Optimizing Church Websites for Local Search Results

Local SEO for Churches

Online marketing for churches has become increasingly necessary. The ever-expanding use of the Internet and mobile devices by church-goers of all ages, has changed the way people select their church of choice.

There are two factors to consider for marketing a church to the local community.

  Local Search 

  Organic Search

This article will focus on the basic requirements for local SEO and how it relates to increased visibility for your church website. Local is different from organic search in the fact that most members of a congregation are local to the community, and may search for a church near their home. It is a rare occurrence to see a search session originate in Frisco, Texas, and search for a church in some other city and state far away.

A search for “frisco churches”, from the geographic location of Frisco, Texas, will display the following similar result:

local-seo-church-marketing

Inclusion on page one in the list of churches, with a map marker (known as the “7-pack”), is the desired outcome while engaging in a local seo campaign for your church.

Simple Steps for Local Search Visibility


(NAP is Name, Address, Phone Number and will be referred to as “NAP” in this informative article)

This is one of the most critical factors for a local SEO strategy & attaining visibility and traffic from the local search results.

The church name, address, and phone number must be listed the same way on every web page it is listed on the Internet. The same way; this cannot be stressed enough

NAP Data Consistency Tips

List the church name the same way as it is intended to be known in real-life. This means the church DBA (Doing Business As), articles of incorporation, or non-profit status documentation is the authority for the brand name of the church.

Use the true and correct physical address for your church. DO NOT USE A PO BOX.

Abbreviate the address. Make “Street” display as “ST”, “Lane” will be “LN”, etc.

Use the official listing the United States Postal Service has on record. Click the “By Company” tab and begin your search for the proper church address. The address tool on the USPS website can be found here. Do not stray away from the address provided by the USPS; this is the correct and legal address of the church (99.9% of the time).

usps-verify-church-address-nap

In the image below, notice that “Drive” was changed to “Dr” and the five-digit zip code was appended to an extended ZIP+4 code. The USPS database uses standard abbreviations and formatting.

Also notice the absence of a dot (.) after “DR”. Do not place a dot in the abbreviation.

usps-local-seo-churches

If there is a discrepancy with the address, contact your city hall, county planning and zoning commission, as well as the USPS sub-station which delivers your mail. You will find resolution to your addressing issues by contacting all three entities listed above. Often times, these three entities will not be on the same page if there are addressing issues. Hence the reason for the possible discrepancy in the address.

General reasons for addressing issues may include (but not limited to) the following:

  • political meandering
  • moving the physical church address to a new location
  • discrepancy between city and county government boundaries
  • long-standing border disputes between city, county, or state governments

This address format will be the baseline for the Name and Address for anywhere the church is listed online.

The church phone number will also be formatted in a very specific way. The baseline for this format is how Google Local (Google My Business) lists the phone number.

DO NOT use dots (.) between numbers. This may look “cool”, but it’s wrong.
xxx.xxx.xxxx - not correct

DO NOT use two dashes between numbers.
xxx-xxx-xxxx - not correct

DO use parentheses around the area code followed by a space before the last seven numbers, as well as a dash (-) between the prefix and the last four numbers.
(xxx) xxx-xxxx - correct

Formatting the church NAP to be consistent with the authoritative databases will make the process and execution of NAP citation strategy much easier.

Data Aggregation

There are six NAP citation sources that matter. All authoritative business directories such as YellowPages, WhitePages, Yelp, and MerchantCircle will get the NAP data from the data feeds of at least one of the three main data aggregate sources (Acxiom, Infogroup - InfoUSA, or Factual Data).

The six citation sources that matter most:

  1. Acxiom
  2. Infogroup (InfoUSA)
  3. Factual Data
  4. Google Local (Google My Business)
  5. Bing Places
  6. Yahoo Local

The six databases listed above are the key to local search visibility. Manual submission to these six most important databases is advisable and may indeed produce the most desirable results.

Within 90 days from the date of the data feeds downstream, the top tier authority business directories will populate with the correct data. This means if the NAP data is provided to the aggregates a day before the data feed, within 90 days, the downstream business directories will populate on the expected schedule. If the NAP data is provided to the aggregates a day after the data feeds, it may take up to 180 days for the downstream business directories to populate.

Top 11 Citation Sources for Churches

  1. Facebook.com
  2. YellowPages.com
  3. en.Wikipedia.com
  4. SuperPages.com
  5. Yelp.com
  6. ChurchFinder.com
  7. USAChurch.com
  8. Local.com
  9. Manta.com
  10. TheCatholicDirectory.com (obviously, only for Catholic churches)
  11. YouTube.com

On-Page Optimization

There are three main considerations when focusing on on-page optimization in relation to local SEO.

  1. NAP data on each page with structured markup (preferably and specifically “microdata”, instead of microformats and RDFa).
  2. Contact (location) page with contact form, NAP data, map, hours of operation, and the ability to get specific directions to the church, from your location, on the location page. This data should have structured markup in order to be effective.
  3. KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file linked from the GEO-location sitemap.

*Note about XML sitemap structure - /sitemap.xml will link to location sitemap; from the location sitemap, there will be a link to the KML file.

Summary


FindMyChurch.com is an expert in local SEO for churches and church NAP data aggregation. We only focus on churches and therefore have the process for church NAP data down to a science. Submission to the major citation sources is a tedious and time consuming process.

You have a church to maintain and a congregation that needs your guidance on a daily basis. Instead of being bogged down with the some-what phantom secrets of the search engines, local SEO strategy, and marketing for churches, get your church listed the right way. Contact us to get started.