Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hour by Hour

By default, any Adwords campaign is set to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Great, you might think, that's what I want. But is it?

Unless you have an unlimited budget you'll want to make sure that you're getting the best out of the spend you or your client can afford and having ads running at all times of the day and night is probably not the best way to do this. Most campaigns will have a trend of statistics that vary hour by hour and possibly day by day. For example, a restaurant might well experience an increased level of impressions and/or higher CTR in early evening as people search for somewhere to eat (or deliver!). They might also see changes in their statistics for Thursdays or Fridays either because these days are more popular 'nights out' or because people are looking for a restaurant for the weekend.

If your campaign is running 24 hours a day, then you may be 'wasting' clicks at times of the day that are less likely to result in a conversion than at other times. You can also be dragging your overall CTR figures down by having some hours included that have very poor CTR figures and, as we know, CTR is one of the factors affecting your quality score and ad position.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to run your ads at specified times to exclude a certain type of visitor. For example, a car sales site might be able to identify that clicks at a certain period of the night tend to come from people searching purely for interest, rather than having any real interest in purchases. So while the impressions/CTR rates might well be relatively even over a large part of the day, it could still be beneficial to exclude parts of the day and concentrate the ads when they work the best.

So how do you examine your campaign performance by the hour? The answer, as usual, is in the Reports tab. Click this tab within your account, then click 'Create a Report'. Choose 'Campaign Performance' from the options at the top then, under 'Settings', choose one of the 'Hourly' options. Hourly (by date) will be a complex report over a decent time period so I tend to use Hourly (regardless of date). Choose a reasonably large date range - at least a month - as you're trying to find broad trends and too small a range might show unrepresentative data. Now choose your campaign(s) and fill in the other settings as required. Note that for simplicity you'll probably want to choose just one campaign at a time.

Now generate the report and take a look. What you'll see is a list of hours on the left and the stats for each hour in a table. You should be able to see quite quickly which hours get good results and which don't do as well. If it's a level playing field, you can stop reading now, but I bet most of you won't.

So, you've got your report and you've worked out which times are the best. Now what? Now you need to modify your campaign to run at certain times and that needs another post, so watch this space...

Friday, 25 July 2008

The two faces of Adwords

There's one thing I find time and time again when discussing Adwords campaigns with clients, potential clients and people I meet in the street. Almost everyone seems to think that Adwords can operate independently of their site and that it'll all work just wonderfully from the word go, without any need to think about where the visitors are being sent.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I'd estimate that about 50% of the success of any Adwords campaign is based in the website you're sending the visitors to and there are lots of aspects to that claim.

Firstly, there's the simple issue that your site may not actually be very good. It's tough to say that to a client but my word, I've seen some rubbish out there. The best Adwords campaign in the world won't help you sell beans if the site the visitors land on looks like it's been designed by a five-year old. A five-year old with limited knowledge of web design, that is. There's no simple way to solve this but it's always worth having a good hard look at your site from an objective point of view.

Then there's the products/services you're selling. Is it easy to find them, to buy them, to get more details. I've seen Ads that sent the visitor to the home page and forced them to navigate an impenetrable menu system to try and find the product they wanted to buy - that was advertised on the ad copy. In most cases, you'll want to send the visitor to the page specifically for that product/service. If you're advertising lawnmowers for sale on a household goods website, don't expect the visitor to find his way to the lawnmowers section, send him straight there, maybe even straight to the model advertised, if you're being that specific.

Then there's the technical side. We've all heard about the infamous 'quality score' and it's gruesome effects on CPC prices (and if you haven't you will soon on this blog). Part of the calculation of the quality score is an assessment of the site/landing page and you'll never reach that 'Great' rating without the site fulfilling all of Google's dreams. Make sure you refer to the Webmaster Guidelines when building the site or modifying it.

Most of all, do all this [i]before[/i] you start spending money on Adwords - or at least before you start spending a lot. Think of it like this. If you're selling your house, at what point do you do all the cleaning, decorating and gardening to make it look it's best? After you put it on the market, or before?