When is the last time you used the phone book? If you could think of the time, you are part of the approximately 30% minority of people who still use a phone book. As this highly scientific study I just conducted using Google Trends shows, interest in Yellow Pages is falling noticeably.
For years, yellow pages were THE place you needed to be to be found. Today, that is not the case. In fact if your church is spending money on a yellow page listing, you may want to stop. Our congregation was paying hundreds a month for our listing until last year. We have not seen any negative effects from stopping that.
Here are three steps to help people find your church in a post phone book society.
1 Be Findable
Today the phone book is replaced by the internet, and more increasingly, it is replaced by the internet accessible from a pocket. According to a June 2013 survey by Pew Internet, 56% of American adults and 81% of Americans aged 25-34 own a smartphone.
If you want to be found, you need to make sure you are listed and your listing is accurate. Visit maps.google.com and make sure your church shows up when you search for your church and the name of your city.
Chances are your church will show up in the search results and chances are your information will be accurate. But chances are also good that you can tell people more in these results. In fact by clicking the “more info” link that appears with your listing, you will be presented with a page that can contain more information about your church. Clicking the link that says “Is this your page? Manage” will take you to a page with options, you will want to select “Edit my business information” and follow the instructions to verify your identity. Once you’ve hopped the hoops you can then update the information for your page. You will want to have a high quality exterior picture to replace the one that is defaulted.
For more information than you need to know about the difference between Google+ and Google Local pages, this article is useful.
Here are other places you may want to take ownership of your location at and manage.
- yelp.com (Siri draws on results and reviews from this database.)
- foursquare.com (This directory information is used by Instagram for tagging image locations.)
- maps.yahoo.com (Yahoo maps has a basic option for you to upload a photo. But they aren’t hugely utilized as I can tell.)
- bing.com/maps (Bing does not offer much in the way of directory information at this point
- mapquest.com * It appears you must pay to update this information. I do not recommend paying. Anyone had a positive experience with it?
2 Be Accurate
While you are updating information in the listings above you will want to make sure information is accurate and useful. Correct any incorrect information but also provide current service times and contact information.
Accuracy is very important for people looking to visit your church for the first time, or even the first time in a long time. Ensure your service time, location, contact information and more is accurate at LCMS.org (or whatever centralized database your church body may have if not LCMS). The LCMS does an excellent job of providing a church locator and keeping the information up to date is important. If you see an issue with your congregations listing, try contacting them with the links here: http://cwu.lcms.org/.
Chances are your church may be listed in other databases (Newspaper Church Listings, Chamber of Commerce listings, other church directories) and you will want to ensure that your listing is correct in these places. If you don’t know where your church is listed, try googling your congregation and see where you’re found.
3 Be Appealing
The sayings go…
- If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.
- Silence is golden.
- Keep it Simple Stupid.
- Less is more.
One of the best things you might be able to do for your congregation’s digital presence is to trim it up. Perhaps you have a website for your congregation that was developed in 1996 by a 13 year old member learning HTML. Perhaps you have a Facebook Person Account (not Page) for your congregation that was started by a member and left behind. Maybe you have a LutheransOnline.com website that you don’t need any more. Cleaning up things like this may be the best way to look better online. It is not always about having a fancy website, but can also be about not having a negative presence online.
Tracking down passwords and such to delete old accounts and locations can be a challenge, but it is one worth taking on if it will mean people are less likely to turn away from your church before they even step in the door.
These are some quick thoughts. Not the final say or most authoritative at all. What are your suggestions?