In a previous post I described the importance of analysing your Adwords campaign to take account of time-specific variations in ad performance. However, I rambled on for so long there wasn't space to tell you how to set your campaign up to control the times in which ads are shown. That's what this post is about. Please make sure you've read my previous post and have your analysis of times/performance in front of you, you'll need it to make changes.
Log into your Adwords account and choose 'Campaign Settings'. Down towards the bottom of the page you'll see a heading 'Scheduling and serving' and, if your account is in the default setting, you'll see a note beneath this against 'Ad scheduling' that says 'Off. Ads running at all times'. Beneath this is a link saying 'Turn on ad scheduling', click this. You'll get a warning that other changes on the page will be lost - if you haven't made any you can ignore this and just click 'OK' to continue.
Google now displays to you a screen showing the days of the week and blocks of green to indicate when ads are running. If you've never set up ad scheduling these should all be green across the board. Let's assume you want to change your ad display times to be 08:00 - 17:00 Monday to Friday and 09:00 - 19:00 at the weekend. About mid-way down the page, above the calendar, is a line saying 'Bulk edit:'. Click on 'weekdays'. In the box that appears, select 08:00 in the first time box next to 'run ads' and '17:00' in the second, then click the 'Add' button. This is very important, your time period will not be added to the list unless you click 'Add'. Note the 'Pause on weekdays' option and the fact that you can add more than one time period so, for example, you could run ads from 08:00 to 11:00 and 13:00 to 17:00 rather than in one block. When you click 'Add' you should see the calendar re-display, now showing green blocks only for the hours you've chosen. Now click 'weekends' against 'Bulk edit', and enter the appropriate times, again remembering to click 'Add'. You should see the calendar redisplay again. Click 'Save Changes' and you're done. Just sit back and see the effects on your campaign.
Hang on, what's the 'switch to advanced mode' link all about? Well, why not click it and find out? If you're brave and have clicked this link, you'll now see that a new column has appeared in the calendar - a '% of bid' column. What you've got now is not only the ability to control when your ads are shown but also the relative CPC they have at that time period. Click on the 'weekdays' link again and you should see your time period filled in (08:00 - 17:00 in this example) but you've now also got a box for the '% of bid' (currently showing '100'). By changing this, you can specify the % of your maximum CPC you want to be effective during this time period. So, for example, if your maximum CPC for a particular keyword is $1.00 (let's keep the math simple!) and you set this '% of bid' figure to be 80, during this time period the maximum CPC will effectively be $0.80, or 80 cents. You can also use 'positive' percentage figures so if you chose a '% of bid' of '120', the effective CPC will be $1.20.
This combination of times and CPC costs is very powerful and for some campaigns can produce a very dramatic increase in performance. For example you might find that your very best CTR figures are between 13:00 and 14:00 but to get a decent position here you need to bid a maximum CPC that is unnecessarily high for all other times. Using these tools you can specify that between 13:00 and 14:00 the '% of bid' is 140% (or whatever is appropriate) meaning that you get those important clicks at this time but don't waste money at all other times.
Like many things in Adwords, these tools require time and experimentation to get the best performance but, like many things in Adwords, that time is well spent in the long run.