Local SEO is one of the best ways for your church to be easily found online by new people searching in your area. Most likely, if you’ve landed on this blog post, you’ve already taken the first steps for local SEO by creating a Google My Business profile for your church, filling out the core contact information, and successfully verifying the listing. Great work! Since the launch of Google My Business, it’s become increasingly important to not just have a listing but to strategically optimize it to your church’s advantage to drive the most results. If you’re asking yourself, “how do I accomplish this?” – we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we’ll break down how to increase clicks on your GMB Profile to maximize engagement with insight from leading local search experts.
Fill Out As Much Information As Possible
When filling out a Google My Business profile, it may seem overwhelming to fully build out with so many fields, features, and options available. As a busy church pastor or leader with a hectic schedule, it might be easy to rush through creating your listing by only filling out some of the basic information like your website, phone number, and address. Even though it may seem insignificant, it’s incredibly vital to add as much information as possible to your GMB profile. Senior SEO Specialist, Andy Simpson, tells his clients to “Use as many of the GMB features that are available.” (Source: BrightLocal)
With that being said, if a field is available and applicable to your church, we recommend filling it out. For example, instead of just selecting a primary category on your listing, also add as many additional categories as you can. This is a great chance to help your church’s website rank for keywords locally. To get inspiration for category ideas, look at other churches in your area to see what they’re optimizing their listing for.
Profiles with more information not only look more appealing and reputable in search results but are also more helpful to users. More and more, users are basing their first impression and making decisions based on GMB listings, oftentimes without even visiting the website. You should view your GMB listing as the first impression a person will have of your church.
Complete the Following Areas:
- Business description – Craft a brief description of 750 characters or less of your church and include keywords you want to rank for like, “family-friendly church” or “live worship”. The first 80 characters are the most important.
- Hours – Add the days and times that your church is open, in addition to special hours for holidays and during COVID-19.
- Website – Add the link to your website. Include the HTTPS version of your URL if possible since Google favors secure sites.
- Opening date – Add when your church first opened its doors to the public.
- Highlights – Google will suggest some highlights for your profile like “Women-Led” or “Black-owned”. Select all that apply to your church.
- Accessibility – Is your church wheelchair accessible? If so, add this information to help people with disabilities know if they can attend a service.
- Service area – Add the geographical area that your church reaches.
Get Positive Reviews
Having a high average review rating for your church is one of the best ways to increase clicks on your GMB profile. According to Search Engine Land, having a high review rating is the number one factor for conversions on GMB.
Having a large number of positive reviews on GMB signals to users that most people had a good experience at your church, causing users to be more likely to further engage with your listing by getting more information, click to your website, or going through the photos. In contrast, a church listing without reviews, or even worse, negative reviews isn’t very appealing to a new person doing their church shopping and will probably cause them to move on to the next option.
If your GMB listing is lacking reviews, a good place to start is by asking your church’s staff and volunteers to leave a review. Make sure to have them do this from their home on their personal (non-church related) email since Google will often not post reviews or flag them if they are on a company’s IP address and email.
Another great way to solicit reviews for your GMB listing is to have a link to leave a review at the end of your online worship experience, sermon videos, or email newsletters. To get the most out of your reviews, you can encourage users to write about specific elements of your church. Local SEO specialist, Amy Toman, explains that “Having reviews, in general, is a good thing, but having reviews that mention the business by name, or specific services, are more likely to be seen in the small snippets in Maps results.” (Source: BrightLocal) To do this, you can suggest a person write about specific elements of your church like the worship service or youth ministry offerings.
Respond To Reviews
In addition to soliciting great reviews, your church should also take the time to respond to every review that you receive. This shows users that you’re very active on GMB and genuinely care about the feedback that you’re getting from people. If you were to get a negative review, responding also decreases the impact it will have on other people reading it since it shows that you genuinely care and want to remedy the person’s experience. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend keeping responses short, personal, and professional. Especially when responding to negative reviews, never be combative or argumentative.
Utilize Special Features
Just as you filled out as much information as possible, it’s also best to use as many special features that are available on GMB. Google My Business now has helpful options for allowing people to directly message you without having to call your church. This is especially a great feature for connecting with Millennials and younger audiences who may not be as comfortable calling to ask a question. We recommend that you turn on messaging for your church and designate a specific person to respond to the incoming messages.
We also recommend using the Questions and Answers feature to directly interact with users. Ben Fisher, VP of Marketing at Steady Demand explains, “Make sure you have Q&A populated with real questions that you get/give on a regular basis.” (Source: BrightLocal) Greg Gifford of Search Lab also claims that using the Q&A feature on GMB for his clients has been the most helpful tool for seeing results in local searches. (Source: BrightLocal)
To start, it’s a good idea to ask some top FAQs from a church member’s personal email address and answer them so that other users can easily find the information that they were looking for. Some ideas for questions include, “Are church services happening online or in-person?”, “Is there free parking?”, and “Is child care available?”.
Add High-Quality Photos
When it comes to GMB, visual content is incredibly important for generating more clicks on your listing. Krystal Taing from Uberall says to “Focus on delivering the same aesthetic as if you were a brick and mortar shop on Main Street decorating your storefront window. Use every inch of digital real estate to teach the customer about your product or services.” Your photos should convey to a person online looking at your listing what it’s like to come to your church.
In addition to uploading your church’s logo and images of the building, you should also add images that make a user feel welcome. Rather than using stock photography, add real, high-quality photos of the members of your church gathering together on Sunday and smiling or photos of your worship team in action on Sunday. The photos should feel warm and inviting.
Once you’ve uploaded some initial images, you should continue to add photos regularly. Steve Wiideman, president of Wiideman Consulting Group, claims that “When it comes to improving appearance in Google Maps, image is everything. Literally, a business’s photos can make or break a potential user action. Monitoring and managing photos that appear in search results should be a weekly, possibly even daily, task.” (Source: BrightLocal) A good idea could be to designate someone to add more photos to your church’s GMB every time you have an event or special service.
Upload Video Content
If your church has high-quality video content, you should consider adding it to your GMB profile to make your listing stand out in search results. Videos are great for boosting engagement and help users to get a deeper understanding of your church that might not be communicated as well through photos. Some ideas for video content include uploading a welcome video, church tour, or member testimonial. This also increases the likelihood of your church’s videos showing up in the video carousel when someone searches for your church’s name directly.
Another great way to generate more clicks on your GMB profile is by posting content directly to the listing. Greg Gifford, VP of Search at SearchLab, recommends making sure, “there’s at least one live Google Post every week, with an optimized thumbnail image and compelling visible text in thumbnail view.” (Source: BrightLocal) While this may seem time-consuming, it is a highly effective way to boost interactions on the listing. In addition to helping your profile stand out in search results and looking more complete, this is a great way to show both Google and users that you’re active on GMB.
You can create a wide variety of posts to your church’s GMB profile. For example, with COVID-19, it’s helpful to post major updates directly to your listing so that it’s easily accessible for people searching for that information online without having to visit your website. Other ideas for Google posts include highlighting an upcoming event, posting an encouraging Bible verse, or sharing a blog post from your church’s website.
Get The Most Out Of Your GMB Listing
If you’re looking to boost your engagement and get meaningful interactions on your Google My Business listing, our team at Missional Marketing is here to help. We specialize in helping churches get found by new people on Google to grow their congregation. To get started, get a free Local Search Audit or give us a call at 480-420-2007. We are excited to partner with you!