Who's on first?When you enter a search for "church in new york city" Google claims to find about 14 million results. How do the search engines decide which church to list first?
PageRankOne of the criteria that Google has historically used is PageRank. PageRank is a value from 0 to 10 that Google assigns to your page to give an indication of how important it thinks your page is. PageRank is computed based on several different factors, but one of them is the number of inbound links to your website. Your website's popularity is an indication to Google of how "good" your website is.
Content is kingThe Number One method of growing these inbound links is to have excellent content on your website. This is an area where 'zine types of websites such as 90&9 and Endtime Magazine really shine. Blogs are another way to generate content. Google puts a lot of importance on blogs, and I encourage you to consider a blog on or linking to your church website. Blog software provides an easy way to upload sermon notes and syndicate your content for wider distribution. When you have good content (and when people can find it), others will automatically start linking to the content.
Get the free linksMake sure that community directories all have links to your church website. Do a search for "YourCity directory" or "YourCity church" and find all of the websites that provide links to churches and community resources in your city. Ask the webmasters for a link to your church. Real Estate websites often have church directories.
The final and fastest way to get links is advertising. Participation in free advertising networks work extremely well for certains kinds of websites, but you must agree to placing outbound links on your website, and you don't always have much control on where those links go. Websites with high PageRank will often sell outbound links. This is paid advertising, but it doesn't "look" like advertising to search engine software. These arrangements work best when the links are from websites with content somehow related to your website.