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local listings

5 Tips to Boost Your Church’s Local SEO

Are you a church looking for good local SEO tips?

There are currently 27.9 million small businesses in the U.S., and yes, if you’re a church, you’re counted in that mix. 70% of local spiritual seekers use the Internet to find information about local churches–and they all use search engines.  That means, local SEO one of the bigger factors in your church’s exposure to the local community.

So here are five things you can do to optimize your website and attract local seekers.

1. Claim your listing profile

It’s as simple as logging into Yelp, YellowPages, Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local and claiming (or creating from scratch) your business listing. Yes, you’re a church. You’re also in the business of connecting the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do it today. Follow instructions through the verification steps, which might include phone calls or some sort of address verification.

2. Ask for reviews

Most listings sites encourage listing owners to tell their communities to review your organization. So practice it constantly. Do it on an everyday basis. The more reviews you have (whether good or bad, but hopefully more good than bad) will make your organization more visible to future seekers.

Tip: On your business cards, exit door posters, receipts, thank you pages, invoices, or email newsletters, make a note and say “Hey we’d appreciate it so much if you gave us a review on YellowPages / Google / Bing / Yahoo [whatever].”

3. Upload pictures

All local listings have picture featured for your organization’s profile. Take advantage of this. To ensure they see great pictures, upload your own. You don’t have to hire a professional to take photos, but make sure the photos you upload are solid and represent your church properly.

4. Have a full mailing address in text

Your email address is important and it should be in plain text. Some organizations seen on listing sites have placed their email address in an image–which doesn’t work so well with church-seekers wanting to easily reach out. It’s a small barrier, sure.

Tip: If you have the option, just leave your email address off your listing but make sure your website’s address is offered. If a shy seeker needs to email you, they can at least email you through the contact form on your website.

5. Concentrate on local location keywords

Say you operate a local Baptist church. Instead of just promoting your organization as a “Baptist church”–try local keywords instead, e.g.:

  • Baptist church Denver
  • Baptist Denver
  • Denver Baptist church services
  • church Denver

As you’ve already noticed, these keywords won’t serve your purposes if you’re wanting to connect with someone looking for a church in New York. But Denver citizens are looking for good, Bible-believing Baptist church? So try inserting your geographical location along with your keywords.

Go forth and conquer

So there you have it: five local SEO tips to further you along on your journey to cast a wider net. Follow these tips and you will grow in community visibility and reach more people.

Don’t forget: if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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nonprofit seo case study

Joshua Memorial Foundation: SEO Case Study

Client: Joshua Memorial Foundation
Product: Nonprofit that teaches water safety awareness and supports other nonprofits in the same.
Campaign: Web development, web design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing

Background

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states the number one cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 years of age is drowning. The Joshua Memorial site provides information about water safety and drowning prevention. The foundation’s main objective is to prevent drowning accidents through early childhood education and the promotion of infant and toddler water safety training courses.

Challenge

What do you do when you’re a nonprofit just starting out and have a great new website but not enough online traffic? We can tell you what the Joshua Memorial Foundation, a Nebraska-based nonprofit specializing in water safety courses, water safety literature and drowning prevention awareness did. They asked for help with their search engine optimization.

Their site was fairly optimized when their SEO campaign began. Since we had designed and developed their Joomla-based web site, we knew it had been built to be “search engine friendly” and wouldn’t run into the roadblocks of a poorly developed web site. Still, their web site had the following issues:

  • Low link popularity and search engine saturation (pages indexed in the search engines)
  • Not enough conversion points
  • Low or no rankings for keywords that searchers might use to find their site

SEO Strategy

Over several months of optimizing their web site, we now see dramatic results. We targeted their web pages to go after local search terms like “water safety courses nebraska” and “water safety nebraska”. We also completed a link building campaign, which improved the site’s link popularity (or “votes”) for the site which results in more traffic and higher rankings. Use of social media, blog posts and article marketing has also been part of our strategy.

Results

The search engines are now referring half of the overall traffic to the site. Take a look at the numbers:

  • Unique Visitors +33%
  • Number of Visits +182%
  • Repeat Visitors +56%
  • Total Page Views +100%

Keyword: water safety courses nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 5 & 6 (out of 289,000 results)

Keyword: water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 3 & 4 (out of 281,000 results)

Keyword:  water safety book
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 6 (out of 9,880,000 million broad results!)

Keyword: child water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 4 (out of 137,000 results)

Interested in seeing how we can help drive more qualified traffic to your website?

More SEO case studies here! »

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christian web hosting

Christian Web Hosting

It is a fact that technology has become an integral part of our lives. Spreading the gospel in the modern world cannot be effectively done without taking advantage of the many tools that technology has given to us.

Perhaps the most powerful of these tools is the Internet.

When the Internet was first invented, it was meant to be nothing more than a convenient way for researchers to share documents over long distances.

Today, the Internet is the platform on which the citizens of the world share ideas, engage in business, and find entertainment.

Due its widespread availability and the rise of social media applications, the Internet is a powerful medium for the spread of different ideas. The Church should not be left behind in this world.

Never before has there been a greater opportunity to spread the Gospel than now. Through setting up a simple website and engaging the masses on social media, you can raise awareness for the great gift our Lord Jesus Christ has bestowed upon us: salvation.

However, despite all its power, the Internet still hasn’t become entirely accommodating.

As Christians, there are moral and ethical standards we strive to uphold. As such, it becomes favorable to have services available that are tailor-made for the Christian standard.

Enter Christian web hosting.

There are moral and ethical needs a Christian website might have which are not typically catered to by your average web hosting service.

Levaire’s web hosting service was started with exactly this in mind. We made a dream service for every church and Christian group out there so they could get the service they  don’t get out there at a fraction of the prices they are charged out there.

Our Web Hosting Plans

Our Christian web hosting service hosts websites for various churches and faith-based organizations around the country. We are very flexible with the services we offer and try to customize hosting plans according to the client’s needs. Our hosting service comes in three tiers, catering to different subsections of our customers. Our standard tier, for example, fulfills the needs of most of our clients. The three tiers are, respectively:

Exodus

Our associated quote for this service is “the meek shall inherit…” This service is for those of our clients who do not have very demanding web hosting requirements or are looking to try our services but don’t want to dip both feet in just yet. Oh, or they probably don’t have much of a budget.

Some of the features we offer for the Exodus are:

  • A monthly cost of $14.95 (or a yearly cost of $170)
  • 1GB disk space
  • 40GB data transfer limit
  • A free setup of your website
  • 100% uptime
  • 30-day unconditional money back guarantee

Church

Evangelization starts here. This is both our most popular and our most balanced service option.  At $24.95 a month (or $295 a year,) it has everything the Exodus tier has plus a few more extras. Some of these include:

  • 5GB extra disk space at 2.5GB
  • Twice the data transfer limit of the Exodus tier at 80GB
  • A dedicated IP address
  • A free domain name

Revelation

This is our “Mature Kingdom ministry” package and is designed to cater to the clients who run large and/or multiple websites that can’t easily be handled by our other two packages. It costs $44.95 a month ($525 a year) and offers huge benefits. Some of them are:

  • Twice the disk space of the Exodus tier at 5GB
  • Twice the data transfer of the Exodus tier at 160GB
  • Unlimited subdomains

All our service tiers feature online giving capability using Qgiv. Email marketing can also be integrated at the client’s request using Aweber enewsletter templates.

We hope you will be able to find what you’re looking for in our services. For any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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email marketing is better than using the pony express

3 Key Benchmarks in Church Email Marketing

Every year, an email newsletter company named Constant Contact, gathers together statistics from over 200 million emails sent through their system and posts the data in their knowledgebase. The resulting chart of averages offers a benchmark for how your email outreach efforts are performing when compared to other competitors and partners in your niche.

The list ranges across 35 different industry categories, from accountants to animal services, from restaurants and bars to real estate. Here I’ve selected the following industries for a relatable comparison to the church-going audience.

  • Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
  • Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
  • Religious Organizations

In this discussion, we’re primarily going to focus on unsubscribe rates, click-through rates (CTR) and open rates. Bounce rates are included in the chart, but simply offer an idea on how many of your emails are actually getting through. Bounce rates can be affected by company firewalls, incorrect email addresses, people moving to other jobs, etc., so we’re not going to dwell on them here.

Here are the statistics on those three categories and an additional three, for comparison.

Three Examples of Email Performance for Social Do-Gooders

Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
Open Rate: 19.86% | Bounce: 9.66% | CTR: 9.08% | Unsubscribe: 0.19%

Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
Open Rate: 21.68% | Bounce: 11.01% | CTR: 8.07% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

Religious Organizations
Open Rate: 25.50% | Bounce: 7.00% | CTR: 7.75% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

For Comparison, A Few Alternative Examples

Consultant, Training (ex. marketing, management)
Open Rate: 16.28% | Bounce: 9.67% | CTR: 7.50% | Unsubscribe: 0.12%

Marketing, Advertising, PR
Open Rate: 10.63% | Bounce: 7.59% | CTR: 5.62% | Unsubscribe: 0.09%

Technology (ex. web developer)
Open Rate: 11.85% | Bounce: 11.27% | CTR: 6.02% | Unsubscribe: 0.16%

Metric #3. How Often Are They Leaving Your List? (a.k.a. Unsubscribes)

Interesting to note: Out of all 35 industry categories, religious organizations and civil/social membership groups had the lowest unsubscribe rates (0.08% for both), bested only by the publishing industry at 0.06%.

So, does this mean the greater the social mission, the greater loyalty you’ll enjoy from your list? Maybe there is guilt associated with unsubscribing from your church’s newsletter. Like somehow you’re turning your back on God, right?

Are the text-addicted (authors, publishers, book promoters, voracious readers and whomever else may fall into Contact’s “Publishing” category) even able to unsubscribe? Are there compulsive tendencies at play here? Do logophiles hoard electronic newsletters like they do books? Hmm..

Metric #2. Do You Compel Them to Read More? (a.k.a. Click-Through Rates)

Publishing also led the pack with click-through rate (CTR) over 13% (only three industries achieved double-digit CTR).

With the lowest contestant (beauty salons, tanning salons and barbers) pitching a dismal 4.18% CTR and publishing leading with 13%, all three of our altruistic subjects fell somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. Religious organizations ranked lowest of our three focus groups at 7.75%. This means for every 100 people who actually opened the email, only about eight of them were actually caught by the headlines and hook paragraphs you used.

Wait.. “Hook” Paragraphs?

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
(Matthew 4:19)

Now, let’s face it. Oftentimes, enewsletter owners don’t even use hook paragraphs (a brief introduction to the article that compels people to click through and read more.) They often fall back to the old way of stuffing all their content into the newsletter like they used to do when they printed, sealed, stamped and sent.

This misses one of the big advantages of enewsletters: bringing your audience to you. If hook paragraphs are not being used, this could certainly kill your click-through rate. You might have a higher read rate, but alas, you’ll never know because there is currently no way to track if they read your whole email or if their mail client simply showed them a preview as they were hitting the delete key.

Metric #1. Do They Pretend Not to See You? (a.k.a. Open Rates)

Constant Contact breaks out open rates into three subcategories: mobile, desktop and tablet. For the sake of this discussion, let’s just focus on the overall open rate. (In case you’re wondering, tablets are the least-popular platform by far, with desktop and mobile being fairly balanced and the most widely-used.)

Religious organizations are the champions of the open rate, capturing a stunning 25.50%. Brilliant. I would say this probably points to the hearts of the subscriber-base. If they are plugged into your church enough to have joined your mailing list, they’re invested—for the moment. Their commitment to you may wane or build, but it depends upon your engagement efforts and certainly, the Holy Spirit.

Again, keep in mind “open rate” does not mean “read rate”, so if your open rate seems high but your click-through rate is low, there may be room for improvement. You may want to study how to write better headlines for your articles.

You may also consider segmenting your email list according to your click-through activity. Look for trends in interest. If you put out an article on Christian apologetics and an article on the history of the Protestant Reformation, look to see which article received the highest CTR. If apologetic teaching received the most clicks, you know you may want to produce more teaching and analysis on defending the faith.

Building Your Email List (a.k.a. Your Call to Arms)

In your digital evangelism efforts, building up your followers (in both quantity and in spiritual maturity) and communicating to your followers is the life’s blood of your outreach efforts. Being able to communicate to paid staff, your army of volunteers, and your congregation at a moment’s notice is only the starting point. Whether you’re educating for truth, entertaining for fun, promoting the next fundraiser or sending an emergency broadcast to your community, arming your organization with the knowledge and tools to push news and updates into inboxes is a powerful way to get the Word out.

Aweber logoDon’t have a good email marketing system? You’re not currently collecting email addresses from your website, you say? We recommend Aweber for its reporting and the ability to automatically send out weekly newsletters based upon your blog posts. Let us know if you need help getting set up or if you have questions about the service.

matt signature

 

References

Constant Contact. Average Industry Rates. Retrieved from
https://knowledgebase.constantcontact.com/articles/KnowledgeBase/5409-average-industry-rates


About the Author

A recovering marketing professional, Matthew Schoenherr has been moved from building his own kingdom to advancing thee Kingdom. Matthew provides digital evangelism training and solutions to Christian churches and faith-based non-profits. He may be reached through the Levaire website.

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millennial evangelism

The Case for Millennial Evangelism

Recently, I stumbled upon a Facebook post by an organization named echurch. They were marketing an ebook called “The Ultimate Guide for Reaching Millennials.” Of course, they were giving the ebook away in exchange for your contact details (known as a tripwire in digital marketing vernacular) whereby echurch invited you to receive a demo of their mobile tithing platform with the hopes of getting your business.

While the guide itself was ‘fine’—which is somewhere between ‘meh’ and ‘holy cats, that was brilliant’—it was, by no means, ‘ultimate’. Though 26 pages in length, there was only about 15 pages of content, once you got past the front and back covers, the author bio, table of contents, a big call-to-action and several half-filled pages. A little slow to start, I was pleased when they eventually pointed to some hard research around declining millennial church attendance and giving.

All in all, I was smarter about the millennial generation than when I started.

But this post isn’t about how well the echurch ebook did or didn’t do its job.

Marketing Myopia in the Church

This post is about the myopic reaction by Christians to an ebook intended to better equip the Church in evangelizing the millennial generation.

The post was initially promoted on Facebook, and after about a week of hanging out there, negative comments began to filter in. Unfortunately, instead of holding a dialog with the dissenting opinion-holders, echurch simply hid the post from their feed. Too bad, as I think they have a strong case and really could have used the opportunity to engage their audience.

Let’s dive into some of the comments. (Typos have been allowed to remain.)

Facebook Folly Follows

millennial church marketing

I guess this would include millennials?

Romans 1:16-17 ~ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

This comment seems to miss the mark. The guide discusses how to reach millennials. Reaching people is the step before growing people in boldness and faith.

I haven’t read this book, but Hasn’t God already written a book with the answer to reaching all of mankind?

Waitwaitwait.. so you’re chiming in on something you haven’t even investigated? Awesome.

Actually, I think the Word is more about Jesus and our identity in Him than a playbook for reaching all mankind. If it was an answer to reaching all mankind, no one would ever reject the Gospel, and yet we know many do. In fact, the Pharisees and Sadducees knew the Old Testament by heart. They should have been better positioned than anyone to recognize the Messiah. Yet, the Messiah of prophesy actually stood before them in the flesh—teaching and working miracles before their very eyes—and they nailed Him to a Roman cross.

If the word of God don’t reach millennials we in big trouble yaw. Just preach the word. It’s irrefutable, it’s infallible and its inerrant.

Here someone spoke up. Tom P said, “Correct, but they need to hear it first…

Right?

Try this simple experiment. From the comfort of your home office, play an audio recording of someone reading the Bible. Leave your office and close the door behind you. Let this symbolize the Church.

Now, invite a bunch of people over but never invite them into your office where the Bible audio is playing. Instead, have a party, with food and drinks and games and much socializing. Listen to music. Watch a movie. The rest of your home represents the world.

At the end of the evening, after everyone goes home, how many decisions for Christ happened while the Word was playing away in your office? What? None, you say? But the Word was preached the entire time!

There seems to be a notion that the Word of God is enough to bring people to conviction, confession and conversion. I wish that was the case. I do. But if that were the case, there would be no reason to separate the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There would be no need for the judgement. People would simply be exposed to the Word, turn from their wicked ways, and fall in love with Jesus. Evangelism could be effected by piping the Word through loud speakers atop a van rolling down the street and all within earshot would be saved.

When they (people of any age) encounter Jesus, God, Holy Spirit they will want more of Him. If the Holy Spirit is not in that church, and the Church not built under His direction it’s all man’s efforts and will come to nought. Psalm 127:1

For the record, Psalm 127:1 (KJV) says “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

Unless I’m missing the intention behind this comment (possible), the author is indicating once people get a taste of God, they will want more. If that was the case, what about Matthew 27:21-24, where Jesus clearly tells us not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom? This should terrify us, right? That means there are church-going Christians who won’t see Heaven. Look up Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22 and tell me those people didn’t think they were in good standing. Then recognize the seven churches described in Revelation also reflect the ages the Church will pass through prior to the end of days. The Laodicean church is in full operation today.

Reaching this demographic is easy … just give them everything they want and allow them to take no responsibility whatsoever… problem solved.

Man, I don’t think Jesus talks about us this way. If we don’t see it in Him, we’re not to see it in us.

Sounds interesting but why do they require so much personal information to get the Ebook?

Because they’re looking for the lowest conversion rate possible? Just guessing. Yes, this is a marketing mistake on their part. As was pulling this thread from their feed.

Why are millennials any different from any of the rest of mankind? We all have sinned and fallen short of the mark, and are in need of a saviour. The message has not changed, nor has God’s grace and mercy which we all are in desperate need of. The message is timeless, and sufficient.

Another comment that misses the point of the ebook being how to reach the millennial “nation”. Jesus said “go forth and make disciples of all nations,” not “build big buildings and worry about how to keep the lights on.”

Though the ebook doesn’t mention a single line of Scripture (which should be odd to us coming from an organization calling themselves “echurch” but we can recognize PushPay is secular first), the Gospel message isn’t in doubt here.

It’s our ability to deliver the Gospel message that is being assisted.

So I guess this will change with every generation? This communicates that God needs help.

Well, brother, God isn’t up there ordaining everything that happens. He did tell us to go forth and subdue the earth. We are given a sword and a shield for a reason. Jesus did tell us to go forth and make disciples of all nations, not quietly sit at home and count ourselves saved. What did Jesus do? What did He raise His apostles to do? Then I guess that’s probably what we’re called to do too, right?

No, God doesn’t need our help; we need His.

The only thing is the blood of Jesus. Anything else is Bogas!

Not sure I even need to grace this one with a response. Same misplaced defensive posture as the others.

Jesus makes them “tick”.

Once they know Him, yes. Before then, we call those folks “lost”.

This is needed.

Finally, someone gets it.

To Evangelize Who We Can, We Do What We Can

As you can tell by my commentary, by the time I read to the end of this thread, I was appalled. I asked a pastor friend of mine if his church ever did any marketing to their local community.

He said, “Oh yes. You have to.”

Just as I suspected.

Then he pointed out, “Even Jesus was heralded by John the Baptist.”

Do you get that?

Jesus had a PR guy that set the stage for His ministry. His name was John.

So if you think the Word of God will convert everyone it reaches, then you haven’t read your Bible. Israel even had God living among them and they still turned to idols. Over and over and over. Are you kidding?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” I think his example to us is to do what we can to reach those we can.

I challenge us to recognize the difference between delivering the Good News and receiving the Good News. The intention to reach the millennial generation is a good one.

Just as Paul spoke Greek to Greeks and Hebrew to Jews, so too must we learn our audience and do our part to connect them with the Gospel. It is by the blood of the Lamb ~and~ the word of our testimony.

Yes, all fruit comes through the Holy Spirit, but it is we—made in His image—who have been commanded to go forth and work the fields.

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christian web hosting

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting explained

Whether you are a church or faith-based organization, for your website to be seen on the Internet, it must be hosted on a secure server with a reliable connection to the Internet; this is web hosting.

Web hosting is the Internet service that allows you to make your website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosting companies provide the hosting environment, which includes the servers, routers, switches, backup power generators, secure and climate-controlled facilities, Internet connectivity through multiple carriers and support necessary to present a website to the world. There is a wide range of pricing for web hosting services, starting from free up to thousands monthly.

With so many options to consider, choosing a web host for your church isn’t always an easy task. The most important factor in selecting a church-friendly web host is ensuring they provide everything you need.

What hosting plan do I need?

Before choosing your web hosting package, identify your needs. As with all hosting plans, there will be some features you need and some you don’t. Make sure you focus on the essentials required to launch your website. You may want all the nice extras but will you use them?

It’s also a good idea to try and pick a host that will allow you to expand and increase your plan as your website grows. If you want to start selling online, upgrading to a larger e-commerce hosting plan is easier and quicker to implement than transferring to a new host.

What types of web hosting plans are there?

Web hosting plans range from free personal homepage hosting to packages that support large global corporate websites.

As an example, Levaire offers the following hosting packages for churches: Exodus, Church and Revelation. These hosting packages increase in size and scope as you move from the smallest (Exodus) to the largest (Revelation). Packages will vary from web host to web host, so knowing your needs (disk space, bandwidth, etc) in advance will help the host-shopping process tremendously.

Finally, many hosts can tailor their hosting plans to you, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Benefits to hosting with Levaire

  • Host your web site with your chosen domain name to help establish a recognizable identity for your organization.
  • Our powerful online control panel makes it easy to administer your web hosting account.
  • 24/7/365 website monitoring ensures peace of mind. Your website is up when your personnel need it and your customers expect it.
  • Let us create your full-featured, easy-to-update website, based on the powerful WordPress content management systems.
  • SEO-targeted keywords and customer-focused content helps your website generate qualified traffic.
  • Order with confidence knowing that web hosting reliability is assured, backed by an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.

christian websitesQuestions? Call (517) 394-3000 or email us »

P.S. – Don’t even have a website? Need to start over anyways? Simply select a Carpenter’s Path website and take your focus off the nuts and bolts of website ownership. Place your attention where it belongs: on reaching people with the Gospel message. See demo site »

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