Categorized | web marketing

Search engine advertising: Should you day-part or week-part?

Slot machine
Generating conversions from SEM starts out like random gambling, but it’s a slot machine that you can figure out.

Our book, The Startup Bible, covers all the introductory issues of search engine marketing, including a good introduction to using day-parting, which allows you to specify what times of day you would like your ad to appear in order to target your ad impressions more precisely. Many SEO/SEM marketers, however, find that day-parting does not significantly affect conversions, although it may increase traffic, finding instead that week-parting gives them the most leads and conversions for their SEO/SEM buck. Much depends on what you’re selling, what industry you’re in, and who exactly constitutes your target demographic. Like everything else in search engine advertising and direct advertising, you have to keep experimenting until you come up with the right combination of creative, timing, and placement.

But experience is increasingly showing that you should start your time experimenting with week-parting, rather than day-parting.

In a previous life, as a marketer and market researcher, I remember defending mall surveys to a hostile set of executives (“I don’t believe in mall intercepts,” the VP of Marketing declared straight out before I got started) by discussing in detail the day-parts of mall traffic and, when the demographics of the mall traffic day-part fits the target demographic of the marketer, how mall intercepts can be the perfect way to access large numbers of your target demographic in a target area. Since I was defending mall interecepts to a mortgage company, the fact that one significant mall traffic day-part involved young families meant that doing a mall survey was not something they could afford to skip. (Add to that the defiant plus that mall intercept interviewers can be instructed only to stop exactly the kind of people you want to survey.)

A “day-part” is — this isn’t complicated — a “part of a day,” like “early morning,” “late morning,” “early afternoon,” and so on. Day-parting typically involves a more rigorous time definition (such as “6 AM to 9 AM”), but the entire concept is based on the idea that certain people show up in a certain place at a certain time of day. In a mall, for instance, the early morning day part tends to belong to people over 50 (mall-walkers) while late afternoon belongs to high-school age teenagers. Television, radio, the Web, even the Google search engine or the Time magazine home page, has certain demographics that show up a certain times of the day.

Day-parting, offered by all the major search engine advertisers as well as almost all ad networks, allows you to target those demographics.

But Web (and email) day-parts don’t work with quite the demographic precision that malls do, or even television or radio. So day-parting your Web advertising often doesn’t produce appreciable “bumps” in conversions or leads (but often produce appreciable bumps in click-throughs). As a Web marketer, your success metric is always conversions or leads relative to what you’re paying for, such as click-throughs or impressions.

As Web traffic continues to grow, most Web marketers are finding that week-parts produce statistically more significant bumps in conversion or lead generation rates. A week-part, as you’ve probably guessed, is a “part of the week” (not necessarily a “day”). “Weekend” is a week-part, as is “middle of the week.” For certain industries, such as business-to-business, mortgage, and personal finance, marketers are finding that concentrating their ads mid-week, (Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes Thursday) significantly raises their conversion rate per impression or click-through — in other words, they’re hitting their target audience with much more precision than day-parting.

This is something email marketers discovered years ago.

So, as you begin to gear up for some search engine advertising, you should seriously consider experimenting with week-parting before day-parting by only focusing your day-part strategy on a reasonable time of day (late morning, afternoon, or early evening, depending on your product and target audience) but focusing all your efforts on finding conversions, sales, and leads by jiggering the week-part.

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