Why is Local Church SEO so Important?
I recently interviewed the Senior Pastor of one of the 100 fastest growing churches in America. I asked him “What is the #1 way people say that they found the church?” Without hesitation he answered, “They say they found us online.” It is no coincidence that the church has been on the first page of Google for their city for most of the past decade.
I have been around church all of my life, and I know the importance of sermon preparation, music practice, and everything a church staff and volunteer team does every week to prepare for the weekend services. All of that is critical to create a great church that visitors will want to come back to. But I think sometimes pastors forget that they need to get visitors to walk through the church doors in the first place.
So just for a moment, let’s take a closer look at the very real, very practical way that people in your community are searching for a church today.
Whether we like the approach or not, many people “church shop” in exactly the same way. People will typically visit your Church website FIRST before stepping foot into your doors.
The problem is that many Churches are a challenge to find online.
Many Churches are Behind the Times
It is sad, but true. Although many pastors might recognize that people go online first and foremost when looking for a church, their local outreach and marketing budget is still stuck in 1980. The Yellow Page or newspaper salesman calls, and they renew their ad. “We have to do mailers…that’s what the guy at the church conference told me” – so a huge portion of their marketing budget goes towards stamps and printing. The annual marketing budget never changes, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
But people today are not looking in their mailbox for a church. They are looking on Google, Bing and many other places online. They are on their phones looking at Yelp and Foursquare. And on Sunday morning, they might even be in the car on their way to your church pulling up a map on their phone for directions.
Shouldn’t church marketing plans catch up to the 21st century, and reach people right where they are searching?
That really is the point. You want your church to be where the majority of people are ALREADY searching. And, you want to do whatever you can to help Google want to promote your Church in local search terms.
Local Churches and Businesses are extremely similar.
Local Businesses realize that they have to take specific action both on and off their website to get found locally. They cannot just put an ad in the paper or send out mailings to get people through their doors, even though those channels can sometimes be effective.
The problem with ads and mailings is that that get extremely expensive over time because when you stop them their effectiveness and visibility also stops.
That is why Local Church SEO [Search Engine Optimization] has become a solution that helps you in a way that continues long after the initial work is put in place. That does not mean that you do not have ongoing costs related to maintaining your website, local business directory listings and search engine optimization. But, it does mean that once put it place it will continue to work for you night and day whether you are actively working on it or not.
Businesses and Churches have to use Search Engine Optimization strategies that are both ON and OFF their websites.
On Website Optimization: When you optimize pages ON your website, you will want to focus each page on a specific term that you want to become found for in Google. So you main home page will probably be focused on Churches in your local city or area. Then you can create subpages or blog style posts in your site that specifically focus on other terms.
Off Website Optimization: Local Church SEO OFF your website primarily involves claiming and optimizing your Local Business Directory listings like Google Business, Bing Places, online Yellow Pages and many, many more. This gives Google confirmation that your Church is open and being actively managed by a real person or company since your Church Name, Address and Phone Number [NAP] then show up as consistently as possible across as many of the directory sites as possible
Positive Online Reviews: One more aspect of optimization that directly and indirectly helps your Church online is getting Positive Reviews. Google specifically looks at the number of Positive Reviews on your Google Business page as an indicator of how people are interacting with your Church. Plus, when real people find those Positive Reviews it instantly gives your Church credibility and lets the potential Visitor know that other real people attend and love your Church.
One of the best things you can do to help your church become more easily found online is to make sure your church is added and your listing is updated on Church Finder. CLICK HERE to add or update your church information.