search marketing

Google Makes Local Reviews More Important for “Best” Search Results

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how getting reviews, especially in Google, is one of the most important local search ranking factorsย for Church SEOย or local SEO for any type of organization. Well, now Google is making a change to the “local 3 pack” which makes reviews even more important.

Google has started using reviews as an even bigger factor in search results for searches in which the searcher uses “best” or “great.” Since we help a lot of churches with their search rankings, let me show you an example of how this affects searches for churches.

Here’s a screenshot of the search results for “church in Tampa:”


Note that in the “local 3 pack” (the 3 sites listed under the map), the three churches listed are Rock Church of Tampa Bay which has 4 reviews and an average rating of 2.8 stars, Grace and Faith Church which has 9 reviews and an average rating of 5 stars, and Northwest Tampa Church-Christ which has no reviews.

Compare that with this screenshot of the search results for “best church in Tampa:”


Notice just below the map “4.0 rating” is highlighted in red. This indicates Google is only showing churches with an average rating of at least 4.0 stars.

Then notice 2 of the 3 churches shown in the local 3 pack are different from “church in Tampa.” There’s Core Church with only 1 review but its 5 stars, Tampa Shores community Church also with just 1 review of 5 stars, and then Grace and Faith Church which was in the “church in Tampa” results.

A Few Things to Note about “Best” Search Results

Sporadic – I tried a lot of different “best” searches for different types of organizations in different cities and most of them did not automatically filter out organizations with less than a 4 star average. It’s likely this is another Google experiment. That means we could see this grow to more cities and organization types. Or Google could kill it.

Great but not Fantastic – The same 4.0 star filter is applied to searches with “great,” “awesome,” and “amazing” but it’s not applied to “fantastic” or “phenomenal.”

Ask for Local Reviews

As we have said repeatedly here on Christian Web Trends, best way to get more local reviews is to ask for them. Ask your customers, your church members, your volunteers. Send an email with a link to your local listing and let people know their review will help you reach more people. You can also take 5 minutes in your next meeting or gathering to ask people to post a review from their phone.

Bottom line…

Local reviews have a big impact on search results, but few people post a review unless asked.

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  • How many reviews does your church, school, nonprofit or business have?
  • What if anything are you going to do to get more reviews?


About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • Hi Paul, great article again ๐Ÿ™‚ But I have a question, for the reviews, if the competitor always sent negative reviews to attack the site, will it affect the rank? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks…

    • Good question. Yes, fake negative reviews will affect your ratings. You can flag fake reviews or ask Google My Business support to review them. This is another why it’s important to ask for and get as many genuine reviews as possible – if you have a lot of genuine, positive reviews a few fake or negative reviews will have much less of an impact.

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