It can be fun (and useful) to study the visit stats for our website and learn how to adapt our communications with supporters. Two years ago I poked fun at Vermont because it was the only state that had 0 visits to our web site in 2013, putting it (I joked) in the same category as the likes of North Korea and Somalia. Not only does it seem that four people in Vermont were born again this year (joking again) but the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service decided they needed to keep careful tabs on my website (only half joking).
The Russian Caveat
This year we have to start off with a caveat because in 2015 a whopping 22% of the traffic to our web site was from Russia (measured in sessions). By comparison, 2014 Russian traffic made up 0.23% of sessions.
Uhhh…that’s a multiple of 100!
Something tells me Russian hacker bots decided to check us out. Thankfully, our site did not get hacked in 2015.
Something Fun and Something Useful
- We had visitors from 116 countries (including Russia). Every country colored in a shade of blue visited our site at some point last year, even if only once (Vietnam, Uganda and Panama).
- Unlike most years, we had visitors from EVERY state in the United States INCLUDING Vermont with a whopping four visits. From 2009-2014 we had a total of two visits from Vermont. That’s a veritable revival in the Green Mountain State.
- All four pages for my classes here at the seminary were in the top six pages. That would include my pages for Hebrew, OT Background and Introduction, and so it seems our web site is an important tool for my teaching at the seminary. I wonder if you’ve ever wandered over to that item in the menu labelled “KT” for “Department of Theology.”
- The top Google search that drove traffic to our web site was something along the lines of “yew trees poisonous dogs” (click the link to try the search) which keeps our three year old post “Yew Trees are Poisonous and Other Things You Should Know BEFORE You Get a Dog” the second most popular page and the most popular post on our web site. Who knows, maybe it’s because of the whimsy writing style.
- The top ten list of pages is rounded out by three more posts from the two series I did on Genesis. Those posts include “Cosmology or Cosmogony,” “The Creation Account as Hebrew Poiesis,” and “The Creation Account and Hebrew Narrative.” All in all, pages related to theology made up 8 of our top 20 articles. Considering those posts are now several years old it makes me think I should keep up on the theology content. We’ll see.
- The five most popular new posts for 2015 were our Christmas greeting (13), then Elisabeth’s amazing 2015 recital (21), First Free named honory congregation of the Slovak Evangelical Free Church (22), our first visit to Tyndale (23), and finally our photo gallery for spring 2015 (27).
We can supplement that last figure with some stats from our newsletter. According to the service we use, our newsletter has a great open rate compared to the “industry average” (which I’ve set as “religion”). When we send out a newsletter, on average, just under half of the people open it (compared to the industry average of 22%). About 21% of the people who receive the newsletter click on a link to get more detail on our ministry (compared to 2.3%). When they do, the most common content they view is family or media related (videos of the kids, pictures, Christmas greeting, etc.).
In some ways it’s fun to look at the stats but there are some important takeaways for me as I try my best to keep people informed. Here are my conclusions. If you have any ideas to share, I would love to hear them because they’ll help us learn to communicate better.
- Of the 170 people who receive our newsletter, there is a small core of people that follow our news very carefully and pray for us regularly. Some people (many?) who don’t follow our news carefully, still pray for us regularly.
- You can see why I write my newsletter the way I do. Just the highlights, and if you want more information you can go get it with a click.
- The people who read our newsletters don’t know Jozef or Paťo or Zuzana or Eva but they do know Todd, Jana, Elisabeth and Max. So even though it can be a little awkward to post all those family photos and videos of kids’ recitals, I know from feedback that those help keep our family in people’s minds and that keeps people praying for us and for Jozef, Paťo, Zuzana and Eva.
- It’s worth the investment to come back to the States every other year and visit supporters personally. Out of sight, out of mind. Our newsletter is not all that effective in terms of staying in relationships with people and churches and that relational aspect is important to keeping our ministry in Slovakia viable.
- Videos or photos and even sharing personal status updates are all helpful ways to connect with people relationally over long distances and times apart. Social media provides a good way to share that content. That’s why I signed up for Instagram and need to do a better job of putting out more snippets of life and ministry in Slovakia.
Boy are we thankful for these people. The fact that it is a small group is OK. We need these people who pray regularly and who keep up with our ministry and family news. But we also need that large group of people that don’t follow so closely but still pray and give. They’re just as important to keeping us here doing ministry in Slovakia. For me, the challenge is knowing how to communicate so that everybody gets the information they want and need. So…
This is a good way to remind me that I need to do a better job in each of these areas. Again, if you have comments about what you think we need to do better so that we can be more effective communicators, let us know.