Seasonal Advertising Trends
Most people reading this article are probably trying to figure out if fluctuations in their site’s ad earnings are the results of normal seasonal advertising trends — or something more sinister occurring on their own site. Luckily, there’s been enough data accumulating for years to directly determine what seasonal trends look like. Below are resources to visualize and evaluate seasonal advertising trends. They will help you discern whether or not your site is being affected by these global changes.
I will also post several key things that you can do on your site to minimize risks associated with seasonality drops in your site’s earnings. These tips are commonly overlooked by sites and can mitigate seasonality lulls and help contribute to greater overall earnings in the long term as well.
If you’re trying to troubleshoot what you think might be a non-seasonal drop in ad earnings, you should read this comprehensive guide that outlines a way of truly determining the cause.
Tools for evaluating advertising seasonality
Many sites benefit from seasonal revenue and often just assume that it is the result of optimizations and adjustments they’ve made on their site. While this may be a contributing factor, the truth is that certain times of year are more bullish than others.
The best tool for truly viewing ad earnings trends — both currently and retroactively — is the Ad Revenue Index (adrevenueindex.ezoic.com). You can see a shot of the index above .
This index allows sites to see actual ad earnings from thousands of sites across the globe. This truly allows you to see if you are part of a natural ebb and flow of seasonal advertising and marketplace trends or if your changes are the result of something different.
Is it just me, or is everybody earning more/less right now? – Almost all site’s at some point
This is probably the most common question asked among site owners and ad ops professionals. Everyone wants to know if they are a part of a normal trend or if they’ve messed something up or done something fantastic to dramatically alter their ad earnings. If your changes don’t line-up with the index above, try using this comprehensive guide to troubleshoot your earnings changes.
When can I expect seasonal advertising revenue drops?
If we once again consult the index above, we can see that pretty much every year that advertising spending starts surging in November; peaking around “Black Friday” ( U.S term for the busiest shopping day in North America). This boom of spending has most sites earning at a much higher rate than normal. This results in ad earnings that are above average in November and December.
Unfortunately for publishers and site owners, this huge earnings surge is typically followed by annual ad revenue low’s. The index shows us that there is typically a pretty hard crash in January that sort of bottoms out in February. After that, the market stabilizes back out around April. Things then start to steady back out with marketplace dips and rises throughout the rest of the year until the big boom comes again at the end of October.
Are my ad earnings results typical?
Trying to figure out if your high earnings could be a result of more than just seasonality? As you can see, in November and December of 2016, the index is showing all-time highs.
Publishers often understand seasonal advertising trends but wonder if they are still overachieving in relation to the marketplace. If you were using 2015 as a reference; you can see that ultimately all sites are seeing modest increases in 2016. So, while your site might be doing particularly well, its always best to look at things in broader context — as many factors can change year over year.
How can I mitigate seasonal advertising drops?
To start with, you can make sure that you are properly monetizing your traffic during these booms to offset the natural drops in earnings. One of the best ways to do this is by running experiments during these high periods to better understand what is driving higher earnings.
Here are a few good experiments to start with:
- Test ad sizes, types, locations, colors, and positions.
- Test different mobile experiences (layouts, ad combinations)
Testing all of your different ad elements will tell you a lot more about your users. You can flip the info you learn from these booming periods to full implementation during your lighter stretches to ensure you don’t bottom out your earnings. The same can be said about mobile experiences.
Mobile is typically an area that is under monetized by publishers. Layouts and friendlier ads can often make a big difference for mobile user experiences (driving big revenue increases)
Ad combinations make a dramatic difference in ad earnings. We’ve seen that they actually even change on a per user basis. It’s really important when running these tests that you’re also considering user experience metrics (like bounce rate and session duration); as these metrics ultimately determine total revenue as well.
You can actually personalize and test ad combinations automatically using only a portion of your traffic (so you can compare results) using Ezoic (it’s free to use and easy to setup).
Marketing my site to visitors during slow periods
Currently in a lull? That isn’t much fun. Here are a few simple marketing tips that will help quite a bit.
Capture e-mails and send out some kind of weekly correspondence
Newsletters can seem old and tired; however, effectively capturing visitor e-mails and executing targeting efforts to keep visitors coming back can help keep pageviews up during down times. This strategy can help promote new content, assist with SEO, and keep your best visitors engaged.
Here are a few tips that will keep you from being more spam in an inbox. Make your e-mails visual and low on text. Have the e-mails include only one or two links to some of your newest content. This will help boost engagement on these posts and can offer dividends for SEO. You may also want to send visitors to pages that get the most avg. pageviews per visitor as well (this could help boost revenue).
Don’t spam out your users, just think about marketing your best, newest, and most engaging content to them during slow times. An inexpensive service like MailChimp can provide tools to schedule these during peak times and batch up deliveries for big lists so that you don’t get listed as a spammer.
Additionally, using an exit pop-up that integrates with your e-mail marketing system of choice can be an easy way to grow this list super-fast. Exit pop-up’s are pop-up windows that show up only when users are exhibiting behavior that signals that they are leaving the site (usually cursors are hovering back to the back button or URL bar). This means you don’t have to worry about annoying users away; you hit them up right as they are walking out the door. Average e-mail sign-ups avg. between 4-7%.
There are tons of exit pop-up’s out there. Some are free and some are paid. I recommend one that integrates with your e-mail system of choice so you can easily build your lists.
Share and sponsor posts on social media in every way possible
We covered how to share content and sponsor it on social media effectively here. However, it’s important to mention that down times are a really good time to work on these efforts.
Unlike an e-mail list; which can take time to build, the info in the post above are efforts you can do from scratch. Sharing content into curation networks and using popular social media platform,s effectively can start boosting pageviews the moment you start taking action.
Think you are already doing these things? Think again, read the post above to get a good idea of all the things you might be missing.
Don’t fall victim to ad seasonality fluctuations
Ultimately, you need to consult tools like the Ad Revenue Index above to see where you are at along with global marketplace trends. You can also use the general knowledge we discussed to keep you on the straight and narrow; however, fluctuations in earnings should be cross-checked with the guide linked above as well.
At the end of the day, slow times will come due to seasonal ads. However, being a proactive marketer can help you mitigate these challenges. Getting better at these activities can also help you grow your site as well.
Hopefully, you can apply these techniques to your site before you find yourself in any kind of a slump. The best time to start thinking seasonal advertising slumps is when your revenue is booming.
Tyler is an award-winning digital marketer, SEO veteran, successful start-up founder, and well-known publishing industry speaker. Tyler also serves as the host of Pubtelligence, a publishers-only event hosted at Google offices around the globe. Tyler describes his core competency as learning. He has composed content for some of the world’s top publications and has over a decade of experience building businesses in the digital space. Tyler is currently the Head of Marketing at Ezoic and serves as an SEO and marketing expert for start-up competitions across the U.S.