I want to start this post off with a quick quiz (don’t worry, it’s not hard, and you won’t be graded).
Think about where you work. What does your business or organization value? What is most important to its leaders?
OK, that wasn’t so hard, right? Now think about (or look at) your organization’s website. Where are those values explained?
If you’re having trouble answering that last question, you’re not alone. Surprisingly, I’ve encountered a number of companies that don’t think to explain their core beliefs online. That was the case this past December as I sat with my colleagues in a meeting with representatives from The Episcopal Church. Duo had worked with the church for several years, but it was only thanks to a side conversation with church members at the meeting that we learned of the church’s progressive take on a variety of societal issues, from gay marriage to social justice to environmental policies.
Photo by Alexander Mils instagram.com/alexandermils
It turns out that people were getting mixed messages about what the church was, what it represented and what it stood for, and that’s in part because of the website, which never featured any explanation of the church’s values.
Leaders of the church wanted to distinguish themselves because they have a unique set of ideals compared with other churches. In order to do that, we said, we need to articulate your values on your website.
You, too, can bring your values to your website by following these five tips.
- Think big
Don’t worry about whether what you want to have on your website actually fits into your website’s current structure. Think about what your ideal parameters would be. For the Episcopal Church, we wanted to create a new concept for the site that up until that point did not exist. We knew we wanted to build a special section devoted to values, and we didn’t let the fact that the section didn’t exist stop us from making that happen. What we came up with encapsulates everything we learned during that December discussion. High on the church’s homepage is a new introduction to what it is and what it’s members believe in. It says: “New to the Church? Here’s what we value. The Episcopal Church is a spiritual home free of judgment and inclusive for all. Within that section is a collection of values the Church believes in, each complete with explanations and articles about that value.
- Think about more than just your current audience
You know who your audience is. You know who you want your audience to be. But is there an audience out there who could benefit from your site that you don’t even know about? We worked with the Episcopal Church to segment its audience into three categories: • A user who is new to the church, • A member of the church returning to the website • A high-level church participant or clergy member In our conversations with the church representatives, we talked about the lifecycle events that bring people to churches, things like births and weddings. One of the most common searches on the Episcopal Church website was baptisms. People wanted to know how to baptize their child. We discovered this was something that wasn’t just being searched for on the Episcopal Church website, but it was a common Google search term. We suggested the church provide useful information to answer this commonly searched for question. This is where SEO can be critical. This was a chance for the church to not just draw people in who are already on the site, but to attract outside audiences who are searching for the same question outside of the site.
- No insider baseball
Every workplace has it — that common language that only those employees understand. Whether it’s a collection of abbreviations or elaborate titles, this language may be welcoming to insiders, but it is jargon to someone not affiliated. If you’re using your site as a way to spread the movement you’re a part of, don’t just talk to people you’re already talking to. On the Episcopal Church’s previous website, there were countless references to the liturgical calendar, particularly on the homepage. The liturgical calendar doesn’t tell a user who you are or what makes you different. It’s not forward thinking. It’s not something they can readily understand. We told the church representatives that we could easily make a space on the site for this insider information; we just didn’t want that space to be front and center on the homepage.
- Don’t be too vague
The top-level navigation of the Episcopal Church’s old website was short and to the point: • Who we are • What we do • What we believe I won’t harp on the poor SEO quality of these terms, but instead I want to talk about the actual navigation structure. The reality is that when it comes to navigation, the result for these terms is the same as their SEO: not good. The categories overlap. They don’t tell you what types of information you’ll find within the next level of content. Additionally, the content that did fall under each term had become a hodgepodge over the years, to the point that it really didn’t even keep the originally-intended structure. The revamped site offers more top-level options for users that are both more detailed and more SEO friendly.
- Be bold
Initially, the content on the Episcopal Church’s website was very passive. That was a common trend for websites in the early 2000s as organization’s tended to be more careful online. You didn’t want to offend or exclude anyone, so everything was scaled back in terms of detail.
For example, the old site had a section called “Find resources.” Now sure, this says what content you will find in this section, but it’s boring. It doesn’t really talk to the user, particularly someone who is visiting the website for the first time.
We pushed the church to develop a more active voice because the change makes a big difference. We wanted the church to convey more energy and excitement to more closely mirror its atmosphere. So instead of “Find resources,” we proposed “New to the church?” It’s a more upbeat question, and for a first-time visitor, it makes it sound like the church is talking directly to them.
Today, when visitors land on the Episcopal Church website, it is easy to see what the church believes in and understand it’s values. What about your business? Can users easily understand what it’s important to you and your organization? If not, give us a call.
We would be happy to talk with you about how to best articulate your values online.