Searching for God on the Web

Photo Credit: International Business Times

The June issue of National Geographic talks about the birth of Religion and how the foundations of worship existed almost 12,000 years ago.  In this post I use Compete data to investigate how people search for and find God on the Web, or how one of the world’s oldest activities translates to one of the world’s newest mediums.  My analysis breaks down into two parts, the first is a look at how people who are searching for God use the web as part of their quest.  The second looks at how those who are “lost” (i.e. those searching) become “found” on the web (i.e. those directed to a religious website). I will look at this group of religious searchers and compare the percentage of traffic sent to each of the different religions to the composition of religion in the US.  My goal is first to understand what people seeking god get from the web and then to see which religion is best using the web to spread their message.

Methodology

“Searching for God on the web” – To get an understanding of how people search for God on the web, I looked at Compete’s keyword search data for word “god”.  The goal was to see whether the information presented was for or against the existence of god and how many sites are offering meaningful information to help seekers.

“Finding God on the web” – Here I started with the Pew research statistics for the major religions in the US and compared them to the amount of traffic for each religion on the web.  To do so, I looked at Compete’s “religion” category and classified the top 150 websites by the religion they represent (please email me for the list and my classification).  The goal was to see how the religious composition in the US compares to the traffic generated online.  I also took a quick look at the overall time spent on religious websites as compared to other ways people spend time on the web.

Results

Like my last post about liberals and conservatives on the web, I’ve kept my analysis short and shallow because this is a complex topic and because I’d like feedback on what aspects to investigate in more detail.  That being said, here are my results:

For people searching for the keyword “god”, the results were:

Secondly, here are the results of the breakdown of religion on the web as a comparison to the US religious demographics:

Finally, in terms of time spent on religious websites, the US spends a collective 8,113,699 hours per month on religious sites, which sounds like a lot until you see realize that this is only 0.1% of the time spent on the web (as compared to 17.6% on social networks and .39% shopping for clothing).

Analysis

For people searching for God online, it’s comforting to know that they have both informational content (like Wikipedia.org and doesgodexist.org), and content supporting the argument for and against god’s existence.  I was surprised that things broke down quickly after the top 10 referral sites (with NickJr.com and weather.com rounding out the top 25 sites), and think the web could be leveraged better to address this discussion.

For the second part of the analysis, I found the difference between the web and US demographics interesting.  It was good to see 8% of the religious traffic on the web working to harmonize all religions and offer a broader view.  On the other hand, I was surprised that the Mormon religion was represented more strongly on the web than their US numbers showed and likewise that Catholic sites were underrepresented on the web. More interesting is that overall, based on the amount of time spent on religious sites, the religion on the web is still in its infancy (as compared to shopping or socializing). I’d love to look again in 10 years and see if the web is better utilized by religious organizations.