Clover is back with Clover Sites 3

After roughly 3 years of development, this week Clover has released the newest version of their website solution, Clover Sites 3. Clover originally launched their first solution in 2008, which quickly became the largest provider of church websites, and now serves over 10,000 ministries.

Clover Sites 3

Their newest release is a complete HTML5 redesign of their product, optimized and designed from the ground up. Here are some of their stand-out features:

Beautiful, Handcrafted Website Templates. You can choose from 5 different site designs (more options coming soon), and easily have a website comparable to the best church websites.

Responsive Mobile Sites. As well as having responsive templates, Clover Sites 3 offers specific mobile-perfect tools to ensure that your site will look great on any device.

Powerful Site Editor. The Greenhouse (Clover’s CMS) was given a total overhaul. Not only are you given the ability to choose from color palettes and font themes, but there is also the ability to change from Easy Mode to Advanced Mode, depending on your level of tech-savvy-ness.

Section-based Websites. As with most of the freshest, most modern sites on the web, Clover Sites 3 comes from the perspective of section-based content. This means that you have the ability to have as many sections on your website as you want, with different types of content – which is best for communicating a message, as well as mobile viewing.

If you’re in the market for a website for your church or ministry, be sure to check out Clover Sites 3. All sites cost $1000 plus $20/month, and as new features are added (which will be each month), you’ll immediately have them available on your site.

For more information, check out cloversites.com or see the video below.

Special thanks to Clover for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this video.

How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

Updated version of an earlier article.

I regularly get asked questions about how to start and maintain a successful blog. Here is my beginner’s blogging tutorial – How to Blog 101.

#1 :: CHOOSE A BLOGGING PLATFORM

I recommend self-hosting your blog and using WordPress. It the most popular platform among Technorati’s top 100 blogs and among Church Relevance’s top church blogs. Tumblr is on a major growth trajectory and is especially popular with teens and 20-somethings.

Self-Hosted Blogging Software:

Blogging Services (hosting provided):

Other options include LiveJournal, Blog.com, Weebly, and Wix (these last two are really websites with blog options).

#2 :: FIND A DOMAIN (if allowed)

As long as it is relevant, the shorter the domain is the better. A short domain is quick and easy to type, which will save you time in the long run and reduce the probability of you and your visitors mistyping it. Some of the tools

#3 :: DESIGN YOUR BLOG

Being a web designer or hiring one is no longer necessity. WordPress has thousands of template designs for sale and for free that are not too complicated to implement. If you are just starting out with blogging, we typically recommend finding an inexpensive theme/template (under $50). If you are just starting out, but do have a design budget, we typically recommend spending it on branding (logo and brand usage guidelines) rather than development.

Free WordPress Themes

Note: Most website themes also have a blog-as-home option.

Premium WordPress Themes

#4 :: USE TOOLS

WordPress is a great platform, but there are tools and plugins that can make it even better. I recommend at least using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics – free stats about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site
  • Akismet Plugin – tracks spammers and helps keep them off your blog
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
  • WWW Redirect – Redirects variations of identical domain requests to a consistent uri (i.e. http://abc.com to http://www.abc.com )
  • Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors
  • WordPress Database Backup Plugin – easily backup your core WordPress database

Other Tools:

  • ClickTale – provides movies and heatmaps of your visitors’ actual browsing sessions
  • Crazy Egg – supplement your analytics with stunning visuals and actionable data
  • Creative Commons – easily mark your work with copyright freedoms
  • Wufoo – Online form builder with cloud storage database.
  • PollDaddy – create free online surveys and polls for your blog

#5 :: HAVE QUALITY CONTENT

An aesthetically well-designed blog may entice visitors to linger for the first visit, but quality content is what will get those visitors to keep coming back. If you need topics, visit these resources:

  • Google Alerts – Emails from google containing the latest content on keywords of your choice
  • Reddit – users decide the top stories
  • Digg – discover and share content from anywhere on the web
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • StumbleUpon – discovers web sites based on your interests
  • Flipboard (iOS and Android)
  • Alltop – an “online magazine rack” of popular topics

#6 :: STUDY BLOGGING

If you want people to read your quality content, study the science of successful blogging and copywriting. Writing for a blog is different than writing for a book or magazine. My advice:

Unless you are blogging for personal reasons, focus on optimizing the reader experience. Offer only quality content. And make it scannable by using short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet points. Use as few words as possible without compromising quality (needless words waste readers’ time). And if possible, post consistently often.

Blogging Tips:

#7 :: MARKET YOURSELF

With blogging, two of your most powerful marketing opportunities are Search Engine Optimization and leveraging social media. Last year, 57% of ChurchRelevance.com’s traffic came from search engines. You should be using these resources:

  • Google Keyword Tool – discover which keywords and phrases are searched for the most. I use this often. In fact, three highly-searched keyphrases are in this post’s title.
  • Facebook – a popular social network likely used by many readers (follow me)
  • LinkedIn – a popular social network for professionals (follow me)
  • Twitter – stay hyperconnected to readers with this microblogging tool (follow me)
  • Google+ – the second largest social network which factors into Google’s search algorithms
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • Social Media Posting Guide – For regular people that do not have unlimited resources and time

WHAT ELSE?

Remember this is just the beginner’s blogging tutorial. But if you read all of these links, you will be on your way to becoming a blogging expert.

If you are already blogging, what would you add to this list?
What are your favorite tools?
What is your best advice?