Hour of Day Reports: Take Control of Accelerated Delivery
The debate between Standard and Accelerated delivery is one of the most contentiously argued – if also least understood – in the AdWords community. Google’s own best practices guide will tell you that Standard delivery ensures the best opportunity for your ads to achieve meaningful clicks, while other Google partner agencies have gotten behind a hybrid strategy.
Furthermore, this debate seems to have nurtured the widely adopted consensus that for campaigns not limited by budget, there is no meaningful difference in net impressions spooled out to SERPs; instead there are only slight ramifications for businesses which, for example, offer same-day shipping. (My ongoing blog series on Superior Structure will eventually show it is theoretically impossible for this to be true.)
Hello again advertisers! Regrettably, the dilemma of standard versus accelerated ad delivery will have to await solution in a future post. Instead, I’m here to lend some advice for those of you who have opted for accelerated delivery, whether as your primary setting or part of a hybrid strategy.
In either case, you’re likely a more hands-on advertiser who prefers to tinker and measure on your infinite journey to maximum ROI. If this doesn’t sound like you, that’s OK! Click here for the platform for you. But if you do tend to experiment with accelerated delivery, there’s one dimension of reporting that you absolutely cannot afford to ignore.
Hour of Day Reports For Micromanagement
Hour of Day is one of those sheets in the Dimensions tab that, at first glance, seems immaterial. The instinct to look for a trend in conversions is correct, but surely a difference between one hour and another isn’t enough to comprise a meaningful, actionable insight into optimization?
Looking at this one example portrait of one month of data from an industrial manufacturer, we certainly do see some large variance in Cost / Conversion, with exceptional value at 7am and 6pm. Should the advertiser implement some positive bid modifiers at these time intervals?
Perhaps, but not necessarily. These insights definitely resemble the same sort of routine optimization opportunities for which a diligent advertiser is constantly on the prowl: meaningful data segments that can be acted upon with bid modifiers.
However, in this particular instance the statistical significance of this observation is far too unreliable to introduce into a bid modifier equation already so unbalanced by geographic, device, and day of week adjustments. For each additional dimension of bid modifiers that we ask Google to multiply to determine a final max CPC bid, we introduce more and more endogeneity into the auction mechanic, and therefore must require ourselves to be that much more confident in the statistical significance of the additional dimension.
The Big Picture: Hour of Day Reports For Budget Recommendation
Instead, I find Hour of Day reports to be much more useful when it comes to assessing the big picture: by how much can you reliably scale ROI in your accelerated campaigns?
Here it’s worth noting that while Standard delivery is the default configuration, Accelerated delivery is actually a far simpler mechanism. It simply tells Google to serve your ads to each eligible impression until clicks deplete your daily budget. And of course, this method comes with the standard caveat that it may cause your ads to stop serving before the end of the day.
Google has a knack for making this implication sound like the end of the world. Sometimes it feels like the Opportunity tab is screaming at you: “YOU ARE LOSING OUT ON POTENTIAL CLICKS, YOU POOR DOOMED FOOL!” This is technically correct, but let’s examine when it may or may not be strategic.
Here’s a one-month snapshot of the Hour of Day dimension from an advertiser promoting esthetician treatments, for which wait list times can reach up to 4 weeks for high-demand services like Botox® or tattoo removals:
This advertiser markets to a certain distance radius around their treatment facility, and all of their campaigns are currently set to accelerated delivery while sitting at Limited By Budget. There are no Time of Day or Day of Week bid adjustments. And while we do see a preponderance of conversions (defined as requests for appointments or consultations via MindBody’s excellent CMS) occurring during business hours, perhaps those outlying conversions spell some more actionable insights for how to set bids and budget.
Firstly, I recommend downloading this Hour of Day report and viewing it in Excel. I recommend arranging your columns in an order reflecting the overall impression to conversion pipeline, as well as applying Conditional Formatting rules to color your cells according to the general favorability of the data in the column:
With the colored illustration added, the data becomes much simpler to diagnose. A narrative that no other data view can quite provide emerges: Impressions and clicks do seem to peak in normal business hours, during which CTR is best despite averaging slightly below the best ad position. CPCs in this range are normal, as are costs-per-conversion. Impressions and costs begin to trail off after 17:00, which may simply correlate with the close of business.
However, we do still see some conversions occurring after principal business hours – about five altogether with cost-per-conversion ranging from $1.10 to $9.08, all far below the campaigns’ goal CPA. Lost impression share figures point to much more headroom within which these campaigns could scale with bids and budget.
Therefore it’s entirely likely that the trail-off in spend around the 5pm mark is less to due with the local market behavior and more to do with the campaigns simply running out of budget around this time. And with the CPA figures for late-day traffic being what they are, we can be quite certain that these campaigns can confidently scale up their ROI by increasing budget to serve longer throughout the day.
Lessons From a Simplified Calculus
The Hour of Day report has made an undeniable assistance to this analysis – helping us to answer the question about whether or not to increase budget to a campaign – but it also reveals a principal about Accelerated Delivery that we can take to heart with all future campaigns. This principal is mostly captured by this syllogism:
- IF a campaign is set to accelerated delivery, and
- IF that campaign is limited by budget, and
- IF AND ONLY IF we are happy with the ROI generated by this campaign, THEN
- We can confidently increase budget to this campaign.
As with any budget increase done in AdWords, it is best done gradually and incrementally, with the understanding that accelerated delivery may soon have to give way to standard or a hybrid delivery strategy.