To understand why RPM reliably drops by 40-60% in January and July (sometimes more depending on the variables of your traffic!), we first need to understand RPM.

There are two parts to RPM (Revenue per Mille)

  • Revenue

  • Traffic

When RPM increases or decreases for any reason, you have to dig into the specifics of both revenue and traffic.

REVENUE

Revenue is the focus in January and July though, because it's revenue that changes industry-wide.

The money you earn from display ads is simply:
CPM * Impressions / 1000 = Your Ad Revenue

Basically, it's how much advertisers are spending X how many ad impressions you serve.

When RPM drops in January and July, that drop is based on how much advertisers are spending, as well as how many ad impressions you are serving.

Lower revenue (because spend is lower and fewer impressions are served) is being divided by your traffic.

Understand How Advertisers Plan Budgets and Spend

Here's why spend is lower: Advertisers plan how they are going to spend in advance.
They know they'll spend more in late November and early December because CONSUMERS SPEND MORE in late November and early December. When more people are buying, brands advertise more things to sell.

Advertisers also have to plan their budgets based on a fiscal year. Similar to how you might map out a budget for your own business and decide how and where you'll get the most return on your efforts (hiring a virtual assistant, the tasks you delegate, etc), advertisers map out their marketing budget for the year, in advance.

For many their fiscal year starts in January and ends in December.
For others the fiscal year starts in July and ends in June.

There's always a little bit of wiggle room for adjusting, but overall, budgets are divided up quarterly, and then month by month from there. Holidays and seasons are accounted for, as well as things like new product launches or lines of merchandise.

Brands Don't Blow 12 Months of Budget in the First Month

Since we know January and July both fall at the beginning of the fiscal year, we also know that they are both effectively just 1/12 of what advertisers plan on spending.
They always spend less at the beginning.

That lower spend is reflected in lower CPMs in early Q1 and early Q3.

But Wait! You Said Revenue is Spend AND Impressions!

Yep. It is both. You'll see lower impressions reflected in a lower fill rate in January and July. Not only is spend lower per 1000 impressions, but advertisers buy fewer impressions overall.

Basically, because there are still 11 more months of things to spend on, spend is more conservative in month 1. That means lower CPMs and fewer impressions.

BUT MY NICHE MEANS I HAVE A TON OF TRAFFIC IN JANUARY (or July)! WHY DON'T ADVERTISERS WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT TRAFFIC?

We know this can feel a little bit frustrating, but even when you have millions of sessions per month, that is just a small fraction of the traffic that advertisers have to spend on, especially when you are accounting for a whole year. Even when you write about popular January things (like fitness or health foods or travel), and brands are looking to spend on readers that are consuming that sort of content, it's not enough to make up for all of the other brands that are holding back.

Remember that advertisers are looking to spend on your READERS.
Keywords and content are just a part of what makes a reader their target demographic.

Take Action

So now you know WHY RPM is lower, and you know that you can't personally influence how national brands are going to spend. But that doesn't mean you should just throw up your hands. There are always action items.

  1. Use Grow. You might not be able to influence the budgets of national brands, but you CAN influence how they are spending on your site. If you have Safari or iOS traffic to your site, you already have traffic from privacy-centric browsers. Advertisers spend about 50% less when they can't serve targeted ads. Grow helps to authenticate your traffic, which means that advertisers have permission to serve targeted ads. We've seen a 142% CPM lift to traffic in privacy-centric

    browsers. Make your traffic more valuable.
    SWAP OUT YOUR OPT-IN FORMS FOR GROW FORMS TODAY!!!

  2. Review your dashboard settings. Did you lower your in-content frequency at some point? Implement a jump-to-recipe button but neglect to turn on the arrival unit? Is video set up according to our recommendations? Have you opted out of multiple categories? Make sure your choices line up with your revenue goals.

  3. Set up a free Mediavine University account and take the RPM Elevator Course put together by CEO Eric Hochberger.

  4. Look back at Top Pages data for last January or July. Make note of posts that had a high fill rate (excluding the home page), and then look at the impressions per page relative to your other content. If impressions look low, those posts might need to be optimized a bit more.

5. Send out a newsletter (or several!) sharing Top Posts (from the first 2 pages of results) that had a high fill rate last year as well as a higher CPM. Those are articles that attracted readers that advertisers found valuable at this time last year. Use that to your advantage.

And most of all, be patient. As the month rolls on, budgets increase which means revenue will go up, and so will RPM.

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