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Public Sample of the
Online Ministries Community Blog

Apr 09

What Can Be Destination Content?

Posted by Bill Anderton

This morning, I had several great telephone conversations with friends and colleagues after they read yesterday’s blog posting about “destination content”. The most discussed, almost universal question was, “What can be destination content?”

Destination content can be any content that causes a significant number of potential visitors to actually visit your website and return later for more.

Put simply, destination content is worthy; worthy of visitors’ time in their initial visits and worthy of their return visits tomorrow, next week or next month.

cursur_arrow_400w.jpgGood destination content is the “procuring cause” for visits.

Great destination content not only causes the visitor to come into your content but also causes them to get someone else to visit by passing along links to your content, making Facebook to Twitter postings about it, talking about it in blogs or mentioning it in forums. In other words, great destination content gets shared without asking. Destination content has enough intrinsic worth to be shared among your visitors’ friends as well as the friends of their friends.

Great destination content also causes visitors to visit more than just the one page that brought them into your content in the first place. I pay a lot of attention to the number of pages that visitors view in their session during visits and the total time they dwell in my content during each session. Longer is better. With lots of great destination content in your site, if you can get visitors to click once, they have a tendency to click around in the site a lot and get a broader more complete view of your church and its ministries.

Destination content will get found. If the webmaster is using best practices in support of the content, it will get found a lot! It can’t help not being found because it is compelling enough to cause others to share it with their friends and drive visits.

One of the interesting things about destination content is that the content’s author or webmaster doesn’t get to decide if their creation is destination-worthy; that privilege is reserved exclusively for and determined by your visitors. Content authors and webmasters can strive to make content destination-worthy but their success will be determined by other people, your visitors.

The redeeming grace of the determination process is that you can have more than one trip to the well. If content isn’t determined worthy by your visitors (by actually visiting your site), replace your content with something better. Keep at it until you succeed.

If you persist in making better content, monitor your visitors and use the free analytics tools available to any webmaster (see the “Do You Know Where You Stand” posting of April 2, 2013) you will see your content start to become destination content. When you find out what works for you, do more! Keep an eye on your analytics reports; you can learn a lot about where your visitors land in your site, what click-stream or path they take to other pages in the site and where they exit the site. Over time, you can get a very insightful picture of how visitors use your content, what they value and the degree to which they value it.

Get something to work as destination content and then do more of what is working and do less of what is not working.

You will find that just about anything can become destination content. Some things are more obvious than others but the numbers of potential destination-worthy content surces are great in churches.

All churches have several inherent source of destination-content possibilities. If a church re-purposed this material into destination content, it would have a great website:

  • The Sunday sermon – The Sunday sermon not only presents media opportunities for audio and video of the presentation of the sermon itself, but offers other possibilities as well. Most pastors tell me that they end up with a lot more material from their sermon preparation than they can fit into their allotted 20 minutes. This extra material can easily be re-purposed into at least two blog postings, one delivered prior to sermon (like on a Wednesday or Thursday) for promotion and another blog post on Monday as a follow up. Also, rather than just posting the title of an upcoming sermon in the website, turn it into destination content by writing a great description of the sermon (using the extra sermon-prep material) and feature it in a prominent place in your website well in advance of the delivery of the sermon. For the week or two prior to the sermon, post links to the destination content about upcoming sermons in your Facebook and Twitter postings; get the word out. By the way, don’t stop it at just one post to social media; plan out a campaign of posts. Use social media to make people aware of your content and the destination content itself to capture the visitor. You will also find a synergy between you promotional content (that is destination worthy) and the sermon material (more destination content.) Even if visitors and friends-of-friends visitors don’t come to the live delivery of the sermon, they may come back and listen to the media when it is posted (which, of course, is more destination content.)
  • The sermon text or lection – The Bible text for Sunday’s sermon is a great opportunity for destination content for a couple of weeks before the delivery of the sermon. This could be an online study group with interactive comments from your visitors about the passages. Destination content of the text or lection can set the stage for the sermon itself.
  • Sunday morning pulpit announcements – All of these things not only should be on the website, they should be featured as destination content. Think about it, if it is worthy to be announced from the pulpit on Sunday, it is worthy of being featured on the website as destination content.
  • The Sunday bulletin – The Sunday bulletin that you hand out on Sunday is a wealth of information for not only your congregation but your visitors too. You took the time to compile it for the bulletin, get some additional value from it by expanding it into destination content. I’m not talking about the bulletin itself; putting the PDF of the printed bulletin onto the website isn’t destination content. Look at the content within the bulletin. The bulletin is usually chock-a-block full of things that would make great destination content.
  • The church newsletter – Same as the Sunday bulletin, feature it’s contents by turning it's stories and features into destination content. Posting the PDF of the newsletter onto the site isn’t a bad thing but it is usually only of value to your congregation. In addition, take the stores and articles contained in your newsletter and develop them into destination content.
  • The church calendar - Done well and correctly, the calendar on the church website can be one of the most visited sections of your website. However, many churches throw away this potential by not making calendars into what they could be. Also, often, they are far too small and limited. While the title of the event might be limited to what fits into the calendar's grid, make it into a hyperlink. Link the event title of each event to a detail page describing the event in full. Develop feature stories around these events. Also, and this is almost always overlooked, the best church web calendars not only promote upcoming events, they also become archives of all of the things the church has done in its past. Past events, although over, can become a living archive of church life and still show what your Christian community is like. Information about past events can still be destination content. Google will index this content too and it might be the cause of bringing someone into the site. Once there, if you have a good navigation designed in these pages, you can quickly get the visitor to more current pages.

All of the things listed above also have another characteristic of great destination content; they are dynamic and change often. This means you have a natural source of fresh content to add to your website continuously. Using the materials above, you could add fresh new content to all of your online assets every week! Stale out-of-date content kills the possibility of the return visit. All of your landing pages should feature current destination content that is refreshed at least every week. Retire content that is at the end of its life cycle by moving it to your archive pages and replace it on your landing pages with something new and fresh.

Don’t stop here! The items on the list shown above are by no means complete and are just a few of the most obvious things that can be found in any church. All churches, regardless of their size, are content rich environments and present lots of opportunity for making great destination content.

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