Google Maps has grown into the biggest map platform over the last number of years, which receives an incredible 63,000 searches per second (5.6 billion searches per day). When we are searching for something, we have become all too used to taking out our phones and searching for “convenience store near me” or “auto shop near me”. This is also true of people searching for a church located in their neighbourhood.
When someone does a local search, for a term like “church near me”, they will see search results like the one below. This is called the Google local pack. It shows the searcher the 3 most relevant locations to their search. These 3 locations will receive the largest amount of local search traffic, as most people will choose from one of these locations, so the goal is for your church to appear in these listings.
How Does Google Decide Which Churches are Listed in the 3-Pack
Google provides the criteria that it’s algorithm analyzes when deciding which locations are listed in the 3-pack. Local results are based primarily on 3 factors: relevance, distance, and prominence.
- Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for.
- Distance refers to how far each potential search result is from the physical location of the user performing the search (ie “church near me”), or the location identifier used in the search (ie “church in Phoenix”).
- Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. This is heavily influenced by the number of citations found in authoritative directories online.
How Can I Improve My Church’s Local SEO for Google Maps?
If you want to improve your SEO so that your church has a better chance of apearing in the Google local pack when people search for terms like “church in <your city>”, there are a number of measures you can take.
1. Improve your church’s Google My Business Profile
Improving your Google My Business profile is the first step you should take when trying to improve your rankings in Google Maps. Google pulls a lot of your information from here, so making sure your profile is fully completed and up to date is really important. Here are some of the steps that are recommended by Google to ensure your profile is in the best standing as possible:
- Verify your Location(s). You can verify your location by by following instructions found here. Verification is most often performed by receiving a postcard from Google at your listed address, though depending on much Google knows and already trusts your church, you may have other verification methods available to you, such as via email. You will need to verify your Google My Business profile before Google will use the information you provide in the other steps below.
- Make sure all your data is complete. To improve rankings, you should be sure to fill out every single field that you can and ensure that it is always up to date and accurate. This type of data includes your address, phone number(s), website, contact details, office + service hours of operation, etc.
- Set the most specific Primary Category possible. Google My Business has predefined categories for you to choose, from which you can select a single Primary Category and as many Additional Categories as you desire. Having the Primary Category set that most accurately represents your church is crucial, and will greatly impact your search rankings for related keywords. If your church’s Primary Category is currently set to simply “Church”, you almost certainly need to go looking for a more specific option!
- Keep your “special” hours accurate and up to date. If you have special opening hours over holiday periods, be sure to update your Google My Business page to reflect these. There is a field in GMB specifically for this purpose.
- Manage and Respond to Reviews. Google reviews are not just great for helping your church’s local SEO in Google Maps, but they are also great social proof that people are attending your church and enjoy the environment. The more of your congregation that leave positive reviews, the better for your church and your ranking! If you look at the example of the Google local pack above, you will notice even the church with the least number of reviews still has 50+.
It is also important to not just ignore it if someone leaves a negative review. You should engage with these reviewers and find out what caused their negative experience.
- Add Photos. You should add as many relevant pictures of your church as possible. Pictures of both the inside and outside the church, pictures of sermons, and pictures of the churchgoers. Google prefers profiles with lots of photos, and they also help potential visitors what your church is like.
- Post Content. If you have any updates about your church, news to share, or upcoming events, be sure to post them on your Google My Business page. Google prefers listings that are posting regularly, and have an active account.
This tool will produce an overview of your church's local search presence. This includes factors such as your online citation profile, local search rankings, and online reputation profile. Local search results are a primary driver of new visitors to your church website and as a result Local SEO is of great important to churches.
2. Local Citations
Once you have your Google My Business pages fully filled out, you will want to make sure that your contact information is consistent across the internet. The address and phone number listed in your Google My Business profile should match exactly what is listed on your website, and also any other 3rd party citations such as Yelp.
You should try and build up your citations across a number of local and national directory sites, ensuring that your information is kept consistent.
These citations can come from a number of sources, such as your church’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and from online directories, such as Yelp, Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local. If you run an audit of your citations that are already on the web, you will probably be surprised how many citations there are with incorrect information, so it is vital to get these consistent
3. Landing Pages
Landing pages are especially important for churches who may have multiple campuses but have one website to service them all. In this situation, you should create campus-specific landing pages for each campus. Each campus must have its own Google My Business profile configured with its “website” field pointing to the campus-specific landing page. You should also build up the local citations outlined above to each of these landing pages. This ensures that each campus can appear relevant in a search, and not just your main campus.
If you would like to chat to us about how we can help improve your church’s ranking in Google Maps, be sure to get in touch with us today or check out some of the local SEO services for churches we provide here.