Domain Name You Buy
The second element of your website is the domain name. My domain name is biblicaltransformations.com. Your domain name would be whatever you choose. In non-technical and simplified language, your domain name is a unique word that identifies your website and helps browsers identify the particular computer you use to access the internet. Some hosting companies sell domain names too, but I would advise you to buy your own domain name from a third party — domain name registrars. That’s because if you buy a domain name from the same company that provides you with hosting, then later moving your website to another hosting company will be more complicated. Domain name registrars are companies that reserve and register your domain name as yours. (You pay for that too.) There are many registrars you can pick and choose from. You can buy one or more domain names, but they must be unique. For example, the domain names “google” and “gogle” belong to Google, and no one else can use them as their domain name. After you buy your domain name, you will connect it to your web host so that when people type in your domain name, their browsers will route them to your website and not somewhere else.
Although your domain name is not everything, it is important for your success. A domain name should be clear but also memorable and hint to your website’s purpose or content. If you want to write about chickens, then a domain name like computerprocessors.net makes no sense. I wanted to help people be transformed by the wisdom of the Bible, so I chose biblicaltransformations.com (although later I realized that the name is cumbersome).
Content You Create
The third element of your website is the content that you create or that others create for you and whatever your visitors see. This includes articles, photos, the design elements of your website, or ads made by third parties and promoted by you. Content is the most frequently changing element that is almost fully under your control unlike the other elements of your online platform. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to content, but usually people choose a topic or niche and create content based on that choice. If you minister divorced church members who struggle with their faith, then most of the photos you post or articles you write should address their problems. There is no reason to fill that kind of site with articles or photos about how to raise chickens — unless you convince your audience that raising chickens will solve their faith- and divorce-related problems or you want to share a relevant personal story. Here too, you have to find a balance between focusing your website on a single topic and spreading out your content between various topics. For example, I usually write about the Bible, but occasionally I also post about online ministry, outreach to refugees, or Islam.
Haphazard and irregular content won’t help much to develop your ministry. But establishing and following an editorial calendar (a calendar that defines beforehand when and what topic you will publish) will grow your ministry’s audience faster. Content requires a lot of attention, and it is like the queen if not the king of your ministry. People come to your site not for web hosting but for the content and the message you are communicating. As your website grows, it’s important to make sure that your content reflects who you are honestly and with integrity. It should communicate your passion but also help people meet their spiritual needs. I don’t see a problem with catchy titles, but any content that manipulates, uses clickbait, or doesn’t deliver what it promises is unethical. You would quickly lose followers and gain an ill reputation that would mess up your ministry. And frankly, I too would question the integrity of that kind of ministry and the person behind the work. So don’t neglect the content because this is the face of your ministry and the main element that (in the long term) draws in visitors.
Content Management Systems You Use
The fourth and final element of your website (the second component of the online platform) is the Content Management System (CMS). This is the website or software that comes between you and the other elements, allowing you to create, post, edit, and keep track of your content. At first, it may not be a big deal, but gradually you will see how important this management system is. As your content grows, you will have to add plugins, code, and other things to your website. You will collaborate with people and give them access to your site. Many of them (programs and people) will work behind the scenes of your online platform. CMS will allow you to organize and have easy access to every one of them. Without it, your website’s behind the scenes field may look like a big mess that is impossible to manage.
There are various CMS offers on the market. I use WordPress, which is free, flexible, and powerful but requires some time to learn. If you use WordPress, it needs to be installed into your web host space, and most companies provide an easy way of doing the installation.
Third Component: Communication and Marketing Systems
Marketing Platforms Help You Send Mass Emails
Communication and Marketing Systems are other websites and software that allow you to collect and store email addresses, send mass emails to subscribers, and sell and receive payments. Receipts and automated emails all belong to communication and marketing systems. If you are wondering what a minister has to do with marketing, let’s assume for now that by marketing I mean convincing people to take action. I will write about why you need to monetize and market your website in another post, but for now let’s stick with the topic at hand. In principle, you can do without communication and marketing systems, but then your online platform may not become self-sustaining or capable of communicating with people, which is crucial for the work to flourish. In this component, the most important thing is having an email marketing service software that allows you to set up and capture email addresses and also communicate with people. If you think you can use your regular email account for mass communications, you are wrong. Your regular email account doesn’t allow you to email hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. It also doesn’t give you the capacity to track down how many of your emails are opened. Also, it would be extremely difficult to segmentize your subscribers (create specific groups of email addresses in order to send those groups relevant content). Your regular email address also does not give many options when it comes to automating and sequencing your emails (sending emails automatically based on certain triggers). Email marketing software will allow you to meet all these needs and develop a relationship with your followers. The market is filled with many email marketing software options. One of them, Mailchimp, offers a free account until you can collect two thousand emails. For a bootstrapping beginner online minister-entrepreneur, that’s a good offer.
E-commerce Tools Help You Monetize
You can use other elements like an e-commerce platform and payment gateway if you want to monetize your website. If you sell and receive payments in order to sustain your ministry, then these two elements are indispensable. E-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Easy Digital Downloads, or Ecwid provide you with software tools to set up your shop and sell. Payment gateways give you a secure channel to receive payments.
Now, please understand that what I’m writing here is just the tip of the iceberg. Each of these components has its own subtleties, details, and specific requirements. Each of them offers some advantages and comes with disadvantages. Although it may sound really easy to write and read about them, it may not necessarily be easy to assemble all the components into one smoothly functioning online platform. I don’t want to scare you, but I also don’t want to give you a false impression that just by reading this blog post you will be ready to create a website. Creating an online platform takes time, but it is an exciting and thrilling experience for those of us who love to tinker, learn from our mistakes, and see the fruits of our work. As I said in the beginning, this post is to give you an overview without delving into the details of each component.
Traffic Flow You Have to Have
I will finish this post by describing the dynamics of traffic flow. From traffic sources, traffic comes in (assuming that you do your job to attract a relevant audience). Most people spend very little time, measured in minutes, on your blog. They skim your content, jumping from page to page, to decide whether what you offer is what they’re looking for. If your content is interesting and relevant to them, then some people will accept your offerings and give you their email addresses (offering something beneficial to your audience in return for their email addresses is good practice). These email addresses are stored in your email marketing system so that later you can communicate with people. Others, after skimming, will leave your blog. This is bounced traffic from people who for whatever reason do not wish to give you their email addresses. They may come back to check again or never return. This cycle will continue as long as your website works. That’s it. I trust this long post will help you decide how you develop your ministry. If you have any questions, comment and let me know.
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