Search engines like Google have pretty much replaced the Yellow Pages and other directories as the way that most people find local businesses and organizations. We’ve talked before in our presentations and on this site about the importance of your website and its content for search engine optimization (SEO), but there’s another way to ensure that people can find you when they’re looking for a Catholic parish in your area: Google Places.
If you’ve ever done a Google search and seen the results begin with a map with red pins and a list of business or organizations, then you’ve seen Google Places in action. And while it’s possible for places–like your church–to show up in the results without you having taken any proactive steps to be listed, why not ensure you show along with all the relevant information by claiming your Google Places listing. After all, we want to make sure that someone looking for a Catholic church in your area can find you, right?
It’s easy to get started. You just go to Google Places and follow the prompts for claiming your “business” listing (from this point assume “business” means “church”) for free. Google even provides a step-by-step guide to walk yout through it. They also offer you a nice article with tips on creating a good listing.
In the end, you’ll be given a nice dashboard that will reveal useful data like how many times your Google Places listing has shown up a a local search result, how many times it was clicked for more info on Maps, driving directions, or to go to your website. You will also see the top search queries by which people found your listing, You can even see a listing of the zip codes from which people are asking for driving directions.
Google also gives the ability to share an update on your place page, perhaps highlighting a speaker or a parish mission or the Christmas or Easter Mass schedule. (The listings expire 30 days after posting, so they’re intended for more topical information). You also get full control over your profile, so you can including your street address, mailing address, business office hours, and even other information like Mass times.
It should only take a few minutes to complete your profile, but by doing so you will make it that much easier for people to find your parish when they are seeking you. When it’s put like that, doesn’t it make sense that every parish should claim their Google Places?