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Google

Google Products

Google services

Google offers a lot of great, and free, products and services to help you with your online connections and productivity. I often have questions about how I feel about Google’s privacy policies. The short answer is that I’m ok with Google reading my email and sending me target ads at the top of my gmail account or tailoring my search results based on other sites I’ve visited. And I’m ok with that because they have always been upfront and honest that they are tracking me. In other words, “I’d rather be with the devil I know, than the devil I don’t.” Spend time learning what Google has to offer, and if you like what you see and have read their privacy policy and are ok with it, read on!

Google search                 

I’m sure I don’t need to share statistics with you about how many millions of people use Google.com to search. I’d like for you to think about how you can change what people FIND when they search on Google for anything that may lead them to you.
Remember that a church website is about the community reaching out to you. And if they are new to town (or new to looking for a church), they are going to start in Google search.
If you haven’t yet, try it yourself. It would be best if you could get to a public computer where either the cookies and tracking is disabled or enough of a mix of the community that the results will not be skewed. In other words, if you type in “Hillcrest Baptist Church” on your own computer, it’s going to show up as the first item because your personal computer will have record that you have been to that site, many times.
  • Type in variations of your name – with and without the denomination listed. Sometimes include the city, neighborhood, or state. Try searching for parts of the domain name (maybe they remembered seeing your domain name somewhere but couldn’t remember the whole thing).
  • What would be other words you want them to plug in that would lead to you? For example, “child friendly activities in Raleigh, NC” or “help for depression” or “ways to meet new people in Tyler, TX”. You get the point…people aren’t always searching for a CHURCH when what they want is to find you.
    • Of course, the only way you could possibly be anywhere in the Google search results is if you literally have those words typed somewhere on your site. If you want people to find you under “diverse worship experience”, then you have to say those words somewhere for Google to search over. So make a list of all the key phrases that define your congregation, and make sure they are on your site somewhere.
  • How can you improve your standing on search results (i.e. front page, top 3)? Google has a top secret algorithm to determine the results. For-profit businesses spend a lot of money on this very question, so to say there is a simple and easy solution is false. However, you can make sure you are at least playing the game correctly. Google is looking for sites that it considers active, integrated and “web-like.”
    • This means your site needs to have hits. Of course, that can be a catch-twenty-two. How can I get more hits if people can’t find me? Make sure your website url is found EVERYWHERE. Put it on all of your print pieces, include it in email signatures, put it on your Facebook pages (and profiles), include as Twitter profile, share on your blog. Send it out – sometimes by itself, sometimes as part of another story or status update. If you advertise your church in some other way (i.e. newspaper or magazine ad), be sure your website is included.
    • Make sure your site has links going out to other websites (like on a partner page) and that other websites have links going in to yours. Some of this you can generate (Facebook page, Twitter, blog), but you should also call or email partner organizations and ask if they would include your website somewhere on their site.
  • Can you see the “online connections” pattern? More activity begets more activity. The more you are online, the more connections you make.
  • Claim your Google Places. When you search for any business, one of the results is always the Google map with the pin over the location. You own that pin. In fact, Google wants you to own in. They want their results to be as accurate as possible. If all the businesses in the world confirm their location and information, then Google succeeds. So claim your pin, update your information, and then get some folks to write a few reviews to go with your location.

Google Services

Google offers more free services than any other online organization I know of. And I have tried almost all of them and would highly recommend them to you. Here are a few highlighted that I think are especially helpful for ministers.

  • Alerts – Google alerts allows you to receive email notifications for search words – from everything on the web, to just in the news, on a blog, in a video, etc. Top words you should be getting alerts about: your church name and your head staff. You do have to have a Gmail account to receive the emails.
  • gMail – the best email system, IMHO (in my humble opinion). Don’t assume that gmail is just for personal use either. You can use the gmail business solutions and get all of the gmail (and other Google services) functions with your own domain email address (i.e. natalie@hillcrestbaptist.com but it would use gmail as the platform).
  • Google calendar – while no one has perfected the online calendar yet, Google is pretty close. And what I love best about it is easy integration – with other calendars, on my phone, on a website, and as a printed document.
  • Google Ads – there may be times when you want to advertise your church. And while it’s true that people often skip over the ads on the side or at the top of their Google search results, they still get an impression of your church name. The beauty of Google ads is that you only pay for the click and you can determine how much you want to spend. Give it a try sometime for the next big, city-wide event you hold to attract members.
  • Google profile – if you do use Google products like gmail, GooglePlus, etc, then make sure you’ve set up your Google profile as well.
  • Google Voice – I have a Google voice number in order to have a local number here in Mobile. When we moved, my cell phone was pretty well known among friends, family and clients alike. So rather than making sure everyone got the update, I just signed up for a local Google voice number that I can give out to people who live in Mobile. Plus I get special notifications and a transcript of the voice mail when people call. And even if I was away from my cell phone, I could still access my Google voicemail.
  • Google Analytics – Google analytics is still the best web analytics tool out there, and it’s free! There is no excuse for you to not be tracking and viewing your hits to your website.

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