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Paid Search Dayparting for the Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Posted by Jason Tabeling on January 14th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Special thank you to Dane Manning for his work in creating this post.

When marketers hear the term “Dayparting,” many think of the standard time frames established in radio and television programming for demographic advertising considerations.  Digital marketers know that dayparting in the online space operates very differently, and is an important budgeting and profit maximization tool for the smallest and largest of search marketing budgets.

As you may know, both of the major search engine marketing platforms (Google Adwords & Microsoft/Yahoo Adcenter) provide an advanced settings feature allowing you to automatically adjust your keyword bids based on the day of week and/or hour of day.  If you aren't taking advantage of this feature, then your ads are showing on all days and at all times (until budget is exhausted), but the reality is they probably don’t need to be.

This post is written to help search marketers, novice to expert, get started on an ad scheduling program that fits best with their business and target customer, and helps maximize digital marketing investment.

Beginner Level – Addressing the Limits of Your Business

Can your website fulfill orders on the weekend?  Do you receive a lot of call volume as a direct result of your web efforts?  If so, when will someone be in the office to answer the phone?  These are some of the simplest of considerations to be made when adjusting your dayparting settings.

Think about your customer and when you are able to provide them with the ideal multi-pronged buying experience.  For example, if your website’s primary goal is to drive calls to a call center that is staffed Monday through Friday, consider pausing your efforts on the weekend when ROI will be non-existent and user experience will be less than ideal.

Suppose you own a pizza delivery shop and close at 11 pm every evening. Don’t waste valuable clicks on late night cravings while your delivery man is fast asleep. Consider decreasing your bids to 0% during these hours.

If you are already implementing these basics into your strategy and would like to continue to build upon your efforts, the next sections will examine the application of analytics to ad scheduling settings, concluding with the combination of daily and hourly adjustments.

Intermediate Level – Understanding Your Pay Per Click Goals and Applying Results

Hopefully, when you first launched your pay per click campaign, you had a good idea of what you intended to gain from it, and what you were willing to pay to get it.  In many cases, advertisers leverage pay per click ads for increased site traffic and increased online sales/leads to supplement direct and organic search traffic.

Chances are you also have a way to track your program’s ability to drive conversion/revenue, whether that’s a third party analytics tool or Google’s Conversion Tracker. These tools not only help you understand when site traffic peaks and dips, but more importantly, conversion activity.  And because you don’t have an unlimited budget (yet), you want to focus your dollars on the highest-converting periods.

If you find that certain days drive more orders or leads than others or you tend to run promotions on one particular day, consider getting more aggressive with your keyword bids on these days to make your website more visible. Automatic ad scheduling allows you to do that without having to manually increase bids and then reduce them the next day.

Let’s assume, for example, that you are an online ticket reseller. You notice after collecting several weeks of data that conversion rates peak on Fridays and Saturdays during football season, as fans look to grab last minute tickets for Sunday’s game.  You might decide to increase what you are willing to bid for your selected keywords during these days to ensure premium placement and visibility during these high-converting times.  On Mondays, however, your business is closed and you are unable to fulfill order requests.

Your ad scheduling settings might be as simple as this:

*Tip – If utilizing ad scheduling to plan ahead for a one-time sale or event, don’t forget to revert settings before that day comes around again.

Expert Level – Combining Day of Week and Hour of Day to Create an Advanced Dayparting Strategy

Determine if your analytics tool has the capability to report conversions by hour of day and day of week.  From this information, you can pinpoint the exact hours of each day when your customer is ready to purchase and adjust Google’s ad scheduling accordingly to increase what you’re willing to pay for a click and ensure that your ad is highly ranked and visible during these times.

For more advanced users, map the data out in a spreadsheet using conditional formatting to easily identify areas of opportunity for increasing coverage or trimming excess fat.  In this example, the advertiser might consider turning off pay per click ads completely during early morning hours and bid more aggressively mid-week, especially during the afternoon hours.

Although slightly more complicated, this type of strategy will be the best fit for advertisers looking to capitalize on strengths and minimize weaknesses at the most granular level ensuring that their pay per click program is working to its maximum effort at every hour of every day.

*Tip – To apply identical settings to multiple campaigns, save time by making the desired changes to one campaign in the online Adwords interface, download changes in Adwords Desktop Editor, and copy to remaining applicable campaigns.

Other Considerations

Time Zones – When making changes within an engine, make sure you've verified the time zone of your account. Also, keep in mind your West Coast audience (if applicable) and the effects of your Eastern Time zone adjustments or vice versa.

Engine Functionality – The hour/day combination strategy above is easily applicable to Google Adwords, which allows the ability to customize bids by hour for each day:

Bing/Yahoo Adcenter, however, is still somewhat trailing in their dayparting capabilities.  Shown below, Adcenter does offer bid multipliers by day of week and hour of day, but you cannot not overlay the two options. Day of week settings apply to all hours and hour of day settings apply to all days.  Furthermore, their hours are bucketed into time periods rather than individual hours (e.g. evening hours 6-11).

Seasonality – One should revisit their dayparting data and engine settings on a regular basis.  How often depends on your business and target customer.  Consider a clothing retailer targeting teens and young adults. Conversion data is likely to change drastically between the summer and fall, for example, when children are back in school and dayparting settings must be adjusted accordingly.

Summary
Dayparting is just a small piece of a successful digital marketing strategy and with limited time and resources, may not be at the top of everyone’s priority list.

With a basic understanding of your business and target customer, however, you should be able to make a few simple adjustments that could have significant impact on your ROI and ensure that your marketing dollars are working harder and smarter than ever.

Integration across Paid, Owned, and Earned Media

There are several benefits to using pay per click advertising in conjunction with your other online marketing efforts.  Studies show that there are significant incremental gains from having both an organic and paid presence for a given keyword.

Pay per click does, however, offer unique levers and a level of agility that organic search lacks.  Ad copy and landing pages can be quickly updated to reflect new site messaging or user experience.  Geo-targeting can be used to fine-tune your target market, and dayparting can help focus your visibility for when it is most profitable.  But the clicks aren't free and, therefore, you should take advantage of any opportunity to squeeze the most out of each one.

One Response to “Paid Search Dayparting for the Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced”

  1. Matt says:

    Great post...a well-written, concise breakdown of how dayparting can maximize your business exposure.

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