Maximizing Your Online Influence

cullen swansonCullen Swanson is the Creative Director and Owner of Innovated Media – a locally owned Tulsa based graphic and web design firm. Cullen is a graphic and web designer, Internet marketer, and consultant for small to medium businesses, churches, and ministries.

Innovated Media specializes in graphic and custom website design, Internet marketing, video production, logo and branding development, direct mail campaigns, and social media integration. Contact Innovated Media if you are considering a new website, or a redesign of your current website. Cullen can be reached at cullen@innovatedmedia.com

Web influenceThe Internet and the technology behind it is constantly expanding at a rapid rate. Having a website simply because everyone else is getting one is no longer the reason to develop your own. Companies and organizations are using their websites to expand their influence online using their own website, social media, video, and other expanding mediums to get their message out. If you aren’t using your website to communicate with your community and develop new relationships, you need to rethink the purpose for your site and how you are using it. The number of options and upgrades are in the thousands when it comes to promoting your presence online, so deciding where to start and what you should put your energy into can be overwhelming. Here are some basic tips to get you pointed in the right direction.

Regularly Add Content – Blog on Your Website

Blogging 101There’s really no reason why you should not be updating your website at least bi-weekly! Even if you have a webmaster or a professional web design company that does not work for you directly on your staff, there are simple ways through online content management systems such as WordPress for you to manage your own content online right on your website. Don’t setup an external blog where your updated content is separate from your website. The content you put on your blog needs to be ON your website.

Some pages on your website rarely change. For example, you may have a contact page, about us page, an event page, and maybe a product page if you sell products on your site. But if your services or products don’t change that often then those pages should just stay optimized (for the search engines) and unchanged with a goal to revise them once a quarter based on your web analytics and keyword reports. But surely there are things that you can contribute online; most churches and ministries are accustomed to producing new content every week to deliver to those in attendance. Making this content available on your website is one of the best ways to attract people to your site by having them subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed.

WordPressIt doesn’t take much work to have a WordPress blog installed on your website that YOU can manage and bring in house and not have to pay out of pocket expenses to create content for your website online. We do this a lot for websites that we manage but have clients that want to blog; we just turn the blog over to them to manage and update. Learn more about WordPress and how it works.

By not adding content regularly to your website, you are giving your competitors, neighboring churches, etc., the power to take over organic local search results which is where a good deal of your new website traffic should be coming from. I understand if you’re a business owner or Pastor and you’re thinking “how will I have time to do one more thing on top of everything else that I already have to do?” But with the way that companies and churches market themselves online in today’s market, it’s just not possible for you to ignore your website any longer without suffering consequences.

Do I enjoy blogging? Not really. But I’ve found ways to streamline and make it easier to do. I have an app on my phone that allows me to dictate (speak) what I want my blog post to say, and it translates every word and emails it to me. Big time saver. When I don’t feel like blogging, I’ll ask one of my developers to write a post or two on our blog. It’s that important!

Use Google Analytics On Your Website

Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a powerful tool. I’m shocked at how many websites I come across that have no method for tracking visitor trends. For example, if you are a local church and you don’t know that most of your website traffic comes from out of state, then you are wasting your time assuming that everyone in your community is visiting your website on a regular basis for news and information.

Analytics tells you how many new and returning visitors have been on the site, where they live, how long they were on the site, what pages they looked at and for how long, whether they came from a referring site that links to your site or from a search engine, what keywords and phrases they used to find your site, what browser they used, the screen resolution on their computer, and much more. All of this information is extremely useful in determining your website’s demographic audience, as well as define the next steps on what changes to make on your site to drive the right kind of people to your website based on the changes that you have made. Stop assuming that people are looking at your website and get the facts. It takes time to look over the reports, but this is what separates a successful website from an unsuccessful one.

If you have hired a professional website firm to manage your website, ask them to copy you every week on the analytics reports. This will hold them accountable for doing what they promised they could do for you and your website.

If you are serious about using your website to reach the right people and a larger amount of them, you won’t be able to do it without this data.

Using Video

video iconIt’s not a fad or something that’s cool to do. Online video drives traffic to your website, and keeps them there longer than they would normally stay. It’s proven that the amount of time a visitor spends on your website increases up to 7 times if there is a video on the landing page or a media archive that people can visit to watch all of your videos. Simply put: people want the content to come to them. If they don’t have to read, they’ll prefer the website that accommodates their laziness by providing the information to them without them having to do anything. Creating the path of least resistance to help your visitors make a decision on your website (called a conversion) is the goal. For example, if you have an event that you want people to register for, you’ll have a better success rate with the online registration if you have a short video about the event and a call to action to register for the event on the same page that they are watching the video.

Video is easier than ever to produce. The new iPhone 4 even shoots video in 720p HD. If you aren’t shooting your video in HD, you really should be. There are exceptions, of course, for some ministries and churches that have hundreds of thousands invested in video equipment, but for the most part, you can get away with spending less than $1,000 for a nice HD camera and some software that will help you cut up the footage and produce an interactive video that captures the attention of your desired audience.

Using YouTube

YouTube LogoWe always suggest using YouTube to host your videos that are under 14 minutes long. YouTube, owned by Google, is the 2nd largest search engine in the world. That’s why when you do Google searches, you’ll see video results show up in your search results. By not having your optimized videos on YouTube, you are limiting your organic (non-paid) search results to your website pages only. The video is going to end up on your website anyway; if you use YouTube to host your videos, you’ll then have your content in two places instead of one, and people using YouTube to search for content could potentially find your YouTube channel with your videos on it that would probably never come to your website otherwise.

Video Testimonies

Video testimonies are also a powerful way to capture the success your conferences, events, and services. It shows that you care about your organization enough to provide testimonies of real people that have been satisfied with the way you run your organization and event planning. Plus it is evidence they were satisfied enough to take time out of their busy schedule to say something about your organization, which goes a long way with your website visitors. Testimonies in the church world go a long way because people have needs that need to be met. Hearing another’s story about how their needs were met by attending your services and conferences will inspire their confidence to attend your next meeting. We’ve had scores of new clients decide to sign with us simply because of a few video testimonies that we put on our site from a few satisfied clients.

Webmercials

It’s not uncommon for churches and ministries to have what we call a "webmercial," which is basically nothing more than a TV commercial that is produced entirely for the Internet. Going back to taking the content to the people—you’ll get a chunk of people visiting your site looking for a new church. What better way to get a feel of how your services go than for me to watch a 60-90 second highlight reel of praise and worship, some event footage, a few shots of some members with a brief testimony, and a closing from the Pastor inviting me to come and visit? I’m willing to bet I couldn’t get all of that just by reading the pages on your website.

We did some testing on this in 2010 on our website (www.innovatedmedia.com) by placing a webmercial on our top landing page, which happened to be our home page at the time. Our conversion percentages went way up—enabling us to close more accounts with less effort. When asking new clients why they went with us instead of one of our competitors, they said they watched our short video on our website that explained what we did. They liked the simplicity of finding out what we are best at without having to do a bunch of reading on our website, and they liked seeing who they would be dealing with (me, the person in the video). It was personalized, in other words.

In Summary

To sum this up: never be satisfied with your website, and get involved with the constant development of new technologies and trends to reach more people. If you aren’t using your website to promote the agenda of your organization, commit to doing something about it before you fall so far behind the curve that digging yourself out and becoming current will cost more time, energy, and resources than you’ll want to spend.

Contact Innovated Media for consulting on these topics, or for more information about implementing a new website or upgrades to your existing website.