The Ultimate Guide to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Church

thumbs up leoWhen we think about reviews, often times we think about product reviews or business reviews.  However, reviews are very important for churches as well.  People who are looking around for a church will often look online to find a church.  Even if they have already decided on a church to visit, they may look up the church in Google or Bing maps for directions.  When they do, they will see your church’s reviews…or lack thereof.  So, getting positive reviews is key.

Why Do Churches Need Reviews:
There are several benefits to churches having positive online reviews.  Below are a few of them:

  • You look alive - When people see lots of online reviews, it makes the church look active and vibrant.  It makes you look alive.
  • Social proof - People always seek social proof, whether consciously or not.  We want to see that other people like something, especially before we try something new.  Positive online reviews provide that social proof for people.
  • Higher rankings – Reviews are one of the signals search engines use to determine where a church appears in the search results.  Getting positive reviews can boost your rankings.
  • It can get people excited before they even meet you – People who come to your service who are excited to be there are more likely to have a positive experience and thus are more likely to join.

 

Okay. So, it’s important to get lots of positive reviews, but where do you do that?

 

Where Should People Post Reviews?

local-citation-sites-250Critical Review Sites:

Other Good Review Sites:

 

Great! Now we know why online reviews are important and where to create listings.  Now, how do we go about getting positive online reviews?

 

6 Things Your Church Should Do to Get Reviews:

1. Talk about it
It seems obvious, and yet most churches don’t ever talk about members posting reviews.  As I mentioned in the introduction, a lot people don’t think about reviews in the context of churches.  So, it’s important for churches to talk about posting reviews so it enters the consciousness of your congregation.

2. Provide links on your website
The easier you make it for people to post reviews, the more reviews you’ll get.  So, post links to your church’s listings in the top review sites, like Google+ Local, Bing Maps, Yahoo maps, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.  On the page or in the widget that you put the links, have a call to action like, “If you enjoy the worship and ministry at XYZ church, please let people know and support the ministry of XYZ church by posting a review on one of the following sites.”

3. Give people a place to do it at the church
When people hear you talking about posting reviews, they may want to do it right away.  Why not give them the opportunity.  Provide a computer or two where people can get information about the church as well as post reviews.  You can also encourage people to use their smartphones.  One word or warning with this, though, is that Google has specifically said they don’t like organizations having kiosks specifically and solely for posting reviews.  So, be sure it’s a multipurpose computer, allowing people to get information, look up events, ect. in addition to posting reviews.

4. Give people a time to post reviews
The longer a time people have between you talking about posting reviews and them doing it, the less likely they are to do it.  So, why not give people time to do it.  Some churches may be comfortably doing this during a certain time in a service, so that may be a time to give people 5 minutes to post a review.  Other churches, however, may not be comfortable with that.  You may want to provide time during another event or just suggest people do it right after the service.  If your church offers a new members class, that’s another great time to give people a chance to post reviews, during the class itself.  These people have likely been involved with the church for a while (not visiting the first time) and obviously like the church since they are joining.

5. Encourage it as a way to support the church
Most members want to find ways to support the church.  Some may find it difficult to support the church financially and others find it difficult to find time to donate.  Present posting reviews as a way they (and all members) can support the church’s ministry.

6. Respond to reviews and other online activity
When a church responds to the reviews that are posted as well as other online activity, it shows that they are engaged and the reviews are appreciated.  This helps to create a culture where the members of the church feel comfortable and encouraged to engage the church online, including posting reviews.  Being engaged online also gives you the opportunity to address any posts from dissatisfied people and hopefully resolve the issue.

 

6 Things Your Church Should NOT Do for Reviews:

stop-signs1. Offer incentives
This doesn’t happen too often with churches, since churches don’t typically operate that way, but just in case you thought about giving people a free book or CD or giving them some other incentive, don’t do it.  It may seem like a good and effective way to get reviews, but it’s against the guidelines of almost every local listing site and can get you banned.  You can encourage people and ask people, but you can’t bribe them.

2. Create fake reviews
This is another thing that can get your listing removed.  Hopefully, the 8th (or 9th) commandment (Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness) would dissuade you from creating fake reviews, but if not, maybe a Google penalty will.  It’s better to have real, natural reviews anyway.  Most people can sniff out the fakes and you really don’t want the first impression a person has of your church to be that you are trying to deceive them.

3. Mention it once and then never again
“We mentioned the review thing in our announcements 6 months ago, yet we’ve only gotten 1 review.  What’s wrong?”  Mentioning it only once is almost as bad as not mentioning it at all.  People have a lot on their minds and it often takes several times hearing something like this for people to remember it and then maybe a few more for people to act on it.  Just like all the other church activities, you need to mention it repeatedly over time.  Also, you don’t want all your reviews to be posted at the same time.  That looks weird.  You want members to continue post reviews month after month, so there’s always new activity on your listings.

4. Hide and try to prevent reviews
One of the most common hurdles I run into with churches (and any other organization for that matter) is that they are afraid that someone will post a negative review.  So, they’d prefer to not have any reviews or listings where people can post reviews at all.  First of all, if you have no listings, it will seriously hinder people from find your church.  Secondly, there will be listings even if you don’t create them.  Many sites create listings by grabbing information from yellow page directories and the like.  Thirdly, if people are upset, it’s better for you to know and deal with it.

5. Ignore complaints
As I mentioned above, if people are upset, it’s better for you to know and deal with it.  A negative review, properly addressed can very easily end up a positive as visitors see how you handle complaints with love and grace.  Keep in mind that people understand that churches are made up of real people, sin and all.  You may also resolve the issue with the person and restore their relationship with the church.

6. Nothing
This is the most common thing I see, churches that just don’t do anything.  They don’t create listings, try to get reviews, deal with negative reviews or anything else.  Doing nothing may seem easier, but it often means fewer people can find your church, people are less likely to visit your church, and negative comments are left to taint the image of the church.  It doesn’t take that much extra time and effort to do something and the rewards for doing it are great.

 

You’ve Got the Guide, Now It’s Time to Act!

Like everything else in life, knowing this stuff is fine, but it doesn’t do you any good until you put it into action.  One of the great things about churches is that they have this built-in support structure called the congregation, people who are ready and willing to support the church.  Also, this isn’t something that is only for big churches in big cities.  Any church can do this and every church that does do this will benefit from it.  So, I encourage you to start putting these things into action.

Share Your Thoughts:

  • Do you have any other ideas that you would add to the list?
  • Have you tried to get reviews?  Tell us about your experience.
  • If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.
photo by: Aidan Jones

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .

3 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Get Positive Online Reviews for Your Church”

  1. those are all great suggestions and tips. I think too many Churches are still "internet shy" for lot's of reasons. God bless you for working to change that.

    • Thanks Bill. I totally agree. I know some churches that don't do it because they don't know, others who aren't sure how, and some who just think anything related to marketing is somehow a lack of trust in the Gospel. Obviously, I disagree with last reason and hopefully the information available online (like this post) will help with the first two.

      Thanks again.

  2. I'd never thought of it that way. Certainly, good relationships can form in the church and I know that I usually turn to church members for the various services I need, but hopefully there's a more important reason they'd have for joining the church ;)