We all do it.
“coffee near me”
“bank near me”
“burgers near me”
“Near me” is one of the most common search terms for any interest. People just want to know what’s out there and what’s close. Most people will try to Google their business by it’s name; and you’ll probably find that you show 1st every time. But most common Googlers (I understand it’s not a word) aren’t Googling you by name, they’re searching for what’s near me. It’s the same when people are looking for a new church.
I’m currently running a campaign for a church and I found that 40% of all leads came from the keyword search “church near me.” Leads being people who clicked on the listing and asked for directions to the church. Prior to this campaign, this church was nearly invisible with this keyword search.
So how do you know if someone can find your church when they’re looking? Let’s try this exercise:
- Wherever you’re located at the moment, think of the nearest church to you (don’t google it)
- After you have the name in mind, go to Google or Bing
- Type in “church near me”
- Now, answer these questions: Does that church show in the first 3 listings? Does it show on the map? Does it show at all?
Many people will answer yes to all 3 of these questions and that’s fantastic! For those that answered no to one or all of these questions, does this surprise you? Wouldn’t you think that which ever church is closest to you, that’s the one that should show first based on distance and relativity?
Real Life Example:
My church is less than 1 mile away from my home (I chose my church prior to living this close). It’s a 3 minute drive and a 19 minute walk. I live in the exact same zip code as my church as well. When I googled “church near me”, here were my top 3 results:
None of these churches are my church by the way. Church #1 is about the same distance in miles but 1 minute shorter in drive time, so it’s what you would expect Google to deliver. Church #2 is further away and in a completely different zip code than my church. Church #3 is slightly further out than my church. It’s also closer than church #2 but ranked lower. I clicked on “more places” and of the top 10 churches that showed on the map, 9 of them were more than a 5 minute drive. In fact, 4 of them were more than a 9 minute drive. Not far, but definitely further than the 3 minute drive to my church. So where’s my church, right? What page did it show up on?
It didn’t. For perspective, this was prior to my optimization efforts for my church so we don’t have this issue anymore but it gave me a real gauge on why people were’t coming in; it’s because they didn’t see us online.
Google decided to show me churches 5-7 miles out and even showed me Churches Chicken that was 2 miles out (close, but definitely not a church). But Google almost refused to show my church that was just 1 mile away. In order to find my church, I had to click on the map and zoom in to the exact street and click on the building for the listing to appear. I had to manually manipulate the results of my search to find my church.
This is the most common problem with churches today. They’re there, they exist physically, but you can’t find them online. Yes, my church had a website – but that was it. These churches that out-ranked my church had websites with regular updates, social media accounts, reviews, pictures and unique content (we’ll talk about this is another blog). But my church just had a website. I asked Google for a location based on distance and it delivered results slightly based on distance and relativity but more so based on who looked they liked better.
Think of Google and Bing like the popular kids in high school (in real life or a teenage sitcom). The popular kids have a major influence on your social standings so you jump through hoops and do what they want to ensure they like you. The more they like you, the higher your social ranking. Search engines are like the popular kids. They determine your ranking so you have to jump through hoops and do other monotonous task to increase it. If they really like you, they’ll show it; more importantly, they’ll show you.
Don’t know what the search engines want? That’s what I’m here for.