convenient for them whether that’s through Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, eNewsletters, or your website.

  2. Yes, great article. I think Christian organizations need to look at their online content from two perspectives:

    1) Visitors/New Connections: These are people who are discovering your minsitry for the first time. This is typically through your core web site content. Focus your content there to engage, connect, and motivate visitors to move beyond the web to meet you face-to-face.

    2) Current Members/Adherents: These people are already in relationship with your minsitry. They need ongoing communication, encouragement, and connection – use your blog, events calendar, facebook, twitter, and any other resource to feed them information to keep them engaged.

    So, in the end, new people care deeply about your web site and how they are served there. Your current members don’t care about your site, they care that you will stay connected with them where they are. In both cases content is king! Make it clear, concise and engaging.

  3. Eric Murrell (Reply) on May 21st, 2009

    The title is meant to be incendiary :-)

    All too often the temptation is to focus huge amounts of time and energy on the design and character of the site, only to throw in all of the content at the last minute as an afterthought. Sometimes that content ends up secondary to the design, which can lead to some usability nightmares.

    Great design matters. Having an attractive and intuitive website matters. But the fact of the matter is that people will come to your website and tell their friends about it more because of the content than the “cool factor.” The goal of your design should be to magnify your content.

    Like Paul said, getting our content to people matters more than getting people to our website. If our content is locked down and closed off, we’re losing a lot of opportunities to reach new people.

  4. Kevin Gilbert (Reply) on May 21st, 2009

    Wow! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was actually in the process of putting together a post about this very concept. My partner and I have been “preaching” this (pun intended) for the last couple of years to the churches and non-profits and even the small businesses we work with. “Create once, deliver many times, many places.” Make it easy for folks to connect with you. Thanks for the great post. I’m going to link back to it from my blog.

  5. Matt Haff (Reply) on May 26th, 2009

    Great blog post! A new look on things and definitely needed as we are also going through the beginning stages of a overhaul of 12stone.com and it is great to bring up such a thing so that we can keep this in mind as we’re redoing it.

    I just wrote a complimentary post: http://eepurl.com/bsc8

  6. Stephen James (Reply) on May 26th, 2009

    I wouldn’t call my church’s sermon’s always consumer friendly. I love them–just saying it’s not the kind of thing I would always forward to a non-Christian. Content should be out there and available, it just seems that it may not be the reason that people start coming to your church.

  7. Brad (Reply) on May 26th, 2009

    If you use Google Chrome and minimize this article it read’s “nobody cares about you” at the bottom of the page. It made me read it faster because I was tired of looking at that all day!

  8. Eric Murrell (Reply) on May 26th, 2009

    Brad – that’s hilarious. You’ve found our blog’s secret message! ;-)

  9. Drew Goodmanson (Reply) on May 28th, 2009

    If you print out the blog post and fold the page in half it shows you a picture of Jesus and says “God Loves You”. Powerful post!

    Seriously though, from the research we’re completing I’m moving toward a two-website strategy assuming content will be accessed by the people who want it the way they want to. The websites will include one to communicate to new people who are a significant proportion of traffic that web-aware churches get and one for our community….more to come but thanks for this good reminder.

  10. Cleve Persinger (Reply) on May 28th, 2009

    Drew,

    It took me a few minutes to stop laughing at the first paragraph, so I could read the rest of your comment.

    This is great. Thanks for sharing. Please keep us posted as you dig more into the “two-flavor” approach.

  11. [...] Nobody Cares about Your Website by MediaSalt. [...]

  12. [...] Nobody Cares About Your Website… [...]

  13. [...] Pastor Jeremiah Gumm from Cross of Christ in Liverpool, NY shared a link to the MediaSalt blog post Nobody cares about your web site [...]

  14. [...] way to prepare for all of these shifts that are just over the horizon? As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, your information is by far your most valuable asset. If you’re not producing your content in [...]

  15. [...] post in a report he recently wrote, that I had an opportunity to scan. The post is called “Nobody Cares About Your Website” and was written by Eric Murrell. Media Salt’s tagline is: God isn’t bland. The [...]

  16. [...] Read “‘Nobody Cares About Your Website” 0 Comments [...]

  17. Justin (Reply) on February 18th, 2010

    Please could you let me know what backend you have used for longhollow.com. The site looks awsome.

  18. Eric Murrell (Reply) on February 18th, 2010

    Justin:

    Thanks! Long Hollow uses a custom backend that I developed in Ruby on Rails years ago. It’s not something that would really be useful to another church since it’s so customized, but I’m beginning to flesh out some of the concepts from the site into standalone products that other people can use (The Prayer Engine is the first of these: http://www.theprayerengine.com).

    You should check out http://www.chapel.org (Cleve’s church’s site). They do some stuff similar to what I did at Long Hollow, only they use a customized version of Expression Engine to make it happen. It’s pretty rad.

  19. Erin (Reply) on April 28th, 2010

    Great article! Thanks. We are completely overhauling our website now to make it more usable and more of a resource for our congregation. Your article is very inspiring. We are still struggling to find creative graphics to help propel us into 2010. Where do you find your graphics?

    thanks again

  20. Bonnie Gooch Kirk (Reply) on June 8th, 2010

    Eric, you are ticking off answers to questions I drafted into an email to you! I found MediaSalt when I googled (Googled?) a question about Long Hollow. I’ve already clipped a dozen ideas from the 2 sites, and now I’m heading to The Chapel!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Regarding 2 sites: I’m redesigning my church’s site. I’ve reviewed over 200 church websites in 6 months. I can tell that some have quite a bit of content in password-protected areas. Only 2 have a 2-site strategy, unless (1) “Login” is literally/virtually a redirect, or (2) Site #1 doesn’t have an obvious link to Site #2.

    I chose 1 site with dual navigation. I dissected our users in 2 ways. The first dissection has 4 groups, with at least slightly different needs: inChurched (members/regular attenders), transChurched (like relocated members from churches elsewhere), deChurched (formerly active, became distracted or disenfranchised) and unChurched (never active). However, each group has people with and without personal relationships with Christ (2nd dissection). Since people in the first 3 groups might not see themselves in need of Christ, I don’t want them to miss Gospel-oriented content.

    Users familiar with our church, or churches in general, will find anything from “Quick Links”, a dynamic drop-down menu like you see at http://www.northpoint.org. Everyone else will use visually-oriented navigation.

    At least that was the plan. Then I read the “Going Mobile” series and this post. Now I’m not sure.


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