Using Google’s dayparting settings to optimize your paid search campaigns

All men may have been created equal, but all hours of all days certainly have not, at least not when it comes to running a paid search campaign.

When you create your Google AdWords search campaigns, all of them are automatically set to “Show ads all days and hours.” This means your ads could appear whenever someone searches for one of your keywords at any time of any day. This may be good for Google, because they have you spending your paid search budget all day, every day… but this might not be good for your business. That’s where Google dayparting comes in.

By tapping into Google’s ad scheduling in the new adwords interface (otherwise known as dayparting), you can tailor your campaign to run hot during really strong periods of the week, and cool down when the performance is not as good.

Using the Google dayparting settings is relatively easy, once you get the hang of it. But, before you start tinkering with various schedules and bid adjustments, there are a few things to tackle.

First off – What’s the difference between a schedule and a bid adjustment?

An ad schedule lets you determine when your campaigns are on or off. It’s pretty cut and dried, you pick your best times and run the ads only during that time. This is most useful if, for example, you only want to run your ads Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to match your business hours. If the call to action on your site is “Call Us” and there is nobody there to answer the phones in the evenings and on weekends, you may decide to save that budget for better times.

However, setting up an Ad Schedule is the first step in allowing you to go into each of the scheduled times that you’ve selected and set a bid adjustment.

A bid adjustment lets you be a little bit more nuanced, in that your ads can run all of the time, but you can determine what percentage of your base bid amount you would like to increase or decrease your cost per click during given periods of the week. This is most useful if you want to run your campaign throughout all days and times, but are looking to optimize your budgets to spend the most during the best times of the best days. For example, you may decide that – even though your closed evenings and weekends – you want searchers to find you so that they can reach out to you on the next business day, or call and leave you a message. But, you’ve realized over time, that these types of contacts only become customers about 50% as often as those who call during office hours. Therefore, you can set a bid adjustment to 50% to offset that.

That’s doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll spend 50% of the budget on the weekends, only that anyone who does click will cost you – on average – half the cost of a non-dayparted click.

Secondly – Picking your Google dayparting settings base on your best (and worst) times and days

Picking your Google Dayparting ad schedule

In order to effectively optimize your paid search campaigns using Google dayparting options, you first need to understand what days (and times) are good and bad for your business. Luckily, if you have conversion tagging installed, Google provides this data right in the Google Adwords interface. So, grab a notepad (paper or electronic), a coffee, put your phone on mute, and set some time aside to dig into some analytics.

Normally, I recommend that if you have budget restrictions, you should set your ad schedule when first creating your campaigns. Especially if you KNOW you don’t want to run the campaigns during certain days or hours. However, you should you let your campaign run for a while in order to gather some data before digging in and picking your specific dayparting bid adjustments. If you don’t have strict budget restrictions, you may want to run with all days, all times… because sometimes the results can surprise you!

For example, here is some sample data of a campaign and two of the key metrics that you can see to determine the cost to close a sale based on the day of the week.

Google dayparting reports

Based on the sample data above, you can tell that this business does really well on weekends, but really struggles on Thursdays. However, volumes on the weekends may not be as significant, so it’s important to look at total clicks and sales as well. Once you have a sense of the data, you can use the bid adjustment tools to easily adjust day-by-day and hour-by-hour bids to boost their bids on the weekend and bring them down on weekdays to bring their average cost per conversion down.

Taking it one step further, Google provides a breakdown by the hour of each day, so that you can see EXACTLY when things are working and not working.

(Note: For data accuracy, especially at this granular level, use a longer period of time so that one or two clicks or one or two sales don’t skew your information)

This takes a bit more effort, but you can use this information to cherry pick the very best of the best times. However, I would recommend that you group them into blocks of time so that you don’t end up with hundreds of bid adjustments to manage across a variety of campaigns.

Unless you have a large team of people running your campaigns, I usually recommend breaking your days into a maximum of 4 – 5 dayparting blocks. The example below assumes standard operating hours, so you can adjust these labels as needed for your business.

In order to pick those blocks, dig into the information Google provides on your impressions, clicks, cost-per-click, and cost-per-conversion in order to decide which CPCs need to be brought up, which CPCs need to be brought down and which – as Goldilocks would say – are juuuuuust right!

Here is a small slice of the data you can expect to see in the report.

Google dayparting reports

What you want to do is bucket these times and days into set blocks:

  • Good – Keep the bid at the default
  • Really Good – Consider a moderate bid increase
  • Great – Consider a larger bid increase
  • Bad – Consider a bid decrease
  • Really Bad – Consider a larger bid decrease, or turn your campaigns off during this time

PRO TIP: A very large bid decrease will – effectively – turn your campaigns off during that time because you will get outbid for all placements. 

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, the only step left is to actually do it.

Thirdly – Setting up your dayparting schedule

Pick the campaign you would like add Google dayparting settings to and then click on Ad schedule to get started.

Google ad schedule tool

Then select “Edit your schedule“. This will let you set the various blocks when your ads will run. Keep in mind that once you’ve turned on add scheduling, your ads will ONLY run during the times selected. So even if you don’t intend to adjust the bids during a particular time slot, you still need to add that block of time to the Ad Schedule (you’ll just leave the bid adjustment at 0%). 

Selecting your dayparting ad schedule in Google Adwords

Once you’re done creating your schedule, you can go into each block and edit the bid adjustment by clicking on the pencil next to the percentage amount.

Adding bid adjustments in Google Adwords dayparting tool

Keep in mind that – as of the time of writing this article – the adjustments are in + or – reflecting the amount to change the current bid, so if you want to double the bid, you’d enter +100%, if you want the bid to stay exactly the same, you’d enter 0%.

Google dayparting bid adjustments

Once you’re done, you’ll be able to see a nice visual representation of your new schedule.

Google Adwords Dayparting Schedule View

One nice little usability function, is that you can hover over certain blocks to see the current stats and bid adjustments that have been applied to that time period. Unfortunately, to change it, you have to go into the schedule itself as these blocks are not click-to-edit capable. Perhaps, someday, Google will fix that.

Hover over schedule blocks to view details

And – you’re done – you have successfully added dayparting to your Google campaign.

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Unfortunately, you have to go through this process for each campaign individually. Although there are tools (such as Google Adwords Editor) that will let you duplicate and upload your newly created schedule to other campaigns, be cautious that you don’t assume that the performance will be the same across the different campaigns.

Lather, rinse, repeat (again). 

Google Dayparting is not usually a set-it-and-forget-it optimization tool. You should review the performance regularly to make sure the market’s preference on days and times haven’t changed. You should also consider making any appropriate seasonal adjustments based on your type of business.

Ready to dig deeper? Here’s Google’s introduction video to the ins and outs of Ad Scheduling.
(Note: The video demo below was created using the Google Classic interface. There are some minor changes in the new Adwords interface, but the general principles still apply.) 


Final Note – A word of caution about bid adjustments

Google provides a variety of bid adjustment options, including dayparting, device type, location, remarketing lists, etc. These can, and usually will, overlap… so think about that when building your initial bid and your plan to adjust those bids dynamically.

For example, let’s say your default bid is $10.00, but you have the following bid adjustments in place:

  • Mondays from 12 – 5 p.m. are your BEST time, so you want to double your CPC at that time
  • Tampa, Florida is your BEST geographic target, so you want to double your CPC in that location
  • Desktop Computers are your BEST converting device, so you want double your CPC on those devices

In the case that a desktop computer user from Tampa clicks on your ad on Monday at 2:15 p.m., your $10 maximum CPC just became an $80 maximum CPC because all three adjustments were applied.

Try to set your default CPC in the middle of your best and worst cost per click targets, that way you can use more moderate adjustments (from -25% up to +25%) in order to avoid any major multiple adjustment overlaps.

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