A potential visitor to your church takes a look at your website to get a sense of what you are about. When they look for your location, hopefully they see a map that tells them at a glance where they will be going.
But then, Sunday morning they hop into the car, pull out their phone and type in the name of the church to get directions, but they get nothing. No auto complete for your name, no listing to click on, and no pinned location for your church. This is frustrating! The only way they can get directions is if they remembered your address (0.5% chance) or if they go back to your website to get the address and then type in the complete address.
Does this sound hospitable to our visitors? It’s not all Google’s fault, though they don’t do a good job of letting us know this is happening and how to fix it.
This is especially prevalent for our church plants that are renting a space—a high percentage have this problem. Most long-established churches with a building will not have this problem, but you should still check. A 1-minute check for anyone—go to Google Maps on your computer AND your phone and start typing the name of your church. Does Google autocomplete the name when you enter enough letters, and do you get a listing to click on with you name and address? If so, click on it and make sure it shows your building/location. If not, you need to fix this for your visitors. Here’s how:
You may want to pass this post off to someone who does “the tech stuff,” it will take about 20-30 minutes to complete this step. Then, there may be some brief follow-up time in a couple of weeks to confirm.
Essentially you need to do two things: 1) You need to list your church as a Business on Google Maps and 2) You need to verify the ownership of that business
1) Listing your church on Google Maps
There is a link below to a Google video on how to do this, but let me give you some helpful notes that Google won’t tell you:
You are going to need to log into Google with an account that can be the “owner” for this business and be in charge of the info. In my experience changes with Google aren’t always the easiest, so if you are going to be around forever you can use your own personal account, but I would recommend creating a Google account for the church that anyone can know the password. Create a new account such as <yourchurchname>@gmail.com with a password you can share.
The video will direct you to “GoogleMyBusiness” to start your listing and verification. This used to be called “Google Places.” Note as you begin the process in the video that Google Maps may recognize your business, that doesn’t mean you are done and set. Continue on with the instructions to claim and verify your business. If Google Maps doesn’t recognize your business, then you add it from scratch.
2) Verify your information and ownership of this business
This is important: Once your church listing is added, some people get an option to “Verify by phone”—definitely pick this option and give your phone number that you can answer immediately. If you get this option, verification should be quick and painless. Who gets this option? Only the googlebots know. If you don’t get the verify by phone option, you will have to have a postcard sent to the address of your church with a verification code on it. If you rent and it isn’t a problem for someone to give you the mail you get, wait for the postcard and then go back into your listing to verify.
If you are in a rented place that may or may not get you a piece of mail, then I have a hack for you. Everyone else can skip down to the “FINAL NOTES” below and bypass the following screenshots and instructions.
The Following Section For Those Who Can’t Get Mail at Their Location (All others skip down to “FINAL NOTES”)
So, for those who can’t get mail at your rented building, wait 14 days, go to this page:
1) Choose “Verification”
2) Choose “I requested a postcard more than 14 days ago”
3) Under the last option: “Most postcards arrive within 14 days. If you haven’t received your postcard, and you’ve waited more than 14 days, contact us.”
4) Click on the “contact us” and there will be a form where you can enter a phone number for them to call you to verify.
Once you’ve completed these steps, your church is listed and verified on Google Maps. It may take a little time for you to see your listing show up. Note, however, that this isn’t a guarantee that your church will show up on every search by every person. There are mysterious algorithms that determine that, but this step is essential to start showing up. Over time and with some other helps we will discuss in another post your location will show up more consistently. This is also the first step in the process of showing up when people search for “churches” or “reformed churches” etc.
It’s not uncommon for there to be small issues with this verification process. Pay attention to details in your address, phone number, etc to make sure everything is correct. The time and effort you put in is worth it. This is an important way to be hospitable to our guests.