Guest: Jason Hamrock
Jason guides the vision for how Missional Marketing can best serve our clients and church partners. He leads our sales team and is our lead church growth strategist. He was a Communications Director for 11 years at a megachurch named Central Christian Church of Arizona. From 1991-1995, he played football on a scholarship with Northern Iowa where he studied communications and marketing. He joined Missional Marketing in 2015 and was named CEO in July 2017.
Your Church Is A Brick & Mortar Store
On the whole “SEO,” sound like this big intricate thing that only men and women wearing white coats working in a lab 100 feet underground understand.
But breaking it down and honing in on local SEO makes it much easier to understand and reveals why it is so important for your church to know how to use it.
Local SEO has everything to do with your church’s physical, brick, and mortar location. When you’re hungry for a delicious burger you pull out your phone and Google, “yummy burgers.” The first things to pop up are restaurants that serve burgers within your immediate vicinity. You click on the map, look at a few pictures, salivate, and rush to the closest burger stand to satisfy your hunger.
It’s no different when people in need within your community search, “churches near me.” Those first few links to pop up are the churches, including yours, no more than a 10-minute drive away. They click the map, read a few reviews, and hopefully pick your church to visit the following Sunday.
Since 9 out of 10 people use Google for all of their searches and 7 out of 10 don’t scroll past the top three or four local options, failing to rank high in local SEO is losing the chance to share the Gospel with a new visitor to your church.
Reviews & Photos Inform Every Single Decision
At this point, online viewers of all ages are conditioned to click the first option that pops up in their search and view that option in Google Maps.
They scroll through various pictures and read all of the online reviews or at least glance at the number of starts each location has. Exactly the way you would if you were looking for a new restaurant to go to on date night, or about to buy a really expensive computer.
You want to know what it looks like. You want to know what other people are saying about it.
People thinking about visiting your church want to know what your church looks like and they want to know what other people are saying about it!
As good as your church’s website likely is, that’s not where potential visitors are going to see what your church looks like anymore. They’re using Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
So you have to ask yourself, “Would I go to my church after looking through photos and reviews on Google?”
If the answer is no don’t panic! There are a few really easy fixes for boosting your local SEO.
- Ask for reviews! If someone searching for a church online doesn’t see any reviews of your church, their assumption is that there is nothing GOOD to report. Invite members of your church to write a quick review.
- Post fresh, updated photos of your church and its people. Exactly like reviews, if someone sees outdated photos of your church they’re assumption is that nothing new is happening there. Entice online viewers with consistently updated photos so that they know your church is growing.
To make sure you set up a proven system for creating effective local SEO check out our Systems Course. It will show you a step by step process for creating any system in your church that can run on auto-pilot while you focus on your ministry.
Negative Reviews Are Not A Bad Thing
Through your Google My Business profile, you can do so many simple things that have a significant impact on the people viewing your church through a Google Search.
One thing you should always do is respond to every single review and don’t ever hide or delete the negative ones.
As tempting as it may be to highlight the good and hide the bad, reading any negative reviews on your church can actually help you in the long run. Aside from any reviews that are out of left field and purely mean a negative review can unveil an area in your church that needs fixing.
Responding to negative reviews also shows other people looking into your church that you care! When people see negative reviews without a response they assume that the business does not care or pay attention to the reviews.
When you respond to negative reviews you’re showing potential visitors that you are listening, and you want to heal any hurt even if your church caused it.
Accuracy Is Key
There are a few seemingly nit-picky things that can make a huge difference in where your church ranks in local searches.
Your church’s name, address, and phone need to be correct and up-to-date at all times across Google My Business, your church’s landing pages, and any other online directories. If you are one church with multiple campuses you need to have a different Google My Business profile for each campus with relevant address and phone numbers.
You also want to make sure the hours listed in Google reflect your real hours of availability and operation. If your church is renting from a school, and therefore only open on Sunday, make sure that your hours reflect that.
Accurate hours of operation show Google that this organization is in this specific location and is open for business.
For incredible help on making sure your church’s information is accurate read up on Missional Marketing’s Local SEO For Churchs.
Google Can Become The Biggest Donor To Your Church
Outside of members who are directly involved in the life of your church most people discover you, and the services you offer through a Google search or search ad.
Some are Googling “churches near me,” or, “church service times.”
Others can stumble upon your church by searching, “help with anxiety,” or, “how to overcome a divorce.”
People in both camps are hurting and looking for someplace to heal. Google can literally help you get in contact with these people and bring them into your church through Google Ad Grants.
As a 501c3 organization, Google will give you an ad grant worth up to $10,000 for you to use to promote your church online. So beyond giving you exposure through organic local search, Google will let you apply for and give you money to spend on ads that funnel people in need directly to your church.
Whether you’re an SEO wizard or completely new to SEO invest time and effort into your Google My Business profile and boosting your church’s local SEO performance.
More than ever people are searching, literally searching, for places to meet their needs. When your church ranks high in local SEO, and what a searcher sees or reads is attractive, they decide to step foot in your doors.
And when one person steps into your church, physically or virtually, they’re one step closer to knowing Jesus.
Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode HERE.
Quotes from Episode 2.4
“This is Google's world. We're talking about when somebody is doing a local search, their churches near me, or non-denominational churches near me, Christian churches near me, or best churches in my city. There are all kinds of search terms for people looking for a church. When somebody gets to the local pack, seven out of 10 times, they click on that map, those top three search results, or even maybe an ad that's above that seven out of 10.” —Jason Hamrock
“What I do when I'm looking for different restaurants, I'd never been to, I Google them. I Google like best restaurants. And you know what? I look at reviews and photos. What are you trying to say about it? And does the food look good? Church is no different.” —Jason Hamrock
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