If your church isn’t already taking advantage of Google My Business, now is the time to start. Google My Business is one of the best ways to be found in your local community by new people searching on Google for things like, “church near me” or “best church in [city]”. Google My Business, also known as GMB, is a free tool created by Google for businesses to be able to create a listing and connect with users directly within search results. In recent years, Google has placed high authority on local search optimization, making it increasingly vital to have a fully robust GMB profile. If you’re wondering how to improve your church’s Google My Business page, you’ve come to the right place!
First things First: What is Google My Business?
If you still aren’t sure what Google My Business is, you’ve likely encountered it many times while searching the internet. Below is an example of Missional Marketing’s GMB knowledge graph in search results.
You may have also seen GMB in search results when you’ve Googled things like “food open near me” or “best hair salon”. It will show up in Google Maps local results that are geographically close to where a user is searching from. These are usually displayed in search engine results pages (SERPS) above other organic search results as seen below.
Google My Business allows businesses to be able to connect with their users better and keep all relevant information updated. For example, if your church is closed during COVID, you can easily change that information and add other updates on reopening. Since Google My Business is connected to Google Maps, your listing will also show up there.
If you aren’t sure if your church has a Google My Business profile or not, you can find out here by clicking “Manage Now”. If you do not have a listing within your GMB account, to ensure the listing isn’t associated with another email within your church, search on Google to see if your listing comes up or try to make a listing here. Google will notify you if the profile already exists.
Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Church’s Google My Business Page:
- Fill Out As Much Information As Possible
Before moving on to any other steps, the first thing you need to do is complete as much information as possible on your Google My Business profile. In addition to filling out the core information such as address, phone number, URL, and hours, you also need to fill in components such as the business description, highlights, opening date, categories, and service areas. One important thing to be mindful of when completing this information is to make sure that it matches other listings on the web, including your website. For example, if your church’s site has the address of 1000 North Street but your GMB profile lists it as 1000 N. St, this could get flagged by Google even though it may seem irrelevant. Google likes everything to be an exact match.
This also applies to the signage on your church’s physical building. When entering your business’s name on the listing, enter it as it appears on your church’s sign. For example, if your church’s official name on all of your signs is Hope City Presbyterian Church, you shouldn’t shorten the name on GMB to Hope City Church.
- Verify Your Listing
Once you have a Google My Business profile and it has all of the information filled out, you’ll need to verify the listing. Listings that are not verified are at risk of not showing up in search results. Although rare, it has also been known that competitors can also claim and verify your business’s listing if it hasn’t been verified by the owner. There are many ways to verify a listing such as via a postcard, phone call, or email with a specific code you have to enter into the profile. Google will give you the appropriate options to verify your listing according to the type of business that you are. For instance, some businesses have more restrictions on ways they can be verified than others.
When you log into your company’s GMB and go to the listing, the home view will have a button to begin the verification process, as well as within the sidebar. You’ll be taken through the steps to verify your listing.
- Post Photos
In addition to adding helpful information to your listing, adding photos helps to further optimize your GMB for peak performance. People searching online love to engage with visual content. Users that are researching your church want to see what making an in-person visit would be like. We recommend adding both images of your physical church building, in addition to including welcoming photos that feature real members of your congregation having fun together and smiling. If you need ideas on what types of photos to add, consider including images of the worship team on Sundays, members praying over each other, small groups connecting, mission work photography, and youth events! People want to get a sense and feel of your church through the photos.
Once you have uploaded photos, don’t forget to continue to frequently add more to the profile. You should aim to add new photos to your GMB profile every 2 weeks. At the minimum, you should add new photos once a month.
- Frequently Update Your Profile
After your church has a GMB listing set up, many churches make the mistake of forgetting to maintain it. It’s important to frequently update your profile regularly and stay active. If your hours changed from COVID, make sure that your GMB profile reflects that information. Does your church offer a new service time or have recently installed a wheelchair ramp to make it accessible? Include that information, as well! In addition to being beneficial to users, Google likes to see that businesses are active on their listings, rewarding them in local rankings.
- Solicit Reviews And Respond to Them
Getting 5-star reviews on Google is a great way to boost your GMB profile performance. Listings that have higher average ratings on Google are rewarded by ranking higher in local search results. A great strategy to solicit more reviews is to ask your congregation members to leave a review on your church’s GMB profile. You can remind people on Sundays that it helps your church be found on Google by people in need. If your church is streaming services online, you should include the link to the profile at the end of the sermon.
Another great way to generate reviews is to reach out to your church’s staff. Just make sure that they leave the review at home and on their personal email. If Google suddenly sees a lot of reviews come through on your church’s IP address and with a church email, it may flag them as fake and not post them. You can also reach out to your church’s ministry partners to leave a review of their experiences working with your church.
Once you have reviews on your profile, make sure to respond to the reviews with personal messages. Users and Google like to see that you care about people’s feedback. If you happen to get a negative review, remain positive in the response and thank the person for their feedback. We recommend apologizing for their experience and reaching out to them outside of Google. This shows other users that you genuinely care and want to make amends, decreasing the weight of the negative review. The worst response to a negative review is to not respond at all. It also looks bad to other users reading the reviews if you leave a defensive or generic response.
- Answer Questions
Google My Business has a Questions & Answers feature where users can ask questions on the profile directly to the business. A great way to engage with users is by answering their questions. Below is an example of this feature being used by a church in an effective way:
If no one has asked a question yet on your church’s listing, you can ask a question to start the conversation on your personal email address at home.
- Stay Active On Social Media
Although Google My Business is not directly tied to other social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, if your church is very active on those accounts, it will occasionally bring in these profiles on your GMB Knowledge Graph. This is especially the case if you have high review ratings on those other channels. It’s important to note that you cannot directly link your social media profile pages to your GMB listing. However, by staying active with posts and engaging with users on your other social media profiles, Google will be more likely to add in this information to your listing since it will see it as helpful to users. Below is an example of Google pulling in Facebook reviews and profiles from Instagram and Twitter:
- Post Content
Another strategy to keep your Google My Business page active is by posting fresh and engaging content to the profile regularly. By doing this, users will be more inclined to interact with your listing in search results. Since Google likes to see that companies are active on GMB, you should aim to post at least 2-3 times per week on your profile. Some ideas for content include sharing your church’s blogs on scripture and other resources like daily mini devotionals. Feel free to get the most out of your SEO content by posting blogs and landing pages to your GMB profile.
- Remove Other Profiles
If your church has multiple Google My Business profiles, this could negatively impact your church in local search results. Having more than one GMB profile confuses Google bots and can restrict the number of impressions your correct listing receives. Your church may have multiple listings if another staff member or previous pastor created the listing. If you have access to the email the duplicate profile was created on, it’s a fairly simple process to delete the listing. While it is challenging to get a second listing removed from Google that you do not have access to, it is possible. There are steps you can take to have it taken down such as by requesting to become the owner of the listing.
- Fix Errors
Occasionally, Google may flag your account for a variety of reasons. When you make an update to your listing, it is usually reviewed by Google representatives for quality assurance. If they find something that they don’t like, they will flag the listing, which can lead to a suspension. Unfortunately, it’s not as uncommon as you’d think to have a GMB profile suspended. If your listing is suspended or has an error that needs to be corrected, it will display at the top of your screen when you log in to the listing on GMB as a red banner. Always make sure to correct the information as quickly as possible to resolve the issue. If a listing is suspended, it may not show in search results which could harm your website’s traffic. If you ever have trouble resolving an error on GMB, you can file an appeal to Google here or by enlisting the help of a digital marketing agency.
Get the Most Out Of Your Church’s GMB Page
Are you ready to start optimizing your church’s GMB page? If you want to get the most out of your church’s Google My Business page, one of the best ways to do this is by working with a digital marketing agency that specializes in working with churches to build their local SEO. Our team at Missional Marketing will work with you to develop a plan to help reach your church’s growth goals and become more visible on local search. To speak with a member of our team, give us a call at 480-420-2007. We are excited to partner with you!