April 30, 2009
With a strong, mature e-commerce campaign, you may find yourself running short of ideas on how to truly drive increased sales. Perhaps you are working through some (good) new ad creative techniques, or perhaps you have expanded your keyword list with long tail terms or less-relevant keywords (less good). Either way, situations like this are eminently satisfying – after all, you’re reaching goals – but also can be incredibly frustrating – “Well, what now?”
One easy and measurable way that I find too under-utilized within pay-per-click search campaigns is advanced dayparting.
When I have heard ad scheduling discussed among colleagues within the industry, it seems that the only moves being made are simple, intuitive ones: “Well, we are seeking business leads, so we only run the campaign from 9 until 5,” or “Morning shoppers just don’t convert as much as people do in the afternoon, so we don’t advertise before noon.” Sure, the ideas make sense, but they also tend to be overly simplistic and based on assumptions.
However, Google’s ad scheduling interface allows for far more granular decision-making, including percentage-driven bid increases and decreases. If you fail to take advantage of these options, there is a great possibility that you are leaving easy revenue and profit to your competitors.
In order to start smashing the goals that you are currently just reaching, you have to be more creative in your ad scheduling decisions. And to be more creative, you have to be driven by the numbers.
If your product line is fairly limited, or if it is fairly similar across all products, start by running a campaign report. Organize it on a day-by-day level, and stretch it back several months. (Consider running the report all the way back to the time when you began approaching your current level of success. In this case, the more data, the better.) If you have dissimilar products that tend to reach different consumer or customer bases, you may want to consider running your report on an ad group level.
Make sure your report includes all click-through and conversion metrics, as well as revenue. Also, be sure you understand how your conversions are being recorded. This will allow you to convert any key performance indicator, such as cost-per-acquisition, ROI, spend to sales ratio, or any other metric that you or your clients use to judge success.
Sort your data so that all occurrences of a single day of the week are grouped together. When doing this, you may benefit from removing atypical days from your data. Examples would include Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or any event that might cause a weekday to perform more like a weekend. With this data in place, calculate every key performance indicator. When calculating your KPI’s, keep in mind that not all analytics tracking methods attribute conversions in the same way.
(Rather than using Excel’s sorting capabilities, consider speeding up the process using SUMIF, AVERAGEIF, and other conditional-based functions. If you don’t know the functions, take the time to learn them. They’re easy, and your productivity will skyrocket.)
Take a break. You’ve earned it. Then, do the analysis. Find out when during the week you see lower conversion rates or, perhaps, higher average revenue per sale. Determine which days of the week are underperforming, and which days of the week overperform relative the rest of the campaign.
Now, here’s the crucial point. While many PPC campaign managers simply make a blanket decision here – “Weekends are bad, so we’ll deactivate on weekends” – intelligent use of Google’s ad scheduling can increase campaign success.
Using the ad scheduling interface, make no change to the days of the week that are performing near your average performance levels. Similarly, increase bids on highly-performing days, and decrease bids on underperforming days of the week. Start small, with increases or decreases in the vicinity of 25% or less.
Then, track successes and failures over the next two to three weeks. Keep in mind that you’re competing not against previous day-of-the-week performance, but rather, against performance in general. That is, even if a given day’s performance lags behind its previous levels after more aggressive bidding tactics, it may still be a successful move. The key is whether that day of the week improves overall campaign performance.
Advanced ad scheduling, when used right, is a great tactic for driving campaign success. Just make sure that you do it in a reasoned and responsible manner.