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Search Trends Vary by Device During Different Times of Day [Study]

  |  June 26, 2014   |  Comments

A recent study by Bing looks at how search trends vary across different devices throughout the day. How can you use this information to adjust your campaigns?

One of the most powerful things about digital advertising is our ability to be pinpoint precise with our targeting. As we hone our targeting by demographics, geography, and seasonal events, let's also take a close look at the devices we're targeting. If you've been on the Internet lately (or if you live on planet Earth), you will have heard that smartphone and tablet traffic are exploding.

Bing recently researched device search trends over time, and drilled into clicks and actions on those devices over time. It's a piece of research that can tell us about consumer behavior, and show us ways to get better results from our search campaigns. The most interesting things we discovered:

  • User intent, and by extension advertiser return on investment (ROI), vary by each device type and by day of week and time of day.
  • From Lars Hirsch, group program manager of advertising analytics at Bing: "ROI increases throughout the day. So if you run out of budget early, you'll have lower ROI than if you make sure your budget is spread evenly throughout the day. Think about it - you should never run out of budget at the end of the day. If you do, you are running inefficient campaigns."

Search Traffic = Device and Timing Cues

Search traffic trends are a great indicator for intent. With these search traffic trends, we can peer into device-specific and timing trends by device.

This chart shows search trends across devices on weekdays:

weekdays-hourly-traffic

This chart shows search trends across devices on weekends:
weekends-hourly-traffic

So what can we learn about device search volume differences?

  • During work days, searches on PCs track predictably through the day, ramping during work/school hours and tapering off in the evening. 
  • Smartphone and tablet searches tend to peak after work/school hours are finished, in the evening during workdays.
  • On the weekends, the differences in searches by device are much smaller.

Key Takeaway

The second half of the day has a larger portion of search traffic on both tablets and smartphones. If your campaigns are running out of budget during the morning or afternoon, you'll be missing out.

Lowest Cost-per-Action on PC at Night

Bing Ads also went a step further by looking at advertising metrics like cost per action (CPA) and click-through rate (CTR). Turns out, in general the cost per action decreases as the day progresses.
cpa-by-device

Key Takeaway

CPA is lower across devices as the day progresses. It makes sense to make sure your campaign is still running strong during these less competitive hours.

Sharpen Your Precision Engine

Using your own search traffic data, start digging into precision timing that might vary based on your product or industry. Our general research aggregates all searches on Bing over a period of time - your own data will help you be more specific - which is what makes search campaigns strongest.

What trends do you see in traffic by device and by time of day for your particular industry? We'd love to hear from you!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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