Exploring the Impact of Intraday Bidding on Advertising Performance
Have You Got the Time?
PPC was already very fast-paced with millions of keyword auctions per second, but recently the clock has been ticking even louder for search marketers competing against intraday trends. Every hour has opportunity to be squeezed out of it, and this article will explain how you can get into the right position at the right time with a profitable bid.
Dr. Sid Shah is well-known for his presentations on ‘fun with algorithms’. He also performed some compelling analysis for Search Engine Land back in 2009. But in the aftermath of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns and the proliferation of bid modifiers, the subject of hour of day has come up again.
The best SEM teams do not let themselves get distracted by less actionable data. Instead, they focus on the metrics that actually drive bottom-line business value. They execute efficient strategies instead of obsessing over time-consuming chores that can only help a small minority of head terms for a small part of the year.
That is why it’s time to have a fresh, frank conversation about intraday bidding. How much incremental value will hourly updates actually drive beyond daily methods that allow conversion efficiency signals to reach statistical significance? What should modern advertisers do to find balance between frequency and reliability? What combination of approaches will maximise bottom-line results with reasonable time and effort?
Attribution in the Customer Journey
Intraday optimisation is driven by a clear understanding of proper attribution throughout the customer journey across keyword types and channels. The high volume of generic head terms usually results in lower efficiency. When budgets get tight, rookies can be tempted to cut head terms. However, experienced PPC managers remember how essential those head terms are for building awareness pipeline. Short-term gains must not be put ahead of long-term success.
Experienced PPC managers also remember that customers don’t function in channel silos. Marketers must expand their perspectives beyond their individual specialties by maintaining_ visibility of customer click paths. This helps inform advertising investment decisions based on the value driven each step of the customer journey_.
Intraday optimisation is not merely a PPC gimmick. It is the reward of advertisers who have committed to clear understanding of attribution. Attempting to build this understanding of attribution in real-time poses a few distinct challenges.
Uncertainty in Predictions
Let’s look at two examples of what you’re grappling with when attempting to do attribution in real time by manipulating bids multiple times in the same day.
If the majority of your conversions were driven by entire customer journeys that took less than an hour, you might be able to justify changing bids hourly. If there is additional traffic and conversion volume at a profitable efficiency, continue to bid up. If projections show that greater marginal returns are guaranteed elsewhere, bid down. Pretty straightforward. Except for one thing –
Where is the actionable data? The truth is, no data is available this hour that is significantly different from the signals of value available an hour before. Most intraday bidding approaches from other advertising tools rely too heavily on the estimated sample data of enhanced CPC instead of reliable conversion efficiency data unique to each keyword. Without hard data to base your decisions on, how can any reliable forecast be calculated?
Even for low price and low risk offerings, the vast majority of customer journeys span more than an hour. Many advertisers are being pressured with propaganda to ask every advertising tool vendors how frequently bids can be changed. Instead, they should be using their understanding of their customers to identify how frequently bids should__**be changed. Wise advertisers do not confuse being **busy with being productive.
When exactly will a click convert? There is no way to know at the time of the click, so increasing bids in response to real-time traffic volume does not necessarily drive ultimate sales. On the other hand, bidding down due to lower current volume might just be cutting your conversion pipeline short.
Intraday bidding based on live data actually makes a lot of sense for sportsbook gambling, entertainment events, or temporary retail promotions where advertisements are dealing with a one-day opportunity to harness demand before it fades later in the day. These businesses don’t have a choice – they have to use the data that’s available, make allowances for error, and generally do a fair bit of manual bid manipulation throughout the day. But most of us do have a choice. For all the effort and room for error, it’s just not worth the tiny marginal value. Trying to make hourly decisions based on assumptions and estimates will just result in wasting budget faster.
Balanced Route to Success
How do you stay ahead of the competition and improve year over year performance? Before resorting to intraday bidding, here are five fundamental tips you need to get right first:
The first fundamental is a solid account structure – a diversified match type spread that doesn’t focus heavily on broad match terms, strong cross-match negatives, regularly tested ad copy and landing pages, habitual keyword mining and pruning. If you’ve got a labyrinth of an account, putting something more robust in place can take you from 0–10% uplift alone.
The second key is setting the right base bid. This is where having that keyword-level data coming in every day is key, because it enables portfolio-based tradeoffs to be made. This is especially powerful when you’re able to define exactly what blend of conversion metrics equates to value for your business, so you’ve got firm control over what traffic you want to chase. At Adobe, we’ve seen our Media Optimizer clients realise an average of 20% uplift powering their paid advertising accounts with our portfolio-based bid optimisation for over a decade.
Once you’ve got those building blocks in place, that’s the time to ensure you have granular tracking in place to be able to see what’s going on across bid dimensions and decide which ones to leverage. Google’s making this data easier for us Digital Marketers to access with their URL parameter changes. The parameters Google are surfacing mean it is possible to have visibility over the data needed to analyse performance and adjust bidding algorithmically across the wealth of dimensions available to us. Adobe Media Optimizer has opted for the most robust implementation possible in order to do just that. This is setting our customers up to automatically optimise their bid dimensions, just as they’re already doing for mobile devices. You can read more about leveraging valuable bid dimensions in Part 2 of this blog post.
The fourth component is attribution. Ensure you have transparent click-path visibility from the campaign level down through the keyword level so you can thoroughly analyse what role different keywords are playing in the customer journey. Then you can apply the best attribution model for your business. Remember, attribution boils down to assigning the appropriate level of value to each touch point from first to conversion to minimize CPA and maximize ROI and overall pipeline.
The final piece of the puzzle is cross-channel. Once you’ve got Search performing at its pinnacle, you’re ready to look at the bigger picture. Running your biddable advertising campaigns – most often Search, Social, and Display – through the same bidding platform running off the same data set as your wider business means you’ve got full visibility over the customer journey and are able to make data-based and scalable trade-offs. It also means you can clearly understand the value of your advertising efforts in the context of the wider business, set the best attribution model at a larger scale, and effectively demonstrate how your channels are contributing to the bottom line.
At the end of the day, as the sun fades and the clock ticks on your PPC activity, take the time to reflect on your time and its value. It’s easy in the world of complex accounts and multiple dimensions to get sidetracked by the latest lever to pull or promised solution. But don’t get sucked into a wormhole that will waste your time and not deliver solid, reliable value to your business.
The clock is ticking. Make the most of it.