Why Box Website Companies Deliver Poor Websites
There are so many options to choose from when building a website. There are new tools coming out everyday that seem to make it easier and easier. But one mistake we see some churches making is choosing a box website company (ex. wix, weebly, squarespace, and others) to build their website. In this article we wanted to outline some of the biggest issues we’ve seen with these platforms and why we recommend WordPress sites to our clients. Want to learn more about WordPress? Check out our article about Why we love WordPress.
#1 Lack of SEO Tools – Search is the front door to your church. If people can’t find you online then they don’t know you exist. Being found on a search engine is just as important as putting a sign out in front of your church building. It’s the digital form of basic signage. Many things go into optimizing a website for search. For example, writing ALT descriptions on images for the visually impaired helps Google to understand images better and therefore helps your website rank higher. Being found for direct searches is easy, but being found for what people are searching for is much more difficult. People can’t search for your church’s name if they don’t know it exists. You need to be able to be found for searches like “church near me…” or “baptist churches in Jacksonville…”. These are how people interact with search engines and Google tries to give them what they are looking for. Being found in these searches is determined by how optimized your website is.
Your website’s search optimization is only as good as the tools you have to optimize it. Many box website companies don’t allow you to get the granular controls you need to improve how your church website shows up in search. What does it take to create search friendly websites? 1. The ability to set focus keywords for pages on your site. 2. The ability to edit and optimize your website’s “rich snippets”. 3. Set your site’s schema markup. Or 4. Edit your site’s robots.txt file (That’s the file that tells a search engine how to index your site). We use a WordPress plugin called Rank Math that gives us the ability to tweak all these options and more to help a church’s website be found for what people are searching for.
#2. Lack of Flexibility – Imagine that you lived in a house that grew with your family. Every time you added a family member you got a new bedroom or bathroom that could accommodate your family’s growing needs. Sounds awesome, right!? What about a car that could be a regular sedan when you needed it for day to day driving and then would become a van for those long family road-trips or even better a truck for when you had some work you needed to get done. While those ideas would be great, they aren’t a reality in the physical world. The good news is that in the digital world this is not only totally possible but should be expected. See, as your church grows your needs will change. The needs of a church start aren’t the same as a larger established church. Maybe right now your church just needs a great frontpage to help get people in the door, but down the road it may need a member portal, event registration, or online learning capabilities. The key is to start with a website platform that can do all those things and more.
Most box website companies create an easy to use interface. They craft a simple user interface that makes it easy to build a website on your own. The down side to this is that it is a “walled garden,” meaning they don’t let anyone else in. So no one but their team can expand and create additional functionalities. Why is this a problem? Well, as you grow as a church, there will be features you need that aren’t available and therefore limit what you are able to do with your website. Now you are stuck, you either have to just deal with the limitations or do the hard work of creating a completely new website on another platform. Suddenly now the box website company, that made things so easy at first, feels like a box you can’t get out of and the walls are closing in! We meet clients in this space all the time and help them overcome this challenge. Why is WordPress a better option? WordPress is an open-source platform that respected companies, like ours, create additional functionalities for all the time. We often create custom plugins and features to meet our clients needs. The great thing is that we can create ANYTHING with WordPress. There are no walled gardens and no feature is off-limits. This means that your website can grow with your church and do anything that you want it to do.
#3 Lack of Ownership – Many people may be familiar with the idea of a car lease. For some, but not many, this form of acquiring a new vehicle makes sense. But for most people, actual ownership is the best way. The issue with a lease is that you don’t actually own the car you’re driving. Sure the price point is lower, but it ultimately doesn’t get you any value long-term as the car still truly belongs to the dealership and ultimately you will have to return it to them. It’s a win-win for the dealership as you’ve been paying them for years but they still get to have the car in the end. Building a church website with a box website company is similar to this. While you put all the energy into crafting a great church website, it ultimately doesn’t belong to you. You are not the owner of it. You pay them for years and have no long-term value because ultimately they own your website and you are stuck on their platform and it’s built-in limitations. The initial price point may look appealing but long-term value is not there in the same way as a WordPress website.
The websites we build belong to the churches and companies we work for. There is no fine print with that – they are the owners of the website and have the right and ability to do whatever they want with it. They can change hosting providers, work with outside developers, or add as many pages as they would like, because it truly belongs to them. We at OneEighty see ourselves as partners with the churches and businesses that we work with. We want to help them support, maintain, and grow THEIR websites. Ultimately this puts the keys to the car in their hands not ours, but we do this because we know this is what is best for them and their future.
At OneEighty, we’ve helped churches migrate off these platforms and create search friendly and flexible websites that are truly owned by your church. If you’re feeling stuck, we can help your church migrate from a box website company to having a beautiful website that can grow with your church for decades to come. Reach out and schedule a call and we can talk through any issues you’re having with your current website.