What can you do as a church leader to ensure that your church is easy to find online? The good news is that simple local SEO hacks for churches can go a long way in boosting your online visibility.
When people are looking for a new church, the first thing they’re going to do is pull out their phone and perform a Google search for churches nearby. If your church website has excellent local SEO (search engine optimization), that means you’ll be at the top of their search results page for churches in the area.
These ten local SEO hacks for churches will go a long way in helping you improve your Google ranking, and that means you can more easily connect with the people you’re meant to reach.
Table of contents
- What Does Local SEO Mean for Churches?
- 1. Set Up a Solid Google Business Profile
- 2. Claim Your Listing in Online Directories
- 3. Ensure All Your Information is Accurate and Consistent
- 4. Ask for Reviews to Improve Google Ranking
- 5. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
- 6. Do Keyword Research
- 7. Include Local SEO Keywords in Your Headings, Images, and Descriptions
- 8. Update Seasonal Church and Event Content
- 9. Use Local Lingo to Improve Local Search Results
- 10. Think Like Someone Searching For a Church
- Summing Up Local SEO Hacks for Churches
- More On Locas SEO For Churches
What Does Local SEO Mean for Churches?
When people search for “encouraging online sermon” or “Bible study tips,” they’ll get millions of results from all over the world. But when they’re looking for a local church to attend, proximity is vital. This is where local SEO comes into play.
At least 33% of people are searching for local businesses daily. Many more use internet search engines throughout the week to find companies and services in their local area.
Some of the key phrases that tell Google the searcher is looking for a physical location include terms like “near me,” “nearby,” or including a city or neighborhood name.
For example, someone who has recently moved or looking for a new church might search for
- churches near me
- churches in [city name]
- top churches in [city name]
- nondenominational churches near me
- churches with kids program in [city name]
Location-based searches like the examples above will pull up the Google map pack and display it at the top of the search results page. You’ve probably seen this feature before. The map pack lists the top three search results and shows their location on Google maps.
If you want your church to be visible to local searchers, then being listed in Google maps is critical. According to Google, local search results are ranked based on
Although you can’t affect the physical distance between your location and a church seeker, local SEO hacks for churches can help you rise in relevance and prominence in search algorithms. Here are some steps to get you started.
1. Set Up a Solid Google Business Profile
A Google Business Profile is a free online tool that integrates with Google search and maps. Businesses and churches may already exist on Google maps, but it’s important to claim and verify your profile account. Not only do verified listings show up more frequently, but you’ll also have control over editing your information.
Claiming your listing usually requires mailing a verification code by postcard to a physical address. Then, once you’re live, take time to complete your profile thoroughly.
- Add your physical address, hours, website, phone number, and other essential information
- Add photos and videos showcasing your culture, community, and church experience
- Link your social media profiles
- Respond to reviews and the question and answer feature
2. Claim Your Listing in Online Directories
Your church may be showing up in more places on the internet than you realize. If you’re counting, the number is at least 77. Have you claimed your business citation on all of these platforms and ensured that your information is accurate?
Local business citations are listed on sources like Yelp, Bing, Apple Maps, Yahoo!, Waze, YP (formerly known as Yellow Pages), and more.
Categories of online local citations for churches include:
- Social media
- Local directories
Local directories will be specific to your area and could include local newspapers, blogs, and chambers of commerce that contain listings of churches in your area.
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of updating 77+ directory listings, you may want to consider using a directory management service or working with a digital marketing firm.
3. Ensure All Your Information is Accurate and Consistent
Once you’ve set up your Google My Business account and claimed your online directory listings, ensure all your information is up to date.
Most crucial is your NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number. Keeping this information accurate across all platforms significantly impacts Google rankings.
Try to keep the information format identical. If you spell out “Avenue,” do that everywhere instead of using an abbreviation.
Also, if any vital information about your church changes, remember that you’ll need to go in and update all your listings.
Local Church Information to Update
- Name, address, phone number
- Hours of operation
- Business description
- Taglines/Mission statements
4. Ask for Reviews to Improve Google Ranking
What other factors will sway Google to show your church in its top results? Ratings and reviews are definitely vital.
Authentic reviews are a solid signal to Google that your page is worth recommending. In addition to Google, you’ll also want to build up your reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and anywhere else people can rate you.
You may be hesitant to bring attention to this because of the agonizing concern: What happens if we get bad reviews?
At some point, you’ll get less than five-star reviews; it’s inevitable. But remember that a few negative comments won’t sabotage your rankings or scare people away. On the contrary, they may help you in the long run by showcasing what is unique about you. Not every church will appeal to every person.
You have to ask for reviews; you can’t sit back and hope people will post unprompted. If that request makes you uncomfortable, consider the following approaches.
- Ask people to share their testimony online. It’s not just a plug for your church; it’s the story of what Jesus did for them at or through your church.
- Remind people of the purpose and mission of reviews: it allows more people to find your church online. This is digital evangelism!
- Ask for reviews in your email newsletter or on your website with a direct link. Take out the extra steps and make it easy for people.
Finally, when people leave a review, be sure to respond. You can thank and encourage them. If the comment is negative, leave a short response and move any further conversation offline. Don’t get into an online debate, add any fuel to the fire, or provoke additional dialogue online.
5. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Your site speed (how fast your website loads) is one of Google’s essential ranking factors determining where you appear on the search results page. In addition, you must optimize your website for mobile devices because that’s how most people are searching.
Over 56% of global web traffic in 2021 came through mobile phones. If you’re not sure about the technical aspects of website optimization and improving site load time, start with a free church website review.
6. Do Keyword Research
Don’t let the term keyword research intimidate you; it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or require technical expertise.
With keyword research, you answer the vital question: what words and phrases are people searching for? What questions are they asking?
You can write web content to improve local search engine optimization with this information in hand.
Free keyword research tools can help you get started with brainstorming and building out target keyword lists. A few to look at include:
Check out this post on free SEO tools for churches to help you get started on your keyword research. Once you have a list of relevant keywords, you can include them on your website, social media postings, and blog.
7. Include Local SEO Keywords in Your Headings, Images, and Descriptions
Google crawls all the text and information on your website, so using local keywords in your titles, headings, and image names can improve your local SEO. Here are some examples for an Easter service landing page.
- Title tags are the names of your pages and blog posts. Instead of using the title “Church Easter Services,” use “Church Easter Services in Fairview, Montana.
- The URL is your web address. Instead of mychurch.com/easter-services, you can use mychurch.com/easter-services-fairview-montana.
- Use local SEO keywords in your image file name and alt-text. Instead of titling an image “church service,” you could name the file “Easter service in Fairview.”
Use these principles for headings on your website, webpage content, meta descriptions, and ads you’re running through Google or social media.
Don’t overcomplicate things. A great user experience and easy readability come first, so ensure your titles and descriptions are clear, logical, and concise.
8. Update Seasonal Church and Event Content
What’s going on in your local community? From holidays to neighborhood festivals, add content to your website and blog that showcases what your church is participating in locally.
Listings could include booths at events, or local outreach initiatives and partnerships. Other examples might be
- Christmas or Easter services
- Fall festival or trunk or treat
- Egg hunts or spring festivals
- Summer camps
- Back to school events for families
- Women’s retreat, men’s breakfast, etc.
In addition, getting your church’s website posted on local events pages or directories creates backlinks, which are a huge component of search engine optimization.
9. Use Local Lingo to Improve Local Search Results
Does your city or neighborhood have a nickname, or are there popular local sayings in your community? Sometimes, only locals know the insider lingo and will use it in their searches.
If you have multiple campuses, local jargon can help searchers identify locations and target communities. Whether you’re at a university campus, downtown, or in a large suburb, describe your church in a unique way that’s specific to your local community.
10. Think Like Someone Searching For a Church
This final local SEO hack for churches is the most vital: think like someone searching for a church when you’re creating content. Yes, we’ve already touched on this concept, but this mindset is critical for implementing every other tip to boost local SEO.
You can’t build your website from your church’s perspective; it’s more than an online bulletin or information board pushing internal updates. So what is an outsider’s perspective, and what questions are they asking?
The different groups you’re trying to reach might include people who . . .
- recently moved to the area
- stopped attending church and want to reengage
- are looking for a different church
- have never been to church before
You should have a list of items to include on your web pages from your keyword research. But Google will penalize you for “keyword stuffing” (overusing keywords in an attempt to rank higher). Instead, they want to identify content that’s truly helpful and applicable for people searching.
The old adage applies: it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. So make sure that your content is engaging, easy to read, and adds valuable information.
Common Questions People Ask When Looking for a Church
Develop a clear menu structure and intuitive page layout on your website to guide searchers to the answers and information they’re seeking. Here are some questions searchers may have about your church.
Does the church teach from the Bible?
Where can I watch a previous sermon message?
Are there kids/youth programs?
What is the leadership philosophy?
Who are the pastors?
What is the church governance or leadership structure?
How does this church serve the community?
What kind of discipleship and growth opportunities exists?
Summing Up Local SEO Hacks for Churches
In summary, presenting thorough and consistent information about your church across the internet ensures that you’ll rank higher in Google and people will easily find your church at the top of the search results page. Your church’s website, additional online directories, and reviews contribute to your ranking.
Our society expects answers in a matter of seconds. You can type any question imaginable into your favorite search engine and get pages upon pages of results–but most people won’t look past page one.
Improving your church’s local SEO doesn’t have to be complicated. Tackle these local SEO hacks one at a time, and you’ll see results in your church’s online visibility.