Update 2.02.2011 – Some good comments were posted by Jeff Quandt. I followed-up on the comments and added some more info about keywords I used with the Google ad. Check out the comments at the end of the post!

For almost two years, I’ve been running advertisements on Facebook for various events that we have at Christ Community Church. I initiated running ads on Facebook because it was becoming apparent that our target audience was not only on Facebook, but spending more time on the site than they were Google.

The first set of returns we saw from running Facebook ads was great. A lot more impressions than what we were getting on Google, and much cheaper.

I’m often asked by people, especially staff from other churches, the results I see with doing Facebook and Google ads. I thought I’d expound on some of the returns I’ve seen with doing these ads. So, I’m going to use a recently finished ad campaign we did on Facebook and Google and show you the results. The campaign ran the week of January 16, 2011. It was to promote an appearance by author and speaker Lee Strobel.

Now, it should also be noted that we ran a thirty second radio ad on two Christian radio stations. The reach of the ad was small compared with the online ads, though.

I allocated 75% of the budget for Facebook ads. The rest, 25%, went to Google AdWords. The reach of the ads was 50 miles within Omaha, Nebraska. On Facebook, it would target everyone. On Google, I had 90 different terms for keywords.

Here are the ads:

Facebook ad
Google ad

Facebook – 3,060,029
Google – 130,036
Total – 3,190,065

Facebook – 1,008
Google – 167
Total – 1,175

75% of the budget went to Facebook, but Facebook received 96% of the impressions and 86% of the clicks.

Some might say that is skewed since so much of the budget went to Facebook. True, but if your target audience is spending more time on Facebook than other site, wouldn’t you focus your ad dollars there? What are some indicators that have us targeting Facebook besides the known Facebook usage stats? CCC has over 1,400 fans of its Facebook Page. Whenever a post goes up from our CCC Facebook Page, it generates close to 2,500 impressions.

I had set up a Facebook Event page for the Lee Strobel event, so when people clicked on the Facebook ad they’d go to the event page. On the event page, people could see past messages from Lee, the animation promos for the message, and post comments. I was able to answer some questions and add additional comments.

What can be tricky is getting people to RSVP. I’ve heard people complain about Facebook Events because it underestimates the RSVP’s. Well, I don’t look at the RSVP list as the definitive indicator for turnout, but it is an indicator. For the people and culture at CCC, I know if there are over 100 people saying they will attend then attendance will be great. The Lee Strobel event had 137 people saying they were going to attend. We expected a good turnout.

Another indicator was traffic to the website. Because of info we needed on the Facebook ad for the event, I wasn’t able to add the web address on it. I normally like to add it at the bottom of the ad. It was on the Facebook Event page, though. The Google ad did have the web address on it, and when you clicked on the add it took you to the CCC website. The main page of the site had info on Lee Strobel.

The week the ads ran, we saw a 50% increase in website users, visits and pageviews.

Back to Google AdWords. One thing that’s nice is being able to adapt the campaign in the midst of it. I was adding search terms/keywords throughout the week that I thought people in Omaha would be searching for throughout the day. So, while I put in keywords that related to the Lee Strobel event, I also put in keywords that would draw traffic to the ad. Here are some of the unconventional keywords I used, out of the 90 search terms I had, that were effective in promoting the ad.

  • Omaha weather
  • weather
  • Omaha school
  • school cancellations
  • Omaha cancellations
  • Omaha snow
  • Omaha recall
  • Forward Omaha
  • mayor recall
  • NFL playoffs
  • Taylor Martinez
  • Ameer Abdullah
  • Bubba Starling
  • Shawn Watson
  • Bo Pelini

I didn’t start the campaign with some of these keywords, but I added them throughout. If you’re a college football fan, you know it’s the peak time with recruiting. It’s why I added keywords for Ameer Abdullah and Bubba Starling. Ameer committed to the Huskers during that week, and I added him the next day to the campaign. He was a keyword for three days, but ended up being a top return with the keywords.

That week there was a lot of winter weather. It’s why I had a lot of weather related terms. The number one keyword for clicks was “Jesus”, but number two was “Omaha weather”. “Omaha weather” was the number one keyword for impressions.

Also, there was the political climate going on in Omaha that week with the mayoral recall election. I didn’t want it to look like the church endorsed a position on the recall. I also knew that people would be doing a lot of searches related to the mayoral recall election. I wanted people on both sides of the mayor recall issue to come hear Lee Strobel speak. It’s why I added keywords for both positions of the recall, and also keywords for voting, registration and more. Those terms received high amounts of impressions and clicks.

Is it ridiculous to have an ad come up with some of these keywords? Yes, but you need to know your people, your culture, your target audience, and adapt your campaign to fit it.

Turnout for the event was solid. Considering the night before the event Omaha received seven inches of snow, I was amazed that attendance was almost at a normal Sunday level.* A number of people said the reason they did make it in to church was due to Lee speaking.

*At the last second, I ended up live blogging/tweeting the event so people could follow along even if they couldn’t make it in to church. From the feedback I heard, I was surprised by how many people followed along to the live blogging/tweeting of the event. It was encouraging to hear, and I’m planning on doing it again in the future.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, just let me know or comment on the post. There are many other variables that affect the effectiveness of a campaign that I didn’t address here. If you have questions about any of those other factors, please ask.

4 thoughts on “Advertising on Facebook and Google

  1. Robert,

    Very interesting stats regarding this traditional tactical advertising execution. I say “traditional” even though you used “new media” and the internet, it still relied upon “pushing your message” in a one-way method of communication. Ultimately there should be some engagement and on Facebook that certainly could be possible.

    The tactic of using Facebook ads to send people to the Facebook event is good. One thing that tends to annoying me is when I click on a Facebook ad or link and I am taken off of my Facebook session. Providing the user to “land” on another Facebook Welcome page or event is good as other information that might take the user off the site can be placed there.

    Regarding Google Adwords. Interesting choice and tactic on using keywords and phrases not necessarily aligned with the event itself. At first glance, I would have said, using such keywords and phrases would be a “bad idea” since the Google search would have absolutely no deep reason or need to click on a Paid Search result to click on your ad. Certainly “out of the box” thinking and a rather novel use of keywords.

    Now you did not mention, I can only assume you were more interested in ,“reach and frequency” of which this type of traditional tactical advertising program exhibits, and paid for exposure, versus paying for click-thru, which the Pay Per Click (PPC) cost is general higher, but not as frequent as Pay Per View (PPV). You don’t mention daily limits or PPV amounts, nor would I expect you to as this type of information should be kept internal and confidential. Still it would be interesting to find out.

    One suggestion I do have regarding the use of Google Adwords and the link provided. Anytime you build a link using such a tool, it should be to a specific “landing page” and not to the general website.

    For companies I recommend that the landing page look like the brand being used on the web site without any links or navigation to the web site. The Landing page should provide the visitor with enough information and incentive to provide contact information to “get the prize” being offered.

    In the case for CCC, a landing page would still be a good idea with more specific information about the event, but I would recommend that the landing page have the overall branding of the website complete with navigation so a visitor can explore other areas that may address “needs” he or she may have.

    Website navigation should provide “solutions to problems” that a visitor may have making it easier for the visitor to find an answer to their problem. Too many corporate websites use navigation built around “products and services” (P&S) which really no one really cares about a company’s P&S except the people inside the company. Website visitors land there to solve a problem they have, or to make a purchase decision. Once someone lands on a website home page, he or she should be able to easily find the answers her or she is looking for.

    Continue to track and measure other such programs. The information could be useful in building a case study that you could share with other non-profits. I could see you perhaps speaking at local marketing groups as well. I could help make that happen. – Jeff Quandt


  2. Hey Jeff, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the post.

    With the Lee Strobel event, there were some other things we did to promote the event, beyond radio spots and social media promotion, but in this post I mainly focused in on Facebook and Google ads. I get asked about it a lot by other pastors.

    With Google AdWords, I probably should have listed out some of the traditional terms that were used in the campaign that did well. Terms like Jesus, God, omaha christian, omaha church, Lee Strobel, Strobel, omaha, church, science, atheist, new atheist, truth, doubt, bible and more.

    While the untraditional keywords did well, traditional keywords with an event like Strobel's did well also. I should have noted that in the post.

    Yeah, some of the daily limits, budget, and more would be nice to discuss. I know for organizations, especially smaller churches, it can be a tough thing to decide upon. Even though CCC is a “megachurch”, we still try not to go crazy with ad dollars. When we do spend the money, we try and be targeted with the event so we can maximize those dollars spent.

    In the past, we have done a landing page for the Google Ad, but we didn't this time. It was thought about, but in the end we didn't I do agree that a landing page is usually beneficial. The event was on the main page, but I can understand your sentiment on needing to have a landing page.

    While I just focused in on the Facebook and Google ad aspect of the promotion with the post, another thing I was trying to do was engage in conversation with people who left comments on the events page, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc, to help on a “grassroots level” with building excitement for the event. As a staff, with some of these bigger events, we try and make sure we are covering everything when promoting for the event. I know staff we're doing a lot of behind the scenes promotion with their leaders so those leaders would tell their people.

    We're always trying to maximize our ROI with these ad campaigns. Since I started doing more social media promotion, I've learned a lot. The best part is I still have a lot to learn. I always need to adapt because things are always changing with social media. We don't just want to have a slick campaign for the sake of it, we want a good campaign because we have a great event (church) we want people to come to and experience life change.

    Thanks again for your comments and feedback. I'm now thinking about making a landing page a definite thing in the future!

    Take care and God bless…


  3. Robert,

    Thanks for the article! I really appreciate real life case studies from someone who is not trying to sell something.

    We are getting ready to start a big promotion and i have been tying to decide how to and how much to use FB and Adwords.

    John Sellers


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