The fourth quarter of the year is a critical period for digital publishers of ad-supported websites and apps. The build-up to the holiday season is a time when advertisers are willing to ramp up their ad spend to try and compete with other marketers for consumer attention and dollars. More competition equates to more auction pressure, driving up CPM and CPC rates for publishers.
Because of this, the last three months of the year account for a disproportionately high share of the revenue opportunity for most publishers. Get it right and you can start the following year on a high, but failing to capitalise on it can put a serious dent in your annual revenue.
Q4 2020 set for an unprecedented rise in ad spend
Publishers that are prepared are set to finish the year on a high as Q4 ad spend is expected to break records in 2020. COVID-19 has given way to a seismic shift in the way that consumers shop and during the peak of the lockdown (Q2), pandemic-fuelled shopping has already surpassed the holiday rush of 2019.
Despite an economic recession and increased unemployment which will have a negative impact on consumer spending, there have been some pandemic-fuelled changes in the way that consumers shop. Firstly, consumer spending has been pulled away from industries, like travel, and been made available to other industries, like retail.
This year, more shoppers will opt for a much safer shopping experience and will choose to spend online, rather than in traditional bricks and mortar stores to try and avoid the crowds. On top of that, alongside the usual major seasonal events in Q4, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas, which trigger advertisers to spend more, CPCs are expected to spike even earlier this year. This is because the United States presidential election is scheduled for November 3rd, which means there will be a surge in political ad spend in the US.
eMarketer predicts that programmatic ad transactions, including direct deals and real-time bidding, will account for 84.5% of the digital display ad market in 2020, despite the recession
Even at the start of Q4, it is not too late to make the most of the “golden quarter”. We’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts on how to get your online publishing business poised for Q4 success.
Update your top-performing content
The start of Q4 is a great time to update your key content. As well as updating dates and ensuring general topicality and accuracy, this refresh is a chance to compare your key content with competitors to ensure that yours really delivers.
You can check for last year’s top-performing content in your Google Analytics account by navigating to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages and changing the date range to Q4 2019.
From there, you can use this list as a starting point for which posts you might want to consider updating. Updating and improving older content, which already has some authority and traffic, can often bring more traffic than publishing new content. This is because it takes time for content to climb in Google SERPs and attracts links.
As well as the content itself, check over how well each piece is monetized. Are you using the best formats for that piece? Are the placements viewable? Are there any additional opportunities?
Plan new and seasonal content
Just as you should review your regular high-performing content, you should also do the same for any seasonal content. Check analytics for what performed in Q4 last year and do the same sort of content review.
Seasonality always causes certain keywords to spike. This presents a huge opportunity for publishers to produce content that holds the potential to accumulate significantly greater engagement. More traffic leads to more impressions which equate to higher revenue.
Google Trends is an excellent tool which can be used to discover popular search terms and related queries to create engaging content around those terms.
You should also consider new seasonal content opportunities. What will your audience be spending money on this holiday season?
Explore video ads and rich media
Q4 is a great time to utilise new formats. B2C brand spend peaks in Q4 and much of that concentrates around higher impact formats. Video ads and rich media formats are beneficial as not only do they yield higher CPMs, but they also get more exposure and engagement from users.
Video ad spend will increase by 11.6% up to $27.37 billion in 2020 and growth will accelerate to 31.3% in 2021 as the economic effects of the pandemic subside.
If you have seasonal content, this is the perfect opportunity to add some video, which is high in demand in Q4, allowing you to capitalise on those high CPMs without having to produce content across a range of articles.
If you can’t produce your own video content, then you should consider 360 video units where pre-made video content, player and video monetization come as a single package. OKO publishers can discuss this opportunity with their account managers.
Want to benefit from the high CPMs of video ads and other rich media formats but not sure where to start? OKO can help! Simply get in touch today to learn more.
If you don’t want to implement video ads, why not explore other top-performing ad sizes and placements? We’ve compiled a list of ad units that hold the greatest potential to increase revenue for publishers which you can read here.
Optimize for mobile and other devices
Nearly half of all those that are celebrating the holidays in Q4 will use their mobile device to either research, compare or purchase their holiday gifts. This signifies that mobile really is key. This is particularly the case in Q4 2020 as more and more consumers look to complete their holiday shopping online to avoid crowds.
It is critical to ensure that your website is responsive to other devices, such as mobile and tablet, so that you are capturing as many impressions as possible. A lot can change in a year, so be sure to check your key templates on the devices that your customers are using now. You want to ensure that your site not only delivers a great user experience on those devices, but your revenue generating placements are going to be in view.
Using Google Analytics, you can check which device category and type is most popular amongst your audience. Simply navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview or Devices.
Update price priorities and frequency caps
Check the pricing of any line items that you have trafficked as price priority. Fill and CPMs both change through the year and you want to ensure that pricing is accurate going into Q4. Set prices too low and those lines won’t meet their impression potential. Too high and you’ll be giving impressions to your price priority lines when other lines could have paid more (for more information on setting CPM rates, please click here).
Publishers will also remember that Google moved to a first price auction model within GAM earlier this year which could affect how line items are being prioritized. Because of this, publishers should ensure that they review and adjust price floors to ensure that inventory is not being undervalued or overvalued. This will also make sure that you’re maximizing your fill rate and therefore not leaving any money on the table.
If you have frequency caps in place, you may want to loosen the restrictions to allow for more competition in your auctions.
Optimize for viewability
Ad viewability is a key factor that has a direct influence on how much advertisers are willing to pay for ad impressions. Advertisers want their ads to be seen, especially during times when consumers are more likely to spend money, such as Christmas time. A growing number of SSPs will only pay for viewable impressions, meaning those that are not deemed as viewable will generate no revenue.
Ad viewability can be improved by choosing ad units and placements that have greater visibility, such as above-the-fold units and ‘sticky’ ads. Publishers should also optimize for speed as web pages that take a long time to load can have a drastic impact on your viewability.
If you haven’t already, you should also consider implementing lazy loading so that ads only render when necessary, which improves viewability percentage.
Increase the number of bidders in your ad stack
More bidders equals more auction pressure, which drives up CPM and CPC rates and leads to higher revenue. You can maximize competition and fill rate by implementing solutions, such as Header Bidding and Open Bidding, which allow multiple demand sources to bid on an impression in a single auction.
Both solutions can bring incremental gains separately but you can also combine the two in one simple setup with OKO. Our Header Bidding solution enables you to run both auctions, maximizing the bids for each impression without compromising ad performance. Find out more here.
Consider who performs well in Q4
SSPs and networks can perform differently during Q4 than they do for the other 9 months of the year. Amazon demand is a good example, but demand partners with demand for B2C retargeting also do well. Be sure you are assessing opportunities based on seasonal performance and not just their year-round averages.
Make sure your CMP and ads.txt is up to date
The way that the Ad Tech industry collects, uses and stores data for digital advertising purposes has seriously been put under the microscope in recent years by regulatory bodies on a global scale. Publishers are responsible for ensuring that the appropriate consent mechanisms are in place and that they are adhering to local privacy regulations and failure to comply can result in substantial fines. There are a number of Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) available which allow publishers to adhere to compliance requirements and enable users to manage their own preferences.
Publishers that use the IAB’s Transparency and Consent Framework should ensure that they are using the most up-to-date version to avoid any ad serving issues. Publishers should also ensure that their ads.txt is up to date or ads may not serve which can cause a loss of revenue.
Ensuring that your website meets consent and privacy regulations in advance will eliminate the risk of running into any issues deeper into Q4. Having the correct consent mechanisms in place and updating your ads.txt regularly not only protects you from a loss in revenue, but also makes your inventory more valuable to high-quality advertisers who require consent based on certified IAB CMP solutions.
Don’t undersell your inventory
Rates increase in Q4, so don’t lock yourself into deals based on Q1-3 performance. Ensuring that Open Auction can compete against any direct deals you strike is one way to do this, but it can be harder to avoid if you offer up preferred deals or programmatic guaranteed at the wrong price.
You should consider reserving at least a portion of your inventory to sell via real-time bidding. Another option would be to allow preferred access to inventory for select buyers in AdX so that your inventory can be filled in advance, but only at a premium price.
Only block categories if absolutely necessary
Blocking entire ad categories reduces the number of advertisers that are eligible to participate in your auction. This reduces both competition and potentially fill rate and can therefore lower your earnings.
At the beginning of Q4, we recommend reviewing any blocks you have in place. You should only block categories if absolutely necessary and if you feel they are unsuitable for your audience, otherwise you risk leaving money on the table.
Many publishers are tempted to put off any change until things quieten down in Q1, but this risks missing out on the biggest annual opportunity. Changes that have the potential to generate more revenue for Q4 should be pushed to the front of the queue in order to generate an immediate return.
Would you benefit from extra support when it comes to optimizing your ad inventory for Q4? Get in touch with OKO today and we can help you make the most of ‘the golden quarter.’
Dolly joined the OKO team in early 2019 and certified to Google Certified Publishing Partner status. Dolly manages publisher communication and learning at OKO.