By Paul Morris
Reason for this post
Churches are generally poor at connecting with people digitally. Considering digital marketing is a key conduit in finding and engaging people this simply will not do.
I want to help change this lack of digital marketing activity (I regularly attend Poynton Christian Fellowship and am also part of a weekly home group) hence wrote this post.
Whilst the below is mainly aimed at Church bodies; If you’re a Church of any size & would like further free strategic advice then please get in touch via my contact form –>
As the below shows there are numerous digital channels that make people aware of faith/ your church whilst also engaging them.
The main awareness/ engagement channels are SEO, PPC and Display advertising.
Twitter and Facebook are also key in generating awareness and furthering engagement when you couple them with other social media outlets such as pinterest, you tube, slideshare, blogging and mobile apps/ html5.
Overall Digital Media is a hugely missed opportunity for the Church and with more thought to digital marketing strategy and then application we will help stem declining UK church numbers/ engagement.
Not an easy tactic to implement for the Church and this should not be your focus.
Yes you could integrate affiliate from a merchant perspective (taking commission on church related goods as an example) however it’s going to produce small returns.
The only way to get affiliate to work for the Church is to think BIG. View affiliate marketing in the old skool way as developing partnerships. Get your partners e.g. congregation, other parties (such as a Church publishing ‘block’, Co-Operatives who share some of the same ethos as the Church, charities, etc) and other churches to partner with you. This will not only aid brand penetration but also SEO rankings…
SEO/ outreach engagement
[Note: Onsite SEO is key however I will save that debate for a 1-2-1 chat as it’s geeky and will loose many; to be fair though this is the area that will help small churches the most].
In regards to offsite link acquisition/ keyword targeting I would generally optimise for church + location however if you’re thinking BIG and have resource (SEO brains, time and money) & a realistic chance of garnering strong SERP positioning (I’m thinking of a ‘body’ such as the Methodist Church) then go after broader search terms.
Social SEO is key for this broader targeting strategy to work.
Techniques I would use include (in order of difficulty; from easy to hard – I have left out obvious techniques such as social bookmarking and directory submissions as this is basic and does not qualify as Social SEO):
Online PR – bet you have loads of great stories e.g. work in the community hence get the word out there via news wires and forwarding to relevant sites and partners
News/ guide syndication – ‘top 3 things God wants you to do’ , ‘The 7 best ways to avoid going to hell’ , ‘checklist for marketing your church’ , etc are all ways you can syndicate relevant content and generate links back to your site
Competitions and promotions – Retweet or standard competitions (e.g. going out to Africa, all expenses paid, to help in the orphanages would garner column inches) or promotions on church ‘merchandise’ (Oxfam do this particularly well with their Unwrapped campaign) or competitions of a more involving nature e.g. I attended Woodlands Church in Bristol and they started an amazing ‘Just Running’ fun run initiative that raised £10,000’s for great causes, continued to develop bonds within the church/ community and as a side benefit aided SEO via increased inbound links
Blogger outreach – contact relevant bloggers e.g. those with a conscience (as contrived as that sounds)
Surveys – Obvious and there are surely loads of ideas e.g. stats from the church survey)
Infographics – e.g. one on technology and the church is rather pertinent to this article….
Video – e.g. You Tube immersive videos such as an introduction to the church or web cameras/ recordings of famous speakers preaching at your Sunday sermon
Widget and gamification bordering on the kitsch (in a good way) – I’m sure with a little brainstorming we could come up with widget or game based ideas better than virtual services and augmented reality such as a more immersive and interactive version of the Sistine chapel tour
BIG data coupled with interactive link bait piece de resistance’s – Similar ideas to those I posted about Big Data and the Olympics
Social Media & engagement in general
Linking closely with the above is Social Media/ engagement:
Then the obvious thing to do with Twitter and Facebook is to use the above SEO techniques and the below Social Media techniques to engage your current audience…
Use slideshare, you tube and pinterest to engage via presentations, video and imagery respectively.
Music – Not necessarily just the ‘all things bright and beautiful’ stuff but more modern church music to engage teenagers in particular.
And then extended ways of engagement…
Be where people are searching – The growing platform for digesting digital media is mobile hence an option would be to create apps on iOS and Android e.g. the bible, interactive children’s books, inspirational tomes, sayings, songs, etc.
On the topic of mobile ensure your church site is responsive (the site reformats to optimise the experience for the platform you are utilising).
And finally on mobile how about innovating and engaging in something like O2 Magic Moments geo targeting and offer a free Sunday lunch at your local church (a Church of England initiative that spans the country perhaps?!)
Use QR Codes in your offline marketing for ease of information and perhaps utilise for driving people to the message/ verse/ video of the day?
At a basic level you should target people via Need and IP targeting e.g. IP targeting people searching for fat head/ chunky middle keywords such as ‘local church’ or simply via long tail keywords such as ‘church in Poynton’.
PPC could be done at a national level by the Church of England pushing the main Church brand or with them supporting and promoting local churches sending visitors to the local church website rather than the main Church of England website.
Other left field ideas include deviating from the usual mundane keyword targeting and thinking of problems the Church could be used to help with e.g. ‘how to commit suicide’ targeting by offering the user a way out i.e. the Church. For more information on this area see my Search Engines are CRM systems of opportunity post.
I would not harvest email marketing lists as it stinks of spam however actively collect opt in email addresses via your own church base and engage with those subscribing. If the content is interesting (taking some ideas from the engagement sections above) then people will pass it on to friends. A good example here is the church I attended in Bristol with their SoulFood weekly emails.
This idea is more for a national church body; you could use dsp’s and retarget people from your site and speculative outreach for those visiting certain sites. Either ungodly sites (challenge why that person is there) or good ones (engage the individual in the subject matter they are seeking).
On the topic of retargeting (as it’s going to be difficult to enact without a large pool of people to retarget) What about tagging up all your church body sites e.g. all Methodist church sites for outreach and retargeting messages (difficult I know practically with many church sites run by a local practitioner who might not even know what retargeting code is however possible).