Can Google Adwords tell us how many Unitarian Universalists there are?

I participated in a search engine optimization and social media use briefing at work recently — and can I tell you how I love my job — that made me think about the name recognition of Unitarian Universalists and how much others think or wonder about us. Enough to search on Google, since that’s one tool we studied.

It makes sense for Google to supply such information through its AdWords program, since this is the kind of information one would use to shape campaigns — and thus make advertising purchases.

For example, of the 16.6 million people who search for “church” in the United States per month, about 74,000 search for “unitarian church” “universalist” “unitarian universalist” and the like. “Universalism” gets about 18,000 — perhaps due to the Rob Bell controversy — and “Unitarianism” gets only a third of that. That’s not much, but given how small we are it’s not bad either. The site is a top hit for all of these, so no reason to buy ads for those names.

Variations of Unitarian, Universalist and Christian get very few hits — a scant couple of thousand a month. Little wonder it’s relatively easy to get to the top of the Google search, but there’s not many people looking, so no reason to buy ads for those names. That’s depressed me, but “no hell” gets about 33,000 so perhaps it’s partly a question of framing.

We need some new keywords. You can search for keywords based on a website and it makes suggestions. Look up the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship site and — getting past the obvious permutations of Unitarian, Universalist and church — you see an interest in sermons, Christmas services and the phrase “the way of Jesus.” A hot keyword for is universalist — again, the controversy I imagine — but also “church administrator” — perhaps suggesting that job isn’t a well noted on other denominational sites.

Now I’m thinking of my own ad campaign. What would I say that I’m not already top ranking for?

Sorry for the half-formed thoughts. But I’m stumbling for the words — words, literally — that make the right invitation.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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