This story happened at my buddy’s church so I’m not using any names or locations.

How did he know anything was wrong?

People started asking why they weren’t going to the right website when they clicked on the church site in google. My buddy started looking into it, and found out that a church had paid to rank ahead of them in google searches. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, when you google a couple of keywords, you are presented with a list of results. But, not all of those results are created equally. The top result or two usually says “ad” or something to that effect. In our particular example, my buddy’s church was the top listed unpaid site, but not at the top of the list because someone else had paid to be above them. My buddy’s church members were clicking on the top result even though it wasn’t their church. Why was this happening? The keywords that the other church paid for was the name of my buddy’s church. This would be like me paying (and I could do this) google so that when someone searches for First Baptist Dallas, the top paid ad would be Greenwood Baptist Church – way over in Weatherford.

Now that you see what had happened, you’re probably asking the same question my buddy asked:

“How do I stop a keyword attack on my church?”

The short answer is that you cannot completely stop it. There are a couple of different actions you can take to change the situation. I’ll go over all the ideas I’m aware of, even though I don’t recommend doing one of them because it may be in a sort of gray area morally – you’ll see what I mean.

Option One to Stop a Keyword Attach on your Church

Let’s start with the controversial strategy. When someone pays to rank in a google search, they pay for clicks on their ad, or ad impressions – views. Usually they want to pay for clicks on an ad link. For example, they may budget $10 a day on particular search terms. They may pay $1 per click. So, that would mean that they pay for 10 clicks. In the example we’re discussing. I discovered that the offending church had paid for 10 clicks. How did I know? I clicked the ad, then the back button and refreshed. I repeated that step until the ad vanished. **Caveat** I did this one day, not every day. When you do what I did, you will be spending that person or church’s money on advertising. This is the reason that I’m not really comfortable with this strategy long term. In theory, each morning you could fire up your browser and exhaust the competition’s ad budget. Anyway, once I knew that they had paid for 10 clicks on their ad, I had an idea of what my friend should do.

Option Two to stop a Keyword Attack on Your Church

The second strategy, the one I recommend, is to run a better ad campaign and actually pay for the top slot. Now I’ll describe how to do that with a google adwords ad.
Login to google adwords with a google account – create one if you have to.
Click the “Campaigns” tab.
For this example, let’s select “Search Network Only”
Scroll down to “Locations”
I like to pick my county. You could of course limit the ad to anywhere you want, but I like to stick with my county, Parker County TX.
Under “Bid Strategy” click the drop down and choose “Automated.”
Enter your default bid (what you are willing to pay per click) and your default budget (what you are willing to pay per day in total).
If you want some sort of ad extension like a phone number select that, but this step isn’t necessary.
Now click save and continue.
Enter the page that you want the ad to send people toward. In my example I chose
Fill in the keywords you would like to target. For example, your location and your church name, or just your church name, or maybe the denomination of your church plus the city, etc.
Click “save and finish”
Your ad should be ready to go!

By following these instructions you will have created an ad that will guarantee the top ad spot in the google search for those terms.

So, back to the story that started all of this. After sitting with my friend and walking him through this second method we were able to place his church higher than the the other church in the search ad. *Bonus – we also targeted the ad to just his own county. By doing this, they are only paying to show their ad to people searching within their county in Texas. Someone from China will not see their ad. Based on my testing, anyone in the USA could see the other church’s advertisement so that ad is not well-designed. After setting things up my friend called another pastor at his church to confirm that the new advertisement was successful, and we are glad to say that it was.


Personally, I hope that no church ever does this sort of thing to another church, or at least doesn’t do it intentionally. I should also note that in this particular case, the other church was not interested in changing their ad strategy after they were made aware of the situation, so my friend felt he had to take action.

Now that you know a little bit about using adwords to boost your church’s visibility in google searches, get out there and share the gospel!

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