Web Marketing Today

PPC Basics: Part 9. Dayparting

In “PPC Basics: Part 8. Evaluating Data,” the previous installment of this series, I talked about evaluating pay-per-click advertising data to make decisions and improve your results. One feature that can really help with this is dayparting.

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What Is Dayparting?

Dayparting, or ad scheduling, is the process of scheduling pay-per-click advertising campaigns to display ads at specific hours of the day or days of the week. It’s a common practice in traditional marketing. For example, a television advertiser might show its ads during prime time, but not at other times of the day.

Pay-per-click advertising, on the other hand, is often considered to be an “always on” medium. It’s different from broadcast advertising, in that the ads only display when someone performs a search. Presumably, the search indicates intent, no matter what time of day it takes place. So it’s a good idea to have your ads showing all the time, right?

Often, the answer is yes. But there are many instances where dayparting makes sense.

When to Use Dayparting

When to use dayparting? Like so many other facets of PPC, the short answer is “it depends.” Each advertiser will have unique results from PPC, and what works for one may not work for another. Here are some instances in which dayparting makes sense.

  • Business-to-business advertisers whose customers search during business hours.
  • Ecommerce advertisers who get fraudulent orders between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Restaurants advertising a lunch or dinner special.

There are many more examples, but you can see that there are times when it doesn’t make sense to leave your ads on all the time.

How do you decide whether dayparting is right for your campaigns?

Get the Data First

It’s tempting to start dayparting based on a set of assumptions. Let’s look at the business-to-business advertiser example. You might arbitrarily decide to turn off your B-to-B ads on the weekends, using the assumption that all your leads come in on weekdays.

That’s a mistake.

One of the greatest aspects of PPC is that advertisers can, and should, make decisions based on data. In the case of dayparting, it’s important not to make assumptions without data to back them up.

First, establish a baseline. Run your campaign during all days and hours, for a couple of weeks, or until you’ve obtained a critical mass of data. For most advertisers, that’s going to be at least 1,000 impressions or 100 clicks in each test cell. So, if you’re thinking about turning off your ads on the weekends, you’ll want 1,000 impressions or 100 clicks for each day of the week for at least two weeks. And of course, you’ll need to have conversion tracking in place to make the best decisions.

Analyze Cost and Profit

Once you have enough data, run some calculations to get your key metrics for each segment. In our weekday vs. weekend example, you’ll calculate the following metrics for weekdays and weekends separately.

  • Conversion rate. Total conversions divided by total clicks.
  • Cost per conversion. Total cost divided by total conversions.
  • Profit. Total conversion value minus total cost. If you’re tracking leads instead of sales, assign a value to each lead. Ideally, you’ll know the value of a lead already, but if not, establish that now, even if it’s just an educated guess.
  • Profit per impression. Total profit divided by total impressions.

Make sure to run these calculations for each campaign in your account. If you’ve structured your account properly, there’s a good chance you’ll see different results for each campaign. And since dayparting is set at the campaign level, you want to make the right decision for each campaign in your account.

You might discover that there are certain blocks of time where your profit per impression is well below average. These blocks of time are your starting point for further review.

Consider Quantity and Quality

You might see a low profit per impression because you aren’t getting any conversions during that time block. But don’t turn on dayparting just yet.

First, you’ll want to see how much traffic you’re getting during the non-converting times. If it’s a small amount, and it’s not costing much, it’s probably acceptable to keep your ads turned on. But if you’re spending a lot and the traffic is high, it’s probably time to turn off that time block.

What if you’re getting good conversion levels around the clock, every day? Does that mean you don’t need dayparting?

Not necessarily. If possible, dig deeper. Look at the quality of the leads you’re getting, especially on off days — nights and weekends, if you’re B-to-B. In one of my former PPC jobs, we found that fraudulent orders increased dramatically during the wee hours, between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. We were actually better off getting no orders at all during that time because the orders we were getting were costing us money. Go beyond the surface data to make sure your leads are good quality, all the time.

Take Time Zones into Account

Let’s say that the data for your B-to-B company data indicates that business hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — are indeed the only time you get good leads. Let’s also say that your business spans multiple time zones — the entire U.S., perhaps — or maybe even multiple countries.

In this case, be careful about setting your dayparting too narrowly. It could result in lost sales. The best course of action would be to create distinct campaigns for each time zone, and set each campaign to business hours local time.

At a minimum, you should have separate campaigns for each country you’re targeting. This is a best practice even if you’re not using dayparting, as performance will vary from country to country. Ad copy performance, in particular, can be very different in the U.S. vs. the U.K. and other English-speaking countries.

How to Set Up Dayparting

Ready to start dayparting? Here’s how.

In Google AdWords, navigate to the campaign you’d like to daypart, and go to the “Settings” tab. Near the bottom of the page, you’ll see “Schedule” under “Advanced Settings.”

Use the Advances Settings to control when your ads run.

Click to open the drop down, and then click “Edit” next to “Show all days and hours.” You’ll get a popover screen that looks like this.

Select the blocks of time you want to run your ads.

From here, you can just un-check the boxes that correspond with the days and times during which you’d like to stop your ads from showing. Click “Save” and you’re done.

In Microsoft adCenter, the process is similar. Navigate to the campaign you want to daypart, and click “Edit campaign settings.” In the middle of the page, you’ll see “Targeting Settings,” like this.

Adjust your campaign times under Targeting Options.

If you want your ads off on specific days of the week, click “Days.” If you want your ads off during certain hours of the day, click “Time.”

Unfortunately, adCenter’s time-based dayparting is restricted to blocks of time, rather than specific hours of the day.

AdCenter does not offer the same fine-grained control as AdWords.

So if you really wanted your ads turned off from midnight to 4 a.m., you can’t do that in adCenter. You’ll have to choose either 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., or 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. It’s not ideal. But at least the option exists.

If you want to improve your pay-per-click campaign results, investigate dayparting. In the next installment, I’ll look at geo-targeting.


Melissa Mackey
Melissa Mackey
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