How Consumer Latency Affects Your Search Campaigns

We’re accustomed to instant gratification in search. We can set ads live in the morning, and within a few hours know how consumers are responding.

This type of quick availability of data and response time is what has set search apart of the best direct response tactic in marketing on the planet (at least coming from a search marketer’s point of view).

However, not everyone buys after their first click. It may take several days, and various marketing touchpoints before the consumer is ready to make that step and purchase.

Without understanding the latency of your consumers and the impact of seasonality and promotions, you can’t be 100 percent certain of the decisions you’re making about the performance of your ads.

To help make this point, we’ll look at some client data to see how latency impacts their sales based on the different types of businesses they run. One company is driven primarily through sales and promotions. The other business has consistent demand, and slight seasonality.

The amount of latency in their orders is very different, and therefore the cadence that you can make decisions about the marketing dollars spent is typically easier to forecast. However, there are periods where this data shifts by 2 percent (or more), which can impact results that otherwise wouldn’t be explained if this data wasn’t monitored.

Example 1

Days from First Visit to Order

About 30 percent of sales are driven on day 0, or the same day as the initial click, and between 20 and 30 percent of the sales volume doesn’t come until 21 days or more after the initial click. This long latency period makes it difficult to make decisions on the first day of a campaign launch.

However, if you understand this data is how your customers respond to your ads, you can forecast from these results. Help educate senior leadership on the expected latency curve.

Also, when promotions and sales really started to kick in around the holidays, the amount of sales that came within 24 to 48 hours of the initial click doubled. This is a significant shift, and gives great insight into consumer behavior, and the impact sales can have on driving immediate revenue to the top and bottom line.

Example 2

Days from First Visit to Order

More orders occur within 24 to 48 hours (more than 90 percent). Although this company doesn’t have offers, it’s a high purchase value organization.

This company sells a product that potential purchasers will research and shop around for a long time. However, this allows an advertiser to rely much more heavily on real-time results when making optimization decisions.

Monitoring this data will also draw out a period where this latency period changes by 2 percent for 3 weeks. You can look at the overall business, and try to better understand why this might happen, and how it influences the total amount of orders received.

Also, what in the future might indicate a similar change? Price update, user experience change, landing page change, keyword changes, etc.?


When thinking about your search spend or launching your new campaign, it’s important to understand this data, and bake it into your forecasts. You can also compare this data to other marketing tactics and identify how consumers respond to various media tactics. This can help make decisions about what tactics to invest in if you need to make your sales numbers within 10 days versus 21 days.

Search is all about having more data than your competition, and using it to your advantage. Order latency is one tool that can make a difference in your campaigns.

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