I’m not exaggerating when I say that out of all the different parts of your website – About Us, Sermon videos, contact information, etc – the single most important page will be your blog. That may seem like a stretch, but stay with me.
Your blog is part of an overall approach called “content marketing.” Simply put, content marketing is the idea that distributing information (i.e. content) will drive interaction between an end user and a brand. In the religious world, blogs and sermons and other forms of content will pull people to your site, where you can then inform them of times of services, availability of Bible studies, etc. They will read the content, and visit your site to learn more about who you are.
Remember Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come”? The blog is your baseball field; the long line of cars at the end are the people coming to visit your site.
Think about it logically. If Google’s main goal is to connect searchers with relevant info, then you need relevant info on your site to get your site ranked and in front of eyeballs. A site with little to no content – or poorly optimized content – sits on page 12 purgatory forever.
The Other Benefits of Blogging
It’s hard to think back to a time when churches didn’t have an article or bulletin of some time (I’m sure it exists, but it’s got to be at least a couple hundred years in the past). Churches have always been in the information business, ever since Jesus gave us the Great Commission and we launched out into the deep. Bring the Gospel to the world and reap the harvest – that’s the name of the game.
Blogging can do that. Besides your sermons online, it’s probably the only part of your website that is purely Gospel-centered. Its only job is to teach people the Truth. It’s yet another tool in your toolbox that you can use to spread the Word.
Beyond that, however, there are other technical benefits to blogging.
- Drive in Warm Leads. I’m a fan of paid advertising. I think one of the best ways to get your site outside of your own personal network is to pay for it, and in many cases, you should reach ready souls with the Word. But why not do the same thing, for free? When someone visits your blog, reads an article, and either has a comment or a question, sometimes they’ll end up e-mailing the church about it. That’s a warm lead – someone who is ready to discuss the Gospel. And guess what? It didn’t cost you a dime.
- Built to Last. In today’s technologically-driven world, content is always changing. Because of that, most businesses are forced to create new content for their websites that they will have to eventually update once it becomes outdated. But a 2,000-year-old Gospel doesn’t change. That 5,000 word article you wrote on David eating the showbread? Still relevant. You may update a few things on it as your own personal study goes, but the gist is the same. A blog is one of the original “set-it-and-forget-it” ideas (though it’s a good idea to revisit your content every so often).
- Establishes Authority. The rise of pseudo-evangelists has led to an onslaught of people claiming dibs on Biblical interpretation. Who do I listen to? Who should I listen to? For most honest people looking for answers, Google is their first stop, if not to find what the Bible says, then to look for commentaries and explanations about what they’re reading (just like the Ethiopian Eunich in Acts 8:30). Currently, Calvinistic doctrine dominates the search results, but what if we were able to drive Biblical truth to the top of the search results instead? Establishing authority for an individual church with a blog is important, but what we’re all really after is establishing the Bible as central, and well-written church blogs help with that.
There are probably a bunch of other reasons to start a blog, but those are at the top of the list. You also have to ask the question, why not? It doesn’t cost anything (really) to start a blog, and it will work wonders for your site. What have you got to lose?
How to Start a Blog
So, you’ve decided to start a church blog? Great! I knew you would come around eventually.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to start a blog and, depending on what website hosting you use, the option to start one is probably already available to you (In WordPress, it’s called “posts”). A list of the different blog options for different platforms would be millions of pages long, so find whatever option your site has available and enable it.
If your church already has a trove of articles written, most of this will be borderline-grunt work. It’s a lot of organizing, renaming, and situating, but trust me when I say that it is well worth your efforts. Don’t feel like you have to do it all in one day; once you start uploading articles to your blog, the search engines will start indexing them as you go.
Now, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before you begin.
This can be as broad or specific as you need. I’ve seen churches that have twelve different categories, named everything from “Salvation” to “Archaeology and the Bible” or just a few, such as “New Testament,” “Old Testament,” and “Miscellaneous.” Look at your existing articles (or your blogging schedule – see below), and find out what makes sense to you. This doesn’t have to be permanent, by the way; you can always adjust these later.
I know how fond preachers are of their creative titles, but hear me when I tell you that vague, non-specific titles will not help you. That doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, but keep it at least somewhat relevant to make it easier for Google to find you. You’ll need to put your keywords in there at least, so rein that creativity in there Michelangelo.
There are articles, and then there are articles. A shorter article generally falls somewhere under 1,000 words, but longer pieces can sometimes go upwards of 5-10,000 words. Both have their benefits, but a good rule of thumb is to only make your articles as long as they have to be. For someone who is used to trying to keep their articles on a three page bulletin, this should be a breath of fresh air. Now, you can write that manifesto on Holy Spirit Baptism you’ve been dreaming about, as long as it’s all relevant. Most of your articles will be shorter, but include a good mix of longer articles (sometimes called “anchor posts” or “cornerstone content”) in there as well.
With every article, you’ll need images, but whatever you do, don’t just rip them off of Google – that’s a one way ticket to domain penalization and possibly even a fine. Instead, use a site like Pixabay that offers commercially-available pictures for free (although it’s worth mentioning that not everyone of those pictures are royalty-free either). If you want to be double sure your pictures are free to use, a site like DepositPhotos is a great resource.
Keyword Research: While you can write whatever you want, it’s always a good idea to see what people are interested in before you just start typing away. Use tools like Ubersuggest to find content ideas and keywords that get a lot of search traffic. Don’t forget to write necessary Biblical articles as well, but you should make sure that you address people’s questions as well.
The Value of a Blogging Schedule
A lot of preachers I know operate from a preaching schedule. They plan out their topics for the quarter or sometimes even an entire year, in order to get a birds-eye view of what they want to discuss for a period of time.
The same principle applies for a blogging schedule. Knowing ahead of time what you’re going to write about makes sure that your content is fresh, diverse, and well thought out, instead of something you just threw together at a moment’s notice. It also allows you to write for relevant life events, holidays, and times of the year.
I recommend setting out your blogging schedule for an entire quarter – though you may have a different time period in mind – and then batching your articles over the course of a few weeks. To find topics, ask yourself some questions:
- What is the church where I’m currently struggling with?
- What are we currently reading?
- What is exciting for a potential audience to read?
- What challenges does my audience face?
- What do they love (or hate) about the Bible, the church, or God?
You can also use sites like AnswerthePublic, which lets you input a keyword and find possible questions and topics to write about. The aforementioned Ubersuggest has a “content ideas” section that’s good to play around with, or you can even just walk on over to Google and do it the old fashioned way. Type in the first word of a keyword or sentence and let Google automatically fill in the rest.
From here, what you say and how you say it is up to you, but remember to upload your various bits of content to sites like Facebook and Twitter, and reach out to other sites to see if they’ll link to your content, which helps drive traffic. By flooding the internet with Scripturally-accurate content, we can help spread the Gospel to the farthest corners of the world!