Local SEO?s Importance To Church Marketing ? Part 1
We’ve looked at what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is, setting up your website to make it readable by the search engines and so that it tells the search engines what your website is about by targeting specific keywords. So, what is local SEO? Local SEO is optimization of your website both targeting keywords with local modifiers (e.g. churches in Trinity, FL) and with the intent of telling the search engines where your church/business/organization is in addition to what keywords are related to your organization. As a church with a specific location, local SEO is very important for bringing new visitors to your church through your website.
Why Local SEO?
Local search is a growing subset of online search. With so much information online that comes from every corner of the globe, it is no wonder local search is gaining in popularity. If you’re visiting New Orleans and want to find a restaurant to visit, you can’t just search for “restaurant” or you’ll get a bunch of results that don’t help you at all, like a restaurant in Hawaii. So, you search for “restaurants in New Orleans”. People do the same when searching for a church. Whether they are visiting a town, moving to a town, thinking about moving to a new church, or maybe struggling and want to talk to Pastor, people search locally for churches. Why local SEO for your church marketing? You want local SEO because you want your website to be listed when people search locally.
What is Local Search?
I mentioned above that searches like “restaurants in New Orleans” are a form of local search, but there’s another kind of local search. The major search engines saw the trend of people using keywords that included local modifiers (e.g.: “in New Orleans” or “in Tampa FL”. So, they created the Local Search option. In Google it’s called Google Maps. In Yahoo, it’s Yahoo Local Business. There’s also Live Local and Ask City Search. These are a different type of search. You enter the city you want to search in and then the keyword(s). The local search results are completely different from the general search results and usually include a map so you can see the various locations on the map associated with the search results. Also, the listings in the local search results do not necessarily have to have a website. In that sense they are more like a phone book listing. The listings can have a website link but don’t have to, and the listings include additional information like a description, business hours, contact info, etc.
What’s the Difference?
The local search options in the major search engines don’t just affect the way people search, but also require a different kind of search engine optimization. In this case, the SEO isn’t just targeting specific keywords, but also uses various techniques to tell the search engines where the church or business is located. This can be done through META tags, putting the organization’s physical address on the site, inserting a Google or Yahoo map on a page, in addition to other techniques. It’s still good to use regular SEO techniques to target specific local keywords, but you also want to include these other techniques.
In addition to different SEO techniques, local search results are also affected by ratings and reviews. Similar to the way link building can help you improve the affects of regular SEO, getting positive reviews and ratings can help you improve the affects of local SEO. If you are in a town with 100 churches, what does Google or Yahoo use to decide which church gets listed first and which is last? Four things:
• Local optimization
• The location of your church compared to what the search engine considers the center of town
• The reviews and ratings for that search engine’s listing
• The reviews and ratings for listings on other sites, especially local review sites and Internet yellow pages
So, in addition to using local optimization on your church website, you also want to get plenty of positive reviews and ratings both on the search engines’ local listings and on other sites.
Local SEO is absolutely essential for every online church marketing effort. It’s not all that difficult (or expensive if you hire someone to do it for you) and it can pay off in spades by bringing in new members to your church. Read more about why local SEO is so important in church marketing and what obstacles you may run into in my the second part of this article, “Local SEO’s Importance To Church Marketing – Part 2”
Kurt Steinbrueck is the author of the Church Marketing Online blog. He has been Director of Marketing Services with Ourchurch.Com for over 5 years providing Christian search engine optimization services including services specific for church marketing solutions and private school marketing. Kurt is also a Deacon at his church.