Google is the New Yellow Pages for Churches and Nonprofits
Graphic with a yellow pages background and a text overlay reading, "Google is the new Yellow Pages for churches and nonprofits."

When I hear anyone make reference to the Yellow Pages, I just smile and think of myself around 8-12 years old. Each year I looked forward to the arrival of the latest catalogs from Sears, Radio Shack and, yes, even the Yellow Pages. It was huge and heavy and could easily be used as a weapon. Not that I ever used it in such a way against my little brother, sorry Daniel!

The Yellow Pages was full of information about local businesses in our county, restaurant recommendations and the occasional coupons to my favorite pizza joints or ice cream shops along the Jersey shore where I grew up. I would honestly spend hours scanning the pages looking up businesses we frequented just to see what picture they included in their ad. My very own church took out an ad each year. It usually featured a picture of the whole congregation so I’d try to find my family. This was the tool used to find information before Google was accessible on your phone.

When was the last time you opened the Yellow Pages to find a business or organization? If you’re like me, it’s probably been at least 10 years or more. If you’re part of a younger generation, the answer is likely never. You might be wondering why I’m sharing this trip down memory lane.

Back when we still used phone books, Yellow Pages advertising was a thing. (It still is and I’m honestly not sure how.) If you were a business, church or non-profit you needed to have a Yellow Page listing. Being listed there got you exposure and honestly proved your existence. If you couldn’t be found in the yellow pages that was a warning flag.

The world has changed dramatically Since Google took over as the new digital phone book. Google gets information from many different sources including:

Websites are treated as the most relevant source of data by Google so having one and keeping it updated is critical. From time to time we hear from smaller churches that have either never had a website or have been treating their Facebook Page or Group as their primary online presence. These types of tools are important but they can never replace a website that’s 100% controlled by you.

Just having a website for your church or nonprofit organization doesn’t ensure that you’ll appear as a high google search result. Keeping your website updated is critical! Google uses software known as web crawlers to discover publicly available web pages. These crawlers look at every page of your website and then send that information back to Google to be analyzed and then added to their database. They pay close attention to unique keywords that could be used to identify you. These crawlers return on a regular basis so they know how frequently that information is updated or what Google refers to as, “website freshness.” A website that’s updated more frequently will be ranked higher by Google and presented as a more relevant result. If you’re confused as to why your church or nonprofit organization isn’t showing up as a higher search result, a lack of fresh information or regular updates could be part of the problem.

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