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Is your blog bearing fruit?

OK, so you have started blogging for your church. Now what? What results do you want? Are you getting those results? How should you measure your blog's success?

What were your unique objectives when you started your blog? To communicate more intimately with members? To attract visitors? Did you set weekly or monthly goals for how many visitors you wanted to attract? Did you determine what you wanted visitors to do after reading the blog?

Many bloggers consider their blogs unsuccessful if no one posts comments. Certainly, comments offer blog readers a way to engage with you, and interaction could be one of your goals. However, comments are neither the only nor the best measure of how well a blog is doing. Receiving few or no comments doesn't mean people aren't reading or that you haven't "spoken" to them in some way.

For most blogs, a greater measure of success is the number of readers. Are the numbers steadily increasing as you build a following? Free and easy-to-use tools, such as Google Analytics, will show how many visitors—both "unique" and "frequent"—come to your blog on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. Google Analytics provides all kinds of information, including but not limited to, data on where your traffic is coming from, where your visitors go after reading your page, and what keywords (search terms) they used to arrive at your blog. Evaluate what you want to know; then review trends. Is readership up each quarter? What entries or topics draw the most interest?

If one of your blog goals is to attract a broad range of readers through search engines, strive to use appropriate keywords when you write. In techie terms, this is "search-engine-optimization (SEO) writing." For example, if your blog talks about your ministries, one of which is a food pantry, think about what potential search engine users will type. They are more likely to type "food donations" and "your community name" than "church ministries" and "food." Therefore, it would be more helpful to write about what the ministry does and where it does it than to use the word "ministry" repeatedly.

If you think like search-engine users and include their words in your blog, eventually you will move up in the search-engine rankings. Free tools such as Rank Tracker will show how you are progressing up the Google page ranks.

One likely goal for your blog is to build a relationship with your visitors. Offer the opportunity to opt-in to receive your e-mail newsletter. This gives you another chance to engage with the visitor and to measure your blog's success in terms of how many visitors want to hear more from you. You can set "opt-in plugs" so your church office can measure how many e-newsletter subscriptions come directly from your blog.

Send blog traffic to your website. Evaluate how well you connect to your website in your blog. See what traffic comes to your website from the blog.

Finally, recognize the value you cannot quantify. Do members feel more connected and updated because of your blog? Do they seem more comfortable talking about your church to potential members? A key goal of your church's blog may be to foster member evangelists.

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