Renaming Your Church? Here’s Your Digital Checklist
Times come and go, and so do the names of churches. Making the decision of renaming your church should be a well thought through decision. Whether your church is in a phase of revitalization or a replant, changing the name of your church may be part of this renewal strategy. While churches are known for holding on to things for better or for worse, things change, people change, locations change, meaning change, and there can be many reasons why it makes sense to change the name of your church. We have worked with many churches to help them navigate this process digitally, so we’ve compiled a digital checklist of the important digital considerations to help make that transition as seamless as possible.
1. Consideration When Crafting a New Church Brand
Branding is at the core of a name change. It is your church’s visual identity. We cannot emphasize how important it is to get this part right. Branding helps shape people’s perception of your church and can be key as an outward signal of an inward change. Not only the name of the church but the icon that goes with it. We strongly suggested working with a professional to get this right as so much hangs on this one single factor. There are also messaging things to consider that are also part of branding, such as an external tagline and internal mission or vision statement. This is the foundation of your name change and will reverberate through the rest of your digital and physical presence. Here are some important questions to consider with a new church name
- Does it resonate with your congregation and your community?
- How does it look as an abbreviation?
- Are there other churches in our area using some or all of the name?
- Are there alternative spellings that could be misconstrued?
- Does the name have a double meaning in a different context?
Navigating the questions above can make sure you have a clear path but may limit your choices. But finding a good brand that can last is more work than just finding something that seems catchy but may not wear well with age.
2. Finding the Perfect Domain Name
As with branding, choosing a good domain name for your website is crucial. There are two very important factors around choosing a domain that you need to consider… one, is it memorable? two, is it short? The best domain names are memorable and short. A memorable domain name will stick in the mind of a visitor and be easy for them to remember after they’ve left your church. A short domain name will be easy for them to enter into their browser when they want to go to your website. It will also be less likely for them to misspell something. Consistency is also important. Make sure the name coordinates with your church’s name. If you are looking for a domain in a crowded domain space, i.e. using a christian keyword in your church name, then you will most likely find that your preferred domain name will be taken and you may need to add a modifier to make it easier to find. These modifiers can be based on location (city, street, or area) denomination (baptist, methodist, or presbyterian), or even domain suffix (.co, .online, or .church). Make sure that it is easy to say, try saying it 5 times fast, and if it doesn’t roll off the tongue, then change it up. As your website is the hub of your churches online strategy, it should be talked about a lot and easy to say so that it will stick in the mind of potential users. One final consideration is to protect your domain by purchasing the surrounding domains. If your church is using a .org, then consider purchasing the.com and the .net to make sure that no one can “move in” close to your domain. Take those extra domains and point them to your primary domain. The small cost will be worth it in the long run. If there is another church that has it, it may be better to find a different domain than for a potential visitor to look up your church’s website and land on the wrong one.
3. Optimizing Your Google My Business Profile
The Google search box is your first chance to make a good impression with potential visitors as they search for a church near them. The first step is making sure you have control over your Google My Business profile. For those who don’t know, your Google My Business, or GMB for short, is the information that Google pulls off your website that displays basic information about your church, like location, hours, and contact information. If you are going to change the name of your church you need to be able to change your GMB profile to the new name. It can take a while for Google to update this for you, so it is much faster for you to do it yourself, though Google may want to verify some of the changes you need to make. But changing the name of your church in your GMB is the first step, then updating your website and contact info for starters. We recommend going as far as uploading your logo and a few other images of your church to help optimize your GMB profile. While you’re in there, you could also consider creating a few Frequently Asked Questions and adding answers to them. One could be about the name change of the church. For more information on how to optimize your Google My Business profile read our article Google My Business in 3 Steps.
4. Updating Any Directories
While you may think that your digital footprint doesn’t extend to past your website, you would be wrong. There are hundreds of online directories that scan and scrape information from the web to create content. Some of these are YellowPages.com, Yelp.com, MapQuest.com, and Facebook.com. These create listings for organizations and businesses whether you want them to or not. Google the old name of your church and see what is linking to your site. Make note of each of these and you will need to change your listing on each of these. Although much like your GMB profile, this will be updated after time, it can take a long while for these directories to catch up. It’s also important to consider any other organizations that may have links to your old website, like an association of churches, or other community non-profits. These “backlinks” are important to your organization’s search engine optimization and give your website “rank authority” to help it be found. It is worth taking a little bit of time to contact those organizations and ask them to make the change. This is about taking control of your overall online profile to help get your new church website ranking well.
5. Changing Your Social Media Channels
It’s important to update your churches name anywhere it is listed, especially on social media. Often changing the name of your social media page is just the first step. You also need to change the page url so the facebook.com/old-church-name is the same as your new church name. Social media often includes much of the same information as your GMB profile, so while you are in there we would suggest going ahead and updating your profile picture, contact information, and website. Add a few new pictures if you’ve done any sanctuary renovations so people can know what to expect. Post about the name change so everyone, including those who follow you online, can know. Facebook may request some information before they let you change some of these details. We have had some churches asking us about why they can’t just create a new facebook page. In some cases, where your page has a very small following, this can be an option. But if your church has had your page for some time, then it probably has a potentially large following online. Don’t lose that following and those people will have to re-follow your new page in order to get updates. Take the time, submit the documents, and make the change. It will be better long term for you to keep those followers. Similar considerations should be given to the other social media platforms like Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).
6. Migrating Email Addresses
Email is often the backbone of any organizational communication and having a branded email address is the expectation and communicates professionalism. You don’t want to be emailing with people from an old email address that isn’t your new website domain. While there are tools that can help you migrate old email from one platform to another, our preferred email client is Google Workspace for Non-Profits. They have tools that can help make this migration more manageable. Google Workspace for Non-profits is a free Gmail based option that churches can use to help manage all your church email accounts. It makes adding and removing users and emails much easier. It is also a platform that scales easily with your needs, is independent of your domain (which makes it easier to make the transition in the future), offers a number of advantages like online storage and single sign on access. Oh and did we mention that it’s free for nonprofits? But transitioning from one domain to another can still be tricky to manage. We work with churches to help them make this transition and we can help your church too. Reach out to us. But even if you don’t work with us, it still needs to be part of your digital name change checklist.
Changing the name of your church should be a well thought out decision and not a quick move. It can be a challenge physically and digitally, but it may be a good decision for your church as it moves forward. A well managed digital transition will help your church in the long run. It’s worth the effort! But we hope this checklist can help your church navigate the change digitally. If we can be of any help, reach out to us. We’re happy to give as much free advice as we can. If we can assist with new branding or a new website we would love to work with you church.