Jeffrey Kranz on Sharing Bible Overviews with 1 Million+ People Online | Episode 011

Catch this week’s episode of the Future.Bible Podcast as we have Jeffrey Kranz, SEO and marketing expert, and a Bible geek, with us today. Jeffrey is the owner of Overview Bible, a website dedicate for people to understand the Bible better through a variety of such as articles, infographics, and more.

Tune in as Jeffrey shares his story on coming up with Overview Bible – how he started, utilized marketing and SEO to be able to reach a wider audience, and going from zero to a million users a year – all of these driven by his passion to understand the Bible better.

Make sure to check out Overview Bible at www.OverviewBible.com. You can reach out to Jeffrey at Jeffrey@OverthinkGroup.com.  

HIGHLIGHTS
06:44 And I guess this is just my editorial, is that the teaching that’s happening in the church, sometimes it’s not happening and that it’s extra curricular materials like this that is actually closing the gap.

08:39 Well, technology kind of blows that linear concept of learning away. We have our own questions, and the opportunity for people like me, and for really anyone who wants to teach about the Bible or a grow engagement around the Bible in the 21st century, is now we can identify what are the pressing questions that people have. And we can just answer them, and then give them next steps.

13:11 Instead create a cluster of content that relates to individual topics and just make relevant content, make the best content of its kind, and then support it with articles that get into more of the nitty gritty questions.

15:10 And so the secret sauce is empathy. It’s just good, old-fashioned empathy.

17:24 That’s a challenge because a lot of people that are making software aren’t necessarily very well-versed in the Bible.

19:03 And this is, the Bible is just this fertile field where people have all these questions and they really want to know more about it because it’s so important.

20:59 And so I would love to have technology that essentially cheated that process and gave me a visual snapshot of the literary genius of the Bible.

TRANSCRIPTION
DJ:              Welcome to another episode of the Future.Bible podcast. My name is DJ Chuang and I’m joined with my co-host Kenny Jahng. How are you today?

Kenny:           Good to be with you, DJ. Always good to be with you.

DJ:              I hear it’s a great day for you because we have a very special guest from the Pacific Northwest. His name is Jeffrey Kranz and he runs a little website that reaches over a million every year called Overview Bible, and the web address is www.OverviewBible.com. And we want to introduce you to him and share with you the exciting things that he is doing with the Bible for today’s 21st century. Jeffrey, welcome to the show.

Jeffrey:         Thanks for having me.

Kenny:           So tell us about Overview Bible and how’d you get into it?

Jeffrey:         Yeah. So Overview Bible is a Bible literacy website. It started as a blog that made, well, overviews of every book of the Bible, and has grown into something that reaches, like you mentioned, very kindly earlier, a more than a million people a year. The basic idea was I think that the Bible is very important to a lot of people of faith, and it should be important to everyone, even if they hate the idea of religion outright. And so there should be ways for people to really wrap their minds around such an incredible and huge work of literature. So Overview Bible was born, and it’s been a, it’s been a really fun project to work on since it started.

Kenny:           So are you the chief content creator for the site? Who wrote all 66 overviews?

Jeffrey:         That was, that was me. There has been a handful of contributors in the past. I’ve interviewed a few theologians and I have a few really strong writing and ministry friends that contribute here and there. Especially lately because we’re starting to look at some important figures and concepts from church history that informed how we understand the Bible. But for the most part I would say about 98 percent plus the words and design on Overview Bible is from me. All the bad design is from me.

DJ:              And all the good ones too.

Jeffrey:         Most of the good.

DJ:              Well, I love it because a visual speaks more than a thousand words in today’s generation, and so much of the Bible content that had been generated before 2015, let’s say, has just been text-based, which is great for search engines that are searching texts. But I think what we’re learning through social media and through how people consume content and engage with content, it’s the visual. And you present the visual in a very quick, one screen shot that engages people. They don’t have to sit through a video, they don’t have to sit through an audio. And so for you to prove, present something concisely, meaningfully is such a powerful thing. How long have you been doing this and what kind of feedback are you getting?

Jeffrey:         A great question. I started in 2013. It’s kind of a funny origin story. I was talking with a friend of mine who is also a Christian and was raised in the church. And somehow the topic of our favorite Bible characters came up and she said, “I love James. James is my favorite character.” And I asked, “Why?” And in explaining why James was her favorite character, she conflated three James’s in the New Testament. And I thought, “Wow! Very honest mistake. There are a lot of James’s in the New Testament. It was a pretty common name in that day.” But I thought, “Man, this is, we, we really need to have a way for people of faith to kind of wrap their heads around”, you know, “how complicated some parts of the Bible are.” In the case of, you know, there’s not just one James, there’s not just one Mary. But also do so in a concise way that makes things very clear. So that started with just an overview of the books of the Bible or individual overviews of each of the books of the Bible in 2013. I finished that up in February, at the very beginning of February in 2014. It took about seven months. And from thereon and started doing infographics and saying, “Okay, well how do we, how do we trace different concepts and the interesting metadata of Scripture”, if you will. That was when I started getting a lot more good feedback. So I’ve heard, I’ve had pastors in churches in the Western world say, “Hey, I really loved this infographic on the one another commands of the New Testament, and I want to use that in my sermon,” or, “I want to add it as an appendix to my book,” and stuff like that. I’ve also had a teachers in Kenya say like, “Hey, I really love this.” I just got a note from someone who’s going on an educational trip to Uganda, I think just last week saying that they’re going to be bringing some of the stuff that I’ve done on the arrangement of the Old Testament to teach people there. So it’s reaching anyone who speaks English and wants to know how the Bible fits together, which is really encouraging to me. And that also goes across denominations. I think in the span of about two weeks, I got an email from an independent fundamentalist and an email from a Catholic priest thanking me for the material on Overview Bible and saying that it was really helpful to them in their ministry.

Kenny:           Imagine if you’d put all your fans in one room together.

Jeffrey:         I don’t know how many would walk out.

Kenny:           So I have a question. You’ve probably learned a lot about how people learn and with that amount of traffic you’re getting a lot of feedback. And I guess this is just my editorial, is that the teaching that’s happening in the church, sometimes it’s not happening and that it’s extra curricular materials like this that is actually closing the gap. Can you share, I guess, your commentary of what advantage or the digital nature of information dissemination, being able to use mixed media? What advantage has that in conveying the lessons of Scripture and in actually getting people interested and involved? And we use that buzzword ‘engagement’ all the time, in this vocation. How does technology play a role? Or does it not? And it’s just neutral.

Jeffrey:         I would say it plays a role in that now information about the Bible, and education concerning the Bible, and issues of faith is a lot more self-served than it has been in the past. And to some people that’s kind of scary, because now people can approach their questions in an isolated context, you know, they don’t necessarily know all the foundational elements of the Christian faith or, you know, the, the ancient Jewish faith when they’re approaching some of the, some of the spicy and juicy questions like who was Melchizedek. And so that makes things very interesting, because in traditional educational settings, you know, you look at the catechism; the catechisms are very intentionally set up. You learn this so that you can learn that. And then you learn that so that you can learn that. And it’s set up in, in this linear fashion. Well, technology kind of blows that linear concept of learning away. We have our own questions, and the opportunity for people like me, and for really anyone who wants to teach about the Bible or a grow engagement around the Bible in the 21st century, is now we can identify what are the pressing questions that people have. And we can just answer them, and then give them next steps. And that’s something that has been really helpful for me. You know, during my day job I run an SEO and marketing company, and that’s been my career. I’m not a theologian. I don’t have a seminary degree. I love teaching though. And I got into marketing, because I’m one of those marketers that, not a lot of marketers like in that I just like educating people, and letting them make their own really good decisions. And so I thought, “Well, let’s educate people on the Bible using the kinds of marketing tactics of the businesses are using,” namely SEO. And there are a lot of tools that you can use to see what are people Googling when they want to know more about the Bible. And so that’s what I’ve done. I said, you know, of the books of the Bible, you know, when people, what are some of the questions of that the people are searching for? What are some of the popular books that people want to know about? What are some popular topics that are on people’s minds that are also very interesting to write about? So yeah, I think that technology, well, it has kind of opened this new nonlinear learning reality. It’s also opened up the data on what people are curious about to the teachers. And so if you have teachers that can look at that data and then say, “Great! There are a lot of people who want to know who Melchizedek was,” then you can create the information that answers that question. and then also link out to stuff that may be more important, or you know, maybe more foundational, and just meet people where they are. And use that as a foray into learning about the Bible.

DJ:              Well, here’s what’s amazing to use a Bible verse that, ‘seek and ye shall find,’ and millions of millions of people are searching every day. And now we have the opportunity to provide the answers to what people are searching for, which a lot of it is in the Bible when it comes to life and faith. So here’s the kicker a lot of our audience would want to hear. How in the world do you go from zero to a million users a year having this as a side project? Because there are people spending their day jobs figuring this out. You don’t have to give away the secret sauce, but give us a hint.

Kenny:           Not paid traffic, right?

Jeffrey:         Oh, it’s not paid traffic. It is certainly not paid traffic. The way it grew was by creating this foundation of different pieces of content, relevant content that links to each other. In a lot of ways, I was ahead of the curve in 2013 when it came to SEO. I think it was just last year that HubSpot, which is a, for those that aren’t familiar, a really, really significant voice in the marketing and technology field. They educate a lot of marketers in the digital age. HubSpot said if you want to rank instead of just writing different things about whatever key words come to mind so you know, if someone’s searching for various questions, making one blog post per article, you don’t need to do that. Instead create a cluster of content that relates to individual topics and just make relevant content, make the best content of its kind, and then support it with articles that get into more of the nitty gritty questions. And I started by doing that. I had a really good foundation of a content that was related to each other and interlinked. And so that set me up for a really good future, because then when I started making infographics about, say the dreams in the Bible or the most and least popular books of the Bible, I partnered with Bible Gateway to use some of their data to find, you know, what’s the least popular book of the Bible. And I’ll save you the Google search – it’s Obadiah. Not a lot of people reading about Mount Seir, and why? Well, if you read Obadiah, then maybe you would know why they’re not that significant.

DJ:              Which also means why you’re referring first to that word, right?

Jeffrey:         Yes. Yeah. And so like, looking for longest and shortest books of the Bible. And, you know, since I had all of that content there to link to, then I had a rich site. Like there’s a lot of technical stuff that goes into it that we probably don’t need to get into on this context or on this podcast. But I wrote a lot of content. It was all very informative. If someone, I had a question in a persona in mind that I was answering and that I was surveying. And so Google’s whole job is saying, we’re going to recognize the questions behind your questions, and then give you the best possible results. That’s what their whole rank brain, AI program is about – just anticipating what you meant. And so the secret sauce is empathy. It’s just good, old-fashioned empathy, and saying, “Okay, if someone’s Googling summary of Ruth then what are the things that they’re going to need to see? What’s a good order in which that can be presented? And how do I do this in a way that’s really keeping their education first? And then linking out to other material on the blog that helps them learn more, getting them addicted to the concept.

Kenny:           Fascinating. Fascinating.

Jeffrey:         Building an email list helped a lot, too because, you know, tell people, “Hey, I made something new. You should share it.”

Kenny:           Money is in the list. We’ve got to always look at that list. A lot of people think that the Bible is only used by pastors and ministries and then even like Bible-specific websites. But what about the business context? Do you think there’s any opportunity there to use it to that advantage and leverage that type of content?

Jeffrey:         Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. If you’re facing, if you’re trying to serve a Christian audience, then the Bible and SEO make, make for a good nexus, whether that’s strictly ministry or you’re in business to reach those people. And that’s because people are Googling questions that are important to them, and if you can serve people with answers that are very valuable, then you’re going to get found. And so businesses that are trying to serve pastors do very well and to write about, what are lists of Bible verses on leadership, or you know, lists like if you Google tithing scriptures or things like that, you’re going to find one of my favorite online giving and mobile giving solutions. And so like, there’s a lot of opportunity to say, “Okay, if we’re trying to serve people who take the Bible seriously, then let’s help them. Let’s help them understand some of the problems that we help them solve from a biblical standpoint.” And that can get, you know, that’s a challenge because a lot of people that are making software aren’t necessarily very well-versed in the Bible. I can give you, if you’re in that situation and you’re listening to this, I can give you a cheat code. A lot of seminarians know a lot about the Bible and would love to be tapped to make content that answers questions like this. So yeah, and another example would be I was working with a children’s ministry, a software, and we said, “Okay, well we want to make something that, or we want to reach children’s ministers, and we also want to, you know, help them reach parents. So how do we demonstrate that we’re thinking about discipling the entire family?” Well, let’s write a blog post on the best verses for parents, verses that are good for parents, and verses that are good for parenting. And so we wrote that and if you Google ‘Bible verses on parenting’, you should find that. It’s my friends at Discipler, which is a software product made by David C. Cook. So yeah, there’s a lot, a lot of opportunity because there’s so much in the Bible, and it’s something that Christians are very, very interested in. I sure am, like I want to know about the seven people that God calls by name twice in a row. You know, the Abraham Abraham’s. And you know, I don’t know how I would specifically connect to that to business, but you want to reach people, you want to get their ear. And this is, the Bible is just this fertile field where people have all these questions and they really want to know more about it because it’s so important. And so whether you’re a minister, or your trying to do business with Christians, or your just a Bible geek like me, if you have a little empathy and do a little data digging, then you can reach a million people pretty easily. I say easily as though it’s easy, but it’s not. This is five years later.

Kenny:           It takes a lot of planning and perseverance, I’m sure.

Jeffrey:         Planning, perseverance, strategic vision. Yeah. All that easy stuff.

Kenny:           So as we’re wrapping up the show, DJ has a favorite question to ask our guests. DJ, why don’t you go ahead and ask our magic question.

DJ:              Okay. Jeffrey, if you had a magic wand, what would you love to see happen with Bible and technology?

Jeffrey:         I would love to see an interactive tool that made all of the cultural associations and the literary structures of the different books of the Bible, and the metagroups of the Bible available and accessible to English speakers. So I’m not a Jew in the 2nd century BC. And so therefore, a lot of really cool stuff in the Bible is completely lost on me. Our Old Testament is arranged, the books are arranged in different ways. And you know, I’m not pulling from this context of that people had. And so I would love to have technology that essentially cheated that process and gave me a visual snapshot of the literary genius of the Bible. For example, like the Torah ends with this statement that says, ‘since Moses, no prophet, ever since those days, no prophet like Moses has arisen in Israel. Well, what we don’t know is this, the very next book of the Bible in both the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Bible of Jesus’ time was book of Joshua. And we think of that as a historical book, but the Jews considered the book of Joshua a prophetic book. It leads right into the prophets, which is completely lost on me. It was lost on me until I learned how the ancient Jews had arranged the Old Testament. The book of Malachi ends with something really similar where there’s these people coming together and God says, ‘there will come a time when you will, once again a distinguish or you’ll see you’ll see a distinguishment between the righteous and the unrighteous, those who serve God and those do not. So remember the law of Moses.’ and then, you know, that’s the end of the Old Testament for us. But the way the Bible was arranged as this piece of literature back in Jesus’ time, the very next thing that you would read would be the book of Psalms. And Psalms opens with ‘how blessed is the man that doesn’t walk in step with the sinners, but delights in the law of the Lord.’ And so you have this mirroring, you know, just ending and then beginning. I would, if I had that magic wand, I would say I want there to be a tool that just brings all that to life for me. The Bible is just full of cool stuff like that that just goes right over our heads.

Kenny:           We are close. I might be in this generation, right? We’ve got AR, VR, data visualization tools. We might be on the cusp of something like that. So good wish to have.

Jeffrey:         Great.

Kenny:           Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today, Jeffrey. If someone was listening today and want to hear a little bit more about your project or in some of the content marketing stuff that you’re doing. What is a great way for them to reach out to you directly?

Jeffrey:         If you want to reach out to me directly, you can reach me at jeffrey@overthinkgroup.com.

Kenny:           Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much again. And for everyone listening here, thank you very much for joining us for another conversation on our journey. Please let us know your thoughts about today’s interviews and suggestions for future shows. We need your input because we want to be the number one place where you meet innovators ready to talk about how we can apply the always-evolving world of tech to the never-changing message found in the Bible, all for the purpose of deeper engagement in Scripture. So thank you for listening to the Future.Bible Podcast. I remember, for videos, transcripts, and more, head over to our homebase at www.Future.Bible. DJ, thank you so much for joining us today, and Jeffery, really appreciate the time that we had with you as well. Awesome. Thank you very much guys. Gentlemen.

Jeffrey:         Absolutely. Thanks so much.


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