Advantages of a blog format
I get asked on a regular basis, “Should we have a blog on our church website?” My usual answer is a helpful “maybe!” because I often see outdated or underused church blogs.
Blogs are great, if they’re well used. They provide content to your readers in a shareable format, which is usually more informal than the rest of your website content. Adding news or blog items to your site is also a sustainable form of content, as they can be updated fairly regularly.
But this regularity is a double-edged sword. If you don’t keep up a consistent posting schedule, visitors to your blog may get the impression that your website is out of date, which may discourage return visits, as they’re not finding any timely information.
Nevertheless, whilst frequent posting is important, this shouldn’t be at the expense of your content’s quality. You shouldn’t post just for the sake of posting. Low quality posts can be just as likely to deter your readers.
So how can you make the most of your blog, while avoiding the pitfalls? Here are some thoughts:
Don’t Rush In
Before committing to a blog on your church website, make sure you’ve spent time thinking about your objectives; what do you want to achieve with this communication channel? Who do you want to reach, and what kind of content will be best for this? Answering these questions (write your answers down) will help to maintain your focus in the weeks and months after your blog launches.
I can’t overstate the importance of a content plan for your blog. This can take the form of a calendar or you can use a project management tool. However you organize your schedule, it will help you plan for the months ahead. With this in mind, I recommend having a couple of months’ worth of content planned before you launch your blog, perhaps even writing some of the content. This will mean you’re ahead from the start, so that when you launch, you can start to think about content for the next few months, as opposed to the coming weeks.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel—once you’ve decided on the main types of content you’ll be producing, you may find it helpful to set out some templates.
This could be as simple as a few headings or bullet points which serve as reminders of what needs to be included.
For example, for a blog post designed to promote an event, you could use the following as a starting point:
- Introduction (including who the event is for)
- Key details about the event (time, date, location, cost)
- Next steps (how to book or prepare)
- Encouragement to share the blog to invite friends
- Featured image related to the event
For each type of post, you may also wish to set a target word count. Event reviews, for example, may have a target of 800 words, while event promotions will likely be closer to 300-500 words. Over time, you can review and refine these counts and templates as you learn which content and formats resonate with your audience. More on that shortly!
If you’re short of ideas for blog posts, there are plenty of resources out there. Here are just a couple (but if you search ‘Blog Content Ideas’ you can’t go too far wrong!):
- The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas
- 52 Types of Blog Posts That Are Proven To Work
- How to Post a Sermon Online and Reach an Audience
- Why Every Pastor Should Blog
Sharing the Load
You don’t have to be a one-man-band. Maintaining an effective church blog is much easier when it’s a collaborative process.
When approaching the blog as a small team, online planning tools become even more useful, as your collaborators can see and contribute to your content schedule.
Even if you’re the only one with technical know-how for formatting and publishing the blog, there are plenty of areas where you can share the load with other volunteers. When creating your content plan, it can be helpful to have input to the ideation process. Of course, you can delegate the writing of blog posts to other people, too. You could also benefit from another pair of eyes proofreading or editing your content.
Let Your Content Shine
Blog posts may be primarily a text format, but that doesn’t mean they have to look boring! Consider your website typography to ensure the text is presented attractively and clearly. Use headings to break up sections and line spaces to break up longer paragraphs, noting that it’s harder to read text on a screen than on paper.
Use images to add variety and color to your blog. Build up a library of your church photos for easy reference. Your content plan can help here, ensuring awareness of upcoming content so you can plan ahead to take photos at your groups and events, as we thought about in this recent Church Juice article.
Share and Review
Finally, your blog is only doing it’s job if people are reading your content!
Some people will come across your blog from browsing your site, but most of your traffic will come from sharing posts on social media—so ensure this is integrated with your process for each post you publish. To encourage further traffic, ask members of your congregation to share the post on their own social media accounts, too.
In order to review the effectiveness of your efforts, use your website monitoring tools, like Google Analytics. You can filter to show only blog posts, and compare the number of visits they’re getting over time, and how much your social sharing affects these figures!