Video search has been huge for a decade now. YouTube is the #3 search engine, Google being #1. Yes, that’s right, video search is massive. From “how-to” instructionals to cat videos, people crave that visual interaction. If you’re not already on YouTube, I encourage you to be. Even if it’s as simple as a sermon weekly, even bi-weekly can gain you an audience. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and you’ll have to work at it. If you’re a developing church, it may be something to put on the wishlist for a later date. There are many pros and few cons to having a YouTube channel.
- YouTube has an open comment format, meaning you cannot erase all the negative comments or hate speech. (“all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”)
- Quality is key. This is not so much a con, but you may need to purchase something more than a webcam to do your sermons. (“Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service?”)
- Spreading the good news! (“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”)
- Interaction with a global audience that is hungry for your message.(“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another”)
- Practice preaching and writing and test sermons out on your viewers(“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”)
- Increase website traffic.(“And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.”)
- Your message can reach members of your congregation that are sick or on vacation. (“A joyful heart is good medicine”)
- Maximize your writing time. If you’ve spent 14 hours preparing a sermon, put it out there for millions.
- Place the videos on your site as a preview for visitors or those new to town.
There is a low learning curve for YouTube and there are many communities and tricks out there to help you gain more views and higher SEO. Expand beyond brick and mortar into the digital world.
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Just because your church is fifty years old, doesn’t mean your website should be. Web trends change every six month, but responsive web design has been around for over two years. I see new church websites pop up every day in my city, some are great, but some are archaic. The reason for most is due to lack of knowledge on the subject.
A responsive web design means that the website is going to scale down to accommodate the browsing device, whether it be phone, tablet or deskstop. A mobile phone view is 320px wide and a desktop can be up to 1950px wide. There’s no way you can serve up the same amount of info in 1/6th of the space!
Church-goers are looking for you, but if your content is not friendly to their device, they’ll find a site that is. This is not so much a concern on desktop as it is on mobile. Mobile users will wait 3 seconds for a page to load before bouncing to another site and if they can’t find your service times or directions, boom, they’re gone. Don’t be talked into an outdated 960px wide website, you’re losing half you’re real estate on one hand, and on the other a visitor is going to have to pinch the website contantly to read anything.
There are free mobile-friendly WordPress themes out there and any web designer worth his salt can make a responsive website. Good luck out there. God Bless.
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Content has always been king of SEO. This is no secret, the more fresh and up-to-date your content is the better your Search Engine Results will be. Blogging is an excellent way to generate this content and keep your congregation engaged and constantly returning to your website.
Blogger has been around for ever. One of the older blog platforms still in use, it is no slouch. I myself use Blogger for non-business related entities. Blogger is a Google property, like YouTube, Analytics and AdWords, you can tag your blog to your Google+ account. Plus, there are mumblings that Google favors those that are active on its communities. It is not robust and the themes are not elegant, but you can edit their code to suit your needs. The Blogger community is sparse, however and sometimes you may just feel like you’re on an island.
Tumblr was just acquired by Yahoo!. Don’t let that deter you from utilizing it. It is not very robust but the community is voracious. Tumblr has 127 million blogs and its readers share everything. There is easy blog search ability and you know you’re within a community of individuals who actively participate in conversation.
Blog.com is a small community, but well run. More robust than the aforementioned, it allows you to add it to a sub-domain of your website ( ex. FaithMinistries.com/blog ). This is very handy for navigation and you’re able to keep your web design and navigation constant as your traffic navigates from your website to your blog.
Probably the best option for blog/website integration, this behemoth has become synonymous with robust blog content management services. WordPress has a multitude of free and no-so-free plugins, a large developer community and any web designer could set one up for you. If you’re looking for a professional looking blog, look no further. If you just want a blog, it is great. If your blog takes off and you need a website, WordPress can become one in an instant. WordPress is the king of blogs, best used with website integration.
Sett is a brand new start-up blog that boasts high engagement. Audiences are sent your articles instantly to get eyes on content, your posts can be voted one and your community grown faster. This may be best for an experimental trial.
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(For Inspiration and Divine Intervention) There is a reason Evernote is everywhere. It is the king of note-taking applications. I use Evernote on a weekly basis and I am able to live within the confines of the free data amount. It allows voice and text notes with a camera for capturing inspiration. It’s great for those bolt-of-lightning moments that come over you. Whip out your phone and tap to record. Whether it’s a sermon idea or a book title reminder, let Evernote be your memory.
(Not Everyone is an Insomniac) As a workaholic myself, I love Boomerang. The free Google plugin for Gmail allows you to schedule email sends and pings you with follow up reminders. Don’t be the guy sending people emails at 2 a.m. ever again. Have a contact overseas? Send the email on his time. No one likes getting woken up by an email notification in the middle of the night. Boomerang allows you to schedule when your email blasts go out but also enables you to be courteous. (Great for spaced repetition emailing.)
(Where are my business cards?!) Bump is essentially a digital business card transfer app. We’ve all forgotten business cards at one point or another. Don’t let a potential lead or business contact fall through the cracks ever again. Download Bump for those emergency situations and always have a business card on you. Bump doesn’t stop there. You can share other things besides business cards. Have a document, video or pic you want to hand off to a friend? Bump’s got your back. Share files the easy way.
(Harken to me!) We share video, text and images, but not really audio unless it’s a song. Audio has been picking up steam recently as people have escaped the podcast purgatory. Ambassador is a sermon sharing app for IOS. You can use your phone’s speaker or the audio jack at the sound booth. Ambassador records your sermon, then uploads it to your website and can share it to your social media pages. Sharing sermons has never been easier.
(I feel like I’m forgetting something…) We’ve all forgotten one appointment or another, sometimes a big one, sometimes not. Still, no one likes to let another down. There are a myriad of calendar and schedule applications out there, but we chose ToDoist because it was simple and free. ToDoist synchronizes across all your devices. Set meetings, goals and view your productivity. You can create projects and nest items within. Set meeting dates and reminders. It’s more than a calendar application, it’s a personal assistant.
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A lot of evangelical teams need a digital space to organize in. Most have combined themselves to an email list blast, chatrooms or Google hangouts (I do like the hangouts). However, emails can become infuriating when your inbox is getting blasted every ten seconds and chatrooms and hangouts can easily fall into task-less conversation. Team software management systems will help you stay on point, track goals and run your team efficiently.Set tasks for each member or sub-group and monitor their progress. Your church is a business, run it like one.
Do you need a robust team management system? Look no further than Basecamp. Some of you techies will be nodding your heads at this. Basecamp is the brainchild of 37Signals (world famous tech company). Each member receives an individual profile and can then be assigned tasks on a checklist to complete. The individuals can be setup in project teams or work independently. See day-by-day updates, receive emails when goals have been completed and knock out projects faster than ever. It even has an application for your phone so you can manage on the go. It has a free trial period, but is well worth the monthly fee if you’re serious about running a well-oiled machine.
Don’t need a massive management platform? Wunderlist is fantastic for small group and unofficial church committees. Have a volunteer organization or youth ministry? This checklist platform allows your team to set goals and knock them down. It has a mobile app as well, so if you’re team accomplishes a goal, you’ll know instantly. Unlike Basecamp, Wunderlist is more of a personal list, than a team platform. With a free account you can create a profile and request to join whatever group list you wish. Have three different groups? Great, join them all!
If you already use DropBox, then you know it is no team management platform. However, it is fantastic for sharing files between your team members. If your sending files that won’t fit in an email blast, share via DropBox. It’s not only free, it’s amazing. The more people you invite to join the network, the more free space you’ll get for storage. Invite your team to a shared folder and you’ll never have to email enormous pictures and files back and forth again. Host your important group docs on DropBox for instant access anywhere. (*Edit: Moped, a Berlin startup has integrated with DropBox to create a desktop app for team sharing and discussion.)
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Webmaster Tools pairs nicely with analytics andallows you the really see how your site is getting along with the rest of the internet. Dead links, poor site mapping and where you’re popping up in local search can be found here. It’s a very simple tool with not a lot of bells and whistles. Still, if you’ve used the Adwords Keyword Tool to segment a target market, Webmaster Tools will tell you what you’ve been popping up for without your having to run an Search Engine Marketing campaign.
Have you noticed all those little pictures popping up in search recently. If you haven’t, go look. Not only have there been a few studies done that indicate they have a higher Click Through Rate (CTR = people clicking your link). This aids visibility moves us towards a more professional, responsible internet, where people stand behind their words and posts. Yes, you’ll need a Google Plus profile to tag your posts with your authorship tag, but as you grow your authorship, your SEO should rise.
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