Many churches overlook the process of reviews or don’t consider it a priority when managing their online presence. The fact of the matter is, reviews are actually quite important for local search presence, and churches should absolutely focus on gaining reviews across their online platforms such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more. In the following post, we’ll explain how churches can grow traffic by leveraging the importance of online reviews.
The importance of online reviews for your church when talking about your local SEO is huge. This means that when someone searches “church near me” or “church in X (city)”, reviews are part of Google’s algorithm to determine who should appear in the local pack (the top 3 results with a map within Google’s typical SERP) or within search results in Google Maps. Reviews even impact your church website’s ranking potential in localized organic search results!
In 2018, Moz did a study to find the importance of different factors when it comes to local searches. Here is what they found:
- Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 16.53%
- Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 15.44%
- On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 13.82%
- Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 10.82%
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 9.56%
- Personalization 5.88%
- Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 2.82%
It is important to note that in the same study done by Moz in 2017, reviews were the 5th ranking factor and one year later it grew to the 3rd. Reviews are continuing to grow in importance to both consumers and to Google. This study shows that reviews are even more important than posting on your social media platforms when it comes to rankings in Google searches.
Many people are quick to grow their social media presence and increase their engagement on these platforms. While this is a great thing for any business, they don’t realize that reviews are more important to Google and other search engines. By spending a little time working to generate more reviews, they could increase their web engagement and reach more people.
Before the internet, people used to find and trust businesses based on what their friends and family recommended. Now, instead of asking their friends and family, they ask Google.
According to Bright Local, “84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation and 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.”
By having positive reviews online from your members, people trust your church far more than if you had no review presence at all. In this way, you can establish basic trust with an attendee before they even walk through your doors.
Since reviews are critically important to people, this makes them even more important to Google. Google wants people to keep coming back to their search engine and therefore needs to produce results that they believe are the very best. And for this reason, the importance of online reviews cannot be overstated.
Now, what about bad reviews? Don’t they hurt your ranking?
It’s normal to assume that when someone leaves you a bad review, you’ll automatically going to get pushed down in Google’s rankings. However, that isn’t necessarily true. Many churches are quick to want to have a negative review removed from their profile, but in reality, having a small number of negative reviews is actually typical and healthy for any church or business.
A study from PowerReviews and Northwestern found that consumers tended to trust a business more when its rating was between 4.2 and 4.5 stars than a business with all 5-star reviews.
The most important thing when it comes to negative reviews is to respond. Reply to the review on the platform it was posted and address the issue stated and how you intend to make things right. Actively responding to reviews displays both to potential visitors as well as Google that your church is engaged online and receptive to feedback.
Further, don’t only reply to negative reviews. Replying to positive, content-rich reviews is similarly important because:
- It shows Google and potential visitors that your church is engaged and receptive to feedback.
- It establishes to those in the future who are considering leaving you a positive review that it will be read and appreciated.
Make sure that you’re consistently active and replying to every single content-rich review that you get, no matter what the rating is. If it is a positive review, a short and simple thank you will show users that you care about the person’s experience.
So now what? You know it’s important to Google and its users to have reviews, but does a church best grow its review profile online?
If asked, 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review (Moz, 2017). Think about how many email addresses you have on your mailing list and how many people come through your doors every week. What if you could get 7 out of 10 of those contacts to leave a review? Now that would certainly make an impact. One of the keys when it comes to requesting reviews is the word “ask”. You must make sure it’s a simple ask and never a coerce or a bribe. A bribe could be as simple as “Leave us a review and get this cute mug!”. This is a huge no-no and if Google finds out you are doing this; they will push you down in their rankings.
Do you hand out a church bulletin every week to every member?
Do your volunteers know to ask someone to leave a review if someone comes up to them with a positive note or story?
Have your leaders in your church given you reviews online yet?
Have you sent an email to your congregation asking them?
These are all simple ideas on how to ask your members to leave a review.
Don’t feel like you need every single one of your members to write a review within the next week. It’s better to slowly and gradually gain reviews through ongoing vigilance. In fact, if you get an extremely large quantity of reviews all at once, Google may think that is suspicious and take action.
It’s a good idea to be consistent in asking people to leave a review, whether in your church bulletin, an email every other month, or through word of mouth. Even though someone might have seen your email ask a few months ago and didn’t take action, it’s entirely possible they’ll actually get around to it after they’ve been asked a second or third time. Something could have happened that made an impact on that person since the last time you asked.
If you’re stuck on how to ask or the logistics behind sending people to specific platforms for reviews, let Missional Marketing help you! We make getting reviews for your church through email easy. Learn more about our Local SEO and how we can help your church be found in Google’s local search results in your area, or get in touch with us for a discussion on the importance of online reviews to your church.