Multi-site churches have unique problems when it comes to search engines. How do you present a unified church to visitors, but get the search engines to list you as churches in several locations. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, we discussed the challenges multi-site churches face in part 1, “SEO For Multi-Site Churches Part 1 – The Challenges“. Today we’ll discuss the solutions to those challenges.
When we discuss search engine optimization for churches, we are looking primarily at local marketing. A church in Wichita Falls, Texas does not need to show up in the results of a person looking for a church in Sitka, Alaska because unless the person in Sitka is moving or traveling to Wichita Falls, they aren’t going to attend a church in Wichita Falls.
For local SEO, the search engines return two types of results, local listings like listings in Google Maps or YellowPages.com and web pages like the pages of the church’s website. So, there are two areas where you need to take steps to tell the search engines that your church has multiple locations – in the listings and on your website.
The search engines, as well as local review sites and yellow page sites, prefer to only have one listing for an organization unless that organization has multiple locations. Because of this, many of these sites will not allow you to setup more than one listing with the same or even similar information. So, in order to setup multiple listings for your church you will need to make each satellite location of your church unique in the following ways:
- Phone number – This is absolutely essential, especially in the Internet yellow pages. They simply won’t let you create more than one listing for a single phone number. So, each satellite location must have it’s own phone number. Some multi-site churches prefer all calls to go to one line. That’s fine, just setup unique phone numbers and have them all forwarded to that line.
- Address –I’m just mentioning this, but this is a gimme. If you have a satellite location, you’ll have a unique address.
- Organizational Name – This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s a good idea. Sometimes Google will combine listings if they think they are duplicates. Having a unique name, helps to prevent that. I recommend using your church name with the city or neighborhood of the location (I.E. First Baptist, Tampa). If you have more than one location within the same city and don’t have unique neighborhood names, then perhaps go with directional terms like “North” and “South” or something like that. Having the city name in the organization name for the listing will also help you have better rankings for searches in that city.
- Domain Name – This isn’t absolutely necessary either, but again, it’s a good idea for the same reasons having a unique organizational name is good. Similarly to the organizational name, I like setting up domains that are the same as the main domain, but with the location added (I.E. www.firstbapisttampa.com). As with the phone line, if you’d prefer to just have one website for all the locations, you can point all the domains to the same site.
In addition to setting up unique listings for each satellite location, it’s good to optimize your church’s website for multiple locations. The best way, from an SEO perspective, to do this is either to have unique websites for each location or to have unique sections for each location within a single website. From a visitor and church perspective, I think the best solution is a single website with sections for the individual locations. This allows you to have a single site for the information that is the same for the whole church, but also have sections for the information that unique to each location, like staff, location, and any ministries specific to a location.
If you create a unique site for each location, then the SEO is simple, just optimize each site for it’s location. If you have a single site with multiple sections, then you can optimize each location’s section for it’s location. I recommend using subdomains for each section. You can still keep the same look and feel as a unified site, but the search engines see subdomains as distinct sections of a site. I would also recommend directing the location specific domain names to that locations section.
The point of having a multi-site church is to expand the reach of the church to a larger geographic area. This is done effectively in the real world by building several church buildings in the different areas you are trying to reach. The church must do the same thing in the virtual world to expand its online geographical reach by creating several church listings for the different locations and by optimizing for each location on its website(s).
Join the Conversation:
- Do you have a multi-site church?
- If so, what steps have you taken to create an online presence in the various community locations you are trying to reach?