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Google is the way people ask questions. Usually even before you ask your friend you will probably visit the most popular search engine. Since your church most likely has at least one physical location you can use a simple strategy which will highly improve the visibility of your church in Google.

So many of us get so worried about church website SEO that we tend to forget that there is another crucial element provided by Google and these are Google Maps. When you look for a local business the map will show up with a list of businesses. When I travel I use this feature a lot. So often we don’t need to know about all the restaurants available in the city – you want the once that are the closest. People use the Maps more than we can expect.

Back in 2014, the stats were:

  • 41% of Internet users all over the world used Google Maps services
  • 1 billion people used Google Maps each month
  • 30% of Google searches had a local intent or geographic aspect

There are 5 simple steps to succeed in Google Maps. Not only that. These steps will also influence your general search engine visibility and they are too simple not to implement.

Have you ever seen a sticker “Rate us on Google Maps”? We have. And guess what? I have never ever rated a business on Google Maps because they had a sticker on their window.

What you normally need to do to leave a review on Google Maps is to search in the maps, click the location’s name, find the review button and only then can you write a review. Most people won’t even try. What you can do is to provide a direct link to write a review. Once the user is logged in Google they can click the link and start writing.

1. Set up Google My Business page

If your church hasn’t got a Google My Business page, make sure you get it set up right after you finish reading the article. If you wonder how to do it check out the article we published a while back to get step by step instructions of how to effectively sign up for Google My Business.

2. Get your place ID

If you already have your church in Google Maps you can go to
https://developers.google.com/places/place-id and search for your location:

  • Enter the name in search box
  • Click on the name of your church
  • Copy the ID

We noticed that sometimes you can’t easily get the ID right after you get Google My Business set up so there might be a need to wait a bit or try the ideas from this thread.

3. Create a link to write reviews

The next steps will help you generate a link which you can share with your congregation or visitors. All you need to do is to add your place ID -> https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=<YOUR_PLACE_ID>

For example, Church of the Highlands will have the following link: https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJtZDtSNoTiYgR_n4Q8NSqGmg

Once you click it a new tab will show up with a review section opened up and you are ready to go.

4. Add a review page/link to your existing website

Something that will help people in your church leave the review is to set up a review landing page. It will be great is the link is memorable and simple (for example yourchurchdomain.com/review). On that page you can explain how valuable the reviews are in building credibility and visibility in your community but most importantly, make sure to have one clear call to action – Write a review.

5. Shorten the link for easier use

If you want to provide a direct link to your church review site make sure you use Bitly or other link shortening tool. As you have already seen the original Google link is pretty long, there is no way you remember it and it even looks scary. What about http://bit.ly/church_review (which will lead to the example church we used in the article)?

6. Improve your church website SEO

Google determines local search results based on three main criteria – relevance, distance and prominence. When you look for a local business (a church will fit into this category), Google algorithms will do their best to first show the results that are supposed to be most helpful. One of the aspects that will improve the prominence factor are the reviews. The more reviews your church website gets in Google Maps the more reliable the local search result will be for the search engine.

Summary

Once you complete the set up make sure to get as many people in your church involved as possible. Create a sample message which people on your team can send to others with a link. Repeat the request process every few months and you will see the amazing results this simple strategy provides.

Jacek Obolewicz

I founded TechChurch.Co to serve the churches improving their online efforts. My journey with Christ started online and since then I've realized how much influence churches can make with well-thought online presence. Let's learn how we can affect our communities with the tools easily accessible.

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