You can find tons of blogs, podcasts, and videos with hacks for improving your local search SEO. But, ultimately, Google is controlling those algorithms and rankings.
Because Google maintains around 85% of search engine market share, it would be foolish not to consider what they’re looking for when it comes to local search.
The good news is that Google is pretty explicit in spelling out what factors influence search results and what you can do to improve your local search ranking.
So first, we’ll cover the three primary factors Google uses to determine Local SEO ranking: relevance, distance, and prominence. Then, we’ll dive into five tips they give for improving your local search SEO.
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3 Factors That Determine Local Rankings for Churches
A primary local search SEO goal is to have Google show your church in the “Local Pack” results that appear on search results pages.
Also known as the “Map Pack,” these are the three listings that show up at the top of the page with a map location and with key information like hours, address, phone number, a link to your website, and directions.
According to Google, they use a combination of three factors to help people find the best results for their search. Let’s cover those briefly.
Relevance is how well your business listing matches what someone is searching for. Local search is becoming increasingly personalized. So, if you’ve searched for something in the past, or if you’re regularly looking at certain things, Google will start to show results relevant to what it thinks you’ll like higher up in the search.
Using the right keywords in your church’s name, description, website content, and online reviews will help Google understand what your church is all about.
The second factor, distance, is pretty self-explanatory. Local search results are influenced by how far away you are from the person searching. If someone is searching for a church in their city, they’re not going to want to see results for churches that are two hours away.
To improve your distance ranking, make sure your business is properly categorized with your city and state in as many directories as possible. You can also use keywords like “near me” or “in [city name]” to help Google understand what searchers are looking for.
Finally, the third factor is prominence. This is how well-known and respected your business is. Google looks at things like reviews, backlinks, and social media mentions to determine how prominent your church is.
Now that we’ve covered the three primary factors for rankings let’s dive into five tips Google gives for improving Local SEO.
5 Tips From Google For Improving Local Search SEO
Here are five pieces of advice straight from Google on what you can do to improve your local search SEO.
1. Enter Complete Data
The first step is to make sure you’ve entered all of your business information correctly and completely in your Google Business Profile. Info includes things like your name, address, phone number, category, hours, etc.
Google notes that it’s also vital to keep your information up-to-date if it changes.
2. Verify Your Locations
If you have more than one location, Google recommends verifying each business separately. This helps Google understand that these are distinct locations with unique information. For churches, this could apply to multiple campus locations.
Google will send a postcard to each business address with a verification code. Once you receive the postcard, you’ll enter the code into your Business Profile to verify the location.
3. Keep Your Hours Accurate
Google says that one of the most important pieces of information for Local SEO is your business hours. If your hours are wrong, it can cost you ranking in search results.
If your church has different service times or special events with different hours, make sure those are all accurately reflected on your Business Profile. You can even add a note to let searchers know what to expect.
4. Manage and Respond to Reviews
The more positive reviews you have, the better! But it’s also important to manage and respond to any negative reviews.
Responding to negative reviews shows that you acknowledge and value all opinions. When responding, always be professional and courteous. However, also be as brief as possible and encourage further dialogue in person. Getting into an online debate is never fruitful!
For your reviews, you can create a short link to share with people so they can easily leave reviews. You can share this link in service, on your website, and in emails.
5. Add Photos
Adding photos is one of the best ways to improve your church’s Google local search ranking. People are visual, and photos can help give searchers a better idea of what your church is all about, who is attending, and what kind of atmosphere they’ll encounter.
Google knows that people are more likely to click on listings with photos, so it gives preference to those listings in its search results. Make sure to add photos of your church building, services, and events. If your church has unique features or events, posting pictures will help you highlight what makes you different.
Bonus tip: Google also recommends adding a video! Videos are an excellent way to engage with potential visitors.
A Final Word on Local Search SEO
Like all churches, you want to make sure your website appears at the top of local search results. An internet search is the primary way people find anything these days, so knowing how to set up your online presence and let your community know where to find you is vital.
If you want to see how your church stacks up online, REACHRIGHT offers a free online strategy review. Click here to get started. We’d love to help you get started with a free assessment.