Man at table with empty coffee cup using laptop to search on Google

Boost your social proof with Google Maps

Imagine the scene – you’re new to the city and looking for a church. Or you’ve been learning about faith online and you’re exploring the idea of going to church. You have a quick Google search for churches in your area and see the following reviews pop up.

Average Google Review
Positive Google Review

Which church are you going to go for? Well of course the second one for obvious reasons. There are more reviews (33 vs 4) and fewer bad reviews.

Once upon a time...

Before the internet, if you wanted to go to a new restaurant or place you’d have to ask your friends for recommendations. And whilst that is still incredibly powerful, we can now access these sort of recommendations in just seconds thanks to smartphones.

What’s important to note is that when people search on Google, these results are often connected to business listings on Google Maps. Meaning the easiest way to get your church to show up to people in your area is to make sure your Google Maps listing is strong.

(Interested in strengthening your church presence further? Check out this article on why churches need branding).

Get started with your Google Business Profile

Our first step is to create your free Business Profile with Google. You may already have a listing for your church but do you manage it?

Head to https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/business to do this. It’s a fairly easy and intuitive process.

In the process, you’ll also want to verify your business. This will cause your listing to show higher up in the search and allow you to be in full control of what you share.

Google will send you a postcard with a verification code to your business address to check you are actually there and then you can use this verification code on your business listing.

If you’re in rented facilities or a temporary venue, it’s still worth doing this and in my experience most venues don’t mind at all as it’s helping profile their location.

There is plenty you can do with your Google Business Profile but I would suggest starting with the following:

1. Update your details

Make sure all of your details are up to date. Think address, website, opening times etc. It’s too easy not to get right so make sure you do.

2. Upload photos

Upload as many photos as possible that capture who you are and what you do. Don’t just upload fancy stage shots (although that’s cool too). Make sure you include photos of people who actually go to your church. Children & families (with permission of course), young adults and so on. Think coffees and conversation.

Try to look through the lens of someone who doesn’t know what to expect – what would they like to see? (This is a key part of the process of branding for your church). It’s definitely worth investing in professional photography as these images will literally get thousands of views but the most important thing is to upload something and get started where you are right now.

3. Ask for reviews

Ask your congregation to leave reviews that are genuine, honest and specific. Most people won’t think at all to do this but this is the real power of social proof. You will have to ask people regularly (try an email that explains how helpful it would be). Make sure these reviews aren’t at all fake or too glossy as you can see through them a mile off. You can also reply to each review through your Google Business Profile.

Here’s how you might frame it in a church-wide email:

“Would you be able to help us reach more people by leaving a review on Google? It’s so helpful for new visitors to be able to see what church is like and hear from the community before eve they come. Every review helps to remove any barriers someone might have about coming to church. Please do keep it honest, genuine and specific – the link is below!”

The important thing with Google Maps is simply to get started. Users like to see reviews spanning over time as it looks more organic so include this as a regular part of church life and communication.

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