Search engines are about connecting people to content. If they have a question, the search engine attempts to find the best content to answer that question. It may be a website page, a video, or a profile on social media. While content should be relevant, it also helps if it is popular. You may think you have no control over your popularity. Yet, I will show you a few techniques that can help your status rise among churches in your area.
I do not want you to think I am giving "black hat" advice, or anything that a search engine such as Google would consider bad. There are many companies out there that guarantee you top search results. Many get this through underhanded practices. What I am suggesting is not that. I am asking that you use legitimate resources like your congregation. They can help your church become more popular online. Their effort and honest feedback will help you attract more people, and change more lives.
Ask for Sharing
Social media is becoming a "pay to play" game. While creating accounts and posting content is free, it only propagates to a small segment of your followers. At the time of this writing, Facebook posts are only seen by roughly 12-17% of your followers. If you want more, you need to ask for help.
Most of your social media postings should have a short request to share. This will encourage anyone that sees the post to share it. Also, echo that request during your announcements or in your church bulletin. Ask members that if they see one of your posts, to please share it. The best content for this would be photos. Send out inspirational quotes over photos, and add your church's website address to the bottom. A great resource for those photos is LightStock. They are a stock photography company focused on churches. They even put out a free image every week. This should supply you with great photos for a "quote from the sermon" post.
There are many places that rank your establishment based on reviews. One popular rating website is Yelp. While its primary focus is restaurants, it features churches as well. Others that are tightly integrated with search results are Yahoo Local and Google My Business. Some of the options include paying for listing and ads. What I am asking is that you tap into your congregation.
Ask congregation members to rate your church on those local listings. Please stress that you do want them to lie. Request that they write what they truly like and dislike about your church. A truthful review will help a prospective member understand what they can expect. If you have a traditional service they enjoy, tell them to say it. Believe it or not, some younger people still like hymns! As long as the reviews are honest and truthful, they will not mislead anyone reading them. The ultimate goal is to have them visit your church. So one way or another, the truth will come out.
Lastly, if you produce a podcast, this is another place they can write reviews and give ratings. iTunes and other podcast directories make great spaces to boost your ranking in results. Like search results, ratings and reviews help others find your content. If you are spending the time to produce this content, ask your listeners to help out. Add a message in your recording requesting ratings, and reviews. Better yet, host a contest or a giveaway for people that write a review! A worship CD, your pastor's book, or T-shirt make great gifts to your loyal listeners.
Ask your congregation and audiences to help boost your popularity. It will directly impact your search engine rankings. This should lead to more people finding your church's content. Which of course should lead to more members in your congregation. To be more effective, ask specific groups to start first. Talk to one team/group every week. This way reviews and ratings happen over time. Stress that they be honest with their reviews. It will show that you have integrity, and value feedback. Plus anyone that visits your church will soon get a clear picture. Any deception or lies will turn them away immediately. Forge a true connection through honesty and openness. So go ahead, make that shameless plug and ask for help!
Image courtesy of Benjamin Miller