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.