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...