Consumer behavior changes based on the day and time an individual is searching. It’s common to see conversion rates increase for dating sites in the early to late evening, while service-based industries often see a decline in conversion rates during those times.
Adjusting your bids by time of day or day of the week can be quite useful for optimizing your campaigns for a lower cost per action.
Both Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter have the functionality to change bids by time of day or day of the week. On AdWords, this feature is called Ad Scheduling and for adCenter, it is part of incremental bidding.
Before you start adjusting bids, there is a very important first step: collect data. Too many companies have made assumptions about when they think their conversion rates should be higher or lower and adjust bids only to see their conversion rates plummet.
In the charts below, it is important to note that this is data for a single company in the B2B lead generation industry. Even if you are in the same industry, you should collect your own data and not rely on these charts other than for reference purposes.
The first step is to look at the hourly conversion rates. What quickly became apparent was that there are click spikes in the early morning, after lunch, and then in the late evening.
However, just looking at the conversion rates by time of day does not provide enough information. Each day of the week has unique characteristics. It is important to understand how individuals interact with your ads on different days of the week. After examining this data, it was apparent that conversion rates were higher on Tuesdays and Sundays than other days of the week.
At this point, it would have been easy to take the time of day conversion rates, correlate them with the conversion rates by day of the week, and set the keyword bids. However, digging into individual days shows that this would have been a dangerous proposition.
Our conversion rates by hour showed that early morning was the strongest period of time and that conversions tended to trail off during the evening hours. However, Sundays were the anomaly in that data analysis. Sunday mornings showed a weak conversion rate, while Sunday evenings had a much higher conversion rate. Therefore, on Sundays we need to change the bids differently than other days of the week.
By contrast, the highest converting day of the week was Tuesday, showing significantly different conversion rate patterns than Sunday. On Tuesdays the morning and early afternoon showed very strong conversion rates.
Therefore, Sunday and Tuesday should have significantly different bidding patterns. It can be very useful to chart out your conversion rates and then compare them to each other. The below chart shows the differences between conversion rates on Tuesday and Sunday.
This company’s paid search campaign ran nationally in the U.S. Therefore, it was also important to examine the impact that time zones had on conversion rates. The company is in the financial industry. While the stock markets open at 9:30 in the morning on the east coast of the U.S., it’s common for financial service workers to begin their work day at the same time regardless of location. There are four time zones in the U.S, which means that people start work progressively earlier moving west across the country, with the markets opening 6:30 in the morning for people working in the pacific time zone.
While the conversion rates are different for each time zone, this is often where the “feasible vs possible” debate begins. Keyword bids are usually based upon the account’s time zone, not the searcher’s time zone. Therefore, in AdWords, you need to have one campaign for each time zone. Furthermore, you have to use geographic targeting to group all of the locations per time zone into a single campaign. This is no small feat, and while it’s possible, you need to judge how much of a gain you will receive based upon your account data to determine if managing your campaign this way is financially feasible.
Word of caution
When first starting down the path of changing bids by time of day or day of the week, examine not only how it affects your cost per conversion but also your total conversions and profit.
Some companies find that searchers find them one day, do not buy, and then return via other means to finally convert. In this instance, you could be losing some conversions if you were not found when the original search was conducted. Whenever trying a new bidding strategy, it is crucial to see if the strategy is working as it should (in this instance, lowering cost per conversions), and that the overall campaign is still maintaining its total conversion goals.
You may wish to test changing bids by time of day for just one day of the week, leaving the other days on your previous bidding strategies to see what the change is to your profits.
It can take time and effort to implement this type of bidding strategy. However, changing bids by time of day and day of the week can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your search marketing campaigns.
There are a few steps you must take before enabling this bidding methodology. First, you must know your audience to determine how they are interacting with your website. Secondly, you need to collect enough data to form an effective picture of how individuals interact with your website. Third, and most important, you must segment the data to a point where the decisions being made about how to spend money are the correct ones.
Our weekly routines mean that we have different desires based upon the day of the week or time of the day. Consumers are searching when it fits their daily routines. Are you spending money effectively at the correct times?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.