Previously, in the What is Church SEO? series we looked at what to optimize for better organic search results. In this article, we’re going to look at what to optimize for better local search results. (This article explains the difference between the two.)
Before we get to what we can optimize to improve local search results, it’s important to understand one thing you probably can’t change.
The #1 factor in Google local search results is distance from the city center.
Google has determined what it believes to be the center of every city in the United States. The closer your church is to that point, the better your church’s position in the local search results for “churches in [your city]”.
Recently I was talking with a pastor of a church in a small town that’s about 20 miles away from a larger city. He wanted his church to be towards the top of the search results for “churches in [the larger city].”
I did a quick search on Google Maps and discovered there are more 100 churches closer to the center of that larger city than his church. Additionally, the map Google displays with the results for “churches in [the larger city]” is zoomed in on the larger city to the extent that the town his church is in isn’t even on the map.
I had to tell him the only way his church would ever appear in the local search results for that city is it if moved closer to the city or planted a new church/campus in the city.
If your church happens to be located close to the center of your city, you have a built in advantage over other churches. If your church is on the outskirts, you’re at a disadvantage and will have to work harder to optimize the other things you can change.
5 Ways to Improve Your Church’s Local Search Results
1) Create, claim and verify your Google My Business listing. While the organic search results list websites, the local search results only show Google My Business (GMB) listings. If you haven’t created a GMB for your church, it won’t appear at all in the “local 3 pack” or Google Maps. For step-by-step instructions, see How to Create, Claim and Verify Your Google My Business Listing.
2) Update the “Info” of your GMB listing. Make sure the address, phone, web address are accurate. Add a description that includes your city, adjacent cities, your denomination and other descriptive terms people may search for (e.g. Christian, traditional, modern, charismatic) or ministries people may search for (e.g. AWANA, youth ministry, college ministry recovery ministry, weddings).
3) Add photos to your GMB listing. Photos won’t necessary improve your local search rankings but people are more likely to click on a local listing that has photos.
4) Get more reviews. The number of reviews is one of the biggest factors in Google’s local search algorithm. We’ll talk more about the best ways to go about getting more reviews in a future post. In the mean time, check out this free resource: The Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews.
5) Optimize your website. The authority and relevance of your website is another major factor in the local search results. If you want to rank better in the local search results, following these recommendations Church SEO: What to Optimize for Better Organic Search Results.
A verified, optimized Google My Business listing is a key component of church SEO, marketing, and outreach.
If you’d prefer to have someone else do all of this for you, this is all included in the church SEO service OurChurch.Com offers. Click and schedule a complimentary phone call with one of our church SEO experts.
Discussion: What comments and questions do you have about church SEO to improve local search results?