Recently, it was reported that Google's search function would begin focusing on "facts" rather than "opinion." This caused a small explosion among Christian content creators concerned that if Google considered Christianity simply a myth, they would move it to the opinion side, thereby lowering any Christian sites in search results. So I asked Nick Runyon, from Christian Vision to weigh in. Nick runs the U.S. office for CV, and was formerly Chief Operating Officer of Global Media Outreach, so he has extensive credentials when it comes to online innovation. I asked him to write a guest blog on the subject, and here's Nick's thoughts on the issue:
In an effort to avoid "misinformation" a Google research team recently presented the idea that the company's search algorithm should serve search results based on facts rather than opinion. Some would argue that matters of faith are one's own opinion. But, for those with a Christian worldview, the claims of Christ are truth. If Google follows through with this change, will Christian content suddenly disappear from view?
Change is constant, and one must anticipate change rather than fear it. The threat to those who create and publish Christian content online is the failure to understand the reason for the changes impacting content delivery and adjust accordingly. The responsibility to distribute content lies with those who produce it. Getting your stuff seen means that you have to know how to play the game. Here are three tips to help you stay on top of the wave of change when dealing with Google, Social Media and other online media channels:
User experience is key. Online services live and die by user behaviour. If the users leave, so do the profits. Social media can be a great way to promote your brand, but Facebook isn't interested in building your website or profile. They are building their own company. If you use Facebook to promote your content by directing people away from Facebook and onto your site, don't be surprised when a change is made that cuts the number of visitors to your fan page. You were working against Facebook, not with them. Hey, it was good while it lasted!
Learn what motivates the company you're using to distribute your message. Find a way to accomplish your goals, while fitting into their strategy.
Remember, change is constant. This means that the learning never stops. If Google begins giving priority to sites designed for mobile users, make sure that your site provides a good mobile experience. If you produce video, make sure it plays well on a variety of screen sizes. Keep listening, and keep learning. The website or blog where you learned information to help understand the motivation of your favorite social network's user strategy will help you listen for upcoming changes to that strategy. When a change is coming, you'll know and you can act purposefully rather than get caught off guard.
Measure Outcomes not Signals
A few years ago I was asked to help a well-known ministry drive results through their website. My first question was, "What outcome do you want?" This team was measuring the number of visitors to the page, visitor time on site, and other important user signals. But, what they really wanted was for people follow Christ. The problem was nothing on the site talked about who Jesus is or how to follow Jesus. When I pointed this out, I was told that they didn't want to come off as "too pushy" with the Gospel. No danger of that!
What is most important to you and your organization? Are you achieving that outcome through your activity? Online strategies should be measured by the outcome one wants to achieve. Jumping into the newest social media app without a plan isn't adapting to change; it's a waste of time. Stay focused. In the midst of all of this change, don't lose sight of the outcome you're trying to achieve.
Now, more than ever, the world can be reached with the Gospel. Christians must know and understand how companies/sites/services like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat operate and make decisions. We must keep market pace with production quality, user experience and measuring outcomes. We must act purposefully to take advantage of changes in online content delivery. Stay focused. God has placed believers in this point in history, and provided an incredible opportunity to share the hope and love of Jesus with the world.