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Going Organic: The Untapped Mission Field

Every day, millions of people around the world are going to Pastor Google to find answers to spiritual questions. People are looking for answers, and they’re much more comfortable asking questions of Google than asking…

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A Tale of Two Seekers

Bob is curious about what the Bible might have to say about the events of 2020. So like millions of other people, he goes to the most popular pastor in the world–Pastor Google–to find out. He types in “2020 prophecy” and taps Search.

In 0.64 seconds, he gets 152,000,000 results. Wow…that’s a lot! So he just looks at the first page of results. There’s one link on that page that is from an Adventist source, but it’s just one out of 10 results, so he selects one of the others. It’s very likely that he’s reading falsehood or misinformation.

Sally is curious about the same topic and, like Bob, goes to ask Pastor Google. She types the same words and gets pretty much the same list as Bob.

Sure enough, there’s one link on that list that is from an Adventist source, and she pays attention to the Holy Spirit prompting her to tap that YouTube video link.

She listens to Cami Oetmann talk about unlocking the mysteries of Daniel 2, and is intrigued. She sees that the video is on Adventist World Radio’s channel, and is curious about “these Adventists.”

Since Pastor Google is still close by, she types in “Who are the Adventists?” or, “What do Adventists believe?” What she sees is a collection of search results from non-Adventist websites, and they are so disturbing that she quickly clicks on the next link in the YouTube channel and watches David Jeremiah give his view of the meaning of Bible prophecy, and the opportunity is lost.

Scenarios like this play out every day. Every single day, millions of people around the world are going to Pastor Google to find answers to spiritual questions. People are looking for answers, and they’re much more comfortable asking questions of Google than asking friends. 

Problem is, Pastor Google gives answers based on the authority signals provided by a website, not theological accuracy. Unfortunately, Pastor Google did not attend seminary at Andrews University!

This is a fantastic opportunity for us—a virtually untapped mission field full of people who are actively seeking truth.

Going Organic is a new regular column that will help you learn how to tap into this vast mission field and reach those who are desperately looking for answers. 

Let’s dive right in and start with a few definitions that we’ll need as we explore the strategies, tools, and tactics used in this online missionary endeavor.

Organic Traffic

This is a label we give to people who use a search engine (such as Google or Bing) to find information online. “Organic” refers to the fact that the visit originates with a search engine. “Traffic” is what we call people who are visiting a website. 

Websites have multiple sources of traffic, but we’ll focus primarily on organic, or search engine traffic, in this column.

Rank

Refers to the position our web page occupies on a search result page in relation to our competitors. 

SERP

Search Engine Result Page. The page of results one gets when conducting a search.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization. The term can be used in several ways. Most of the time, we’ll use it to mean the strategies and activities we use to encourage a search engine (usually Google) to show our web pages in a higher position than our competitors in a SERP. 

SEO can also refer to a person who specializes in this field.

Why Is SEO Important for Ministry?

Our opening Tale of Two Seekers illustrates two primary reasons that SEO is important for ministry. First, when someone is actively looking for answers to spiritual questions, we want them to see biblical truth. Second, when Adventist content is properly optimized for search engines, it can counter the negative content and misinformation that is so prevalent online.

SEO Challenges

Before starting on a grand project to attract organic traffic to your website, you need to be aware of the realities of such a project.

SEO is not a short-term project. It takes a long time. Most SEO experts will tell you to expect at least two years of sustained effort before you see stable, consistent results. You’ll see results sooner than that, of course, but they’ll fluctuate, and sometimes you’ll even see a decrease in traffic for a period of time. The key is consistent, sustained SEO activity over a long period of time.

SEO is not simple, nor does it have “3 Easy Steps….” It’s a very broad field. We know of over 200 elements that Google uses to determine how to rank a web page, and some experts believe they’ve identified 600 or more of these “ranking factors.”

SEO is a “reactive” process as much as it is a “proactive” process. Google, which supplies more than 80 percent of all search traffic, makes as many as 300 changes to its algorithms… daily.

The vast majority of these changes don’t have major effects on SEO, but major changes do happen several times a year, and those do have major impacts. We can spend a significant amount of time responding to those changes, especially if the site has quality issues that have not been sufficiently resolved.

An effective SEO strategy finds a balance between reactive and proactive strategies, and combines the two.

This may sound daunting, and it can be. However, it presents us with a fantastic opportunity. If this was easy, everybody would be doing it, and we’d have even more competition. As it is, very few websites are applying SEO, and even fewer are doing it as well as they should. So take heart—almost anything you do to optimize your website will make it just a bit better than another website, resulting in more organic traffic for your website.

In the next article, we’ll get started with “technical SEO.” Your site can have the best content in the world, but if the site is plagued with technical issues (and most sites are), that content probably won’t be displayed in a SERP. Let’s fix that!

Author(s)

David Sharpe leads a team of five SEO specialists at the Center for Online Evangelism, providing SEO services for enterprise-level websites. Email your SEO questions to [email protected]

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