Optimizing your PPC bids by the weather


Jodie Evans


The British love the weather. Our national obsession borders on the pathological, and one wonders whether or not we should all seek some kind of group therapy. With a preponderance to fascination in the ups and downs of meteorological phenomena, it is no wonder that it touches on many aspects of our lives: everything from small talk to business.

While it may not come as a surprise that a heavy downpour might not be the best of news for the ice cream vendors of Scarborough, it’s a lesser-known fact that the weather can influence online sales, too.

PPC bids and the weatherLet us consider Debenhams – department store giants – who had, what they would consider, a difficult year. In the first half of this year Debenhams reported a 2.7% fall in pre-tax profits. They put this down to particularly harsh weather conditions – a sentiment echoed by other big names in the UK.

The thick snow in January that prevented shoppers from hitting the high street was expected to have cost the UK economy a predicted £473m a day. Moreover, a particularly bleak spring saw stores struggling to sell their Spring/Summer collections. Luckily for Debenhams, however, this trend was not reflected online with sales that saw a massive increase of 46.2% on the previous year.

And it’s not just ecommerce businesses that see a link between the weather and online sales. During the The Big Freeze of 2010 – a winter of record temperature lows and monumental amounts of snow – Google reported a 3% increase in advertising revenue. Staggering really when you consider that at the time Googles advertising revenue accounted for 97% of the company’s income.

But how does this benefit us? Well, at the time Google was using an internal program that allowed it to measure weather variations against clicks through the Adwords platform. Still not seeing how this is of any use? Well, luckily for us, the guys at Google realized money was to be made from the weather and created an Adwords script perfect for anyone working in PPC.

Google’s weather script

The Google weather script is simple and effective to use. It removes the laborious task of manually updating our bids – which with the unpredictable British weather would be a full time job. The script allows you to programmatically fetch weather information and adjust bids in a matter of minutes’ with the use of Google spreadsheets, Google Adwords and OpenWeatherMap API.

So when does the script come in handy? Google uses the example of an amusement park that sees an increase in industry searches when the weather is nice. Similarly, a company that sells snow chains for your car probably wont see many people searching for and purchasing their product in summer. So if you see that ROI is at its highest when it snows (no brainer), or when the temperature drops below a certain threshold, then you may decide to use this data to run a Google Adwords script. In this case, the script could be to turn on certain campaigns where snow is forecast or where the temperature will drop below zero.

The idea that people will buy snow chains when it snows is by no means rocket science, yet the bid by weather script is still a highly underutilized geo-targeting option. By putting thought into how the weather might impact the searching and buying of your product or service, pay-per-click managers can see a great improvement in ROI.