Thinking About The Words We Use Online



A conversation with social media expert, Giovanni Gallucci. Your co-hosts are Brad Davies, Director of Web Services, and Greg Gorman, Senior Communications Strategist for Dunham and Company. Now let's join the conversation.


So we're with this client, and they just... Re-doing their website, working on copy, looking for input, haven't really considered SEO. They're in a space that's pretty occupied by the same search term a lot of people have already captured on. And they kind of are behind the ball as far as where do we start, how do we get going. We've already walked through and looked at some of the words that are... It's in their copy, that they wanna rank for, looked at the competition there. Talking about including that into the copy so that it fills up the sites, and becomes subject matter expert. But what are those other kind of next steps they need to be considering that they should be talking about? 


Can I interrupt before you start? 


You may.


So the thing that caught my ear was the words they want rank for. And my first thought on that would be, it doesn't matter what they wanna rank for, it's what they need to rank for, what people are searching on. So if a client comes to you and gives you a list of the words they wanna rank for, you look at that list, and that's a starting point. But if a word they choose that they wanna rank on is not getting any traffic, there's no harm in ranking for that, but there's certainly no benefits, so what's the point? And so when you've got someone coming at you, and whether they've created the copy themselves or you're doing the copy and they've given you a list, the thing you step back from is not, "What's the next step?" It is, "We need to take this list of key words, see where they rank in Google, see how many searches are done each month, see what kind of competition we're up against, and then look for synonyms that mean the same thing."


Look for what is your client's top three competitors in the space? And look at what they're ranking well for. Look at the keywords that they're getting traffic on, and do some research. And it doesn't matter, it really doesn't matter if you do that research before they wrote the copy or not. 'Cause I would typically go to a client and tell them, "Just do that search. Just do that research, whether you've started on the copy or not, because I want the copywriters to be free of any burden of being worried about a list they have to write to." So you get them to write the copy for the website. Then you do the research on your keywords. And then you take the keyword list that you've decided upon, and you usually confer about two keywords per page or two keywords for every, say, 300 to 500 words. And then you find places that those words would naturally fit into the copy, and you take that approach.


But as we've identified these, how much do we literally change the scope of the website? 'Cause we know that there's certain terms that they wanna rank for and they need to rank for, as far as searching.


That's something I think is...


And so how much do we change the page titles, the...


Well, even the featured content. That's something I think ministries generally, non-profits really generally broadly defined, have not engaged in. They want to have a, just like we were talking before, a ministry wants to, "Here's the terms we want to rank for, because this is what we believe, this is who we are. This is who we believe that we are." Whether the market place agrees with that, who knows? We'll find that out over time, and we'll find that out by looking at your analytics, and looking at search terms, how do people find you? We deal with that all the time, with organizations that have... Some have lots and lots and lots of content. Some have great multimedia content, sermon videos, sermon audio, devotional videos, audio. Some have sermon notes and documents that are really, literally giant databases.


And the way that they present those, and what I call, I use the term merchandising, where they merchandise that content on their sites, is the way that they use terms that they use. They use, it's all inside baseball.


If you ask them in a conversation if they use inside baseball or jargon, absolutely not. "No, we love our customers. We love our constituents, and we wanna speak their language. When we proclaim the gospel, we proclaim it in the language of the people we're talking to. We wanna be Pauline in that. We wanna be all things to all people." Well, then why do you... Why does your media merchandising on your site break things down by DVDs, MP3s and PDFs? Who in the world goes to a website saying, "I loved the message that that ministry provided to me last week. I hope they have a DVD."


Or a PDF...


Or a PDF. "I sure hope they have a PDF. I don't care if they have a devotional email I can sign up for. But by gum, if they've got a PDF, I'm golden." But we see that time and time and time again. And even in sites that are probably a little more mature in that, and a little bit farther down the road, that they'll decide, "We're going to merchandise our sermon content, our message content using keywords." Okay, great. And even on the homepage. And even with little thumbnail images, to make it really visually appealing. And we're gonna use terms like, this is a media ministry that I'm talking, television radio ministry, we're gonna use terms like, "The Trinity." What were some others that we saw? Things like that that the average viewer, if they're gonna come to your website...


I'm always searching for the Trinity online.


Yeah, I can't wait to get more Trinity in my life.


I'm not discounting the value of solid Christian doctrine...


Because that's factually accurate.


It is. Exactly. We are...


And so it's not that it's wrong. It's that there's a more right [chuckle] way to do it, and it gets back to... And the thing is it's not hard work, and I think that's part of the thing that working with organizations that do this stuff, they think that it's so daunting, and for us, it's easy 'cause we do it everyday. But it's really... When I show clients what we do two or three times, they can do it by themselves.




But you've got to go and do it. And Google will tell you, [chuckle] it's not a secret.


Listen to Google.


It's free, and Google tells you...


Use the Google.


This is how people will look for your content. And it doesn't mean that they can't use the phrase, "The Trinity." But it means they have to use other phrases also, so that when people search for the content, it shows up in the engine.


Let's be honest. People who are searching their site aren't looking... They can rank for "The Trinity," but people that are gonna find them...


Yeah, let's look at your analytics. How many hits have you had to your website based on things like that? And "The Trinity" was probably one of the least arcane terms that I saw on that particular site, but again, we see this all the time, and it's not just limited to terms of Christian doctrine. It's all kinds of terminology that the organization uses, and they all use their internal jargon. And we often engage them in a website redesign project, where we get dropped in as communication strategists, sort of mid-stream. They've already selected a development design and a development shop to do the site, and they're going to, essentially... That design and development shop does not have a copywriting arm. They either can't afford it, or don't offer it, or it's not even on the table, and so the organization says, "Well, gosh, we'll just use the copy we have on our current site. We'll just dump that in."


That's easy.


That's perfect. Well, it's perfectly... You can have a very sharp tool aimed the wrong direction, and you're not gonna get anywhere with it. So, I don't even...


Or you can have a very dull tool in the right direction.


Either way. Yes. And so we have turned a corner in our conversations with our clients now, where we engage them on these broadly-defined copywriting strategies, really at the outset. And where we want the outbound digital marketing to match the inbound digital marketing to the extent that it can, but we want everything to match well in terms of using the terms that the customer uses as opposed to terms the organization uses.


So roll back five minutes when you mentioned the DVD, MP3, PDF. So, most of the people watching the video are gonna go, "Huh!"


That's us.


So what would be the alternative? What would be the more effective path to solving that specific issue? 


Well, the first...


How would you promote that content? 


That's a great question and...


Thank you.


And the first...


Thanks for the soft ball.


And the first part of the next conversation that we have in those settings is often, well, we can just use the titles of the messages, which is a really earnest and noble thought. Most of the sermon message titles that we encounter are titled for piquing interest, not describing deliverable. Look at any so-called "mega church" today. Look at their website, look at their television program, look at their billboard, their sign out in front of their church. "Next Sunday, Pastor Smith is going to talk about Sex and the City." Well, that was a popular HBO TV show.


My church would never talk about that. [chuckle]


And gosh, people will be curious, so they'll come in. Well, just use that title in your sermon search keywords in your site, and see how many hits you get on that. Probably not very many. So it ends up having to be more of a deeper look, a deeper analysis of the content of the message of the commonly-used terms in all the messages, not just we want people to get this message, because if you've got a search engine on your site, which I hope you do, you can usually manually rank high importance messages more highly in the search results. So we think that it takes a little more work long term. It takes a little more heavy lifting at the outset to get there, but it's worth going back and looking at those things. And you can do that in an automated fashion. You don't have to... Certainly, if you've got transcripts of the sermons, if you've got PDFs, if you've got sermon notes, that type of thing, you can use that as a basis, and you can do some... Cobble together search algorithms of your own within those to generate that content. And then you back into your merchandising of the products. You back into what do people talk about? What do we talk about the most? 


What are the things that we get the most interest in? You can start with broad topics and go down to actual specific sections of messages. You can start with broad sections of the Bible and go down to specific passages that speak to specific issues in people's lives. And I'll bet that you could narrow the top 10 issues, the top 10 even search strings for your average website visitor for any ministry, I'll bet you could narrow that down fairly quickly into terms that they would use, not terms that you say, "Well, that's our sermon on tithing." Well, most people who are new to the church or who are casual in the church, the concept of tithing is not one that they're going to respond to quickly. The concept of stewardship, however, and not even the word stewardship, but money, budgeting, spending too much, saving, credit cards. I wonder how many ministries actually use those kinds of terms in their onboard search strings, let alone their SEO makeup.


Yeah. It's a shame because there's so much low-hanging fruit there. And they're leaving so many potential visitors to the site, which then a portion of those would be converts somehow for them, that they're leaving it on the table because there's no thought towards it, or there's a fear of it. I'm just... We were talking about an organization here in Plano earlier, and I personally have the mindset that you run to where people need to hear the word. And if you're always preaching to the choir, you're using the terminology where you're preaching more to the people that are already in the flocks.


They're already for you.


Yeah. Then your website's serving those folks, but it's not doing anything good for the faith. And so the point here is that you're doing things that bring new people into the fold, so you've got to be using terminology that they're going to be using to help them find out ways that the word and the message would help solve problems in their lives, and help them live a better life.