As a publisher, you may notice that your ad revenue fluctuates during the year. This is attributed to seasonal trends in digital advertising.
In the run-up to the most profitable season of the year (Q4), we put together 6 tips to prepare your website to benefit from this time as much as possible.
Table of Contents:
- What is Seasonality?
- What are Seasonal Trends?
- Seasonality Analysis in Adtech
- 6 Tips to Prepare Your Website for the Largest Selling Holidays
What is Seasonality?
Seasonality is any predictable variation or trend that occurs during the same time period, year over year.
Seasonality generally falls under 3 main categories:
- Cultural (e.g., Easter, Christmas, New Year)
- Commercial (e.g., Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles’ Day)
- Ad hoc (e.g., World Cup, Olympic Games, presidential elections)
In 2020, Black Friday global online sales were up 168% compared to October same year.
For publishers, this is an opportunity to benefit from record-high CPMs and increased user traffic.
However, keep in mind that seasonal opportunities also heavily depend on your audience.
For example, Christmas and New Year are the holidays that are celebrated globally. However, the dates of these celebrations can differ in many countries.
Many Orthodox countries, like Russia and Romania, celebrate Christmas at the beginning of January. Therefore, you can extend this season by analyzing where your website traffic comes from.
What are Seasonal Trends?
Seasonal trends refer to the calendar or commercial events that happen every year. Seasonality in digital advertising is divided into 4 quarters. Each quarter has its own trends and opportunities.
Advertisers usually manage their budgets on a monthly or quarterly basis. This means publishers generally see a dip in CPMs at the beginning of a quarter and an increase at the end of a quarter. There is also traditionally a dip at the beginning of every month.
This is notably the worst quarter for publishers revenue-wise. During this quarter, advertisers are holding and planning their budgets as consumers do not spend as much after the winter holidays.
However, since direct sales drop, more ad inventory gets sold through programmatic channels. This can potentially compensate for a decrease in eCPMs.
In the middle of the quarter, publishers may already notice that CPMs slowly start to return back to normal.
Related Article: What Publishers Need To Know About eCPM Drop Each January?
During this quarter advertisers start to spend their budgets more actively, which equals better revenue for publishers.
Nevertheless, seasonality trends change constantly. For example, in Q2 of 2020 global media ad spend was down by 46% compared to the same period in 2019 since businesses were severely hit by the global pandemic.
Summer is traditionally a quiet season, as people spend more time outdoors and less online. Advertisers usually readjust their budgets during this time and devise new strategies for Q4.
Naturally, publishers see the highest dip in July, after which CPMs gradually start to increase.
This is the most profitable season for publishers and advertisers. Brands want to be seen, and the competition is higher than ever. Major holidays like Thanksgiving Day and Diwali begin in November, following the biggest consumer events–Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
CPMs remain high all the way through December in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year.
Seasonality Analysis in Adtech
We have compared three websites from our network to see how significant the Q3 and Q4 eCPM increase was in 2019 and 2020.
According to the graphs below, we can see that in 2019 and 2020, all three websites experienced an increase in eCPMs at the beginning of November.
If we compare the eCPM prices on these three websites on average from Q3 2020 to Q4 2020, the eCPM price increased by 49%. By comparing the same period in 2019, the increase was only 8%.
What can we learn from this analysis?
- Publishers do benefit from events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday in terms of ad revenue.
- The day when the eCPMs reach a peak can differ for publishers.
In the graph above, we could see that for Publisher X, the highest eCPM price was in 2020 on the 30th of November (Cyber Monday) and some days before Christmas. However, for Publisher Y, it was the 28th of November (the day after Black Friday).
- Over the year, the average eCPM price can differ for each publisher.
It really depends on the publisher’s traffic geolocations. For example, if the main traffic (around 70%) is from the US, the CPM price will always be higher than in countries like India.
6 Tips to Prepare Your Website for the Largest Selling Holidays
1. Make sure your site has great UX
Earlier this year, Google completed the rollout of Page Experience Update. The new ranking algorithm ranks pages based on users’ perception of the experience with a web page.
That means your ranking will be lower if Google thinks that your page provides a poor user experience.
Therefore, it is crucial that your website is fast, mobile-friendly, and responsive. Use Google Search Console or alternative tools to detect errors and improve your website performance.
One of the most popular SEO tools, Ahrefs, has clear and consistent navigation, search functionality, featured articles, an easily identifiable homepage button, and great usability.
2. Try a more advanced monetization solution
The latest forecast by eMarketer predicts that US digital ad spend will reach $239.89bn in 2022.
Since your website traffic will increase during Q4, the ad inventory will become more attractive for premium advertisers, and the bid density will grow.
Monetization solution like header bidding allow publishers to sell ad inventory at the highest possible price thanks to increased competition of 15+ SSPs. In the top season, there is even more demand coming from various partners which creates bigger competition in header bidding and generates exceptionally high eCPMs.
If there is no competition between demand partners (like with Google AdSense), you may never achieve your revenue potential in Q4.
3. Have ad refresh
As users tend to spend more time online prior to winter holidays, publishers can generate extra revenue from refreshed ads. And, this can’t be achieved if you use Google AdSense.
4. Update your existing content
Search engines prioritize fresh, updated content, which helps to rank higher. Therefore, make sure your existing content is up to date.
In addition, ensure your website interface is sleek and consistent. This includes:
- following on-page SEO best practices (optimizing content for readability);
- writing SEO-friendly titles, subheadings, and meta descriptions;
- structuring content around user intent.
5. Use best performing ad formats
Q4 is your chance to experiment with more ad formats like interstitial or sticky ads to amplify your ad revenue even more. These ad formats usually have higher CPM prices compared to standard ad formats, like display ads.
Adding more ad placements equals more ad revenue. However, keep in mind not to overcrowd your website with too many ads. It’s important to find the right balance between a maximum number of ad placements and a good user experience.
Related Article: How Many Ads Should I Put on My Website?
Ensure that your ads aren’t placed too close to navigational elements and that your website’s interface doesn’t lead to accidental ad clicks. Otherwise, you risk getting a Google two-click penalty which will lead to a significant CPM drop.
In the example below ads are clearly defined and placed farther away from the content and navigational items.
6. Improve website loading speed
An ideal web page loading time should be under 2 seconds. This is particularly important for mobile devices, as mobile traffic share accounts for 55.07% of the global traffic in 2021.
To improve website loading speed, try:
- implementing lazy loading for ads and images;
- enabling browser caching;
- compressing all images and media files;
- reducing the number of external scripts;
- minifying CSS, JS, and HTML.
Find 10 tips on how to increase your website loading speed here.
It’s important to understand that seasonal changes are inevitable. To compensate for the revenue drop during an unprofitable season, you can make necessary tweaks to earn more in the next season.
By allowing your adtech partner to optimize your ad revenue results, you can focus on generating traffic and keeping readers engaged with your content.
If you still have any questions regarding how to prepare your website for the holiday season, email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.