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How One Pastor Uses Google Adwords To Grow His Church

Barry Farmilo is senior pastor of C3 Belong, Auckland NZ which he has been leading for seventeen years. He’s also a blogger and an avid user of Google AdWords.

Online advertising is vital in today’s church world that includes on-site as well as live streaming services.

He is passionate to grow a healthy church.

John Finkelde: You’ve seen visitors and growth in your church through Google AdWords. How did you get into Google AdWords and how do you use them?

Barry Farmilo: I’ve got a bit of a technical background so that helped me a bit. I got into Google AdWords in 2010 and discovered it’s an art to be developed.

John Finkelde: What benefits have you gained from Google AdWords?

Barry Farmilo: We certainly have seen an increase of visitors coming into the church. When we ask them how they found the church they’ll say they searched for the church.

Most of time they are not aware whether they clicked on an organic search result or whether they clicked on our ad.

We can certainly tell which months we pushed AdWords because we see our visitor flow into the church increased.

John Finkelde: So you’ve seen a correlation between your use of Google AdWords and the visitor flow into the church?

Barry Farmilo: Definitely.

I’ve found that it is probably the most effective online advertising media you can use.

Personally, I find it more effective than Facebook advertising. It just seems to draw the right people out of searching.

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John Finkelde: So when someone in Auckland searches “church North Shore Auckland”, your ad appears at the very top of the search page. You’ve paid for that top of the page position, haven’t you?

Barry Farmilo: Yes, that’s right.

There’s actually an auction, a bidding option behind the scenes and whoever pays the most gets the top on the page. That’s basically how it runs.

When your church is struggling to get recognition in a city and your web site is on page three you tend to think, “Well, this isn’t working.”

If you want to jump up to page one in the search results, then Google AdWords is a good way to do that especially if you’re a new church.

John Finkelde: If you’re not on page one you really don’t exist in a Google search, do you?

Barry Farmilo: No. Most people don’t go past page one.

For people that are looking for anything to do with church you’ve got to stay consistently at it.

There’s two ways you can do it.

1. You can do paid Google AdWords.

2. If you’re a registered charity or ministry you can apply for the Google AdWords grant. They give that to organizations like churches and you can use $300 a day for free advertising. Many churches are actually doing that.

google adwords

Barry and Linda Farmilo.

John Finkelde: It’s important to know what you’re doing if you’re using the Google grant. Otherwise you can find that it doesn’t work to your advantage as much as a paid ad.

Barry Farmilo: That’s true. If someone’s paying for the same keyword that you are chasing they’ll outrank you if you’re using the grant.

John Finkelde: When someone clicks on your ad, do they go to a special page on your website or do you take them to your home page?

Barry Farmilo: I take most of the traffic to our home page.

I’ve also set up a lot of different ads that I think will appeal to people. Then I consider what appeals to people and what they’re clicking on.

At the moment I’ve got four different ads running on Google AdWords for different things.

For instance, our new service times.

I also send them to my blog which is on our church website. I put a separate advertising campaign out for that.

One post on the purpose of life is quite popular.

I’m trying to engage with a different sort of person who may not be looking for a church but searching for meaning in life. It’s more of an evangelistic style of ad that I’m trialing.

John Finkelde: So you think the type of words someone would use to search for a church and then shape your ad to match?

Barry Farmilo: That’s the basic approach.

After you’ve been doing it for a few months you can actually check on the results and see what’s working and what’s not.

If you want it to work, you have to work it. You’ve actually got to put a bit of time into it.

If you’re not tech savvy, then you need to find someone in your church who is willing to devote themselves to it. You can’t just set it and forget it.

google adwords

John Finkelde: How much would you spend in a month on Google AdWords?

Barry Farmilo: On the paid account we wouldn’t go over $400/month. Of course you can set a daily limit but that was our budget limit.

Of course it’s flexible. For instance, this year I had a last minute flash of inspiration late on Friday night for Easter Sunday. I threw an ad up late Friday night and it was one of my most successful ads.

It ran for about thirty-six hours and had a lot of clicks. It was very successful and is an example of what you can do with AdWords for an event.

John Finkelde: What’s the best way for pastor to get into Google Adwords?

Barry Farmilo: Google have help sections in AdWords. They also have great video clips.

Plus there are some good Kindle books. Just make sure you don’t get an overly technical book.

Google AdWord Express is another way to get you moving.

John Finkelde: OK let’s change tack. Your daughter Kylie and her husband Adam, who have been key leaders in your church, have moved to Australia. How do you cope as a pastor when you have a major leadership change?

Barry Farmilo: It’s one of the ongoing situations with the rotation of people.

They come and then they move on for opportunities.

This one was different with it being my son-in-law. While the time was right it does leave a hole that you have to fill.

What has helped us immensely is they, to their credit, have developed a leadership pipeline under them. They have been quite proactive in the last few years of developing young leaders.

We’ve had an intern program running and other leaders coming up under their leadership so we’ve had a number of people to fall back to.

I’ve also found that I can’t overreact to changes that are outside of my control.

I always allow myself space to think and pray through the situation.

John Finkelde: You mentioned an internship program. What does that look like in a leadership pipeline?

Barry Farmilo: They’re with us a couple of days a week and then they are outside at a Bible College for one other day of the week.

They serve in teams through the weekends also.

We actively look to get them engaged in a wide variety of church ministries, not just in youth areas although they are pivotal in those areas.

Today, they’re out there doing preparations for a children’s ministry for Sunday and next week they’ll probably be doing something else. We try and rotate them around as many departments of the church as we can.

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John Finkelde: As a dad and a grandfather, how have you coped with your family moving to Australia?

Barry Farmilo: Yeah, it’s always hard.

It softens the blow when you know it’s the right move in God and they’re going into a situation they’re going to learn from and be blessed.

Today, with all the technology, it’s very easy to stay in contact with your kids and grandkids.

John Finkelde: Recently, you lost approximately half of our Sunday car park when an area you used was closed out to you. How do you lead your church through a situation that doesn’t have an easy solution?

Barry Farmilo: That is a challenging one.

One key is not to over-communicate it because I found some people get very anxious around it.

Their anxiety exceeds the degree of the problem even and so they’re coming up to you every Sunday, concerned and anxious.

You’ve got to just be very wise in what you communicate but also get to a situation where you’ve got a solution.

John Finkelde: Getting on that solution side is so vital. Barry, you’ve been in ministry for many years. What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in ministry?

Barry Farmilo: Actually I was talking about that with my wife the other day and she can come up with a few!

There’s a few different ones but it’s probably being too slow to address a problematic leader.

I’ve had a few that have overstepped their authority or a few that have been influencing a lot of people in the church in a negative way and I have been a little bit too slow in getting into the situation.

I suffered the consequences.

I had a treasurer once who decided he was going to control everything financially and that had a very negative impact on us.

I should have sorted that out much, much earlier than what I did.

I had a situation with someone who overstepped their authority and that was a number of years later so I was much quicker to have the awkward conversation.

John Finkelde: Nowadays would you move quicker into the situation?

Barry Farmilo: Yeah, make sure you’ve got all of your facts and you’ve consulted a few of your leadership team members so you’ve got more than just your own personal impression of the situation.

With one leader I put the suggestion out there that there needed to be some shifts and then watched.

He didn’t seem to pick up on it unfortunately so I had to go back in again to a much more direct meeting and conversation around the issue and the negativity it was causing and the confusion in the church.

It’s a stepped approach.

John Finkelde: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Barry Farmilo: Content Repurposing Made Easy by Rebecca Livermore.

It looks at people who are producing content, for instance a blogger or a pastor, and shows them how to take that content and not just present it once and then put it away but how to repurpose and reconfigure it.

For me, that might be by incorporating it into a blog, maybe a podcast or putting snippets on social media.

John Finkelde:   Thanks  Barry so much for your time on the blog today.

Barry Farmilo: Great pleasure, thank you.

Here’s the original audio containing the entire interview

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John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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