bits from bob....
The importance of using the Internet to communicate the message of God's word is often overlooked. I am convinced of the potential of the Internet for providing good Bible study resources, articles, and insights, and for reaching souls for Jesus. I have maintained my website for a little over seven years. About three years ago, T & S Web Design assisted me with a reconstruction of the website. I did not have a "visits counter" on my website before that time, but for the past three years, my visitor count and my page views have consistently increased. To draw new visitors and return visitors to the site, I write regularly, continually post new articles, and seek to appeal to a wide audience. The effort has paid off in increased usage of the website by a variety of visitors from around the world.
The name of a website is important, but content overrides name. In the case of my website (bobyoungresources.com), the site name is not particularly catchy. In fact, it sounds like an individual effort and perhaps less than professional. It has the advantage of being generic and not making any particular claim. It is easy to communicate and easy to remember. The website contains what the name says-resources that I have developed.
Website owners (churches, individuals, and groups) must be cautious in choosing website names. One should try to avoid difficult names which require (and sometimes defy) description. One should make every effort to choose a simple name or abbreviation that is easily remembered and easy to enter. Sharing the website name should be easy without an extended explanation or numerous details. Examples of potentially confusing website names include "and" and various abbreviations of church of Christ (coc, cofc, cc). The importance of a name that is memorable cannot be overemphasized. Be aware also that names can carry hidden (unfavorable) messages, especially in the case of abbreviations.
It is important that a visitor be able to navigate the website with ease. When I decided to have my website professionally redesigned, I thought carefully about how to organize the website so that the content was easily accessible. What categories and subcategories should I include? Having an idea about content and areas of special focus will help drive the design concepts. As mentioned above, after the redesign, the number of visits and page views began to increase. The process of "growing" a website will likely take some time, but eventually, the payoff comes.
Something very important in the success of a website is consistent maintenance of the site with new materials added regularly. A website will attract more visitors with a significant base of materials. (My website now has over 2500 files.) Few visitors will return to sites that are unchanging week after week, month after month. Web content will vary with the purpose of the website. My website depends almost exclusively on written content. Some sites use a lot of pictures. Church sites with a lot of pictures often appeal to the church members or those included in the pictures, but having lots of pictures does not necessarily attract outside visitors to a church site.
Content should be accessible. In the case of my website, the menu bar with its pull down sub-menus accurately reflects the content of the site. It is also important to make it easy for new and return visitors to find new content. I post almost of all of my new content in one place, and afterward move items to the appropriate location on the site.
Some web development programs and formats allow the author to identify key words. Fortunately, most bots, spiders and crawlers read the content of the pages, including PDF pages, so this is less important than previously. Writing material that includes key words, especially those one expects to be included in searches, is helpful in attracting visitors to the site through search engines.
How do I attract visitors? Should I pay for links?
Attracting visitors occurs in several ways. Some sites are linked through Facebook or Twitter accounts, so that website owners constantly call attention to the website. Although this strategy can increase website traffic, I seldom refer to my website on my Facebook page.
Concerning paying for links and visibility, this is a personal preference. I have chosen not to do so and not to accept advertising. Ultimately, visitors come for the content, and advertising and links simply provide a first awareness. If visitors like what they find, they will return. If not, they will become one-time visitors.
What is a good visitor count or page view count?
What represents success will vary between websites. Each website owner should define the purpose and goals of the site and understand what represents success. For a time I served as webmaster for the church where I was ministering, and we were pleased to have about 1500 visits per year after we relaunched the church website with a new design. Most visitors were members of the local church and accessed prayer lists and other current information. Much of the site was unchanging with only a few "changeable" pages that provided current information. The visitor count suggested that on average about 20% of the congregation were weekly visitors to the site.
I have also served as webmaster for a missionary organization with an average annual visitor count of about 5000. Both of these sites (church and mission effort) were designed to provide information to members or supporters with generally static information and few changes and updates. Websites that are basically unchanging or have minimal changes will attract fewer visitors, but the basic purpose is having the information available to those interested.
When visitors come to the site and are counted, it is difficult to ascertain whether visitors are unique or repeat visitors, since visitor counts depend on the method or point of access. Four visits from a certain Tulsa DSL company can represent four different subscribers to the Tulsa DSL service, or one visitor who is returning multiple times. Easier to count are the countries from which visitors come--most months my country count is near 100. On my website, page views number about 3-4 times the visitor count, meaning that each visitor on average accesses 3-4 pages before leaving the site. Of course, some visitors access more pages, and some less.
A recent report in "Good News" magazine (published at Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City) featured a Christian website with an annual visitor count of about 75,000 with slightly over 250,000 page views. The website mentioned in the report has a goal of 100,000 visitors in 2011.
During the twelve-month period from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, my website had just over 134,000 visitors and slightly over 346,000 page views. My goal for 2011 is to consistently have 15,000 visitors per month. My 2012 goal is a minimum of 180,000 visits with at least 500,000 page views. This suggests that I must work to increase visitor count, but equally important is providing intra-website links that will increase page views. [Update: for the six-month March to August 2011 period, visits totaled 97,000 and page views 233,000.]
It is Worth the Effort!
A constant, continuing effort to provide current, up-to-date materials of interest can reach out to a large segment of our world. I recently received correspondence from a pastor in Finland wanting to use my small group material for a study in his church. This occurs repeatedly, from virtually every part of the globe, with numerous contacts and studies from a number of different religious groups.