Church mergers are a growing trend. But just because they are becoming more popular doesn’t make them easy. There are so many things to consider and navigate that, for most churches it is often wiser and more fiscally responsible to hire consulting.
One of the most vital aspects of a church merger is clear communication. Your site and social media channels are essential no matter what your actual communication strategy is. The less surprises for everyone involved, the better. Even when one church joins another, there are still a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. Here are some practical steps to navigation your digital communications during and beyond a church merger. This guide is going to be a little more technical (ok, a lot more technical) than most of the other posts, but these are for the most part, the exact steps that someone will have to take during the church merger.
It’s All In A Name
Most church mergers are not a marriage of equals. Typically it is a smaller church joining a larger church and adopting or being absorbed into that culture. If that is the case then deciding which domain name to keep will be easy. But if you are split between which name to pick, then consider which domain has the most domain authority. This is typically the domain that is oldest and has the most links. In other cases the two churches adopt a brand new name and identity.
In each of these cases it is very important to properly point the domain names no longer being used to the new primary domain name. Even in the case of small churches being adopted by larger churches. Often times the smaller church may actually have the more valuable domain name if for no other reason than age.
Links Are Valuable
When pointing the domain name use permanent 301 redirects. Redirect the old pages to the respective new pages and redirect any inbound links to the best pages on the new site. These redirects have the benefit of passing along nearly all of the old domain authority and keeping valuable links. It means from an SEO standpoint, your site isn’t starting over from scratch. Even when the new site already has higher domain authority, the additional links are still very beneficial.
Verify Your Location
We will come back to links in a moment. But one of the best next steps is to update your Google My Business listing. If you have not done so yet, verify your listing. Update your location and contact information as well as add new name, logo, etc. You can even add photos, videos, and a blog post announcing the merger from here. At the time of publishing for this article, Google My Business is a priority for Google and tends to be very beneficial for reaching people.
The other important site for verification is Facebook. If you are merely merging two Facebook pages into one, You can follow Facebook’s instructions found HERE. If one church is becoming a satellite campus of the other church, then consider whether it is best for your communications strategy to have two separate pages or separate locations for one church brand. You can get your main page verified by following these instructions.
Keep Getting Those Links
Remember how I said links are valuable? I really meant it. Getting links from other sites to your site is the single biggest thing that affect your SEO. And the easiest way to get links is from online directories. And in this case it also has the added benefit of updating online directories of your merger details. If you are short on time and unable to manually update foursquare, yelp, yellowpages, Apple Maps, and all the others, then you may want to consider using a service such as Moz Local. They let you manage all of your listings from one dashboard which is great for a church that needs to update a lot of site about name changes and mergers.
Also, an excellent way to build links and establish a line of communications with community influencers is to issue a press release regarding the church merger. This is a great way to get links from valuable domains such as local news. It also brings reporters and others in the community up to speed with this new phase in the life of the church.
Another great way to further accomplish this is to have guest bloggers write articles for the church (and offer to write for their sites). Bloggers are usually thirsty for content and most of them are also aware of the value of links and would love to gain a link from your website in exchange for writing a blog post about the community benefits of the merger or something like that.
Going The Extra Mile
As I mentioned at the beginning, communications strategies may vary, depending on the merger. One great strategy is a story campaign. Using video, pictures, and written interviews, introduce your church to new members of the family. Share the stories of long time members, have them discuss their victories and share their testimonies. Use your site and social media to build a community and share resources. If you follow all of the other steps and miss out on integrating your new church family then it won’t matter how many links your site has. But with a solid foundation for your communication strategy, you’ve created fertile ground to grow something special.