Seasonality Adjustments – A Deceptively Useful Tool

While Seasonality Adjustments haven’t caused much of a stir - this little control could swing the balance back in the advertiser’s favour…

What is it?

Seasonality adjustments are a new control, allowing advertisers a rare window of influence over the behaviour of Smart Bidding strategies.

Google describes it as an ‘an advanced tool that can be used to inform Smart Bidding of expected changes in conversion rates for future events like promotions or sales’.

So what they actually adjust is the expected conversion rate, as an input into the algorithm’s calculations.

What exactly the algorithm does with that input isn’t transparent – but you can clearly expect a higher eCVR to translate into increased ‘aggression’, and higher bids.

How do you set them up?

You can find the control under tools > shared library > bid strategies > Advanced controls.

From there, you can choose when the adjustment should start and end, which campaigns it should apply to, and whether you want to narrow its scope down by device type.

Then the % increase or reduction in expected conversion rate that you want to plug in.

What’s interesting about it?

This new tool could be deceptively useful…

One of the drawbacks of smart bidding is the lack of control it gives us as advertisers. You could argue the point… There’s something to be said for letting the algorithm do its thing without interference… But there are times when we can see clearly that the algorithm’s decisions are off track and need a bit of guidance.

The ways smart bidding goes off track tend to fall into two categories:

  • Too aggressive – wild bids, leading to high CPAs (Maximise Conversions is the worst offender in this crime)
  • Too cautious – throttling itself unnecessarily, not loosening up even when hitting your target comfortably, and leaving IS-lost-to-rank on the table despite having plenty of CPA/ROAS headroom (yes, tCPA/tROAS, I’m talking about you…).

i.e. It’s not unusual to see Smart Bidding behaving with too much or too little aggression, and we have frustratingly little control over these behaviours when they show up.

Enter Seasonality Adjustments, which allow us to reach into the black box of the algorithm, and change a setting (expected CVR) that should directly influence aggression level.

So, while their intended use is to ‘get ahead of events’ – where you genuinely expect CVR to increase and you want that factored in – Seasonality adjustments are also potentially valuable workaround for when smart bidding isn’t playing ball.

Early results

At time of writing, I’ve tried seasonality adjustments (without expecting any significant actual change in conversion rates) in two accounts.

So far, it has worked exactly as hoped.

In this case, an adjustment of +25% eCVR was applied across all campaigns in an account consisting of search, shopping and display, most of them on Target ROAS; a few on Maximise Conversion Value.

After the adjustment was applied (on the starred day), we saw:

  • Dramatic rise in cost
  • Substantial rise in conversions
  • Rise in CPA and fall in ROAS… but then, if you want to increase aggression, you’re probably OK with taking a few blows to land more of your own.

So...

Perhaps because of the limited framing around the specific ‘short sale’ use case, Seasonality Adjustments haven’t featured large on most of our radars…

But strip away the frame, and the name, and what we have is a new control over the behaviour of smart bidding strategies… targeting exactly the variable (aggression level) that most often lets us down.

It’s worth celebrating this rare increase in advertiser control (we’ve had enough recent changes in the opposite direction…) It’s also worth using!

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