We know Q1 can be a drag. Not just because January lasts forever, but because, in publishing, we’re all coming down from the dizzy heights of the Q4 spending frenzy. It’s always hard to readjust, but this year with CCPA and Google’s move to first-price auctions, publishers are really feeling the pinch (hey, we know, we are publishers too).
So we thought we’d share a little insight on how we can get closer to that light at the end of the tunnel. A few tips and tricks we’re employing to make the landing from the Q4 fall a little lighter. Q1 revenues will always slump, but with a bit of smart thinking (and a little proprietary technology) we can make it a lot more bearable.
VIEWABILITY AND BEYOND
Viewability isn’t always the most important variable, but when fighting declining revenues and you’ve only got so much to work with, that can change quite rapidly.
This is particularly true as Advertisers and the buy-side move to awareness campaigns in Q1, where viewability is a key KPI. Beyond this, ensuring you are running light set-ups and minimizing latency and discrepancies, will make all the difference.
We have been doing a lot of work this month on ad repositioning, with a focus on display rate rather than driving ad engagement, which has been really effective.
SWEEPING THE FLOORS
It’s a common misconception among ad traffickers that Q1 requires a radical price floor readjustment in response to the decline in competition. While that may sound good on paper, it actually results in significant revenue losses.
Proper price floor setup has always been tricky, but things look even more daunting in 2020. Google’s now all about first-price auctions and unified pricing rules, which has led a lot of networks and traffickers to drop their floors altogether. That approach is built on a kind of idealistic thinking, that presumes the marketplace will behave as it should. Surprise, surprise – it doesn’t.
We didn’t only dedicate twice the effort in optimizing our price floors, but went beyond that and actually configured different bidding rulesets for every individual partner and GEO group. For us, that was the key to unlocking it all.
Overall, optimizations in Q1 have proven to be much more sensitive to minor backend changes as compared to ones during the holiday season. In this case, the devil really is in the details.
Inflating impressions has become almost a knee-jerk reaction for publishers experiencing the usual January panic. On the whole, that’s actually not a bad tactic but simply throwing a few new placements in the mix can have a detrimental effect on revenue if not done properly.
It’s all about opening up new inventory, while at the same time making sure you’re not throwing quality and UX out the window. That’s why we built proprietary tools that can dynamically adjust what ad calls will be triggered, based on user engagement and the potential advertiser ROI each impression could deliver.
The usage of Smart inventory turned out to be a key component of our monetization strategy in January. It allowed us to increase the supply without risking any traffic loss or decreasing overall inventory value in the long term.
AUTO REFRESH? NO, THANKS.
Like it or not, ad refreshing works. We’ve actually never been a strong supporter of the concept in principle, however, the industry has reached a point where it can be the only viable solution to deliver optimal results. Well, if you’re not a fan either, you’ll probably be happy to hear that Q1 is that one time when you can flip the kill switch and know you’re better off.
Our analysis showed that in a lot of instances, static inventory was performing much better than reloading one. The reason for this trend is that as soon as you declare an ad unit as refreshing, you’re effectively unplugging AdWords from the stack, which is in fact one of the top performers at this time of year.
We didn’t turn off ad refreshing altogether, but instead looked through our data to find a new balance between reloading and static ad placements. The results – we managed to achieve the best of both worlds and ramp up performance significantly.
GOING STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
Private marketplaces and direct deals are pretty much the way to go all year round, and that’s exactly the point. Hand-picked, contextually targeted inventory that creates high purchase intent can be sold at almost full price virtually all the time. Well, that’s exactly what we did.
We started building inventory packages from day 1, leveraging different data points so we could target a wide array of potential buyers. So far so good, but how is that any different that what we’d do in any other month? Well, the key factor here is to build really high-quality, homogenous bundles, to a point that it almost seems like a huge overkill. Naturally, that requires at least twice the effort, but it’s worth it. Buyers are just way more picky in January, and rightfully so – nobody is lining up to burn their budgets on a whim.
January’s always going to be kind of slow, but that doesn’t mean you should be going in survival mode. There’s plenty you can do to minimize the effects of this year’s first trimester and we hope our list will help you get on the right track.
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