Community Connection Series: Part Two
Robert was the Executive Director of Operations for a church with an average weekly attendance of 1,450 in a Midwestern town of 11,140 people. A visitor approached him after a morning service and complained that she had a lot of trouble visiting the church. She originally found the church website on a directory but reached a Chinese take-out when she called the listed number. With more research, she found two churches with similar names but different addresses. It was only because of her determination and denominational loyalty that she persevered and eventually attended the service. Robert was naturally unhappy hearing this and wondered how many others were not showing up at the church’s door because of similar difficulties.
Like Robert (who isn’t a real person, by the way), many executives are shocked to discover incorrect information about their church’s website, name, address, or phone being propagated across the Internet. Even more disturbing is the feeling of helplessness when they discover wrong information. How can you manage information about your church online when you don’t know how the information got there?
Businesses and organizations alike are wrestling with a new issue: managing their NAP/W (name, address, phone, and website) online.
• What information is circulating about your business?
• How can you correct bad information?
• How can accuracy be maintained?
It’s like managing a personal credit score. It’s complicated, especially if you haven’t done it before. And the responsibility is ongoing. This is especially true if there is inaccurate or outdated information about your church online, such as an incorrect phone number, an old address, an incorrect variation (or several variations) of your organizational name, or mention of a former staff member.
Do a quick search for your church and see if Google has you “pinned” correctly on its map, and if that information is accurate. If your church’s pin shows up at the right place and if it has accurate and complete listing information, you’re among the fortunate. But even then, don’t get too smug in your present success. Instead ask, “How did Google decide to put the church’s pin there?” and “What steps can I take to shore up ongoing accuracy?”
Next, take a minute and do a Google search for “church” followed by your town’s or nearest city’s name. Check out the top twenty results and see what you learn about how strong your church’s online presence is and how accurate and consistent your NAP/W information is.
Most people aren’t aware that a lot of NAP/W information appearing online originates from three core data providers: Infogroup, Acxiom, and LocalEze. It is important to periodically audit this information on these sources to make sure they continue to disseminate accurate information about your church or organization. You may be surprised to see a wrong phone number pop up that has been inactive for years, or an address of your pastor or staff show up as the church’s location.
You may also need to track down wrong information that has already been propagated across the Internet. Try doing a Google search for your church’s name. You might be surprised to see a variety of directory results below your own website that include your listing, such as city-data.com, local-yahoo.com, yellowpages.com, and xanga.com. You may even see search results listing social media sites that you didn’t even set up. Those sites got this information from a trusted source, and you need to track it down. It may be one of the core data providers. Correcting the core data providers is a good start, but you should also contact each directory two months later as they’re likely to hold onto outdated and incorrect information without your direct intervention.
Creating citations (updating your NAP/W information on directory sites) may seem like a tedious and time consuming job, but don’t underestimate its importance. Not only will new people discover your church on directories over time, but these listings also help your church’s website to move up in search engine rankings for local searches. Google ranks whom Google trusts, and multiple, consistent mentions of identical NAP/W information builds trust with this search engine.
These citations are also important because of current trends in web use. The web has gotten more mobile and more locally relevant. You need to make sure that your church is ready to intersect with the emerging habits of today’s society. Do some YouTube research on the new Google maps, or learn about Google Now, which is currently available for platforms outside of Droid devices.
If you don’t feel ready to take on a task like this but agree it is worth paying attention to, consider hiring an affordable outside vendor (specialist) to help. Otherwise, you’ll be counting the cost of lost visibility today and failing to benefit from important emerging technologies.
Author bio: Steve Wolgemuth is CEO of YDOP, Inc, a Christian-owned company dedicated to helping businesses and organizations reach a proximate target audience. Their Near-user marketing approach incorporates local search engine optimization, discovery optimization and social strategies to create phone rings, email dings, and door swings.