This is something that has been eating me for the last few years. I figure now is as good as a time as any to address it and knock this monster out! I guess that might be overstating it a bit but none the less, here is my issue with calendars on church or ministry websites.
I love the natural ways churches do events. Many events in a church are unique, small, and very personalized but each one is used to help promote the gospel. Whether that is through generating good relationships or creative ways of expressing the Gospel Message, each event should be promoted online. Looking at this from an online marketing perspective: you couldn’t have a better situation. The search engines love unique and valuable content. Something someone is attracted to visually and emotionally and can take action on.
The way I see it.
The best way to think about internet marketing (if you are really spiritual you can change “internet marketing” to telling other about Jesus online) is by considering the search engine’s value system. When a search engine like Google or Bing generates a SERP (search engine result page) it is giving credit to those result pages as valuable to the user who was searching. That is 1 point for the SE (search engine). When that user clicks over to the page that is 1 more point for the SE. If for some reason that person clicks right back to the SERP (it’s called a “bounce” in SEO terminology) it is usually a signal that the page that the SE showed the user wasn’t right and the user wants another page. That is usually minus 1 point for the SE. Let’s say however that a user clicks over to the page that the SE served up to them. It just happens to be your events page. Yay! “And they all rejoiced”. But…what next? Where is the value now? Is the SE done? I think not.
The SE has scanned that page and see if there is anything else for that user to do, such as share the link, register for the event, add a comment, etc.. Some type of interaction that will draw the user in that much more to the content that the SE just served up to that user.
I know this may be a bit confusing but bare with me.
So my issue with calendars is based on that user interaction we just spoke about. Where is it on the calendar you serve up to your visitors on your site? Can they follow a link to a page with more information? Can they register for the event or share it with someone else? Most of the time we generate a Google Calender, embed it on our site and update it once with the services we have.
It’s unfortunate since the average church usually has a big event event every quarter and lesser events every month. Why not take advantage of the incredible value you could add to your online ministry and add a page on your site that includes all the information? In WordPress this is pretty easy, create an “events” category, include a link in your main navigation and add a “recent posts” widget for that category to your sidebar or footer widget areas.
This solution would allow someone to easily share because it is an individual page not a check on a calendar. If you add some social sharing buttons, things get a whole lot better. Add a few images, maybe a registration for for event volunteers and BAM! you have yourself a beautiful event page that looks like an amusement park online. Even include a comment section so that after (or before) the event your members can leave some comments about how awesome it was. Maybe a few thank you notes would show up for the cooks or event organizers.
Something like this:
Here is a good example of an event page on Miles Road Baptist’s website.
I believe calendars are a lazy man’s way of doing web ministry. It’s ineffective and unproductive. Instead, take a little time and add incredible value to your online ministry.
What about you? Have you seen any ministries using a calendar effectively? Any advice on how to generate a good looking organized event list?