The problem began when the church created a new website for itself with a new domain name.The church website’s original domain name (middleburgvaumc.com) was never redirected to the new domain name (middleburgunitedmethodistchurch.org).
When the church failed to renew the original domain name (assuming they no longer needed it because they had a new website) someone else purchased their original domain name.
Subsequently, people searching online for the Methodist Church in Middleburg Virginia would find this local search listing:
There were a number of problems with this listing:
1. It linked to the outdated incorrect website.
2. It displayed a nonsensical spammy description (Emergency Food flappy bird cheats flappy bird free download flappy bird, etc.)
3. It displayed the wrong name for the church (Asbury Methodist Church).
4. While the correct church website link displayed further down the page, most people would click on the first listing and then be confused.
How We Fixed This Google Local Search Listing
1. The church did not have a gmail address, so we set up a gmail address for the church.
2. Using the new gmail address, we logged into plus.google.com and set up a Google+ profile page for the church pastor (a prerequisite for setting up the church’s Google+ Local page that is referenced in local search results for the church).
3. Using the church’s gmail address, we logged into plus.google.com, navigated to the Google+ Local page for the church, and clicked “Manage This Page” where prompted to do so.
4. Once logged into the Church’s Google+ Local page, we edited the business information for the church to:
- replace the incorrect website URL with the correct website URL for the church
- correct the church name (it was listed as Asbury Methodist Church; we corrected the name to Middleburg United Methodist Church);
- added a cover photo to the Google+ Local page that depicts the church exterior,
- added photos of the church exterior and interior into the photos section,
- added church hours in the hours of operation section.
5. The church’s new website had a dead link to the church’s Facebook page. Since the church’s Facebook page provides another link to the church’s website which helps confirm and reinforce the correct website URL, we fixed the dead link to the church’s Facebook page in the website footer.
Verifying the Church Google+ Local Page
The final step in correcting the church’s Google+ Local listing was to get the listing verified by Google. Fortunately, Google allowed phone verification for this listing. (Often, Google does not offer the phone verification option and will only verify a listing by sending a postcard to the listed business address.) Phone verification is immediate and can save a week or more waiting for the Google postcard to arrive with the PIN number needed to verify the Google+ Local listing.
Although the Google+ Local listing was updated on a Saturday, we had to wait until the church secretary returned to the office on the following Tuesday to receive the phone call from Google with the Google verification PIN number.
Once the secretary was in the office, the verification process took just a couple of minutes. First, I logged into the Google+ Local page using the church’s gmail address. Next, I navigated to the Church’s Google+ Local page and clicked “manage this page.” At the top of the page was a message stating that the page needed to be verified. I clicked “Verify this page,” and then followed the prompt to have Google call the church office.
I called the church office from my cell phone and instructed the secretary to have a pen and paper ready to write down the PIN Number that would be provided by Google when they called. Then I clicked “call now”.
Google called the church office immediately, the secretary wrote down the PIN number, told me the PIN number, and I entered it into the designated box on the Google+ Local page, then clicked “verify”.
Once verified, the new and correct Google Local+ Page for the church appeared in search results within 24 hours. Here’s what the correct listing looks like:
Now people will find and be able to click through to the correct new church website when searching for “Middleburg United Methodist Church Virginia”. (Note: there is also a Middleburg Florida United Methodist Church; you have to specify “Virginia” to see the Middleburg Virginia United Methodist Church listing.)
Lessons Learned and Suggestions
1. When creating a new website for your business or organization, have a plan for moving the new website onto your original domain name or redirecting the original domain name to the new domain name.
2. Make sure your Google+ Local page is set up and all business information in that page is accurate and complete. 95% or more of all online searches for local businesses and organizations are conducted through Google, so it’s essential that all information about your organization in Google is accurate and complete.
3. Check your online listing score at Moz.com/local and follow the instructions there to complete and correct all other online citations / listings for your business or organization.