There is no question that the Internet has become a major source of acquiring information, about topics and about people. As a result, many pastors are discovering that it behooves them to have a sub-stantial presence on the Internet, a Five Star Footprint, if you would, that helps to further the church they serve and the ministry that it offers. With that thought in mind, I have put pen to paper to help those individuals who do, in fact, want to accomplish this particular goal.
The first thing a pastor needs to do is decide is whether they want to be “covert” or “overt” when it comes to the Internet. If, as you are reading this, you decide that your decision is to be “covert” you need not bother reading any further, as this article is being drafted for those individuals who want a higher profile when it comes to the Internet. If you have not yet made this decision, a major determining factor is this: If you believe that many people choose a church because of how they feel about the Senior Pastor, you will definitely want to develop an overt persona, to ensure that you are not a “mystery” to potential new members.
It must also be understood that, like it or not, the Internet will contain information about you. Understanding this basic fact is pastor and Church Marketing 101. The question is, if people check you out online what do you want them to find? Do you want them discover a random jumbalaya that Google assembles, or a concentrated effort that you have orchestrated and put together? If you opt for the latter, what you will be doing is developing your own online profile rather than relying on what Google might come up with. The thing to remember is, if you leave it up to Google , what viewers see might be positive, benign, or adverse. Google doesn’t filter the material, they just display it. But effective internet marketing doesn't leave these important matters to chance.
My contention is that if you are going to be “overt” you might as well be ubiquitous as well! So, to create a Five Star Footprint you will want to begin with the Search Engines, of which there are three main ones: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Google is the dominant engine, and in that channel there are several “Google Searches,” and you will want to make sure that you show up in all of them.
1. Tackle the Search Engines, Google First - Your first step is to show up in a “general” Google Search, which displays everything on the Internet. There is alsoan Image Search, a Video Search, a Local Search (known as “Maps”), a News Search and lesser searches such as Books, Blogs and so on. As a result, your number one priority in establishing your Five Star Footprint is to “tackle” Google. Once you have done that, you can then concentrate on Yahoo, Bing, and other places.
To begin the process, “Google” yourself and see what shows up. In doing this, use every variation of your name as possible: Rev. Bob Smith; Rev. Robert Smith; Rev. Robert E. Smith; Pastor Bob Smith; Pastor Robert Smith; Pastor Robert E. Smith and so forth. Once you determine what shows up for you in these searches you need to identify the items you feel positive about. For example, if GOOGLE displays your FACEBOOK page and you like your FACEBOOK page, this is a web property you need to concentrate on developing further. You do this by adding content to that web property first, then finding ways to build backlinks to it. Make this your pattern: Concentrate on developing web properties that already show up in a Google, Yahoo or Bing search that you have control over. They are low-hanging fruit that you can more easily influence.
2. Take on the Social Networks - Other channels where you will want to make sure you position yourself by developing a presence include: creating aFACEBOOK Page and possibly a FACEBOOK Profile; make sure you have an account on LINKEDIN, that you have a personal website, a Twitter Account, areon YouTube and possibly Vimeo. Once you have opened all of these Accounts and continue to add content to them they will most liekly show up as well on a GOOGLE search of your name. If you don’t currently have any videos you need to start doing them - - on your sermons, or a “Scriptural Seconds” series. Videos can get you listed in a both a general set of search results as well as Video Search resuls.
3. Populate the Web with Your Photos - Displaying photos of yourself is another good way to develop a Five Star Footprint. If you don’t have a Flicker Account get one as soon as possible. Upload your photos so that they are “optimized” to your name. You accomplish this by entitling the files “PastorRyanSmith_DesMoinesIowa” rather than “img9356.jpg". You can also get into FLICKER and write a Title and a short paragraph about each photo. Remember, GOOGLE “interprets” text, not images, so once you upload your images, give it a proper file name, proper title (Pastor Smith Preaching in Pedusky), and description. Then, if someone searches “Pastor Smith,” GOOGLE will potentially bring up the photo in the display results. You can also put photos on your Blog (make sure they are titled properly too!) and on your FACEBOOK Page. Be sure to back link from Flicker, FACEBOOK, and your Blog to your website. By posting and optimizing your videos and photos onto the web in these various places, like Facebook Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, etc, you are providing the internet with images that you want people see, rather than leaving matters to chance.
4. Move into Advanced Footprinting - Once you've begun to get your web properties, social networks, videos and images populating the web on searches for your name, you can move into advanced areas of branding and footprinting. These would include things like regular blogging using a ministry blog or premier blogging service, Facebook posting, tweeting, article submissions, link buidling, social bookmarking, local listings, and so on. You might even graduate to targeting keywords beyond the variations of your name, or usingonline marketing tools like SEOMoz, aHREFs, SheerSEO and others. In many of these cases, you may even want to retain the professional services of a non profit consultant, like Pathmaker Marketing.
You may want to take a few moments and Google the following individuals to see how they have established their Five Star Footprint. Evaluate each person to see what is showing up. In some cases, you might be able to replicate their paths to success. The first, Dr Michael D Evans, totally dominates “page one” rankings on Google Search, Google Images, and Google Video, which, obviously, is a very good position to be in! But others do too, and you can as well, with some time and effort taken to get yourself there.
The importance of establishing a Five Star Footprint, as we previously mentioned, is that it allows you to control what people find when they Google your name, rather than leaving what they discover to chance. As people rely on the Internet more and more to help them make decisions of where to go and what to see, ensuring that you have a positive presence online is not only a good idea, it is a veritable must!
Disclaimer: The process above can go quickly and smoothly for some pastors who have uncommon or unusual names. For those with common names - ones that many other high profile people share - the process will be more protracted and results deferred. Don't get discouraged by this. Most of these results take time to developed, meaning 6-12 months or longer to get establish a pervasive, ubiquitous Five Start Footprint developed. If you want my personal assistance in this regard, call me at my office at 623-322-3334 or Skype me at Pathmaker.Marketing