Setting up ad schedules or “dayparting” as some call it is really easy in Google AdWords. But using ad schedules effectively is another story. Today we’ll have a look at how and when to use ad schedules or scheduled bid adjustments to optimize campaign performance.

First, a quick word of advice. While you can see your ad schedule performance data without having a custom schedule set up, activating the feature later will not display previous data within the custom schedule settings view. Does that sound confusing? It is!

Just trust me, whenever you create a new campaign go ahead and create a custom schedule; set it to run 24/7 with no bid adjustments. Later, you can come back to settings, see your report data and make adjustments without having to switch over to the dimension reports.

How do ad schedules work?

Ad schedules are set at the campaign level and direct Google when to run your campaigns. Simply put, your ads won’t run during times outside the range you specify. Ad schedules run on a weekly basis… so no you can’t tell Google in advance to not run your ads on certain days of the year.

You can set which days of the week your want to run your ads and start/stop times for each day. And, you can even set up multiple ad schedules for each day, e.g. Monday 7:00 AM – 11:00 AM and Monday 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM. Furthermore, you can set bid adjustments for each individual time block you create. We’ll touch on how to implement bid adjustments a little later in this article.

When not to use an Ad Schedule

Unless you have a compelling reason to use an ad schedule, or data to verify your ads are not effective at certain times – don’t use one! Ad schedules limit the reach of your ads. If you are in a tiny niche market, particularly, you may find that you have to bid higher or add more keywords just to meet your target daily ad spend. This means you are paying more for conversions then you could be and that’s never good.

Different Reasons To Use Ad Schedules

There are a number of scenarios where it makes sense to use ad schedules. All of them are based upon improving the customer experience, improving the quality of clicks and/or better conversion/sales rates.

Limited Client Service Hours

If you offer a service that requires immediacy, and will be closed at certain times, you probably want to restrict your ads to run only while your business is open. For example, let’s say you provide on-demand online counseling. In most cases, people clicking on your ad are in emotional turmoil and want your service delivered immediately. When they find out you are not open for business, they are going to click away and not come back.

In another case, if you run a restaurant, you may only want to have your ads run starting 30-minutes before you open, and stop 90-minutes before closing. If somebody is looking for somewhere to eat, clicks on your ad, and sees you’re closed, you have just wasted advertising dollars. On the other hand, many people clicking on your ad might be looking to dine at some future time and are simply checking out local eateries. Other factors, such as whether your website can take reservations around the clock need to be considered. Here’s a case where it probably makes sense to start with 24/7 ads and then review performance and adjust your ad schedule if/when it makes sense to do so.

Supply & Demand

Pushing the restaurant scenario a little further; what if your diner is always packed Thursday – Saturday from 7:00 PM – closing? There is little point in running ads only to turn customers away. Consider simply running your ads from Sunday to Wednesday, and over lunchtime Thursday to Saturday. This will beef up attendance at times you aren’t so busy.

User Personas

If you offer a B2B service, it might be that your ideal clients are more likely to convert on your website during local business hours. Knowing this, you can limit your ads to run from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday to Friday. The assumption here, is that people clicking on your ads after business hours are less likely to convert or buy your services. As a matter of fact, this is a proven general strategy for B2B advertisers with historical data to back it up.

But be careful with this kind of thinking. What is the real reason you are turning off your ads after business hours? Is it because you think there will be fewer people searching overall… that is not a good reason to restrict your ad schedule. Remember that paid search is an on-demand ad platform. Surely, the majority of your ad clicks will come through during weekdays and fewer after business hours. But that’s perfectly fine, as long as your conversion rates are similar for those clicks you receive. If you’re not sure, it is always better to run 24/7 and then analyze your conversion data later.

The Data Says So!

The best reason to set up custom ad schedules, by far is this one.

If you have historical (statistically relevant) data that indicates your ads perform very poorly certain days or times you can set up an ad schedule to avoid running ads at those times. But, before doing that, consider making bid adjustments instead.

Creating an Ad Schedule

To create a new ad schedule, navigate to your campaign, click the settings tab, and then the “ad schedule” button. Next, click the big red “+ AD SCHEDULE” button to get started. Choose your campaign and click “Create Custom Schedule” link. Use the time/date widget to set up your schedule and save when you’re done. You can create different start/end times for each day and even add multiple start/end times for the same day. Your schedules cannot, however, overlap.

create_ad_schedule

Note that the ad schedule will run based upon the time zone you set when you created your AdWords account. This is important to remember if you are running a national campaign that will extend into different time zones, or if you incorrectly set the time zone in your account. For example, if you set your time zone for LA and create an ad schedule for 9 AM – 5 PM, your ads will run from Noon – 8 PM in NYC. That’s perfect if you only have one location (LA), but that’s no good if you have a NYC location with NYC office hours.

If you need to run the same hours by time zone in different time zones you must set up different campaigns targeting separate geographical areas and schedules. And, yep, there is no way to select time zones as target areas in location settings… come on Google, get on that!

Making Bid Adjustments

Scheduled bid adjustments are a great alternative to shutting campaigns off certain days or hours. Adjusting the bid allows you to continue running your ads but at a lower or higher average CPC. Let’s say during your regular review that you notice your average cost per converted click (CPCC) is $45 on Saturday and $62 on Sunday vs. an average of $35 throughout the week. Here’s a good opportunity to use bid adjustments.

Assuming you are easily fulfilling your target ad spend it is a simple matter of applying a negative bid adjustment for Saturday and Sunday. What you want to achieve, ideally, is to get the CPCC aligned for all days. Use this calculation to figure out your bid adjustment for Saturday:

Negative Bid Adjustment  = 1 – (Average CPCC / Saturday’s CPCC) = 1 – (35 / 45) = -22%

or for Sunday

Negative Bid Adjustment  = 1 – (Average CPCC / Sunday’s CPCC) = 1 – (35 / 62) = -44%

Conversely, using positive bid adjustments for Monday – Friday works in the same way. This can be a better strategy under some circumstances:

  1. If you are not currently filling your target ad spend or may not fill it if you make negative bid adjustments
  2. If you have a lot of keyword bids that are flirting with the bottom of page one – placing a negative bid adjustment may drop impressions & clicks for these keywords very significantly

Importantly, check how this has affected your ad spend and clicks in a few days. And, check back to see if your CPCC’s are, in fact, coming into better alignment.

In this real example below, we are going to apply a positive bid adjustment for Monday:

Positive Bid Adjustment = 1 – ($82.13 / $73.38) = +12%

bid-adjustment

And, we can also see that the current bid adjustments and days without bid adjustments need some modification. Keep in mind, that you also may need to account for bid adjustments that were made in the past.

When you make bid adjustments, you should only look at a period of time since the last adjustments were made. And, this methodology applies to bid adjustments across all dimensions.

Lastly, like all optimizations, make them only on statistically relevant trends. Need to figure out if a trend is statistically relevant? Here is a free tool for that.

Summary

Properly implemented ad schedules and scheduled bid adjustments can have a huge impact on AdWords campaign performance. If you follow ad schedule best practices you can net huge improvements, particularly in certain market niches.

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