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Dayparting: Reaching the Right Audience at the Right Time

daypartingDayparting allows marketers and advertisers to get the most out of their budget by scheduling ads to go live at opportune moments, whether it's the most effective day of the week or the least costly time of day.

If it sounds like an essential part of a successful advertising strategy, that's because it is. However, many businesses don't implement this tool for various reasons — either because they want to cast a wide net, they have trouble identifying their most profitable time slots or they're not even sure where to start.

In this post, we'll walk through everything you need to know about optimizing your ad schedule, including how to handle multiple platforms as well as how to test and analyze ad sets on a programmatic platform.

What Is Dayparting, Exactly?

In advertising, dayparting is when ads are scheduled to be served at optimal times. Traditionally, the term was used by broadcasters to divide television schedules into segments (such as early morning, daytime, prime time and late night) in order to determine how much ads cost during any given time slot.

Similar to TV networks, ad platforms charge different rates according to the day and time, placing a premium on times with high viewership. Conversely, ads served during low-viewership times tend to be less expensive.

But deciding how and when to daypart your ads depends on more than just the relation of cost to impressions. Your optimal times might be completely different from what ad platforms consider "prime time." In other cases, you might want to take advantage of off-peak times to advertise special promotions or find an untapped audience.

Dayparting your ads can considerably lower your cost of customer acquisition because it ensures that you're casting a line when your customers are ready to bite, which means a higher return on your ad spend. It can be well worth it to advertise during high-volume (i.e. high-cost) time slots, but be sure to test and analyze your ads before running an expensive campaign.

How to Find Your Optimal Times to Advertise

First, if you haven't already, it's important to determine your current customer lifetime value (CLV). In addition, Digital Marketer suggests calculating cost of customer acquisition (CoCA) early on. These figures will dictate how much you can spend on ads while still making a profit. Don't spend any substantial amount of money on ads before you know these numbers — doing so would be gambling with your marketing budget.

Once you determine your CLV and CoCA, you should establish a range for appropriate ad spend, as well as some baseline metrics by which you can measure future ad performance. Otherwise, it's hard to tell what "good" ad performance means.

If you've run some ads before, you should already have some insight into what times are most effective. In AdWords, this is visible in the "Dimensions" tab, whereas Facebook will display an "Insights" tab on your Business Manager homepage. If you haven't run any ads yet, start by running a campaign with low spend to get those baseline numbers.

In addition to getting familiar with the ad platform you're using, Google Analytics indicated that it's helpful to have conversion tracking set up, so you have all your data in one platform.

Testing Your Findings

In digital advertising, you pay for impressions, and most platforms will automatically optimize your ads for maximum impressions. This is usually a good thing — but it may skew your results if you want to see how effective your ads might be late at night, for example.

In a true A/B test, all things are equal except the one variable you want to test. When optimizing for time of day, you'll want to run the exact same ad to the same audience, but at different times of day. To override auto-optimization, you may need to schedule individual (but identical) campaigns at different time slots.

Ideally, you would run a series of low-spend campaigns until you get statistically significant results. As Analytics Toolkit explained, this means you'll see ads in certain time slots that perform demonstrably better than they would by chance.

You can increase spend as you gain confidence in what times are best. If you don't have a statistician on hand, you can judge performance based on patterns — but a more effective solution is to hire an expert who can advise you.

Next, let's talk about syncing your ads across multiple platforms, and using your newfound knowledge to run targeted campaigns.

Advanced Dayparting Tactics

Once you take advantage of this strategy for one platform, you'll want to determine the optimal times for all others. However, don't assume that because noon on weekdays is an ideal time for Facebook that it will be for AdWords, as well.

Conduct a test on each platform, then develop a creative asset targeted to the platform, time and audience. Slight changes to an ad can make a big difference in performance, so try to tailor your copy and images accordingly. You can even run A/B tests on your creative elements for further optimization.

Finally, take advantage of your newfound knowledge to develop targeted campaigns. Catch the eye of late-night shoppers with night-owl discounts, or award the early birds with promo codes to start their morning right.

Getting the most out of your ad budget takes some trial and error, but once you figure out the sweet spots, you're likely to multiply the investment and significantly lower your cost of customer acquisition.

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