“I’ll get around to it.”
“That’s one of our goals for this year.”
“We’re not really a business, are we?”
I’ve heard all the excuses, but the common denominator in churches putting off creating/claiming their Google business listing is that they simply don’t see the importance of it. This is a problem with churches and marketing to begin with, but we’ll save that discussion for another time (INTERNAL LINK: making a case for church marketing).
The simple fact is, if you don’t have a Google business listing, or you haven’t claimed it, or you aren’t engaging with it, you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity for passive traffic. When it comes to local search results, your Google business listing can either make you or break you.
Although we’ve discussed what a Google business listing actually is in another article on this site, the Cliff’s Notes version is that it’s a business listing native to Google. And, since Google has over 90% of the search engine market share and receives over 63,000 searches every single second, it’s worth the few minutes it’ll take to get your listing up and going. Other sites like Bing and Yahoo have business listings – and you should definitely take the time to set those up at some point – but you should begin (and focus on) the mighty Google.
Still not convinced? Here are a few of the benefits that a Google business listing affords you.
Show Up In a Variety of Search Results
Most of us think of using Google only in terms of the search bar on our browser, but Google is slowly integrating itself into more and more areas of operation, such as apps and third-party browsers. One of the most exciting innovations in recent years is voice search, and there’s no indication that Google plans to abandon it anytime soon. When you ask a question to Siri, Cortana, Alexa, or some other AI assistant, you’re using Google’s search functionality to receive a result. If you’re driving down the road with your family on vacation, and ask Siri to find a “church near me,” it’ll search Google for relevant results and then spit them out to you within seconds.
Receive Local-Specific Results
Though every church has a universal mission to spread the Gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:18), every church also has a more direct focus to reach the people with the Gospel in their community. A Google business listing is one of the best ways to do that. By updating and optimizing your data on your listing, you’ll help Google know which churches local people should go to when they’re doing research. Higher reviews, correct information, relevant posts – all of it signals to Google’s algorithm that your church is one worth visiting.
Manage Your Reputation
Whether you realize it or not, your church already has a reputation online. Most churches have Facebook, yelp, and Google ratings that they don’t even know exist; in some cases, even incorrect and potentially damaging photos represent an otherwise reputable church. By taking control of your listing, you’ll be able to manage it more effectively. The last thing you want is an unhappy troll telling people to stay far away from your doors.
View Your Stats
Setting up your Google business listing also gives you access to the “Insights” tab, which gives you information on how people find you online and where they’re coming from. This has huge implications for paid advertising practices – knowing where to target can impact your potential audience dramatically – but you can also monitor trends. When paired with the Analytics data, you’ll know if people are searching for you more or less.
Respond to the Community
Whether it’s replying to reviews that people leave on your listing or answering questions that people may have, claiming your listing allows you to interact with people in your community before they even step through your doors.
Make Better, More Relevant Announcements
Have a Gospel Meeting coming up? Advertising a Bible study at the local Chick-Fil-A? Making a post on your Google listing page enables you to promote different services to your local community. Even better, now people are able to “follow” your business and receive updates in real-time, which works even better if you automate your posts using a scheduler.
Create a Second Homepage
No, your Google business listing will not replace your actual website, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ultimately Google’s goal. What people are using your google listing for is as a sort-of checkpoint: they examine the reviews, find out some simple info about your business, and then click through to your actual site. While this helps syphon off the more casual viewer, it also decreases overall traffic, which can hurt SEO. Still, it helps create a more “qualified” viewer, which is usually a warmer lead. Making sure your Google listing is up-to-date and relevant will encourage more people to visit your site.
Correct Incorrect Information
Your listing will have not only reviews of your church, but it will also have the NAP information (name, address, and phone number), hours of operation (or in our case, service times), and photos of the building – both inside and outside. On more than one occasion, someone will Google a church and see a listing (claimed or unclaimed by the church), and find incorrect information. The pictures don’t look anything like the building, the service times are outdated (and inaccurate), and the church may have even moved to a different location! Taking control of your listing means you can deliver correct information to people who are actually trying to find you. Don’t make it harder on them than it should be.
Link to Adwords Account
Though Adwords has taken a back seat as of late to Facebook marketing, it’s still a pretty robust tool to help drive some traffic to your site (though not as powerful as organic traffic) by listing your site above even the number one spot on their platform. If you want to have a consistent brand between your business and your ads, however, it’s a good idea to link your ad account with your Google business listing. There’s even a strong chance that Google ranks businesses that link the two together even higher in online results and gives a lower cost when running ads. It certainly can’t hurt your presence, but it definitely may help.
Catch Low-Hanging Fruit
While there are a myriad of ways to spend money improving your online presence (paid tools, advertising, etc), a listing on Google isn’t one of them. It takes almost no time to set up, very little time to monitor and maintain, and is one of the top ways to increase traffic and conversions. It follows the Pareto principle perfectly: the belief that 80 percent of your results come from 20% of your effort (also called the 80/20 rule). Claiming your listing will give you a bunch of results with very minimal effort. What does that make you? A good steward of your time.