Thousands of unique visitors
Mennonite Church USA institutions find that members use their websites.by Anna Groff
Mennonite organizations have joined the Internet revolution in ways that are changing business-as-usual. According to a poll conducted by The Mennonite, the websites of Mennonite Church USA, agencies and Mennonite-related organizations receive thousands of visitors each month.
For the month of October 2010, Mennonite Church USA's website received the most pageviews (51,482), followed by websites of The Mennonite and Mennonite Weekly Review, respectively.
Google Analytics provides many details about website traffic. In addition to pageviews (the number of pages viewed in a month), Google also keeps track of "absolutely unique visitors" (unduplicated) per month. In this category, The Mennonite's website had 14,564, while the Mennonite Church USA site drew 12,585 (see chart).
Almost all the organizations polled also have Facebook pages, although some promote them more than others. Four organizations have Twitter accounts.
For Mennonite Publishing Network, web traffic matters less than sales.
"While more visitors is always better than few visitors," says John Longhurst, "the bottom line for MPN is, well, the bottom line. The 'analytic' that really matters for us at the end of the day is the number of items sold."
Since many commercial sites such as Amazon offer MPN products—people access information and purchase items on other sites than MPN's site.
"All I really like to know is that Amazon and other online distributors keep ordering from us on a regular basis," he says.
Most organizations do see a fluctuation in web traffic—not necessarily a clean, steady increase each month.
"We actually had fewer visitors compared with a year ago," says Longhurst. "However, our sales were up by over $31,000 in October 2010, compared with 2009—once again illustrating the most important metric for MPN."
Sheldon Good, assistant editor and web editor for Mennonite Weekly Review, says his website's visitors and pageviews were higher in October 2010 than October 2009.
"However, this doesn't mean that over the past year we've seen a steady increase month-to-month," he says, "meaning we have more of a peak and valley trend that's going up over time rather than a straight line that continues to go up. This is likely connected to an unpredictable news environment.
"Plus, over the past few months, our blog has generated almost as much traffic as news stories, which shows people are increasingly interested in various perspectives."
The monthly percentage of new visitors to MWR's website is consistently increasing, Good says. Also, in October 2010, 53 percent of visitors came one time, while more than 11 percent visited more than 200 times. For The Mennonite, 54 percent of visitors came one time, and 2.63 percent came more than 200 times.
There is a difference between a site that is a source for news and corporate sites.
"Organizations use their websites for purposes that are not apples-to-apples,” says Everett Thomas, editor of The Mennonite. "We have found ours to be an excellent place to aggregate the many news releases and photos sent to us each month. Our website has also let us create several electronic magazines, such as the weekly TMail and the monthly, Spanish-language Meno Acontecer."
MHS Alliance did not have Google Analytics set up in October 2010 but plans to in the future. Everence, still known as Mennonite Mutual Aid in October 2010, did not provide its traffic information. Everence does not have a Facebook page or Twitter account.
"Because of the industry we are in, we have to navigate a lot of legal issues before we can go ahead with these," says Thushan Hemachandra, new media manager at Everence Financial.
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