One of the biggest challenges of having a successful paid search program is keeping cost per acquisition at or better than goal. To keep cost per acquisition costs in line with expectations, there’s a myriad of tactics and strategies that can be tested. For instance, keyword bids can be adjusted en masse, negative keywords can be added to your account, and even pausing keywords, ads, ad groups, or even campaigns to meet your customer’s cost per acquisition goals.
Another way to achieve this goal is to consider revising your weekend bidding strategy. Many businesses see less conversion activity over the weekend. Crafting a weekend bid strategy can help reduce CPCs during historically slower conversion periods, therefore protecting the gains made between Monday and Friday.
We’re going to take a look at how we implemented a weekend bidding strategy and how it helped reduce cost per acquisition for one of our clients while still managing to grow their weekend lead volume.
As many of you have already read in my previous posts, I manage a large for-profit education account. This account contains over 1 million keywords and thousands of campaigns and ad groups. In order to track performance on a high level and determine where the issues and opportunities are, we needed to create a daily calendar that tells us how many leads and what the cost per acquisition is by source (Google search, GDN, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Once we deployed the calendar and began to observe our daily lead volume and cost per lead acquisition trends, one recurring theme developed. Lead volume dropped off sharply and cost per acquisition spiked on Saturday and Sunday. The main contributor to lower weekend lead volume and higher cost per acquisition is most for-profit education prospects are older students with busy family lives. On the weekends, they are spending time with family and tending to other areas of their lives. As a result, fewer people are clicking on PPC ads and even less are converting to leads.
Our first step was to figure out if one specific channel within the PPC program was causing cost per lead to spike. After conducting a detailed analysis, it was discovered that the source of weekend poor performance was the client’s Google AdWords Search and Display campaigns. Weekend cost per lead rises was causing the account’s overall CPL to fluctuate throughout the month and end up 10% higher than if only running during the normal Monday-Friday work week.
We decided it was time to test whether setting up automated bid rules that decreased bids on Saturdays and Sundays could have a positive impact on cost per acquisition, while maintaining at least a consistent conversion rate.
Starting Saturday morning at 12:01am (or as close to that time that Google would execute our automated rule) all keyword level bids in the account were decreased by 15%. Subsequently, at 12:01am Monday morning, another rule would execute returning bids to their original amounts.
After implementation, we closely measured the performance of these bid rules. The results were pleasantly surprising.
Weekend performance markedly improved post implementation of the bid test. In short, the results were:
- Total cost per acquisition decreased 21.67%.
- Although there was an overall decrease in impressions per day, (On average, we received 53K impression per day during the week. That amount drops to 37K per day on the weekend) both CTR and conversion rate increased.
- Lead volume increased as well.
- Overall weekend search performance stabilized and became more predictable. Stabilizing weekend performance removed the CPL fluctuations.
Improving weekend cost per acquisition provided us the ability to move from an optimization to a growth mindset. With a lower cost per acquisition, we managed to keep overall account acquisition costs from creeping higher due to the sharp weekend spikes.
I’ve been managing the same account for a little over two years now. During this time, I never fail to learn something new every day. The analysis and consequent weekend bid test was something I never expected to see as big of an impact on performance as I did.
So what did I learn?
- It’s important to understand not only your market but also the behavior of those who make it up. If I didn’t have a core understanding of the human behavior behind the clicks being generated, I would have discounted weekend performance as a contributing factor to the cost per acquisition rise.
- Have some sort of tracking tool in place to provide clues to performance deviations. Even a rudimentary performance tracker can help steer you into the deep analysis needed to uncover issues/opportunities and plan corrective action.
- Don’t discount any test scenario. To be honest, I was skeptical that reducing weekend bids would play a positive role in turning around weekend performance and almost didn’t run the test. I would have missed a big opportunity to improve the account if I didn’t press ahead.
Putting a rudimentary method for tracking performance into place can be invaluable to the success of a PPC program. If I didn’t have a performance tracker in place for my account, I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of crafting my optimization strategy. I certainly wouldn’t have known weekend performance was such a drag on account success. The daily tracker points out problem areas and provides the guidance needed to determine my area of focus and allows me to identify and fix issues quickly.
Have a thorough understanding of your weekend performance. Depending on the vertical you are advertising in, the weekend might not be the strongest part of your week for PPC. Addressing both poor performance and performance fluctuations on the weekends can lead to overall performance improvements. The quicker we can isolate and correct problems, the quicker we can set our paid search program onto the road of growth!