Using Google Analytics and Search Console to Gain Actionable Insights for Your Church Website

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Your church website is a funnel that brings new visitors to your church in-person. To increase the number of in-person visitors resulting from the funnel, there are two general areas in which you can improve: 1) Generate more “new visitor” traffic to your church website; 2) Do a better job of your website converting “new visitor” website traffic into in-person visits. In this episode, Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng will discuss two aspects to help you evaluate your traffic: Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Google Search Console helps you evaluate where your organic, “new visitor” traffic is coming from, and how to get more. Google Analytics helps you evaluate what “new visitor” traffic is doing once they reach your website, and how to improve your website to convert more new visitors into in-person visits.
For more information, visit Missional Marketing’s page, and be sure to download the pdf “The Top 5 Questions You Should Ask Google Analytics & Search Console About Your Church Website”.
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Katie Allred:                           Welcome to the Church Communications Podcast. I’m Katie Allred.

Kenny Jahng:                         And I’m Kenny Jahng.

Katie Allred:                           We want to help you become a better church communicator.

Kenny Jahng:                         And this is the place we’re going to talk about strategies and best practices for your church.

Katie Allred:                           Let’s get started.

Kenny Jahng:                         Hey folks, welcome to today’s episode. Katie, I am so glad that we’re back at it at the microphones. How are you doing?

Katie Allred:                           I’m doing great. How are you doing?

Kenny Jahng:                         It’s been a joy. One of the things that during our break between episodes we were able to get together in Nashville for a conference. And one of the things that I thought was great was meeting some of our community members. Wasn’t that fun?

Katie Allred:                           It’s the best. Meeting church communicators that have been in the group for such a long time … I got to meet Patty Sheeran, and it’s so happy to me because I’m like, “Oh finally.” Because I’ve known Patty online for so long so it’s really nice to actually make the connections of the face to face.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes, absolutely. This is one of the fun things as we travel around the country, meeting up, we have each and every one of you. I feel that should be our bucket list, traveling to all 50 states and having a meetup to meet everybody in the group. But in the meantime, we can’t get together, we use these virtually mediated mediums podcasting to connect and learn together. So today, Katie, what are we going to talk about on the podcast episode today?

Katie Allred:                           So today we’re talking about using Google Analytics and the search console to gain actionable insights for your church.

Kenny Jahng:                         Whoa. You’re smart.

Katie Allred:                           No, you’re smart, Kenny.

Kenny Jahng:                         Well it’s actually a very, very important topic. I feel it’s one of those things where people try to go surface level and then don’t take that next step. And if you just take that one or two extra steps into the water in terms of Google Analytics, in terms of the search console that Google gives you, the return on investment is huge. Right, Katie?

Katie Allred:                           Right. So Kenny, can you tell me what Google Analytics actually is?

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, so we talked about analytics. Analytics is just a fancy word for data, right? And so everybody has a website today. What you want to do is understand how it’s being used, who’s using it, when people are using it, et cetera. And so Google offers a free software or SAS product that is called Google Analytics. So it’s completely free to everybody. And you just need to install a couple of snippets of code on every page of your site. If you have a WordPress site, they’ve got plugins that make it really easy. There’s not much coding involved. Google has something called a tag manager, another product that makes it really easy, no coding involved. But basically once you install it, you are able to then see just this treasure chest of data. Literally what pages on your website are being seen, the pathway they’re going through your website, where they’re coming from. And then you can make decisions. I think that’s one of the I think fun parts that geek out on is to look at how people are using your site and then making some of those critical decisions.

Katie Allred:                           What I love that Google Analytics really did for me, when I worked at a church, we actually had analytics meetings every month just to talk about what was being the most viewed content on our website, and then what was being viewed the least. And what I loved is that it gave me some ammunition to take to meetings to say, “Yes, I know that you really want this page about the food ministry on our website, but I’ve only had two people go to it in the last year. So clearly we don’t really need this whole thing built out on the website because people aren’t going to it.” Right?

Katie Allred:                           Or maybe you’ve been doing a daily devotional for years and your church, the leadership loves it because they’re thinking the church is reading it, but you find out that only 10 people are really benefiting from it out of a congregation of several thousand. And you’re like, “Okay, maybe we shouldn’t be putting all this work into something that only a few people are consuming. We should probably be putting it into something else.” So it just gives you some data that you can actually use. So do you all know what the difference is between data and information?

Kenny Jahng:                         Information and data. What is the difference?

Katie Allred:                           Okay, so data is raw. So data is just a bunch of numbers honestly. So without processing the data and analyzing the data, you don’t get information. So information is readable data for humans. So that’s the difference. I teach marketing research. And so this is something that was like, “Oh, okay. So data is one thing, but information is actually another.” So anyway, you can get a lot of good data from Google Analytics, but it’s up to you to humanize that data and make it information that is actionable.

Kenny Jahng:                         Let’s talk about some of the data that you get out of it. So there’s a couple of basics that I think everyone should zero in on first, right? First is what we call the bounce rate. Bouncy, bouncy. What’s a bounce rate, Katie? Can you tell us?

Katie Allred:                           So when they bounce, they’re like, I’m out of here. So a bounce rate is essentially I have left the page. So it’s figuring out the rate is how many people are leaving a page, how many people are coming to a page and then leaving the entire website because of that page. And so you want your bounce rate to be really low. And so you’re trying to figure out what pathway are these people going and is there not a call to action on this page? Are they just simply leaving? There’s nothing else for them to do past this point. So the point of making a website is to keep people on that website for as long as possible. And of course sometimes your website is purely informational and I get that, but you can always lead people to another location.

Katie Allred:                           So it’s really important that you create a call to action on every single page so that people don’t bounce or don’t leave. But what I think about too when I’m making ministry websites is I always want each page just to have the who, the what, the when and the where and how. So if it doesn’t have those things, I’m like, no wonder people don’t know what to do. And then they also need a call to action, one direct clear call to action on every single page. So if it’s a children’s ministry page, you need a call to action to sign up for some event that’s coming up in the children’s ministry or to plan a visit or to learn more about it. There has to be some kind of clear call to action that people understand I am supposed to do this next.

Kenny Jahng:                         Well, what’s great about Google Analytics is it helps you understand if your call to actions are being followed through upon, right? Is what you’re asking the people to do something that they’re actually doing? And so there, there’s a term called conversion goal. It’s not religious conversion. Katie, share a little bit about what conversion really means in this case.

Katie Allred:                           We should have conversion goals though. If your church isn’t converting people, maybe you need to work on that. But, okay, so conversion goal on a website is basically taking people from point A to point B, right? We want them to actually register for an event or we want them to plan a visit. And so we can do this kind of conversion goal where we set up these pieces of code that tell us, “Hey, this person went from here and they finish this form here. And so we have converted a person.” Not converted them yet into Christianity probably, but we have converted them at least into our system. So that is what a conversion goal is.

Kenny Jahng:                         Nice. Now, outside of the actual analytics of the behavior of the people on your site, Google offers another tool that really helps you optimize your website, right? So we’re not talking about the actual behavior, we’re actually talking about the site itself. It’s called Google Search Console. Katie, can you share with us a little bit about how church communicators should really think about it as a first step if they’ve never heard about the Google search console product? It’s just like Google Analytics. But what can it tell you about your church website?

Katie Allred:                           So the Google Search Console, what it does, it’s a free service, again. So Google Analytics, totally free. Google Search Console is basically for web masters. It allows them to index their websites. So to check the indexing status of their site and to optimize the visibility of their website. So if you need to re-index your site on Google, Google search console allows you to do that.

Kenny Jahng:                         Nice. It is, I would say probably the second thing you should be installing. I think Google Analytics is first. Search Console, second. There’s another product called Tag Manager. I think that’s another thing that you got to get in there. But would you agree it’s one of the top three or four things that you should be signing up for for your church website?

Katie Allred:                           For sure. You should definitely … Okay. You got to get Google Analytics set up, you got to get Google Search Console set up. Then I recommend too setting up Bing. There’s several other search consoles. So don’t just stop at Google. Look for the other ones. Bing has actually become a major one. So I wouldn’t leave Bing out. And then you should also install Facebook Pixel, right?

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes, Facebook Pixel’s a whole other episode, but basically it’s free and you don’t even need to advertise or spend money to benefit from the data and then get some information about the behavior of the people coming to your site, et cetera.

Katie Allred:                           Right.

Katie Allred:                           Have you ever wondered why people go to your church website and what they typically do once they’re on it? As they say, knowledge is power and you have the power to find out today through Google Analytics.

Kenny Jahng:                         Well, but ministry leaders don’t understand how to use Google Analytics, so the experts, our friends over at Missional Marketing have been great. We teamed together. We put together a PDF that reveals the top five questions you should ask Google Analytics and Google Search Console about your website.

Katie Allred:                           You can easily download that powerful PDF today for free. All you have to do is go to missionalmarketing.com/five. Slash five. Okay. Spelled out. That’s missionalmarketing.com/five. That’s the word, five, at IBE.

Kenny Jahng:                         That’s great. There’s a couple other things that I think people get caught up on slightly. How much traffic your site gets. Right? And so can we just talk about some of those things that Google Analytics and search console helps you with in terms of the traffic? What’s one metric they should be looking at in terms of the number of visitors to your site and to any given page?

Katie Allred:                           You know, I feel like the first thing you should definitely look at is returning visitors versus new visitors. So how many people to your site in the last year have been returning versus new? I would be suspect to say that I bet that you are going to have more new than you will returning. And so that makes you have to think differently about your website because your website isn’t for returning, it’s not for the people in your congregation. You’re going to soon find out it’s really for the people in your community who are looking to get involved in your church. So that makes you think differently. Two, another thing that’s going to make you think differently is it will also tell you how many people are viewing your website on a desktop versus mobile.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes.

Katie Allred:                           I’m going to bet that it’s probably 70/30 and that it is going to soon be 80/20 mobile. Okay.

Kenny Jahng:                         Mobile. Let’s just get that straight. Let’s get that clear, Katie. Right? The majority of people visiting your website today probably is mobile. It’s on a mobile phone. It’s not on a laptop.

Katie Allred:                           So if your website is not optimized for mobile use, it needs to be. So whoever your web designer is, you need to contact them. You can contact us. We would love to help make your website more mobile friendly. But they are going to be using it on the phone. They’re going to be scrolling on their phone, looking at your website. So that’s another big thing that I like to look at. And then the next thing I like to look at is what’s the content and what’s the content that they’re going to the most? And we kind of just discussed that.

Kenny Jahng:                         And that’s where we’d go back to the bounce rate, right? The intents of your content for the audience and the audience that actually is coming new versus returning visitors. The bounce rate is going to help you understand if you are providing and presenting content that’s relevant. And just to give you a rule of thumb, I think in my experience, 25 to 40 percent bounce rate is pretty good. That middle range is that I think the 40 to 50, 55 percent range. And then if you’re higher than 50 percent, if you’re in the 70 percent bounce rate or higher than 70 percent bounce rate, that means something’s wrong with your content. It’s not solving a problem. It’s not attracting the people and holding them there, right?

Kenny Jahng:                         If it’s 70 percent or more, if 80 percent of the people come to your website and click back or close the browser and leave within the first couple seconds, that means your site’s not engaging, right? And so that’s one of the things that I think is really important. Unless they got what they want and then there’s this thing called a CTR, right? That’s one of the things that Google Analytics provides us. Katie, can you share a little bit about CTRs and what that actually stands for?

Katie Allred:                           Yes. It’s a click through rate. You have click through rates on your emails too. And historically, click through rates are low, so I don’t want you to be discouraged by that at all. But it’s essentially-

Kenny Jahng:                         How low, Katie? Let’s talk about numbers.

Katie Allred:                           So if you’re on MailChimp or something, if you’re using email for an example, it’s going to be like three percent. And honestly, if you get more than three … If you’re getting 10%, you’re doing great. So don’t feel like it has to be extremely high. It’s really for it to be kind of honestly, pretty low. You’re probably doing well if you’re getting in the range of three to ten percent.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, absolutely. I think if you just think about your own daily habits in your inbox and just scrolling through all the emails, you’re not abandoning your email app and clicking through every single email, right? It’s a very low percentage that you actually follow through with the call to action on any given email in your inbox. It’s the same thing when you’re sending out emails, your click through rates are going to be low. Now, you have to pay attention to them and your job is to really raise that. The higher that you are able to get, that means you’re providing radically relevant content to the audience. You’re delivering something that they want. So I think that’s pretty good.

Kenny Jahng:                         Overall, I think some of the stuff on Google Analytics, Katie, can be very overwhelming for a lot of people. I think it’s a reason why a lot of churches don’t actually … They might have it installed I think.

Katie Allred:                           But they’re not going to get it.

Kenny Jahng:                         Probably more than 50% of websites that have Google Analytics installed, people are not really doing anything with it. As we close out the show, just can you just give this … Frame it for that type of church. They have a website, they have analytics installed. They might have Google Search Console. What should the expectations be? Should they be spending 10 hours a week, one hour a week? Should they be hiring somebody to do it? I would love for you to help give you some guardrails for people just starting to get into this stuff.

Katie Allred:                           I think we really worked best when … We took a break from doing this at our church for awhile and I really think we’ve benefited more from actually having a meeting about it. So I really do recommend just have one meeting per month and just sit down with your team and look at it as a team. And you feel like, I have no idea what I’m looking. There’s so many free courses on Google Analytics, on how to read Google Analytics. There’s a million YouTube videos out there about how you can get insight from Google Analytics. So don’t let it scare you, but definitely I would get together as a team and just look at it. Because as a team you can see you can’t argue with the data. So what is great is that you can be like, “Okay, clearly this is working and this isn’t working. And we can make calls about things because of this.” So I think getting together at least once a month, I’m not saying doing it every single year, I mean every single day. But I think doing it once a month is really good and very beneficial and will probably just confirm some things that you have been feeling and it will help you not to have feelings, but to have action. To have data. And so that way you don’t have to be angry at someone about it.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah. One of the things that … I totally agree with you. If it’s not on your schedule, you’re never going to do it. And I think you should put something very short, whether it’s a 15, 20, 30 minute, if you have an hour a month, put it on the calendar a month. Maybe it’s an every other month thing, but it’s something that you should be looking at periodically. And even more so as we become much more digital in everything that we do.

Kenny Jahng:                         Katie, one of the things that I appreciate is that we were able to sit down and recently brainstorm with our friends over at Missional Marketing. Five questions that people can go over in that meeting. And I just wanted to just throw them out there so that people get a sense of what we actually do in these meetings. So the first question is just is our organic search traffic going? Is it up and to the right? If our traffic is not, if it’s going down and less people are discovering our site and come to our site, that’s a problem. And so Google Analytics is great to just show those search trends.

Kenny Jahng:                         The second one is what are those who discover our church, what are they actually searching for? How do they actually find us? Keywords and things that. That’s what Analytics is really good for. So if you’re church is known for say your celebrate recovery ministry and everyone’s Googling celebrate recovery with your city name, you might then … And this is what you do with information, not data. You might then build out more pages or resources for that subset of your community that’s looking for celebrate recovery type of ministry things. Those are the types of things that you can actually find out in Analytics. The other one is how often do people click the search results when given the opportunity? That’s a really good question. What types of searches are we not receiving traffic for that other people are searching for that we should be ranking for? There’s definitely in the search-

Katie Allred:                           Like churches in this area.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, absolutely. So for example, a missional Baptist church would want to exclude missional so that queries such as missional Baptist, missional church are filtered out of the results. So you want to make sure it’s localized churches near me or the church in your city. Those types of things. So that’s the type of question. And the last question that we typically ask is what pages on our website are working to actually get people? What serves as that welcome mat? The homepage is no longer the front door of your website because of Google and all that kind of stuff. So what pages of your church website are serving as that landing page? And then how are they performing? What’s going on with those pages that people are finding to enter into your site? Basically, what side doors or windows of your house are people entering into and how’s that working?

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. Like is it the children’s ministry page?

Kenny Jahng:                         [crosstalk 00:20:34] pay attention to that.

Katie Allred:                           It very well could be the children’s ministry page because people are looking for events and things to do with their children. So if that’s the case, then you need to put more information on your children’s ministry page than you were previously putting. Maybe even information about Sunday morning, just services in general.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yes, absolutely. So we were fortunate. We’ve gotten the guys over at Missional Marketing to actually give some guidance to those five questions. There’s a PDF that we pulled together. Katie, can you share where people can find that free download so that anyone that wants to put that review meeting on the calendar for their website, they get a sense of here’s the skeleton, here’s a jumping off point, a starting point to have the discussions when you’re looking at Analytics and Search Console data.

Katie Allred:                           Sure. So the PDF is called the top five question questions you should ask Google Analytics and Search Console about your website. So if you want to see it, it’s at missionalmarketing.com/five.

Kenny Jahng:                         Yeah, and five is spelled out, right? F-I-V-E.

Katie Allred:                           Spelled out. F-I-V-E. Yes. So missionalmarketing.com/five in letters, F-I-V-E.

Kenny Jahng:                         Perfect. Well. That’s about the time that we have for today. We are continuing to march on in this trajectory of looking at your website under the hood, et cetera. I’m excited about this next episode, Katie. Why don’t we share just a teaser of what we’re going to talk about in episode five for this season.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah. Episode five, we’re going to continue talking about Google Analytics a little bit and just establishing and measuring those web conversion goals. So how do you do it? Why should you do it? Those kinds of things. Excited about that.

Kenny Jahng:                         Exactly. Even what goals should you have, those types of things. So looking forward to sitting down this next time. Everybody here, if you love what we’re doing, we’re getting great feedback. And if you want us to continue to march on these topics, please let us know. Drop a comment below. Share a DM with one of us, Katie or I. We love hearing from you guys. One of the best things that you can also do is, as you know, for podcasts, drop a review on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, because that is the most tangible way that you can help get this type of information out to other church communicators across the country. We want to really equip and empower as many church communicators as we can with this type of best practice in the digital front today.

Kenny Jahng:                         So Katie, next time, I think we’re going to have to drill down and really go deep. I think this is one of the things that we’ll have to prepare for next time. What else are you looking forward to in this series? What are the questions you think we should be answering in future episodes?

Katie Allred:                           Yeah, so I’m excited about just talking about landing pages in general. I think that’s something that churches aren’t really doing so much of for keywords. And I think that’s something that’s going to have to change probably the next 10 years.

Kenny Jahng:                         I want to talk about retargeting. I think this is one of those things where it used to be a secret weapon, but it’s now almost become a standard practice. And I think if a church isn’t … If you haven’t heard about retargeting, that’s probably something we want to talk about. And then what else? Maybe one more idea in the future.

Katie Allred:                           Sermon videos. How can you make sermon videos work to grow web traffic?

Kenny Jahng:                         Wait, using sermon videos to draw traffic? That’s an interesting one.

Katie Allred:                           Yeah, and I think that you can easily do it. So I’m excited about sharing those kind of tips.

Kenny Jahng:                         Well that sounds great. Again, if you have other ideas, please let us know here at Church Communications. Seriously, we really want to be helpful for you, almost an extension of your team. We treat you as family. This is a community where we are learning peer-to-peer every single day, so we’d love for you to reach out to us, visit our website, hop in the Facebook group and be a part of the conversation. But we’ll check out here next time for episode five, episode five of the podcast here on the Church Communications podcast.

Katie Allred:                           Improving your church’s website begins with a better understanding of your online audience through Google Analytics. Missional Marketing has created a powerful PDF you can download for free today that will offer insights into your church’s online audience. So you can go to missionalmarketing.com/five, slash five, but spelled out. Again, that’s missionalmarketing.com/five, and get it today.


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