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Data Hiding in Plain Sight: Using Real-World Data for Marketing Success

  |  March 6, 2014   |  Comments

What happens when you lift your head from the deep detail dive to find answers in the real world? New tools and creative uses of data help us to model the real world within search campaigns, and maybe predict your best converting moments.

When a search ad hits the right user with the right message at the right time, the heavens open up and angels descend. This trifecta of requirements takes a lot of work to bring together. Today we're bringing you one step closer to hitting the "right time" with all you've got.

For most search marketers, right time often means looking at historical data points - time of day, day of week, or month. But what happens when you lift your head from the deep detail dive to find answers in the real world? Turns out, new tools and creative uses of data help us to model the real world within search campaigns, and maybe predict your best converting moments.


This data, mapped in a new Excel tool called Power Map, shows 2014's last day of school across the U.S. It turns out that mapping out the last day of school across the U.S. has implications for marketers in the form of graduation gifts, summer vacations, and even sales of dresses.

Data Hiding in Plain Sight

At first glance, the last day of school seems like an ordinary metric, but its power can be better understood once the data points are mapped over time. The last day of school is publicly available for each school district where you advertise. But there are more than 15,000 school districts nationally, so getting this data from a third party may be your best route. In this case MCH Strategic Data has a dataset available for a fee.

For marketers, focusing budget on moments that matter will lead to better return. The data is all around us. With new insights, we can use it to guide timing for your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. How? Let's walk through an example.

Example: The Last Day of School and Vacation Planning

Let's say you're in the travel vertical, selling family vacation packages. Reaching the family vacation planner, when they're planning the vacation via the medium they are most likely to use would be powerful.

Here are a few facts from eMarketer:

  • 70 percent of families plan to travel when school lets out for the summer. 
  • 72 percent of family vacation planners begin their planning with search. 

For vacation planners, search is important and so is the last day of school. Suddenly, "right time" takes on new significance with clear ties to search advertising.

Hang On. When Is the Last Day of School?

As we saw in the Power Map image, the last day of school across the U.S. varies - by as much as an eight-week span of time.

Drilling into your specific region for the precise date is going to be necessary, considering:

  • Last day of school in St. Louis: May 23 
  • Last day of school in New York: June 26

If you want to hit the target at the right time, get precise with these dates. A national advertiser who sets their search campaigns to roll out at the same time across the U.S. should take into consideration the differences in timing that can impact whether customers are ready to respond to your ad. A mom planning her family vacation in Missouri would be ready to act in May; but in New York, that might be too early.

Putting It All Together

"Right time" in search advertising brings a lot of elements together, and one of the most overlooked is real-world data. What real-world events are driving seasonality in your industry? Will this affect your profitability? What are the significant moments on the calendar that support higher bidding for your campaign? Step outside the usual "time of day, day of week, season" timing analysis and look at the bigger picture - this is how you'll get a step ahead of your competition.

What inside tips have you discovered for better timing of your search ads? We'd love to hear them!

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John Gagnon

John Gagnon is a Bing Ads Evangelist (aka “search nerd”) at Microsoft. He has worked for both Bing Ads and Google AdWords, and is a frequent speaker at digital marketing conferences such as SES, SMX, and others. He has advised hundreds of clients ranging from Microsoft teams like Windows and Internet Explorer to small businesses like local garage door repair shops just getting started.

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