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What Do People Read?

The Web is a great place to find something to read. But, with so many choices placed in front of Internet users - what do they decide to read and how to they find it? The Internet is used to expand one's social, intellectual and even spiritual experiences. Just as your church buildings do not serve only as a tribute to the craftsmanship of the builders, your web site's primary function is not to highlight the skill of the programmer, but to reach people. How can you reach people online?
They Read What Interests Them

As you work through deciding what to publish on your site, there is one thing that is always successful - publishing what people read. That may seem a bit facetious and lacking in wisdom. but bear with me on this.

We've had previous articles about using a statistics module or service like Google Analytics to give you insights to search words that bring people to your site, pages they visit, how often they visit and how long they stay. So, what other information is there? There are 2 other Google applications that can provide a unique view of traffic on the web - Google Trends and Google Insights for Search. Before  you start to think this is a plug for Google, other search engines also weigh in in this area - Yahoo! Buzz is one such offering. What does all this have to do with your reading list? Well, let me tell you!

Remember this - "publish what people read" - from the first paragraph? Well, these services will help you with what people are reading online and not just at your web site. For example, I live in Minnesota. Visiting Google Insights, I change the filter options to filter by United States and subregion Minnesota. Then I change the time range to the last 30 days and leave the categories as All Categories. The results on 7 December 2008 were this -

Top Searches Rising searches
1. minneapolis
2. yahoo
3. games
4. youtube
5. google
6. facebook
7. myspace
8. target
9. news
10. map
1. black friday ads +1250%
2. black friday +1100%
3. thanksgiving +250%
4. twilight +190%
5. circuit city +110%
6. kohls +90%
7. walmart +80%
8. sears +70%
9. macys +70%
10. best buy +70%

 Still, a bit generic for our purposes, so let's refine the filter some by limiting the category to Lifestyles - Religion and Spirituality.

Google Search Insights

We then got the following results -

Top searches Rising searches
1. church
2. bible
3. catholic
4. horoscope
5. the bible
6. joann
7. jesus
8. god
9. prayer
10. catholic church

1. joann +70%
2. islam +50%
3. joann fabrics +40%
4. horoscope +40%

Anything in the Top 10 searches that catches your attention and you may be able to add to your web site? (Hint: reread the title of this article). Broadening the search to back to searches done worldwide and leaving the category as Lifestyles - Religion & Sprituality, you'll see that Bible now is in the top 10. We'd better evaluate our sites and see if we are filling that need.

A quick survey of most church web sites and you will find only a small percentage of them that offer any kind of Bible reading plans, explanation of the Bible, or more than a passing mention of the Bible. You will find mention  of meeting times for different study groups on some sites. If you have an area of your site that provides Bible reading plans, texts for upcoming sermons, Bible references in articles and links to an online Bible - congratulations! You are in the minority. If we are not offering this through our own web sites, we are missing making the connection with these people. 

Now, hopefully, I won't need to go any further to convince of what to do, or why to do it and we can move on to how to add an appropriate Bible feature to your web site.

  1. They Read What Interests Them
  2. They'll Read Other People's Content
  3. They'll Read Your Content
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