6 Tools To Ensure The Safety Of Your Church Website

The safety of your church website is paramount to building a good reputation with visitors and search engines. Safety and security are often overlooked parts of website maintenance, especially for smaller sites.

The problem is, hackers don’t care about the size of your site. They love stealing resources, lifting user data and using sites to pass on malware to unsuspecting visitors.

All it takes is a little regular maintenance to protect your church community and potential new members. Besides, no one wants to deal with the cleanup after a site’s been hacked.

1. Use Backup Softwarecustom church website button

No matter what else you do for your church website, always have recent backups. Should the worst happen or a site upgrade go wrong, a backup can save you hours and even days. With a current backup, it only takes a few hours to ensure the backup doesn’t have any of the security flaws of the original (if it was a hack) and get your site back online. Worst case scenario, you may lose a few recent blog post comments or your latest blog post.

2. Install SSL Certificates

SSL certificates are an often overlooked safety measure, but they encrypt the data being transferred on your site. For instance, if you require anyone to log in, without an SSL certificate, that data could be intercepted by hackers and used to easily get into your website. Even if you don’t have any logins, SSL certificates are still helpful. Having that HTTPS in your URL not only makes your site safer, but it can also give you a small search engine rank boost.

One study has found sites with HTTPS ranking higher, while Search Engine Journal warns that Google will start marking sites as not secure if they don’t use HTTPS.

3. Keep Your Site Updated

Many church websites run on WordPress, which is a great CMS. The platform even has security features built-in to help ensure the safety of your church website. However, WordPress releases security and core updates regularly. If you don’t install them, your site could be at risk. While you may face some compatibility issues with themes and plugins, it’s still worth updating for optimal safety.

4. Require Strong Passwords

Are you still using the default username and password for your administrator login? Hackers rely on users to have simple or default passwords. This makes it easy for them to get in without even having to hack anything. A shocking 17% of users still use 123456 as their password. To improve the safety of your church website, require stronger passwords. For best results, use a random password generator, but to create one yourself, do the following:

  • Create passwords from a sentence, using the first letter of each word, along with a symbol and a number
  • Use at least one number and one symbol
  • Use eight characters or more (more characters is harder to crack)
  • Never use any personal information, such as birthdays
  • Use a different password, or at least a variant, on every site

grow your church button5. Use Security Software

You probably have anti-virus installed on your church’s computers to give them safer. Websites need the same type of protection. Your web host may already have security software, such as anti-virus and a firewall. If you’re using WordPress, you can also use security plugins that constantly scan for threats and further secure your site from hackers.

6. Always Update Plugins & Themes

According to Sucuri’s Website Hacked Trend 2016 Report, the main cause of WordPress hacks is outdated and insecure plugins. Just like WordPress itself, you should always keep any plugins and themes you’re using updated. If you notice that they haven’t been updated in a while or they’re not compatible with the newest version of WordPress, it may be time to consider changing to a new theme and plugins. Also, uninstall any plugins and themes you don’t need. As long as they’re installed, they still represent potential vulnerabilities in your site.

Place Safety First

The safety of your church website shouldn’t be taken lightly. All it takes is a single hack to ruin all your hard work. Remember, you’re not just keeping the website safe – you’re keeping all your church website visitors safe as well.

Have questions about creating a more secure website for your church? Contact us today to see how we can help.

The Absolute Worst Church Website Advice We’ve Ever Heard

the absolute worst church website advice

Your webmaster told you what?   Oh. No. He. Didn’t!

There is no shortage of terribly bad church website advice out there. We hear it every day. Some person who used to work in some tech field says that your website needs to do this and not do that.

Here’s the thing – What may have been good advice in 2008 might be a terrible idea today. In fact, some of those “great tips” might be hurting your website today.

Let’s walk through the bad church website advice that we hear most often.  If you have to open a new tab make some changes to your site while you are reading, that’s okay too.

Let pictures do the talking

Grow Your ChurchWe have all heard that old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The right image can make an immediate emotional impact on a site visitor.

The problem is that when it comes to being found online the math doesn’t add up.

Search engines are smarter than ever. They can pull information from pictures, but your church website still needs text content to rank on google.

We see a lot of sites that have almost no text content on the homepage.  Google and other search engines will struggle to learn what your website is about. This will make it hard to recommend your site to searchers.

How much text should you have on your homepage? The more the better, as long as it is in keeping with your design.  According to the search engine gurus at Yoast at a minimum, try to include at least 300 words. 

Let your whole team manage the site

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea.  Who doesn’t like to share the load of managing a whole website for a church?

Nearly every modern content management system allows you to set up multiple users to manage the site.  So why not use this feature?

Because there isn’t that much work to do and you are only adding complexity to your site.

If you have a website set up properly and have one person trained to update the site, it shouldn’t take them more than a couple of hours per week.  Even for a large church.

In talking with our clients we find that the average church of 500 spends about two hours per week working on their website. This includes uploading sermons, creating events and generally managing the content on the site.

There are exceptions to this rule.  If you have a church blog (you should), it is okay for all the writers to have access to the site.  In WordPress, you would set them up in the “Author” role.

For very large churches, with multiple technical staff members, there are exceptions to this rule. That being said, the vast majority of us should choose one person to run the site.

Train them.  Give them the tools they need, and let them manage the site.

Use social media instead of a church website

If you haven’t heard, this whole social media thing is kind of a big deal.  Your church needs to be using it to engage with your community.

We recommend that churches use Facebook, and consider using Twitter and Instagram.  There are great tools like Buffer to help you keep all your accounts straight and cut your admin time. 

While you need to be on social media, it can’t be the center of your online presence.

On social media, you don’t have home court advantage. Facebook does.  They decide how far your posts go, who will see them, and you have limited control.

In fact, your church’s social posts are not going nearly as far as they did a few years ago.  It used to be when you posted on Facebook, your post went to everyone who liked your page.  Today, unless you are willing to pay big bucks, your Facebook posts will only hit a fraction of your fans.

Don’t let them control the game.  You need to have a home base where you make all the rules. Your website is that home base.

One of your goals should be to get users on social media to make it over to your website so you can further engage them.  Video and blogging are great ways to do just that.

Use your city and the word “church” over and over again

custom church websitesSearch engines are smart today, but that wasn’t always the case.

Several years ago when you wanted to rank for a search engine term, you could just use it a lot on your site. Google would assume that you were the best result on that topic.

The problem was that with a little effort someone could use a keyword over and over and cause a lot of trouble.

To get in on the action, some people have advised churches to use this tactic to try to get their church in front of as many people as possible.  They would tell churches to stuff their content with things like “Madison Church, Church Madison, Madison Churches, Churches in Madison, Church in Madison” and 50 other words with the same general meaning.

This tactic used to work, and I don’t blame those who tried it.  It was for a good cause.

The problem is that today, all the major search engines are smart enough to detect this. If you get caught, the penalty is harsh. Your site will be demoted in the search rankings. Your website being the first impression for the vast majority of your visitors. If you aren’t on search engines, you are invisible to most people.

Your church can’t afford to take this risk.

Make sure visitors hear your worship band

We know you love your worship team. They are awesome and are leading people into God’s presence.

Your community may well love your worship team too. In my experience, however, your worship time on Sunday rarely translates well to the web.

Producing live music is an extremely technical process. It requires experience and equipment that few churches have. If you are wondering if your church has it, you probably don’t.

Like the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If someone’s first impression is a video filmed from the back of the church and direct audio from the soundboard, it will be a bad first impression.

Even worse are those sites where music will auto play when someone first gets onto the site.  Nobody appreciates that.

If you don’t have the gear and talent to pull off live music recording well, keep your visitors in suspense.  Your sermons are still great for the site.  Voice recording is a much simpler task than trying to pull off music.

Tired of Bad Church Website Advice?

We hope this list of what not to do has been helpful to you. The web remains one of the biggest opportunities for the Church. We will continue to write posts like these to help you improve your church site.

However, if you really want to take your church website to the next level, we can help.

We helped one small church of 50 people see over 300 first time visitors in 2016.  Nearly all of them found the church online.

Do you want to reach more people in your community? Do you want to see your church grow? Start getting serious about your web presence. Take advantage of our free church website strategy review.

Has your church received any bad church website advice?

What church website advice have you heard?  Anything that we missed? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.