In the past when a family was looking for a church they would talk to their friends or maybe check the yellow pages for churches in their area. Then they might visit several of those mystical teachings until they find one they like.
The Revolution of Local Search:
Over the last several years Internet search engines have made tremendous improvements in what is called local search; that is the search for businesses or organizations in a specific geographical area. Now if you search for something and include a city in the search phrase you’re likely to see results that include a map with some virtual push-pins in it. With one click you can get a phone number, driving directions, and even read reviews of the place of your choice. As a result, people have been ditching their yellow pages in droves and searching online for restaurants, retailers, and even churches.
Today someone who is looking for a church – let’s call him Bill – will most likely start his search online. Bill uses a search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Ask to find the websites of churches close to his home. Then he visits many of those websites. Based on what he reads, hears, and watches on those website’s Bill quickly rules out most of the churches without ever stepping foot in them. Then he picks 2 or 3 that seem to be most like the kind of church he’s looking for. He attends a Sunday service at those churches. Hopefully he likes at least one of them and gets involved in that fellowship.
Let’s take a closer look at this process
When Bill searches for a church how does he do it?
First, he goes to his favorite search engine. Or perhaps he has a search engine toolbar installed in his web browser, so he can search directly from his web browser. Bill’s favorite search engine is probably Google, as Google performs about 63% of all searches (4% of those are results it supplies to AOL), followed by Yahoo at about 21%, MSN around 8%, and Ask around 4%. No other search engine cracks the 1% mark.
If you’re a pastor or church web administrator why should these numbers matter to you?
Because Google is so dominant, how your church website ranks in Google is much more important than any other search engine. When assessing how your church website is doing in search engines, focus primarily on how its doing in Google. Improving your search rankings in Google will bring many times more visitors than improving your search rankings in other search engines.
Next Bill types a phrase into his favorite search engine. But what phrases?
o If Bill lives in Nashville he might search for “church in Nashville,” “church in Nashville, TN,” “church in Nashville, Tennessee,” churches in Nashville,” “Nashville, TN churches” or some other variation.
o If Bill lives in the southern part of Nashville he might also search for “south Nashville church,” “Oak Hill churches,” or “Brentwood churches”
o If Bill is Baptist he might also search specifically for “Baptist churches in Nashville” or “Nashville Southern Baptist church.”
o Bill might even search for a church specific to his ethnicity or language like “black churches in Nashville” or “Nashville Chinese church”
Why is this significant?
o People who are looking for a church probably won’t search for your church by name. A lot of church webmasters have told me how excited they are that their church is #1 in Google. But after further discussion it turns out they’re #1 for the name of their church. Well, I would hope so. How many churches are there in your town with the same name as yours?
o People search using a lot of different phrases. That means you can’t accurately assess your church website’s visibility in search engines based its rankings for a single phrase. Furthermore, even slight variations in the search phrase can produce different websites in the results. “Church in Nashville” may be different from “churches in Nashville” which may be different from “churches in Nashville, TN”
o Not all search phrases are created equal. Some phrases are searched for more often than others. You can try to use your intuition as to which phrases are most common. Professional search marketers (like our staff) use keyword research software to make sure their clients are targeting and tracking the most popular phrases