Google My Business for Churches

Google My Business for Churches

An important yet simple step in raising your church’s online profile is to claim and optimize your Google My Business profile. Here’s all you need to know about Google My Business, important features, and how to claim your listing.

What is Google My Business?

Over the years, Google has provided different products and platforms for local businesses and organizations. Many have failed or have been phased out, but the most recent iteration is Google My Business (GMB for short).

Google My Business is a way for your church to present approved, accurate information to your potential audience. Information from GMB is populated in a Knowledge Graph, which shows up on the right hand side in desktop search and at the top of the search results page in mobile. GMB data also shows up in Google Maps.

Google My Business is great for two types of searches: discovery and direct. Discovery searches are searches for broad answers; examples include “church [your town]” or “christian concert near me”. Direct searches are searches when people are looking for your church; this includes search terms like “[church name]” and “[church name] directions”.

GMB insights

First Impression Ministry

Most churches have a First Impressions Ministry, designed to create a warm, welcoming experience for guests. The problem is that your guest’s first experience with your church doesn’t happen on your campus, or even on your website. Their first impression often happens on the search results page and on your Google My Business profile.

Your visitor’s first impression doesn’t happen on your campus; it happens online.

GMB for Multiple Locations

Having updated and accurate GMB profiles are also important for churches with multiple locations. Each profile should have the right address, phone number, and service hours, along with following a standard naming convention. This way a potential visitor can easily identify which campus is closest to them.

Anatomy of a GMB Profile

The Knowledge Panel can vary based on the industry, with different features for corporations, hotels, and celebrities. Here are the main features found in a Local Knowledge Panel like the one for your church.

Name, Address, Phone, Website (NAPW)

The main features of your GMB profile is your church’s basic information: name, address, phone, and website (NAPW for short). Ensuring this info is correct on your GMB profile and across the internet is a crucial step in search engine optimization for churches.

google my business NAPW

Map and Directions

This is the most important feature of your church’s Google My Business profile. If a potential visitor finds your church and likes what they see on your profile and website, the next logical step is to find out where your church is and to plan a visit.

As we’ll see later, you can see how many people click for directions from your Knowledge Graph. This, along with data like clicks to your website and phone calls, gives you a better understanding of how your profile is leading potential guests into actually visiting your church.

Photos and Videos

Google allows you to upload photos of your church to your profile. I recommend adding your logo as well as photos of the outside and inside of your church. This gives first-time visitors a better understanding of your church’s culture, attire, and worship style.

A recent update to local Knowledge Graphs is the ability to upload videos. Videos must be under 100 MB and should be horizontal, and you upload them in the GMB dashboard like a normal photo. I think this is a perfect place to upload your sermon series trailer.

Hours

The Knowledge Graph often displays two sets of hours: open hours and popular times. The open hours in the GMB profile are typically your office hours and are editable in your dashboard. The popular times is a graph showing how popular the organization is by visits. You cannot edit this, as Google creates these graphs from user behavior.

Google My Business - Hours

Description

Google recently allowed you to add a short description to your GMB listing. This description, which must be under 750 characters, shows up at the bottom of the Knowledge Graph on desktop and in the About tab on mobile.

I recommend adding a short description of your church, including service times and mention any visitor-friendly ministry.

Details and Amenities

In addition to basic contact information and description, your church’s GMB can also feature highlighted details and amenities. Some are editable by you within the dashboard, while others are added by Google when they crowdsource info from local contributors.

Google My Business - Details

Questions & Answers

A recent addition to the Google Local ecosystem, Google’s Q&A platform is a way for individuals to pose questions about a local business or organization. This is a great opportunity for your church to answer questions about upcoming events, service times, and your beliefs.

There are a few challenges with Google Q&A. First, anyone can answer the questions, which means someone else can write an answer – which may or may not be accurate. Second, Google has not set up a robust notification system, so most questions are left unanswered on most Google My Business listings.

Google My Business - Unanswered Questions

My recommendation is to constantly monitor your church’s questions and promptly answer any questions that appear. If you don’t have any questions currently appearing on your GMB profile, you should write some of your own and answer them with your owner account.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • When are your services?
  • What is the style of your worship?
  • Do you offer ministries for children and teens?
  • Where should I park?

Google My Business - Answered Question

More Information:

Reviews

Online reviews are becoming a main way people evaluate and make decisions about local businesses and organizations. According to one study, 97% of people ages 18-34 read online reviews to judge a local business.

Reviews on Google are a way for visitors to hear about your church from others. People often write about your church’s friendliness, ministries, and even the state of your facilities.

As a church, you should encourage visitors and long-time attenders alike to leave a review on your Google profile. Ask them to leave their honest opinion, with potential visitors in mind. There are some rules to follow when you ask for reviews, so be sure to follow them or else the reviews can be removed.

Sometimes, the Knowledge Panel brings in reviews from other platforms, including Facebook. That’s why it’s important to establish an online reputation management plan to generate more reviews on the most important platforms.

More Information:

Extra Features

There are some additional ways you can extend your GMB profile to get even more features.

Events

Google is now incorporating upcoming events into the Knowledge Panel. Most of this data is being produced through structured data and Schema. More on Schema for Churches in a future article.

Google My Business - Event

Google Posts

Google Posts is a game changer for local businesses. Since launching in the summer of 2017, Google Posts are small social-like posts published by the business and reside in the Knowledge Panel. Most posts are up for 7 days, while event or offer type posts can stay up for longer.

More Information:

GMB Insights

Within the Google My Business dashboard, Google shows helpful stats and insights into how people are finding and engaging with your profile. For churches, the most beneficial stat is the graph highlighting where people are searching from. When you zoom in, you can see the most popular zip codes people are searching for directions to your church. As you zoom out, the data is segmented by community.

With this data, you can see at a glance where people are most interested in your church are coming from. I’d use this data to inform community outreach, Facebook ad campaigns, and even campus expansion opportunities.

More Information:

How to Claim & Optimize GMB

Are you ready to optimize your church’s Google My Business listing and attract more visitors? Great! The first step is to claim your profile.

If your church is older than a few months, chances are there is already a Knowledge Panel for it. Find out by searching for your church’s name. If a panel does not pop up, search for your church’s name and your community’s name.

When you find your Knowledge Graph, you may see the words “Own this business? Claim it now.” This means the listing is unclaimed and needs to be verified. The verification process is pretty simple, though it usually requires a phone call or entering a code from a post card Google mails to you. Once claimed, you can then edit and optimize the listing.

Google My Business - Unclaimed Listing
Proof that even the largest churches forget to optimize their GMB Listing.

If your church’s GMB is already claimed, chances are someone else in your organization has already claimed it. You’ll need to find the email address that owns it so you access the dashboard.

Like your church’s Facebook page, you can add multiple owners and managers of your GMB listing. I recommend you make a universal email address to claim and own the listing – something like webmaster@ or contact@yourchurchdomain. You can then add your own email address as an owner or manager so you can make updates on the fly and on your phone.

Do you Qualify for a GMB Profile?

Not all churches or locations qualify for a GMB profile. To create and claim a Google My Business listing, your church needs to have a phone number and an address where you can receive mail (PO boxes and UPS boxes do not count). This may limit church plants and campuses that rent space on Sunday from creating a listing.

Got Questions about GMB for Churches?

Have questions about your church’s Google My Business listing? Feel free to reach out; I’d be glad to help. The best way to connect with me is on Twitter: @brandonschmidt

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SEO for Churches

SEO for Churches

More and more churches are discovering new opportunities for outreach through digital channels. They invest time and money to create a great website, slick graphics for the next outreach event, and maybe even an app. But few have taken the time to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is a simple way to make sure these digital efforts perform their very best.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to SEO, what is involved, and how churches can leverage it to reach more people.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is a method of improving the search visibility of a website or organization within Google and other search engines.

There are dozens of tactics and strategies for improving your search ranking, depending on the type of website, audience, and goals. For most churches, the SEO tactics that work for local businesses would also work for them. Called local SEO, these tactics will raise the visibility of your church within a target geographic area.

Should Churches Invest in SEO?

Having been in full time ministry for a decade, I understand how valuable resources like time and money are to a local church. So why should a church invest in SEO?

I think there are several important reasons why SEO should be seen as a valuable Kingdom investment for a local church.

Get Found By People As They Search

People search for your church online in several ways. Sometimes they search by typing in your church name (“First Baptist Church”); this is called branded searches and are typically performed by people that already know your church. Other searches are much broader (“church in [community name]”); these are discovery searches and are performed by people that might not be familiar with your church.

I was working with a church who was proud of the fact that they showed up #1 in Google Search for their church name. I said “That’s great, but where do you show up when people search for “church [community name]”?” They were on page 2, which means hardly anyone new to the community would find their site.

With SEO, you can increase your church’s search visibility and target these broader, community-focused keywords. Since these searches are done by a portion of your community that does not know about your church, this is a great ministry opportunity to take advantage of.

Avoid Confusion

Do you share a similar name with other churches in your area? Are there more than one church from your denomination in the community? Do people get your church confused with another?

SEO helps clarify Google’s understanding of your church, including alternative or past names, your exact location, and denominational affiliation. This, in turn, allows Google to present more accurate information about your church in the search results, so your audience can better find you and not the church down the street.

If you have multiple locations or campuses, local SEO provides clarity to Google, so that searchers find the location nearest to them.

Advertise your ministries, events, and outreach opportunities.

With SEO tactics like on-site updates, structured data, and additions to Google My Business, you can better advertise your upcoming events and outreach opportunities. In some cases, you can even have your next event show up when people search for community events in your town. This is a great way to connect with people unfamiliar with your church and build relationships within your larger community.

What is involved with SEO for Churches?

While you might already be familiar with the term SEO, you might not know what it looks like for a local business or organization. Here are 5 key areas to focus on for local church SEO:

1. Google My Business

Google My Business is a free service from Google that allows local businesses and organizations to provide relevant information. Once you verify your account, you can add images, hours, links, videos, and Google Posts to your Google My Business (GMB) account. This information shows up in the Knowledge Graph for branded searches (right sidebar on desktop searches, or top of mobile searches) and in the Map for broader searches.

Google My Business for Churches >>

2. On-Site Improvements

Your website is your church’s online home base for reaching your community. You should make it as easy as possible for your potential guests to find your site and find the information they want.

There are plenty of on-site improvements you can make to increase your website’s rankings and search visibility.

A. Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

The easiest is to craft unique title tags and meta descriptions. The title tag of a page shows up as the blue link in search results, while the meta description is the 1-2 sentence description that appears below the link. Both are crucial elements that can make the difference in whether a person clicks and visits your site or does not.

B. Internal Architecture (IA)

Make sure you have the right structure to your site, including the most important pages being easily accessible in your main navigation and footer. If you have an important page – like your contact or visitor pages – buried in your site, it’s less likely that Google and your potential visitors will be able to find it. For most church websites, it should only take 2-3 clicks to get to any page on the site; any more and the page might as well not exist.

C. Clear, Concise URLs

Have you ever visited a website with strange looking URLs? Most users think that weird, unrecognizable URLs are either for safety (like financial transactions) or are spam sites. Creating page URLs that are easy to read and understand help build trust in your church’s site, plus they make the website more SEO friendly.


Depending on your website platform, you may or may not be able to make these changes to your church’s website. While some church website platforms are easy to work with and can make beautiful website experiences, if they make it hard or nearly impossible to rank well, I would stay away from them.

3. Off-Site Updates

The internet is filled with thousands of directories that list out local businesses and organizations, much like the telephone once did. Some (like Facebook and Yelp) are the most popular websites on the planet, while others are rarely visited by humans, and still others are extremely specific – like ones for your denomination or local directories for your community. All these online directories provide important SEO value for your church.

Very often, these directories can have inaccurate or missing data. If you’ve ever changed your church’s name, address, telephone number, or website address, chances are this old data is still out there. Moz provides a free resource [tk]

4. Schema & Structured Data

Structured data is a type of code that helps Google better understand specific information about your church. With Schema or structured data, you can give Google very accurate info concerning your office hours, associated social profiles, campus locations, job openings, events, and more.

5. Reputation Management

In communities of any size, churches can establish a reputation within Christian circles: the hip one, the traditional one, the one with great worship, the one with awesome children’s programs. Nowadays, the reputation of your church or organization can be found digitally in the reviews left online. Google, Facebook, and other platforms allow for unsolicited reviews of your church through star ratings and comments. And your potential visitors can see the ratings and reviews and make up their mind about your church – before they even step foot on your property.

While it might be unfair and not right for people to make a snap judgement on your church based on a few star ratings or the words of a stranger, but it is the culture we live in. That’s why reputation management is so important: it gives you a chance to create a better first impression of your organization online.

Reputation management involves asking your church members, attendees, and visitors to leave honest reviews of your church online. I recommend starting with Google and then Facebook as the two places for people to leave reviews.

Learn More about SEO for Churches

In this post, I’ve provided a brief overview of what churches can do to improve their search visibility and connect more with their local community. Look for some additional posts, scheduled to publish in the next few weeks, which will dive deeper into how to make these updates for your church’s website and online presence.

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