Ranking the Top 25 Church of Christ Blogs

FELLOW BLOGGERS: Just a reminder that Matt Dabbs and I are compiling data on progressive Church of Christ blogs for March 2010. Send your data either to me (jfguin(at)comcast(dot)net) or to Matt and we’ll announce the totals. See below for details announced back on February 20.

Matt Dabbs and I have been discussing the best way to rank Church of Christ blogs. Alexa and Google are useful tools but have serious weaknesses and produce wildly inconsistent results. Technorati seems to have stopped ranking blogs altogether.

As a result, ranking blogs using these services produces some peculiar results. For example, despite its low Alexa score, Edward Fudge is certainly among the most influential websites, because most of Edward’s readers read by email subscription. And GraceConversation hasn’t been active for many months, and yet ranks higher than a number of websites that have much more activity.

We’ve concluded that, with some modifications, the number of Page Views is the best objective measure of the influence of a blog. However, only the host of a blog knows his own Page View count, and so we need your help to gather information to generate a better ranking.The Page View count generally won’t include email subscribers. This is particularly true for sites that don’t run blogging software, such as Al Maxey’s “Reflections” and Edward Fudge’s “GracEmails.” A similar problem arises regarding RSS feeds. WordPress, for example, doesn’t include RSS readers in its Page View statistics.

We have concluded that the most fair and accurate way to measure the readership of each blog is to total Page Views, RSS via Google reader subscriptions, and an estimate of the total email views per month. And so, even though it’s certainly not perfect, a description of how those will be handled is outlined below. Here’s the plan —

  • Participation is limited to theological websites with a focus on the Churches of Christ.
  • We’ll likely only report the top 25.
  • At the end of March, those willing to participate should send us three things: their Page View total for March 2010 and total number of email subscribers for March 2010, and number of posts or emails (for Maxey and Fudge) for the month. (Either matthewdabbs(at)hotmail(dot)com or jfguin(at)comcast(dot)net.)
  • Page Views: For WordPress users, this is as easy as going to the Stats page, clicking the “Months” tab above the graph, and reporting the number for “Views per Month” by hovering the cursor over the graph’s data point for March. This will not include those who read via RSS readers.
    • Those of you who use Blogger or another service likely won’t have a comparable built in statistics function. You’ll need to add SiteMeter’s free service to your blog before March 1. (Or you may want to move your blog to WordPress.)
    • Once you sign up, SiteMeter will provide a widget to insert on your site and will begin sending you periodic emails with your Page Views. At the end of March, you can either compile the information from the emails or log into SiteMeter, get the report from there, and forward it to one of us. (While not essential, we encourage you to select the option to make your statistics public.)
    • Matt has run comparisons, and SiteMeter produces results that are very close to WordPress’s Page View calculation.
  • RSS: We’ll add to that number the approximate number of views via RSS feed by taking the Google Reader figure for the last day of March times the number of posts for March. Although some readers will use another RSS reader, Google Reader likely has a 90%+ market share among blog readers and not all RSS subscribers actually read what they subscribe to, so the Google Reader total should be a fair approximation of Page Views via RSS.
  • Email subscriptions: For those who distribute materials via traditional email — not using blogging software or Feedburner — if you’ll give those figures to one of us, we’ll add the number of email subscribers times the number of posts in March times 67%. The 67% is just a guess but is designed to take into account our observation that readers via RSS feed are more likely to actually read postings that subscribers via email.

This will give as exact a result for Page Views in March as we can come up with. We’ll compare the results to Google, Alexa, Altavista, and any other service we can think of, and so hopefully find a service that produces about the same results without this much trouble.

If we don’t find a good substitute, we’ll likely ask for updated data and publish new results every three months. We’ll also post the raw data so you can check our work and see what readership you have to attract to make the top 25.

In summary, during the first week of April, please send us the following data regarding your site for the entire month of March:

  • The total posts you put up during March
  • The total Page Views for March according to either the WordPress Stats page or SiteMeter. (Specify which one you used.)
  • The number of subscribers you have by email (not counting automated email via WordPress or Feedburner if you report using WordPress Stats) as of March 31. For those using WordPress or Blogger, this will almost always be zero, but may be a very large number for someone like Al Maxey or Edward Fudge.

This content is also posted at Matt’s blog to get the word out to as many Church of Christ bloggers as possible.

PS — If anyone has any thoughts on how to get better results, let us know. We would welcome any suggestions.


22 Responses

  1. Chris might have some meaningful input on what you are doing. He is familiar with the ranking of ‘Biblioblogs’, though I think it has recently been discontinued. I would suggest you include Wayne Jackson, though his site is not really a blog.

    Chris Brady’s site: http://targuman.org/blog/2009/12/31/final-monthly-biblioblog-rankings/

    Wayne: http://www.christiancourier.com/

  2. John,

    Thanks for the suggestion. He ranks purely based on Alexa, which is better than most objective rankings, but not nearly as accurate as we’d like. It depends on how many readers have the Alexa toolbar installed — and most people don’t have it, resulting in some peculiar outcomes.

    I agree that Wayne Jackson’s Christian Courier ought to be included. His Alexa score is about the same as mine. If he’ll send in the data, we’ll compile it.

    The best I can tell, his is the highest ranking blog-like site among the conservative Churches of Christ. It would be interesting to see where he ranks compared to, for example, Al Maxey.

  3. I’m wondering about a site like Heartlight.org. It’s run by members of the church of Christ and all of us who write are also CofC, as far as I know. However, it’s appeal is much broader, and it’s not strictly a blog per se. (Though the same could be said for some of the others we normally list)

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    P.S.—Just a note on procedure. According to Feedburner, Google only accounts for about 1/3 of my subscribers; are you sure about that 90% market share? FriendFeed has about the same number on mine.

  4. Tim,

    The problem is at some point there has to be a limit to what can be considered otherwise the task is insurmountable. There are at least 100 different ways to read or subscribe to RSS and there is no way we want to track down even a half dozen, much less 100+ for all the blogs. That would be the most accurate if it were feasible. For instance, I have readers via bloglines, networked blogs (Facebook), and probably a dozen other services…where do we draw the line for the sake of keeping this process doable?

  5. Sounds like you guys have done your homework! And have taken on a pretty big job.


  6. Jay, you have said you have friends from other church denominations, why not ask them for some blogs that are inspiring from churches other than the COC denomination blogs, that you can reference to readers?

  7. One more question, where does the Bible show churches competing for ranking numbers in the Bible?

  8. One more question, where does the Bible show churches competing for ranking numbers?

  9. Anonymous,

    You’ll notice to the right of the page a list of Evangelical Links. I need to expand it, but it’s a start.

    I’m not going to try to rank blogs from all denominations, however. There are WAY too many of them!

  10. Didn’t mean to comment that twice, hit submit too soon. But if anyone can please tell me the reason why churches are competing over ranking numbers?

    It seems the focus has gone away from Jesus and instead is on blog rankings, why is that?

  11. Anon,

    This is not churches competing. The blogs are by individuals.

    I suppose someone could see this as competition. I see it as the internet equivalent of taking attendance at church. It’s a measure of effectiveness. And feedback is essential to knowing whether you’re accomplishing your goals.

    And, for me, it’s giving honor to those who do great work. Al and Edward, for example, have been at this a long time, doing extraordinary work. I have no desire to see my ranking exceed theirs. Indeed, one reason for this new, more difficult approach is to put Edward’s site back near the top where it belongs.

  12. Jay,
    Above you said: “I suppose someone could see this as competition. I see it as the internet equivalent of taking attendance at church. It’s a measure of effectiveness. And feedback is essential to knowing whether you’re accomplishing your goals.”

    Sometimes I wonder if metrics are over rated as a desirable manner in which to measure effectiveness. I suspect that several CofC blogs could boast of far greater numbers than John Mark Hicks blog. However, when one reads the comments on the JMH blog and compares them with the comments on some other blogs one sees a qualitative difference and may wonder which is really more helpful..

    Additionally, Bobby Valentine does a fresh post infrequently compared with other blogs, but when he does one it is frequently substantive and worth waiting for.

    Perhaps metrics are over rated as in so many things quantity does not correlate positively with quality. A large attendance and budget do not necessarily correlate with an effective church. If that were the case we might consider leaving the CofC for the Roman Catholic church.

    For what it is worth,

  13. To me this is an awareness issue. We can list blogs on our sidebars all day but that doesn’t really raise awareness of those blogging to make a difference. One thing I have considered in addition to this is to highlight a blog a week or one per month that I think is doing an exceptional job regardless of traffic. The more ways we can bring recognition and appreciation of those the better.

  14. “I suppose someone could see this as competition. I see it as the internet equivalent of taking attendance at church. It’s a measure of effectiveness. And feedback is essential to knowing whether you’re accomplishing your goals.”

    So you speaking about effectiveness of people that attend church, not the effectiveness of those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I believe the main focus when it comes to numbers should be more on the millions of people living in the world without Jesus. IMHO, a church can have thousands of people attending, which is great, but what really matters is whether that church continues growing where people from outside the church who have been living in the world are being converted regularly. If that’s not happening then is that church really being effective?

  15. The effectiveness of a website should be in how it serves its target audience. Is the website primarily for members of that congregation or is it being used as an evangelical tool?

    If it is targeting its members then the traffic will be limited over all to the size of the congregation. So there could be a small number in views or visits in web terms but this could be really good for the congregation’s size.

    If it is being used as an outreach, or on-line ministry then how many people have come to Christ through it, or how many people walk in Christ has been dramatically affected by it?

    What type of website is it and how well does it serve its audience? It would be difficult to get and accurate “spiritual” measurement.

    Well that is my 2 cents ^_^

  16. Randall,

    It’s all true, but we still count attendance. It’s one of several measures of effectiveness, not sufficient by itself but nonetheless a useful tool.


    I agree. A blog designed to only serve a local congregation shouldn’t be ranked. This would only be for blogs targeting a much larger audience.

  17. I don’t know if those sending out emails use any type of email/newsletter service but if they do that usually gives stats as to who actually opened the email. I use mailchimp and it tells me how many opened the email and who opened the email. This could be another way of knowing how many actually read the emails sent to them.

    Also 66% opening rate also seems very high according to the data I’ve been able to find.

  18. All,

    A quick reminder to get your stats in to me or Matt.

    I read something about silence being a prohibition, but I think the real rule is that silence is prohibited.

  19. Jay,

    Could you please explain whatever it is that makes a Christian, a church, or blog – “progressive”?

    We have all probably asked (or been asked) about a particular group and I wonder what people mean precisely when the descibe themselves as progressive (or not progressive).

    Has this been covered already?


  20. Hank,

    Personally, I tend to focus on one question in particular:

    * Do you see such issues as instrumental music or weekly communion as tests of fellowship or salvation issues?

    There are, of course, lots of other positions that tend to cluster on the two sides of the definition, but I see the key distinction in this question, because, in my view, this is the issue in our fellowship that pushes us either toward or away from a works justification in violation of Galatians.

  21. Jay,

    That’s an interesting definition. I suppose for the time being it is accurate, but it gives me a bit of pause.

    Having an NI background, we always described every church that supported benevolent institutions or had a fellowship hall as “liberal”. By that definition, the CFTF crowd was “liberal”.

    What happens 25 years from now when there will be some Churches of Christ with one instrumental service every Sunday, that offer communion on Saturday night, and who insist that they are the only ones going to heaven? Will we call those “progressive”?

  22. Mike,

    No. A church that damns those who disagree over non-core issues (faith, repentance) is not progressive — regardless of its form of worship.

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