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    Best Practices! - Entries tagged "Church Technology"

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    TueTuesdayJulJuly16th2013 No Photoshop? No Problem!
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    Building a website is more than just text. Graphics and images play an important role in how your church or ministry is presented online. It's also important that images are created the correct size and at the correct resolution to ensure they can be viewed quickly and accurately.

    For the best experience, Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard. There are other options. We did a write-up on Pixelmator, a Mac app for just $14.99.

    Today, I stumbled upon something entirely different, a web app called Pixlr. It's interesting because Pixlr seems to work just in your web browser and provides a fairly complete Photoshop like experience. There also doesn't seem to be any sort of cost associated with using the product. I edited a few photos, save them to my computer and it all seemed to work great. Creating graphics and re-sizing images appear to be a breeze with this product.

    Below is a screenshot of the editing screen. As you can see, it's fairly similar to what you'd expect from a Photoshop alternative.



    Have you had any experience using this or a similar product? We'd love to hear your comments.
    WedWednesdayJulJuly3rd2013 Mobile Browsing Habits on Church Websites
    byDavid Pohlmeier Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

    It's pretty much official, people love to use their smartphones.


    Ein Handydrama in 7 Akten

    According to a recent study conducted by Experian, Americans spend an average of 58 minutes of time on their smartphone every day. 14% of that time is spent visiting websites. It's also interesting to note that Android users spend 16% of their time browsing websites while Apple iOS users spend 12%.

    Digging in a little deeper in some stats, IDC has informed us that in the first quarter of 2013 Google Android powered devices hold a 75% market share in the smart phone market. Coming in second is Apple iOS with a 17.3% market share. The rest of the market share is populated by Windows Phone, BlackBerry and a couple of others that I've never even heard of.

    What I find so fascinating about this is how the church websites on our platform are getting used. Here is what our Google Analytics report shared with us over a one year period starting June 1, 2012.

    The numbers below show how many visits came from each mobile operating system and how many of those visits were new.
    • Apple iOS - 653,576 (47% new visits)
    • Google Android - 214,413 (46% new visits)
    • BlackBerry - 12,597 (57% new visits)
    • Windows Phone - 4,855 (63% new visits)
    Apple even takes up places 1,2,4, & 7 of the top 10 slots for the actual device being used to navigate to our websites over the last year. To their credit, Samsung does hold on to 8,9, & 10.

    Clearly, church and ministry websites hosted by iMinistries are being accessed more by Apple powered mobile devices. Significantly more. Why is that? Sadly, I don't have the answers. It's something that I really have often wondered about. Based on market share and even smart phone usage statistics, I would have assumed Android powered devices would have come out on top.

    What do you think? Why is there so much Apple love with mobile browsing habits on church websites?


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    MonMondaySepSeptember10th2012 Pixelamator - Image Editing Software While helping a church build their website one thing becomes obvious - many churches don't own a copy of any sort of image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. This can hinder their ability to add graphics to a website and doesn't allow them to edit images to be sized appropriately for the web.

    Allow me to introduce you to Pixelmator.



    At just $14.99, you aren't going to find a better solution. I'm a heavy Photoshop user and have been for years. I'd like to think that I know what to expect from an image editor and I'd like for any "Photoshop alternative" to actually be a Photoshop alternative. I've been using the trial version for Pixelmator for a few days and I'd recommend it to anyone using a Mac. Sorry Windows people, this one is Mac-only.

    Right when Pixelmator opens your introduced to a great looking user interface. I like the dark color scheme and simple look of the program. Even better, it's a similar layout to Photoshop and many of the same keyboard shortcuts and core functionality are used. This made it very easy for me to jump right in and go to work.

    So, if you're looking for a great way to edit photos and create graphics, give Pixlemator a try.

    Are there other "Photoshop alternatives" out there that you or your church uses? What has been your experience? 

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    MonMondayAugAugust13th2012 Does Your Church Need a New Website? [INFOGRAPHIC] Are you having trouble deciding if iMinistries is the right fit for your church or ministry? Below are two helpful resources for you.

    First, if you have (serious) questions about what we offer, visit the Boardroom. This page highlights the important features and advantages of using iMinistries. Often, our staff isn't the one presenting to churches and fellow staff members why you would use iMinistries. The Boardroom page should help you better present us.

    The second resource is the infographic below. All roads really do lead back to iMinistries. Who knew?


    View Larger

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    MonMondayAprApril30th2012 4 Up-And-Coming Online Trends for Churches
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

    Churches are increasingly fighting with online media for attention of their members and seekers, and many have decided to use new technology to broaden their reach. Reliance on tech comes with its risks, however, as Christianity Today warns churches are in danger of replacing technology for the one-on-one relationships so vital for growing Christ-followers. Instead, they advise, tech innovations should supplement personal connections by making communication easier, anywhere at anytime.

    Here's a look at the latest church-related online innovations, the challenges of using each, and whether your church should incorporate them into your communication strategy.


    1. Online-only content

    Probably the most well-known innovators in online-exclusive content is LifeChurch.tv. This Oklahoma-based, multi-campus church streams 9-12 live services on its Church Online website each day, including live chatting with dedicated pastors and links to resources for seekers and new believers. Many other churches are beginning to live stream their services as the technology becomes easier and less expensive.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Not many churches have the resources or staff to have an "online campus," but you can always start small and see where it leads. Podcasting sermons is a good place to start (it's free and functionality is built into each iMinistries website). Live streaming of services is becoming more doable, even for smaller churches (free ways to broadcast services online).


    2. Real-time social media interaction

    We recently shared a story of a church in England which addresses questions via Twitter during services. This type of in-the-moment engagement is becoming more popular -- especially in larger churches -- to make congregants feel more a part of the service. Some churches ask congregants to text sentences of praise during service to a designated number and then display the text messages as a form of worship.

    Should My Church Do It?

    While instant engagement can be beneficial, pastor and author Josh Harris argues that it tends to cause listeners to think about what they're going to tweet instead of what God is saying to them through the sermon. Whether you should depart from the typical three-point sermon to such a drastically modern approach probably depends on your congregants and your pastor.


    3. Church rating websites

    We all know Yelp as a format for restaurant reviews, but they also allow users to review churches. Users can search for churches in their area and give them a 1-5 star rating, including a detailed written description. ChurchRater.com is a website dedicated solely to church evaluation and was created to help people moving into a community find a church that's right for them.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Unfortunately, you don't have much of a choice. Users can add and rate churches without the your consent, and, as with any ratings website, criticisms often outweigh praises. While checking what past visitors have to say about your church may be helpful in some cases, it's important to remember a few bad reviews are not universally representative. Keeping that in mind, you probably shouldn't build your communication strategy around addressing these reviews.


    4. Custom church mobile apps

    As the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets explode, many churches are racing to create custom church apps to connect with their congregants. Tech savvy churches like Mars Hill in Seattle have apps that stream sermon video and audio, display blog entries, show campus locations and directions, and allow for giving donations.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Apps are necessary if you have tons of online content and desire an easier way to display it on a mobile device. A mobile-optimized website (like an iMinistries CMS website) will often fulfill that need. Since custom app creation can be a costly enterprise, you should be sure your communications strategy warrants such an expense. (Note: if you have an iMinistries website, we are an alliance partner with The Church App that integrates with your website).


    Has your church adopted any of these new technologies? Are they working for you? Tell us in the comments.


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    MonMondayNovNovember28th2011 3 Modern SEO Tips for Church Websites
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    Search engines are constantly adapting how they compile their results to how people are interacting with the web. Below are three best practices to make sure your church website gets found in modern searches.

    1. Beef up your Google Places profile

    eyetracking heatmap

    Recent studies have shown that people's eyes gravitate to local listings when they come up in Google searches (see SEOmoz's eye-tracking heat maps to the right).

    To optimize your Google Places profile:
    1. Search for your location on Google (if no profile exists, visit google.com/places to create one).
    2. Select the place marker and "More Info" to view its profile.
    3. Click the "Manage the page" button on the profile page, under "Is This Your Business?"
    4. To edit your profile, follow the steps to validate your ownership.
    5. Make sure your address, contact information, website, and marker placement are correct.
    6. Add a description of your church or ministry, briefly stating who you are and your mission.
    7. Add categories ("Lutheran Church," "Religious Organization," etc.) to help searchers find you.
    8. Add photos, videos, and further details (service times, ministries offered, etc.) to give people more reasons to visit.

    2. Increase Social Media engagement

    Today, social media has become the way in which people navigate the Internet, so search engines have begun to give more weight to popular content on Facebook and Twitter.

    Studies by SEOmoz have shown that content gets a boost in search results when shared across social media channels ("Retweet," "Like," or "+1"). Make it a goal to post regular, relevant content on Facebook or Twitter (especially content that directs users to your website), and you'll see its positive impact on visits to your website.

    3. Create interesting content, incorporating keywords

    Even though search engines have adapted over the years, the best way to keep people coming to your church website remains to continuously provide compelling content. Make your website the source for extra information for your members, not just basic information for first-timers. In all content, focus on using keywords and phrases that people might use to find you.
    • Start a blog from ministry leaders, addressing relevant topics
    • Write studies that coincide with your current sermon series
    • Update your news regularly
    • Create event landing pages and registration

    Learn More About Modern SEO for Church Websites

    Improving Google Search Results - iMinistries Blog Series
    Keyword Phrase Strategy's Importance to SEO - iMinistries Blog
    6 Best Practices for Modern SEO - Mashable

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    MonMondayJunJune20th2011 Eric Helliwell: Posting Sermons on Your Church Website Aids Ministry [Video]
    byTravis Hickox Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    We caught up with Eric Helliwell, worship leader at Harvest Bible Chapel Muskoka (Canada) and asked how his iMinistries church website has helped their ministry. Not only did Eric rave about how easy it is to use, even for non-technical people, he talked about how important posting sermons are to spreading the gospel.


    Video Transcript

    "We love iMinistries for many different reasons. One of the reasons is because it is so functional, it's so easy for someone like me who isn't necessarily great with computers to make different things on our website that are accessible to our church.

    Specifically sermons is an area that has been a blessing to us, because we have a family that is not able to attend our church on a weekly basis, but they've been able to following the sermon updates on a weekly updates on the website, and they've just loved it. They have been just blessed and growing in Christ. And it's been such a valuable thing to our ministry."

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    MonMondayAprApril11th2011 4 Online Giving Study Findings To Apply To Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    Network for Good, the online giving website for nonprofit organizations, recently conducted a study of their online donations, and the resulting data can be very useful for ministries seeking donations on their websites.

    From 2003-2009, the donor and volunteer recruiting website for nonprofits received over $381 million in donations from over 3.6 million individual gifts. Looking primarily at the online giving process, they came to some conclusions (and varified some previous theories) with the data they collected.

    Here are the four biggest truths and how you can apply them to your church or ministry website.

    Truth #1: Relationships influence giving

    The act of donating money is highly emotion-driven, so donors naturally want to feel a connection to the ministry they give to. People want to know they are supporting a cause or mission, not just a cold website or faceless organization. Your ministry or church website has to go beyond just providing a place for a monetary transaction. It has to fortify a relationship.

    Here are a few ways to make sure your website connects with donors:
    • Make your mission clear
      Provide your users a page that explains your ministry values, beliefs, and goals. Make it simple to understand, but try to appeal to your readers at an emotional level.

    • Use imagery and stories to promote your cause
      Pictures and stories of the people your ministry has helped or wants to help can give a face to your ministry's mission. People want to know they're giving to other people, not just an organization.

    • Brand your giving pages
      Loyalty is very important for online donors. This study showed donors give 66.7% more on clearly-branded giving pages.

    Truth #2: The online giving experience can help or hurt donations

    It makes sense that the relationship between donor and recipient is significantly impacted by the giving process. If a donor's giving experience is frustrating, difficult to understand, or too long, they may be less likely to give online again. And, transversely, if the giving experience is easy and emotionally fulfilling, donors may be more likely to return.

    How can you make the giving experience more positive?
    • Make it obvious
      Big "Donate Now" button; "Giving" in your navigation

    • Make it quick and easy
      If you have 12 ways to give, a page that describes each in 1-2 sentences is less overwhelming than explaining each completely on one page. Also, having an 8-part form to slog through is not overly enjoyable.

    • Make it satisfying
      After donors click "submit," make sure your "thank you" page expresses your appreciation for their donation. Let them feel like an important partner in accomplishing your mission.
    "The more intimate and emotionally coherent the giving experience, the stronger the relationship between donor and nonprofit appears to be. Small improvements to the online experience can make a big difference in donations." --Network for Good Online Giving Study

      Truth #3: Recurring giving encourages more giving over time

      It is easier for donors to commit once to a long-term, repeating gift than it is for them to visit your website every month for one-time donations. Giving users this option will accomplish two goals for you:
      • It will increase overall giving, simply from convenience
      • It will help build a positive relationship with your donors
      Monthly recurring giving is the most popular option, but giving donors more choices (bimonthly, weekly, quarterly) can't hurt.

      Truth #4: More giving occurs during work hours, in December, and after big disasters

      Being prepared for year-end giving is essential for any ministry or church seeking online donations from donors they have established relationships with, while large disasters give more opportunities for new donors.

      Creating a giving campaign for December can never go wrong, either to remind donors to fulfill giving commitments or to notify donors of your end-of-year need. And special campaigns centered around your ministry's response to a disaster can make you more visible to donors who may not normally give to your mission.

      Utilizing your website and e-newsletters for these campaigns can help you achieve your giving goals. Since most donations occur on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., e-newsletters would be more effective if sent during these times.

      A CMS, like iMinistries, can help your online giving

      By using the features that come built into each iMinistries website, you can take steps toward improving your online giving.
      • Integrated giving forms: accept online donations from credit and debit cards with your brand front-and-center
      • Ads and banners: post graphics to make your calls to action more compelling
      • PayPal: now you can accept donations from this provider

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        MonMondayMarMarch28th2011 5 Ways to Boost Your Church Website Grade
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
        A great free tool to gauge the effectiveness of your church or ministry is Website Grader, from the online marketing geniuses at Hubspot. Website Grader scans your website for ways in which you attract visitors and search engines.

        Hubspot's focus is all about getting people to visit your website, and to do so regularly. It does not evaluate the quality of your website's content, just its ability to attract Web traffic (both organically and through search engines).

        Here are five ways you can improve your website grade, and attract more visitors to your ministry website.

        1. Create a Blog and Post Regularly

        The easiest way to make your website more interactive is to start a blog and update it regularly.

        Blogs help your website two big ways:
        • Your posts give users a reason to visit repeatedly and makes you more accessible.
          It lets you communicate to your site visitors by creating a two-way dialogue.

        • Blogs feed search engines constant updates, which aids your search engine rankings

        2. Improve Your Metadata

        Metadata works behind the scenes to tell search engines and those using them about your website content.

        Metadata is usually broken down into three segments:
        • Search descriptions summarize the content on each of your website pages. Just like a synopsis on the back of a book, your search description sells your pages to searchers.

        • Keywords the are words or phrases used most by the people looking for your site on search engines. Choose these keywords carefully to make sure your website comes up at the top of searches.

        • Browser titles explain who your website represents and what each page contains. Browser titles carry a lot of weight with search engines, so strategically placing keywords in them is a great way to boost your search rankings.
        iMinistries makes it easy to set metadata site-wide and page-by-page with integrated SEO tabs on each content item.

        3. Add Pages

        People love information. Search engines love information. The more pages you have on your website, the more information you have. Pretty easy, right?

        The easiest ways to fill your website with useful pages is to consistently update your blog and by adding news and events. When search engines scan your website, they still find archived content, so just because news or events may expire, don't delete them.

        4. Incorporate Your Social Media

        Since website visitors and search engines love new, shiny things (who doesn't), give them constant updates by displaying your Twitter feed, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and any other social media your ministry or church regularly engages.

        By promoting your social media outlets on your websites, you'll get more followers, increase your website visitors, and raise your website grade.

        5. Get Other Sites to Link To You

        As you start pumping out quality blog posts, interesting news and events, and promoting your social media, people across the Web should start linking to you. Getting other websites to link to you tells search engines that you are a place worth checking out, so they'll push you up their search rankings.

        Having a more visited website link to your content is like receiving a positive review--a thumbs up. The more thumbs up you get, and the more important those giving them, the more search engines will like you.

        LEARN MORE ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR WEBSITE GRADE

        Improving Search Results Case Study - iMinistries Blog
        Keyword Phrase Strategy's Importance to SEO - iMinistries Blog
        Is Your Website Visitor-Focused? - iMinistries Blog

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        MonMondayJanJanuary10th2011 Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        What is Cross-Linking?


        Cross-linking is including a link to a page on your site, from another page. These links can appear as in-text hyperlinks or graphics, in various locations throughout your church website.


        Why Cross-Linking?


        Cross-linking makes two important groups happy. And you want to keep these groups happy.

        Search Engines
        Google, Bing, and Yahoo love websites with loads of links. They also love websites who have links directed to themselves. Cross-linking kills these two birds with one stone. Including links to other pages on your site within your content goes a long way to improve your search engine ranking.

        Your Site Visitors
        A cross link is a call to action. These links show your visitors that your content is important, gives them alternatives in case the information they seek is not found on the page, makes them aware of more information, and gives them reasons to stay on your website.


        How to Implement Cross-Linking


        Before you start throwing in 10,000 links on each of your church website's pages, it is important to have a strategy. Planning before doing will help your links be more effective without overwhelming your visitor.

        1. Make a list of your calls to action.

        Your website's calls to action might include:
        • Subscribe (to a newsletter, podcast, or blog feed)
        • Contact Us (by filling out a form, e-mailing, or calling)
        • Log in (to their account)
        • Volunteer (by filling out a opportunity inquiry)
        • Join (by creating a personal account)
        • Read (news, blogs, newsletters)
        • Register (for an upcoming event)
        • Look (pictures)
        • Listen (to sermons or other podcasts)

        2. Prioritize your calls to action.
        Think about which pages make the most sense for these calls to action. Make a plan of how to include one or more calls to action on each page of your website.


        Where to Include Cross Links


        Page Text Body
        The easiest place to include cross links is within your website pages' text. It's important to incorporate links into your writing, instead of using words like "click here" or "visit this page." See what I did there. I built a link to another page on this website within a sentence. This helps your user understand what information is on this other page. Using keywords and phrases in these links acts as a highlighter to search engines, as well. They notice your links, read the keywords, and are more likely to include your this page in search results.

        Side Columns
        Depending on which template you use, you should have space in your left or right column for call-to-action graphics. Incorporating colorful buttons or scrolling ads will help to keep your ministry website visitors clicking from page to page.

        Headers/Scrolling Banners
        Scrolling banners act like roadside billboards for your website's most desirable content. By designing eye-catching banners, you can direct your home page visitors right to your sermons, blog, or latest ministry event.

        Don't have the staff to create ads or banners? Let us design some for you.

        Footer
        The real estate at the bottom of your website shouldn't be ignored. A best practice is to include links to your Contact Us page, Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and other pages that might not easily fall under your menu categories. Some websites, like iMinistries', even include their site map in the footer.


        LEARN MORE ABOUT CROSS-LINKING


        Cross-Linking and Search Engine Optimization - WebProNews
        Cross-Linking and Internal Link Architecture - The Online Marketing Guy

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        MonMondayDecDecember20th2010 Does It Move You Forward?

        Keeping up with the technology "Joneses" doesn't necessarily mean that  your church website is affective.

        I recently read an article from Chris Brogan's website titled, "Is it Moving You Forward" and thought that I should share a little snippet from it.
        I'm not using paper to write any "daily whatevers." I'm not using Quora to answer questions. I haven’t tried that new Twitter client. In fact, I'm not doing a LOT of things.

        I have a very simple question to answer each time: will this move me forward?
        With that in mind, something that I think we all should consider on a weekly basis comes from 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.
        "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.
        Just like in our spiritual lives, the same principles can be applied to your ministry or church website. While we use and have promoted the use of Twitter and Facebook in these two blog entries:
        you must be the one who measures its effectiveness and if you should continue to foster the relationships that it brings in. While we have seen an increased interaction with our customers by doing Twitter and Facebook, we have to do an even better job of evaluating its effectiveness. Maybe after a solid effort (over a years time), we set it aside these technologies and/or trends, and focus our attention elsewhere. I will even take this a step further and say that we refocus our energy back on our core competencies. This is something that Dave McCall does really well, but it's an area that I am lacking in.

        Tell us...has using Twitter and Facebook been advantageous for you? If so, how do you know? What success stories have you seen?

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        MonMondayNovNovember1st2010 Firefox Panorama

        Based on this Firefox 4 Beta Update blog entry, Panorama will be an included new feature. Check out this video which showcases how it will work.


        What browser you use?

        Free Trial

        We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

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        MonMondayOctOctober4th2010 Gmail Priority Inbox

        Has today's age of instant communication got you a tad overwhelmed? Does your inbox have you running for the hills? If so, you should probably try Google's new Priority Inbox.

        Google continues to impress me. I discovered their new Priority Inbox recently and activated it and I am very curious to know what others think.


        Questions for You

        • I realize that this new feature only came out a week or so ago, but have you tried it yet?
        • If you have, how successful has it been at predicting which e-mails should be a priority for you?
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        MonMondaySepSeptember27th2010 What's the Cost of a Free Church Website?

        Is the cost of using a Church CMS to run your church website more or less expensive than a free alternative?

        Have you, individually or as a part of a team, put together a website for yourself, club, church, or business? If so, you know that there are several pieces to the website puzzle. Below are a few things that you either have encountered or you will encounter when setting up a website.
        • Getting a domain(s)
        • Deciding which alternative(s) to use
        • Developing a relationship with all of the new vendors
        • Hosting
        • DNS
        • Learning how to use your website
        • Launching the website
        • Maintaining the website

        Ok, now let's talk about the easy things that are here.

        1. Get a domain
          Getting a domain is fairly painless. We typically recommend using http://domainsmadeeasy.com/.

        Hmmm...that's about it. Now let's talk about the "not so easy" things.

        1. If you aren't going with a Church website CMS like ours, then who? Some think of using Joomla, Wordpress, or some other open CMS.
        2. You are going to have to get server space so that people can view your website. Where are you going to host it? There are probably a few hundred hosts out there and their fees range from $5 - $15 per month. How reliable are they? Do they hold the same values that you hold? Did you know that our cheapest plan starts at just $39 and that includes all of these great features and includes hosting?
        3. Do you even know what DNS is? Here is what Wikipedia says about Domain Name System. You have to know how to edit your DNS settings so that people can find your website, send you e-mail as well as protect against spam!
        4. Do you have a plan on knowing how to use your new ministry tool? What about a plan for your staff? We provide you with a support website that has videos and written documentation as well as a way for you to submit your question(s) so that you can get it answered.

        We can admit that using something like Joomla is a nice alternative.

        Unless of course you don't have someone in your church body that:
        • Is tech savy.
        • You know isn't going to pick up and leave, either because of a job change or a disagreement with church leadership.
        • Is single and sits at home all hours of the day and night just waiting for your input on how you would like your website to look and work. Yeah..because that is realistic/sustainable/healthy. :-)

        We can also admit that WordPress is another nice alternative that can be of good use.

        However, what if you wanted to do more than just have a site that is a blog or maybe a few other pages about your ministry? What if you wanted to:
        Some of the things that we are mentioning here can be found and implemented with both of Joomla and WordPress...but that's just it...you have to find them and then you have to "bolt them onto" your website. With iMinistries, all of these things are all built in ready for you to activate and use.

        Free Trial

        We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

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        MonMondayJulJuly19th2010 Improving Search Results Case Study - Harvest Bible Chapel
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        BACKGROUND

        Problem

        HarvestBibleChapel.org ranks low in simple Google searches using key words.

        Recommended Solution

        Implement standard SEO practices including:
        • Revising content
        • Revising site title format (as seen on top of window)
        • Adding Meta tags
        • Changing menu headings

        Project Goals

        To boost the Google search ranking to the top 10 website listings in each of the primary search terms. Simultaneously increase the website’s grade on WebsiteGrader.com.

        Time Line

        One week, from Wednesday, January 27 to Wednesday, February 3, 2010.


        IMPLEMENTATION

        Revising Content

        Every instance of “Harvest” was changed to “Harvest Bible Chapel” in the website page’s content, where it was possible. “Harvest Bible Chapel” is the search phrase most used by visitors arriving via a Google. Increasing the use of this phrase in site content increases the site’s ranking when entered in a search inquiry.

        The link title “Pastor James’s Blog” was changed to “James MacDonald’s Blog” to increase ranking when “James MacDonald” is entered in search inquiries.

        Revising Site Tile Format

        The previous site title (which appears at the top of the Internet browser window) was changed from the format “[Site Title] – [Page Title]” (ex. “Harvest Bible Chapel – Main Site – New To Harvest?”) to the format “Harvest Bible Chapel | Dr. James MacDonald | [Page Title].”

        Removing the site title and replacing it with “Harvest Bible Chapel” makes it more clear to Google what this site contains. Adding “Dr. James MacDonald” also will improve the search ranking for those who search this phrase.


        Adding Meta Tags

        No Meta tags were in place before this implementation. The description, which appears under the Web site listing in Google search results, was added as follows:

        “Harvest Bible Chapel is one church meeting on five campuses in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois led by Senior Pastor James MacDonald.”

        Mentioning the key phrases “Harvest Bible Chapel,” “James MacDonald,” “church,” and “Chicago, Illinois” positively influences the Google search rankings for these phrases.

        Keywords act as magnet words for Google search inquiries. Sites that include keyword Meta tags improve their search ranking when those words or phrases are searched. The following keywords were added:
        • Harvest Bible Chapel
        • HarvestBibleChapel.org
        • Harvest Bible Chicago
        • James MacDonald
        • Walk in the Word
        • Harvest Bible Fellowship
        • Chicago churches

        Changing Menu Headings

        The menu heading “About Harvest” was changed to “About Harvest Bible Chapel.”

        RESULTS

        Google Search Rankings

        Search rankings for each of the key phrases improved dramatically after only two days.

        Results Before SEO

        Results After SEO

        41 "harvest bible chapel"
        1 "harvest bible chapel"
        1 "harvestbiblechapel.org" 1 "harvestbiblechapel.org"
        ? "James MacDonald"
        3 "James MacDonald"
        23 "Dr. James MacDonald"
        6 "Dr. James MacDonald"
        7 "harvest bible"
        1 "harvest bible"

        Website Grade

        The website’s grade from WebsiteGrader.com increased more than four points after the SEO implementation.

        Before SEO

        Results After SEO

        91 Overall Website Grade
        95.6* Overall Website Grade
        2 Google PageRank
        2 Google PageRank
        154 Google Indexed Pages
        138* Google Indexed Pages
        94 Blog Grade
        96.5* Blog Grade
        1,012 Inbound Links
        1,012 Inbound Links
        2,425,735 Traffic Rank
        2,450,000* Traffic Rank

        * average

        Free Trial

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        FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS

        Increase Google Page Rank and Inbound Links

        The biggest influence on Page Rank is inbound links (other websites linking to HarvestBibleChapel.org). The higher the Page Rank of the sites linking to you, the more influence it has on your Page Rank. HarvestBibleChapel.org has relatively low inbound links, so it is crucial to develop more.

        The challenge is that this site is more of a “hub” which directs many users to the campus websites so the amount of content it contains, and the frequency in which its content changes, is less than other church websites of a similar size (harvest.org, willowcreek.org).

        Finding a way to develop more inbound links is important to increase the site’s traffic and it’s Page Rank. Sites to get inbound links:
        • Local universities (.edu sites’ links carry more weight)
        • Facebook (fan pages, personal profiles)
        • Extension ministries: HCA, HBF, Walk in the Word, should all be linking back to this site)
        • Twitter: a Harvest Twitter account would drive traffic and add links
        • Other free sites: Chambers of Commerce, church directories, etc.
        MonMondayAprApril26th2010 Keyword Phrase Strategy's Importance to SEO
        byJon Singer Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        "I want to be on page one of Google."


        That statement is the beginning of the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s when a website owner realizes that launching a website is not enough to attract new business, and that a complete Web marketing plan must be started.

        The one thing that is missing in that statement, however, is for what keyword phrase do they want to rank on page one of Google? Though the answer given off the cuff by the website owner is insightful, the true answer requires research and expertise.

        Otherwise, website owners will spend a lot of time and money and still rank poorly. Or equally disappointing, they may rank well, but for poorly chosen keyword phrases, and the resulting traffic to their website is of poor quality.

        For example, a church might choose "church services" as a keyword phrase, thinking the searcher on Google is seeking local church service times and options. But searchers also might use these terms to mean janitorial companies that specialize in cleaning churches, or for church service times 5,000 miles away.

        Any traffic received from these searchers is worthless. The website traffic stats may grow, but that’s not telling the true story. Worst of all, even though the church invested time and money to rank well, it probably received no new calls or interest.

        They may then be tempted to write off SEO and Web marketing. But the true problem was poor keyword phrase research and selection.

        Lastly, SEO work lasts a long time. If a website succeeds and is on page one of Google, it will have that power for months, if not years, depending on how competitive the keyword phrases are. And if it does drop to page two, with a little attention, the former position can usually be restored.

        So, it is critical that website owners don’t race through the keyword phrase selection process. It is not only the first step in SEO and Web marketing plans, but also the most important.

        About the Author

        Jon Singer is a Chicago area Search Engine Optimization Specialist and Website Designer.

        Free Trial

        We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

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        MonMondayAprApril12th2010 Google Analytics: Campaigns, Custom Links, and More
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        Understanding campaign variables: The five dimensions of campaign tracking

        Google Analytics tracks online campaigns using a combination of the following five marketing dimensions:

        Source
        Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Examples of sources are the Google search engine, the AOL search engine, the name of a newsletter, or the name of a referring website.

        Medium
        The medium helps to qualify the source; together, the source and medium provide specific information about the origin of a referral. For example, in the case of a Google search engine source, the medium might be "cost-per-click," indicating a sponsored link for which the advertiser paid, or "organic", indicating a link in the unpaid search engine results. In the case of a newsletter source, examples of medium include "e-mail" and "print."

        Term
        The term or keyword is the word or phrase that a user types into a search engine.

        Content
        The content dimension describes the version of an advertisement on which a visitor clicked. It is used in content-targeted advertising and Content (A/B) Testing to determine which version of an advertisement is most effective at attracting profitable leads.

        Campaign
        The campaign dimension differentiates product promotions such as "Spring Ski Sale" or slogan campaigns such as "Get Fit For Summer."

        Creating Custom Links

        Ever wonder how many of your site's users click on your ads or hyperlinks? Google Analytics can track that, too!

        After creating an ad, visit the Google Analytics URL Builder. After adding the end location of your link, edit a few descriptors and Google will create a custom link. Copy this link and use it as your hyperlink URL. Every time your website users click on this link, Google will track their visit information. To access that information, just click Campaigns under Traffic Sources in your website report.



        MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

        Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
        Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
        How Do I Tag My Links? – Google Analytics
        Free Trial

        See how easy it is to build your church website!
        Start your 15-day free trial account

        MonMondayMarMarch29th2010 Google Analytics: Viewing Traffic Reports
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        Analyze tons of data about your ministry website visitors

        After you add your Google Analytics account number to your iMinistries website, you'll need to wait 24 hours for data to accumulate on your GA profile. When your data is complied, you can view any of the dozens of Google Analytics reports by clicking the View Reports link at the top of your Analytics screen.

        Types of Reports

        Important reports in the Content section:

        Overview: lists pageview volume and lists the pages (Top Content) that were most responsible for driving pageviews.

        Top Content: Which are the most commonly viewed pages on your site, and how are they used? The table lists all of the pages which were viewed on your site. A high "Time on Page" may indicate content that is particularly interesting to visitors.

        Top Exit Pages: From which pages do people exit your site? It may be common for visitors to exit your site from a receipt or "thank you" page because they have completed a conversion activity. But a large number of exits from a news item, blog, or event pagemay indicate that the page is confusing or uninteresting.

        Important reports in the Traffic Sources section:

        Overview: Shows the different kinds of sources that send traffic to your site. The graph shows traffic trends. The pie-chart and tables show what is driving the trends. How did your website visitors get to your site: Direct Traffic, Referring Sites, or Search Engines?

        Direct Traffic: How do the people who clicked a bookmark or typed your site URL into their browser to visit your website compare to the "average" visitor to your site?

        Referring Sites: How do the people referred from other sites compare to the "average" visitor to your site? The graph shows the overall trends in traffic volume from referrals while the table lists the sites driving the trends.

        Search Engines: How does search engine traffic compare to traffic as a whole to your site? The graph shows overall trends while the table lists the search engines driving the trends. (Read our blog entries on how to improve your Google search results.)

        Keywords: How does traffic from search keywords compare to traffic as a whole to your site? The graph shows overall trends while the table shows the keywords driving the trends.

        Important reports in the Visitors section:

        Visitors Overview: How many new and returning visitors came to your site and how extensively did they interact with your content? This traffic overview allows you to drill down into aspects of visit quality (i.e. average pageviews, time on site, bounce rate) and visit characteristics (i.e. first time visitors, returning visits).

        Visits: The number of visits your site receives is the most basic measure of how effectively you promote your site.

        Pageviews: Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed on your site and is a general measure of how much your site is used.

        Average Pageviews: Average pageviews is one way of measuring visit quality. A high Average Pageviews number suggests that visitors interact extensively with your site. A high Average Pageviews results from one or both of:
        1. Appropriately targeted traffic (i.e. visitors who are interested in what your site offers)
        2. High quality content effectively presented on the site.
        Conversely, a low average pageviews indicates that the traffic coming to the site has not been appropriately targeted to what the site offers or that the site does not deliver what was promised to the visitor.

        Time on Site: If visitors spend a long time visiting your site, they may be interacting extensively with it. This can sometimes be misleading because visitors often leave browser windows open when they are not actually viewing or using your site.

        Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page). Bounce rate is a measure of visit quality and a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance (landing) pages aren't relevant to your visitors.

        New vs. Returning: A high number of new visitors suggests that you are successful at driving traffic to your site while a high number of return visitors suggests that the site content is engaging enough to keep visitors coming back. You can see how frequently visitors return and how many times they return in "Recency" report and the "Loyalty report," both under "New vs. Returning" in the Visitors section.

        Map Overlay: Use this map to visualize visits by geographic region, country, and city.

        Length of Visit (Visitor Behavior):
        Length of visit is a measure of visit quality. A large number of lengthy visits suggests that visitors interact more extensively with your site. The graph allows you to visualize the entire distribution of visits instead of simply the ‘Average Time on Site’ across all visits.

        Depth of Visit (Visitor Behavior): Depth of visit is a measure of visit quality. A large number of high pageviews per visit suggests that visitors interact extensively with your site. The graph allows you to visualize the entire distribution of visits instead of simply the average pageviews per visit.

        Terms Used By Google Analytics

        Visits vs. Visitors

        Analytics measures both visits and visitors in your account. Visits represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity will be attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes will be counted as part of the original session.

        The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be an additional visit and an additional visitor. Any future sessions from the same user during the selected time period are counted as additional visits, but not as additional visitors.

        Pageviews vs. Unique Pageviews

        A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Analytics tracking code. If a visitor hits reload after reaching the page, this will be counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview will be recorded as well.

        A unique pageview, as seen in the Top Content report, aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.

        Viewing Traffic Reports

        Check out the video below to see report checking in action.


        MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

        Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
        Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
        Reporting Basics – Google Analytics
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        See how easy it is to build your church website!
        Start your 15-day free trial account

        MonMondayMarMarch15th2010 Google Analytics: Why Add it to Your Church Website?
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

        Track your website traffic with detailed reports from Google Analytics.

        Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. It is the most widely used website statistics service, currently in use at around 40% of the 10,000 most popular websites. GA can track visitors from search engines and other websites and direct traffic. GA is designed to be used by both the casual Web administrator to the advanced Web marketer.

        Google Dashboard

        In your general reports, GA will display:
        • number of visitors to your site (within custom date ranges)
        • average pages per visit
        • bounce rate
        • average time visitors are on your site
        • percentage of new visitors
        • traffic sources
        • a list of your most-visited pages
        The more advanced user can create custom reports with an astounding amount of variables.

        How to Add Google Analytics

        Adding Google Analytics to your iMinistries website is as easy as "copy and paste."

        We are excited to offer you the ability to track your websites hits through Google Analytics. Set up is easy and free and the information that Google provides you is very useful.

        1. To begin, you must create a Google account. It is free.
        2. After you create your account, go to Google Analytics.
        3. Login with your new Google account.
        4. At the bottom of the screen, click on "Add a website profile."
        5. Next, enable the first radio button titled Add a Profile for a new domain.
        6. Add your url into the URL area.
        7. Click Finish.
        8. The next page is the important one. Look at the code that is provide and find your Google tracking code. Here is a example:
          Analytics Code
        9. Now, go to your website and log into Site Administration.
        10. Click on Site Controls
        11. Click on Site Preferences
        12. Enter in your Google Analytics Account number. It will be in this format - UA-xxxxxxx-x.
        13. Save
        14. That's it! Your reports should begin to populate after 24 hours.

        MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

        Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
        Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
        How Do I Tag My Links? – Google Analytics
        Free Trial

        See how easy it is to build your church website!
        Start your 15-day free trial account

        MonMondayJanJanuary4th2010 What's the Difference (Between Church Web Content Management Systems)
        byDave McCall Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
        There are many ways for a growing church to put together a website—even a high-quality website. You might consider:
        • Find talented web designers in your church to create a website for you.
        • Find someone technical within your church to set up one of the open source content management systems available.
        • Hire a web designer or web master to create and maintain your website.
        • Contract with a web design firm to design a template and pages.
        • Use a hosted content management system like iMinistries
        • Use a combination of a few of these.
        A hosted church content management system (CMS) is the right choice for most churches. However, we’re aware that there’s a choice between web CMS's. Why choose iMinistries over other CMS's? Why choose us over one of the more established systems available like Joomla or Drupal? Why choose us over the other church-specific web CMS's?

        Should your decision be based on a feature comparison, the available designs, ease of use, available support or the cost?

        The answer is "yes," you need to balance all of these. The system you choose should:
        • Have the features you need.
        • Be able to be designed to fit your image.
        • Be easy enough to use that everyone in your organization can use it.
        • Be supported by people who care about your mission.
        • Be one that you can afford to maintain long term.
        Why choose iMinistries? Because our goal is to strike the perfect balance between these priorities. If you explore us, we believe you will find that we’ve done just that. iMinistries provides:
          • A full set of website features needed by churches and ministries and then some. Powerful enough that Steve, your technical volunteer, will be impressed and able to help you get the most out of the system.
          • The flexibility to implement a wide array of designs, including several free designs. Flexible enough to accommodate even Nate, your fussy volunteer designer.
          • A unified user experience designed with church users in mind. Simple enough to be used by Carol in the front office.
          • Free support from people whose passion is to help ministries reach people for Christ and raise up His disciples. Our team will help you get your site up and running quickly and keep it running. Support enough to keep Joe, your executive pastor, happy with the time line and the up-time.
          • Packages priced to fit your ministry. Affordable enough that Fred, head of your finance committee, will be a fan for life.
            In all honesty, we don’t strive to be the best in any one of these areas—we strive to balance them the best. We think you will agree—so will Steve, Nate, Carol, Joe and Fred. Why not give us a try and find out?


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            MonMondayOctOctober12th2009 Improving Search Results, Chapter 1: The Google Monster
            byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

            Make Your Site More Visible on Google Search Results By Improving Your PageRank.

            How Does Google Determine Search Ranking?

            Many new visitors to your church website find you through search engines. Whether they type in generic terms like “churches in downtown Louisville” or your exact ministry name, you want your website to be the first in lists of search results. To make this a reality, you should know about search engine optimization (SEO).

            Dominate among search engines is Google who utilizes its own system for the order of how websites are listed in search results. Their PageRank formula is a important part of that system.

            Simplified, the formula Google uses to determine whether your ministry is the first site listed when someone enters in a search query that relates to you is this:
            Search Ranking = Relevance x PageRank
            Relevance
            To determine your site’s Relevance, Google looks at your site’s content and compares it with other sites similar to yours, in both quality and quantity. So, for example, if another “church in downtown Louisville” uses those words and phrases less than you do on your site, your Relevance is likely to be higher. If the title of your site’s pages all include your name and someone searches that name, your Relevance will be higher than other sites.

            PageRank
            Google assigns a number from 0-10 (10 being best) to each website to measure its credibility and overall quality. This number is determined primarily by how many other websites link to your site, with links from sites with higher PageRanks counted as much more significant because their links are more valuable. Think of it this way, a job reference from the President carries much more weight than one from the lunch lady.

            Here is a summary of PageRanks and the sites that make them up, from HubSpot.com:
            0-1: New sites; sites with not many other sites linking to it
            2-3:  Sites with minimal links
            4-5:  Popular sites with a fair amount of other sites linking to it
            6:  Very popular sites that have hundreds of links, many of them quality links
            7-10:  Usually media brands (NYTimes.com), big companies, or A-list blogs.
            To find out your PageRank, use one of the free tools below:
            PageRank Checker
            WebSiteGrader

            How to Bump Up Your Google Search Ranking

            Here are a few easy steps you can take you improving your PageRank:
            1. Spell-check the content on your site. Visitors can't find you if you spell Calvary Church “Cavalry Chruch.”
            2. Include words that people might enter in their searches in your content. If your ministry is in Louisville, make sure it says so on your site.
            3. Make sure each page on your site has a title in the top toolbar.
            4. If you have partner ministries, include a page on your site where you link to their sites, and encourage them to do the same. The more sites you can get linking to you, the better.
            5. Be picky about who you link to. Only link to quality sites who update their content regularly.
            6. Update your home page and other pages constantly with fresh content, news items, and events. Use our Widgets Feature to do the work for you.
            7. Sign up for Google Analytics and use it. Using this free tool will let you see traffic to your site and give you insights on how to improve your content.
            8. Link to other content on your site using hyperlinks. In the text of a news item, link to an event so visitors can register. In a blog, link to a photo gallery. These links help balance your PageRank over your whole site.
            9. Take pride in the quality of your content. Avoid duplicate pages and information. Make text clear and brief.
            10. When you link to other pages or sites, use keywords. Instead of writing "click here" and making it a hyperlink, use text that relates to the item you are linking to, like "All Church Picnic Registration."

            Sources for This Blog and Further Reading on SEO

            The Importance of Google PageRank - HubSpot.com
            12 Things to Do to Improve Your Site's Google Page Ranking - Stason.org
            MonMondaySepSeptember14th2009 Bounce Rate and How to Reduce It

            What is Bounce Rate?

            A bounce occurs when a person visits your church website and leaves without visiting any other pages on your site. This is the equivalent to a visitor attending your church and then leaving after they hear your opening prayer. The problem with this is obvious.

            Bounce Rate is a term used in website traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors to a site who "bounce" away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. The formula used to calculate bounce rate is: Bounce Rate = Total Number of Visits Viewing One Page ÷ Total Number of Visits. 

            Just as you want church visitors to stay longer than the first 10 minutes of your service, you want your website visitors to stay on your site long enough to learn about who you are as well as get connected to your ministry. Lowering your Bounce Rate is the key to achieving that goal.

            A high Bounce Rate from any page means that your site's pages don’t give visitors any reason to stay, so making your homepage and other pages as relevant as possible to your visitors is crucial.

            Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate and Keep Visitors on Your Site

            1. Streamline Your Menu
            2. Your menu is the most important tool to navigate your site. Visitors want to find information quickly and easily, so don't bog down your menu with too many choices. Limit your main menu categories to the 6-7 most important, and only include relevant pages (five or less) as sub-categories.

              Use the example menu below as a good rule of thumb:

              • Home
              • About Us
                • Our History
                • Our Mission
                • What We Believe
                • Weekend Services
                • Staff
              • Ministries
                • Men's Ministry
                • Women's Ministry
                • Student Ministry
                • Children's Ministry
                • Small Groups
              • Media
                • Sermons
                • Videos
              • Contact Us
              • My Church

              In a previous blog entry entitled, "Spring Cleaning for your Website," we talked about simplifying a site's menu by combining items and making it easier to navigate by using breadcrumbs--all great advice for helping your users find information.

            3. Add Highlights with Thumbnails
            4. On the sidebar or footer of each of your site's pages, news items, events, and other items is a space to include up to five highlights--links to other content on your site. Adding highlights that relate to the content on each page is an easy way to entice users to explore your website. For example, on the home page, you might include highlights for your "Weekend Services" page, "This Week's Sermon" blog, "Meet the Pastors" event, and "Our Mission" page. (See this help file to learn more about highlights.)

              Include a thumbnail with your highlight to make it "pop" off the page. Read this help file to find out how to add thumbnails to your items.

            5. Add Recent News or Events with Smart Tags
            6. With Smart Tags, you can embed content from your site inside other content. To let your visitors see the latest happenings in your ministry, use Smart Tags to display the most recently added news and upcoming events. Here is an example of a page with events embedded within it.

              You can also embed recent blog entries inside of other pages--so on your senior pastor's staff page, you can include the latest entries from his blog and connect with visitors on a more relational level.

              Learn more about Smart Tags by clicking here.

            7. Create Ads Which Link to Other Pages/Site Features
            8. Ads on your site act to promote the content within. Use flashy images and compelling text to advertise other pages, blogs, photo galleries, or media.

              Have a Podcast of your weekly sermon series? Create and ad which links to it and display it on your home page. Don't make visitors hunt for your features. Lead them there. Click here to learn how to create an ad.

            9. Sign Up for Google Analytics
            10. Utilizing free Google Analytics is an important step in understanding how your site traffic works. Analytics allows you to chart your Bounce Rate on individual pages or site-wide, creates reports that show your hits per day, month, or the change over the course of a year, and tracks clicks on individual links or ads. And that's only the beginning.

              Once you plug your Google Analytics number into your iMinistries website, check out your bounce rates on this page. To learn more about statistics like this and how to use them, read this help file on adding your Google Analytics number to your iMinistries website.

            Sources for This Blog and More Reading on Bounce Rates

            What does Bounce Rate Mean? - Google Analytics
            TueTuesdaySepSeptember30th2008 Browsers: Switch or Upgrade...?
            byTravis Hickox Tagged Church Technology 2 comments Add comment
            We want you to have the best web experience possible. Because of that, we want you to think about the tools that you use when you are online. This post is geared specifically at web browsers.

            Browsers
            Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox (FF), and Safari are the most mainstream browsers out there. The reason for this post is to encourage you to make sure that you are using the latest version of whichever browser you have chosen to use. To be perfectly honest, that comment is directed to anyone who is using IE for a browser, sorry.

            IE doesn't play nice with the web community at large and is slowly beginning to change because people continue to switch. How do I know this? Check out the statistics that are found here at the w3schools website. You can see that users are upgrading to IE 7 from IE 6, but more importantly, users are switching all together to FF or Safari!

            FF and Safari render the text and graphics on your website as they should and adhere to the rules of the Web community.

            Graphics Lesson
            If you really love IE, then stick with it. Know that I will be praying for you. HA! In all seriousness though, the reason why I want to encourage you to update your IE version is because the websites that you visit will look better. This is because IE 7 finally decided to render graphic files with the file extension of PNG.

            Images that you have probably heard of are JPG and GIF. PNGs trump these other formats because they are the best of what JPGs and GIFs have to offer. PNGs will render a gradient (fading from one color to another) without degradation (this is what a JPG does) as well as render a transparent background correctly (that is what a GIF does).

            If you go to a website (with IE 6) and you see a strange box or a graphic that looks completely out of place, this is probably because the designer of the website needs to render a gradient (like a drop shadow on an image), and it needs to sit on top of another graphic without blocking the background image from view (thus needing transparency), so they are using a PNG. BUT...because IE 6 can't figure out what to do with the graphic, it renders the graphic with a whacked out color in the background.

            If you would like to be uber nerdy, you can check out Wikipedia's explanation of JPGs, GIFs and PNGs by going here:
            ThuThursdayJunJune7th2007 How Fast is Your Website?
            byDave McCall Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
            When someone requests a page from your church website, a number of things are happening at the same time.
            • The user's computer checks a domain name server (DNS) server to find your domain.
            • The browser checks its cache to see if it has a copy of your page. If not, it goes to the server and requests the page.
            • When the page is requested from the server, the server does some determination to find the requested page. On an iMinistries site, there are a few steps required to correctly get the right page.
            • Now the browser pulls apart the HTML from the page to see whether or not there's anything else to request. If your page contains any images, stylesheets, javascript, flash or videos, the browser checks its cache to see whether it has a copy of any of these files. If not, the file is requested from the server.
            • The first time a user visits your site, this may mean a significant wait time as each item is downloaded.
            Do you know what a first time visitor to your website has to download? You should.

            Free Trial

            We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

            Create Your Free Trial Account
            We do everything we can to make the parts of your iMinistries website that we control lean and lightweight. We send relatively little HTML through. We include only the necessary javascript files on your site and we do what we can to maintain lightweight CSS files. However, this is only what we control. What about what you control?

            You can easily find out. We would suggest you visit the following site:

            WebSiteOptimization.com

            Enter your site's URL and see the results. Remember, we're living in the Web world. Most users are too impatient to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load. The good news is that much of the content on your page is going to get cached after the user visits the first page of your site, but if you visit your Site Watcher page, you will notice that it isn't uncommon for a user to move on from your site after simply visiting your homepage.

            My advice is that you ask yourself how important each image and flash file you have on your site (especially your home page) is to the overall goal of your site. Without doubt some will be worthy of your user's wait time. It's up to you to try to determine which items aren't.
            MonMondayJunJune26th2006 What RSS is and Why You Should Care
            byDave McCall Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
            What is RSS?

            RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, is a standard created to enable sharing of content across the internet. The goal is to make it easier for people who created internet content to distribute the content.

            There are several ways to "consume" RSS content and different content types are consumed in different ways. Text content is read, audio content is heard, video or image content is seen. The most common way to consume RSS content is using an RSS reader (sometimes called an RSS aggregator). These software applications allow users to consume RSS in a similar way to the way email programs present email. Typically, these applications indicate which items have been read and which have not. There are many very good RSS readers which are distributed free.

            Interestingly, there are a number of other novel applications of RSS. For instance, Podcasting is a technology which uses RSS to distribute audio. Soon we'll start hearing more about videocasting which will distribute video files. Another novel application is to allow sharing between websites. For instance, My Yahoo now allows users to consume any RSS feed on their My Yahoo homepage, putting any RSS content next to the latest headlines, weather, stock prices and horoscopes.

            Why You Should Care?

            Your ministry's website should serve as one gateway to your ministry--connecting people with events and news that will help them get connected. RSS makes that information easier to get to. Users who are already using RSS (and there are a lot of them out there and more each day) may decide to subscribe to your RSS feed using their favorite RSS reader. In this case, as soon as new news or events are added to your site, these readers will know.

            Free Trial

            We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

            Create Your Free Trial Account
            The great news for iMinistries customers is that RSS feeds are already available on your site. Your site's blogs, news and events have feeds already available. It is possible that users of your site are already consuming RSS and staying up-to-date with your ministry.

            Get Started Now

            You can get started right now. How? Follow this link and subscribe to this blog right now.

            For More Information:

            See Wikipedia
            See this listing of RSS Reader applications

            MonMondayJunJune12th2006 How Search Engines Really Work
            byDave McCall Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
            How Search Engines Work

            Search engine ranking is often misunderstood. How does one boost his site's ranking on a search engine?

            For most of the current search engines (Google, Dogpile, MSN) there’s very little you can do. When they find you, you get “indexed." In order to get indexed the first time, your site must have a link from some other site that they have already found.

            The main exception to that rule is Yahoo, to which you can submit your site. We would recommend that you submit to Yahoo. Being listed on Yahoo guarantees that your site will be found by the other major search engines.

            Free Trial

            We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

            Create Your Free Trial Account
            For Google, your rank in the search is determined by a number of factors, but mostly who you "associate with." In this case that means who links to you. The more people who link to your site, the better your ranking will be. Find out more about how Google works by checking out our previous blog on "The Google Monster."

            What does this mean for you?

            Simply put, if you want a good search ranking then you need to keep a great site. People link to great sites. Most importantly, you need interesting and dynamic content. Web users link to sites that they find useful or encouraging.

            Creating online devotionals, journals of thoughts and other candid content will increase the probability that someone will find the information useful. Anything you can add to your site like this will increase your odds of a good search ranking.