How many times have you heard “Google it” in response to a question? Probably a lot.
Google is the go-to source for the most popular online searches like “restaurants near me” and also the most obscure searches like “how to adopt a monkey.” There are over five billion Google searches every day! We trust Google to deliver answers and often it’s the first place we look online. The search engine’s sophisticated and complex algorithms scan the web to find and score content to display in relevant search results. For your parish, this means that more people will be able to discover your community and encounter Christ, whether they’re new to the area and seeking a home parish or visiting and looking for a Sunday Mass.
To take advantage of Google’s popularity, it’s essential to create a Google Business Profile for your parish. A Business Profile is the featured section that appears in search results when people Google your parish like the example above. It’s an easy and effective way to build your parish community, helping people find and learn about your parish.
Here’s how to create and manage your parish’s Google Business Profile.
1. Google your parish.
Your parish will likely already appear in Google search results as a Business Profile based on its address on Google Maps and other information and photos Google found across the web. To start, simply Google your parish name including the city. If you see it featured on the right like the example below, then your parish already has a Business Profile. If a Business Profile doesn’t appear, then you need to create one for your parish.
2. Claim or create your Business Profile.
As mentioned above, your next step is to either claim or create your Business Profile depending on whether or not one exists already.
- Claim: If there is a Business Profile for your parish, select the linked text “Own this business?” You will be asked to verify your ownership. Once claimed, you can edit or add the current information, links and photos.
- Create: If there is not a Business Profile yet for your parish, go to Google.com/Business and select “Manage Now.” You will then be able to easily go through the steps to create and manage your profile.
After you claim or create your Business Profile, complete all the relevant fields provided: category (church), hours, website, address, etc. The more information you provide, the more likely it is that you will rank in search results to help people find your parish.
3. Add a compelling description with relevant keywords.
The description of your parish is very important. Google allows up to 750 characters, which is roughly two paragraphs in length. The specific words and phrases you use will determine what search results you appear in beyond those that directly search for your parish name. For example, in addition to your parish and pastor’s name, you should include location-specific phrases like “Catholic church in Detroit, Michigan” and include all the available liturgies and services like “visit for Sunday Mass, daily Mass, and confession on Saturdays.” You can also include information about your parish community to help people understand your parish story.
4. Add high-quality photos.
Make sure that the photos on your Business Profile are high quality. If you don’t have any, hire a professional photographer or ask a parishioner with photography experience to take some. Try to get at least five to ten great photos to add. Showcase the parish building and landscape, inside and out. Include photos of specific architecture, statues, stained glass or other features that make your parish unique and beautiful.
5. Encourage parishioners to post reviews.
Another critical part of your Business Profile is the reviews. People can rate your parish with one to five stars and include a comment. The amount and sentiment of the reviews are one of the biggest factors that Google uses to determine the authority and quality of your Business Profile. People interested in your parish will not overlook them, so it’s important to make sure the comments and ratings are representative of your community.
Use your parish’s communication channels to ask parishioners to post their reviews. It would be worth a dedicated email to parishioners asking them to support your parish’s online presence by posting a review. You can also ask people to post a review at events and other gatherings as part of the signup process or at a booth. You can even incentivize reviews, offering a raffle entry, prayer card, or other prize in exchange.
6. Report inappropriate reviews to Google.
It’s common to get an occasional erratic review from a bot or someone looking for a platform to vent. If it’s inappropriate or irrelevant, you can flag it to Google to review and remove. It’s not guaranteed that Google will review it, and it will likely take some time, but it’s worth reporting to avoid a misrepresentation of your parish community.
7. Monitor your Business Profile consistently.
Once your Business Profile is thoroughly completed, don’t just let it sit unattended. Schedule reminders to review it, at least once a month, to keep up on any new reviews and necessary changes like Mass times. Google also provides analytics for your profile: how many people search for and view your Business Profile, the terms they use to find it and any actions they take like visiting your website or requesting directions.
Your Google Business Profile is a key part of your online presence and might be the first touchpoint for prospective parishioners and visitors — so make sure it stands out!