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The best time to run Google Ads: How to optimize your ads campaigns for time of day

“What’s the best time to run Google Ads” is a question that can result in an answer as unique as your organization. Are your site visitors more engaged on Monday or Saturday? At what point in the day are people most likely to register as a volunteer? Do most of your donations happen during work hours or on weekends? We can answer all of these questions using some simple Google Analytics data.
The time of day report in Google Analytics helps to identify when your site gets the most traffic and — more importantly — when your audience is most likely to convert. Knowing when your audience is both active and most likely to take important actions on site (like registering as a volunteer or making a donation) can help you to optimize your Google Ad Grant for organizational impact. It’s also a good way of determining when you should be prioritizing your Google Ads (especially if you run any PPC ads that are backed by actual money, versus Ad Grant dollars). 

How to Find the Time of Day Report

Google Analytics makes it super easy to get a quick look at which days and hours your site gets the most activity. On the home page, we can see a heat map of our site’s busiest days and hours:
 

 
The best way to dive deeper into your traffic patterns for days of the week and hours of the day is to set up a custom time and day report in Google Analytics (we’ve already taken care of the template for you). Once you’ve downloaded these custom reports, you’ll be able to easily see how your traffic fluctuates throughout the day and figure out the best times and days to run Google Ads based on these data.
 

 
Notice how, in addition to site traffic, goal completions and goal conversion rates fluctuate throughout the day. For Whole Whale’s website, work hours (when people are searching for digital strategy resources) are higher-converting (since most nonprofit professionals are going to our website while they’re in the office).
 

One of the greatest advantages of knowing when your audience is most alert and ready to take action is being able to apply those insights to your Google Ads schedule and strategy.
 

How (and why) to determine the best time to run Google Ads

You can optimize your Google Ads account for time of day (or day of week) by scheduling your ads during days or hours when your audience is most interested and most likely to convert. The benefits of a custom ad schedule include:

1. Spend your daily grant budget evenly

In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition » Google Ads » Hour of day to see when you are currently spending your Ad Grant dollars. This can also help you see how “maxed” your account is (i.e., if you’re easily spending all of your grant each day, or if you’re just coming in under the wire most days). If you’ve maxed out your Ad Grant budget, you’ll probably see something like this:

You’re spending your grant pretty evenly throughout the day, peaking when people are most active online, and running out of Ad Grant budget right around midnight.
If your account is very maxed (i.e. spending all of your Google Ads dollars early on in the day), you’ll see something like this:
 

 
Your Google Ads spend peaks, but then drops off midday when you run out of budget. If your Ad Grant account depletes its budget early in the day, you could be missing out on valuable traffic that’s searching for related terms in later hours.
You can fix this by setting up a custom ad schedule to reserve budget and show your ads only during high-interest or high-converting hours to ensure that none of your Ad Grant (or actual Google Ads) dollars go to waste.
But wait, how are you supposed to know when your audience is most interested and engaged?

2. Target high search-volume hours

Let’s say you’re an organization like Greater Than AIDS, and you want to reach people that are searching for information about HIV. Using Google Trends, we can see that search volume for ‘HIV’ spikes every day around 11 pm.

 
If you’re running out of budget at 2pm, you’re missing out on the peak hours of your audience’s interest! Using Google Trends, or similar keyword research tools, you can get a better understanding of when people are searching for topics and issues related to your organization’s mission and schedule your advertising campaigns accordingly. You can also take a look at the organic traffic to your site to get a better understanding of when users are looking for the information and services that your organization offers.
In this case, where we’re trying to target people searching for HIV information, we can set a custom ad schedule to start running our campaign later in the day to ensure that some budget is conserved for these audiences (and the best time to run ads reaching users searching for relevant resources).

3. Target high-converting hours

Traffic is great, but we’re all about conversions here at Whole Whale. Luckily, in your hour-of-day custom report, you can see how your website’s goal conversion rate fluctuates throughout the day. This will allow you to identify times of day when users are most likely to take action on your site. Structure your Google Ads strategy around these hours.

 
In this instance, we might deduce that the best time to run ads are from 11am to 9pm, when we know we have the greatest opportunity to convert site visitors, and schedule campaigns accordingly. 
You can also look in your Google Ads hour of day report (Acquisition » Google Ads » Hour of day) to see when Google Ads traffic specifically converts at the highest rates for your top-priority goals.

Conclusion

Scheduling your Google Ads campaigns around times when your audience is most engaged sounds obvious, but it’s an optimization tactic that many organizations overlook! Use custom ad schedules to maximize your chances of turning site visitors into volunteers, donors, or advocates and turn your online wins into offline impact.
Have a success story of using custom ad schedules? @ us. @WholeWhale.