It’s always good to polish up your website and make sure it’s relevant, intuitive, and helpful. But the bottom line is no matter how much work you put into improving your site, most people will leave without doing anything. In fact, one study of two billion page views across 580,000 articles found that 55 percent of people spent less than 15 seconds on a website.
Your website will never turn all of your viewers into Sunday morning visitors. So is optimizing your website the best use of your time and money? Assuming you already have a good-looking website, it probably isn’t. But there’s more you can do to reach your visitors than just optimizing your website: with retargeting ads, you can reach them even after they’ve left your site.
“Retargeting” isn’t nearly as menacing or obnoxious as it might sound. It’s not like you’re following someone home to say, “Hey, you drove by our church today, so I thought you might let me in so I can tell you about it.” Instead, retargeting puts your message in front of the people who are most likely to care about what you have to say—but in an appropriate way that people have come to expect on the internet.
People are used to seeing ads about the websites and products they’ve been viewing on the internet. Most people know cookies exist and are working behind the scenes, even if they don’t know what exactly they do. Retargeting puts these cookies to work for your church.
Here are some cool things you might not know about retargeting:
You can advertise to people in the places they spend their time
Imagine putting up a giant billboard at the end of an empty alleyway nobody ever uses. It’d probably be a huge waste of money, because nobody would ever even see your message, let alone respond to it. That might sound silly, but it’s not that far off from how most advertising works in comparison with retargeting. When you put an ad or a billboard up, you’re crossing your fingers and hoping people will actually see what you have to say.
Retargeting uses helpful data (like the fact that someone visited your website) to make sure your ads are only shown to people they’re most relevant to and in the places they actually spend time. Maybe someone went to your website after finding it on Google. You could use Facebook retargeting ads to put a relevant message in their Facebook feed inviting them to take another action. Your website is a place they’ve already been. They’ve already “met you.” Now they’re “seeing you around” in the place they live.
But Facebook isn’t the only place where retargeting makes sense. Search engines like Google and Bing have display ads that use this data, too. So, imagine someone has been checking out local churches and they drop by your site. A few days later, while they’re still weighing their options, you show up again, reminding them of their recent quest for a new church, and maybe (if your ad is good), leading them to give your church a try this weekend.
Showing up where people spend their time is just one of the ways retargeting gives you more opportunities to meet them at the right moment.
You can get really specific
It’s pretty cool that you can advertise to people who have visited your website, but you know what’s even better? You can customize those ads based on the specific pages they visited. That means if teenagers (or their parents) check out your youth ministry page, you can show them an ad about an upcoming youth camping trip, and take them to a page that tells them more.
Demographic data allows you to get even more specific. Imagine you just wrote an amazing blog post about what it’s like to be a Christian teen in today’s culture. You could show it to teenagers who’ve been on your site. Or you made an awesome video to promote your next youth retreat. Retargeting lets you advertise to kids and parents who live near your church and have heard of your youth ministry before.
Or maybe you want to create ads based on your online sermons. You could advertise the second sermon in a series to someone who watched or read the first one, show them a related topic, or use the sermons they’ve watched to advertise a particular ministry.
Seeing your message one time usually isn’t enough
Earlier, I mentioned that more than half of the people who go to your website stay for fewer than 15 seconds. That’s hardly a glance. It isn’t enough to make an informed decision.
In advertising, “effective frequency” is a term for the number of times someone needs to encounter a message before they’ll respond. If people see your message less than that number, you’re not getting all the low-hanging fruit. If you show your message to people more than that number, you’re starting to waste your time.
Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on what the ideal number for effective frequency is. Numerous papers, books, and guides have advocated for as few as three exposures to your message and upwards of twenty. But there’s one thing the experts agree on: one time isn’t enough.
So if all you give yourself is one shot to make a lasting impression, you’re using it on your foot. Visiting your website just once usually isn’t enough to get someone to visit your church. You could hope they make their way back—or you could make sure of it with a retargeting campaign that keeps your church fresh in their minds.
For churches, retargeting is about digital evangelism
Whether you use Facebook, Google display ads, or another advertising platform, retargeting is one of the best ways to put your message in front of the right people, in the right places, more often. Ultimately, that means your efforts to spread the gospel online are more effective, and your church gets more out of the work you’re already doing.