In the second quarter’s first full week, we’re seeing RPMs stop dropping, changes in advertiser spending by category, new weekly traffic trends, plus four things AdThrive publishers can do right now to optimize traffic and earnings.
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What we’re seeing with ad spending and traffic trends
Overall advertising trends
Like we discussed last week, the beginning of Q2 always drops off from the end of Q1, but as we expected, this year’s drop was even more pronounced. Because the coronavirus pandemic has introduced so much uncertainty into the industry, we knew we would see substantial drops in the first week of April and were preparing for two scenarios from there: continued drops throughout the month or a relatively flat trend.
Now that we have over a full week of data for Q2, we’re able to get a bit more insight into what the future might look like. At an overall level, we’re seeing RPMs flatten out from week to week (instead of continued drops), while income is starting to tick up.
Week-over-week growth in RPM
Most site verticals see similar traffic trends and composition based on day of the week (more on that below!) so it’s best to compare RPMs for the same day of the week, like from one Monday to the next.
We now have several days of week-over-week data during the start of Q2 and have seen small RPM growth, which is a positive sign.
What we expect for the rest of Q2
Based on this, we are forecasting that we’ll see continued growth, albeit slow, through the quarter. The most risk-averse advertisers have already stopped buying, and some advertisers who had to reconfigure their ad campaigns are coming back into the market. This could change however, if the lockdowns continue and other advertisers cut their budgets due to reduced demand.
And there are other risks ahead. The coronavirus pandemic will almost certainly set off a large economic downturn in most parts of the world. That will cause more headwinds against advertising growth. If that recession continues for an extended period of time, it will continue to dissuade advertisers from increasing budgets.
Additionally, we’re anticipating that the significant traffic growth that many publishers have seen due to more people being homebound could decline as people adapt more to their new routines. And as lockdowns are lifted (even partially), that will likely cause reduced traffic. Lately, traffic increases have counterbalanced declining RPMs for many publishers. It’s too early to tell how the mix of potentially-recovering RPM in tandem with reduced traffic will impact total income, but overall revenue could decrease in some cases as a result.
Advertiser Category Trends
As Q2 always sees an initial decline in advertiser spending, most of the numbers we’re observing are negative — but some of the negatives are likely early signs of positivity.
Based on Q1-to-Q2 transition trends we’ve seen in prior years, we believe anything to the left of the vertical line in the graph above are positive signs, even though the trend might be currently negative. Drops of that magnitude are normal as advertisers reset their budgets at the beginning of a quarter and then start turning on campaigns.
Retail (almost exclusively e-commerce) continues to strengthen as more and more people shop online.
Quick-serve restaurants (like Panera, Chipotle, etc.) are beginning to grow again as they set up campaigns promoting their pick-up and delivery services.
The other categories to the left of the vertical line should show growth in the coming weeks as they are all services that consumers are still using during the pandemic.
Consumer packaged goods spending is declining significantly due to supply issues (you’re lucky if you can find toilet paper, paper towels, and dishwasher detergent right now!). Since consumers can’t find the products, the advertisers are pulling spending — but as products get back into stores, we expect this category to be a positive.
Many of the categories that have completely shut off (primarily Travel, Live entertainment, and Fitness) are not showing any signs of coming back, and that likely won’t change for a while.
We also expect auto spending to continue to decline significantly as more and more dealerships around the country close for quarantine.
Two bright spots are significant spend from the US government around the US Census and, for publishers that have significant corporate readership, we are seeing continued strength in business-to-business advertising.
Weekdays are the new weekend
It’s an entirely new era of content consumption. You might find yourself not quite sure which day it is, as everything starts to blend together — and your readers’ online habits have changed a lot over the last few weeks too.
Before the US saw major changes due to COVID-19, traffic for tons of different verticals tended to follow a similar pattern — falling throughout the week and peaking on the weekend when everyone had more free time on their hands. Now, we’re seeing content consumption staying stronger throughout the week in a number of different verticals.
One fun outlier: Family/Parenting content tends to see stronger dips by the end of the week as exhausted parents just need a break!
Changing trends mean it’s a good time to revisit everything you think you know about your readers’ typical habits. When and how do they want to access your content in this new landscape?
4 things AdThrive publishers can do right now to optimize traffic and earnings
1. Join us for vertical-specific webinars
Everyone is using the internet in brand-new ways these days, from first-time remote workers to first-time home educators to first-time meal planners. Your readers have new or heightened needs in all sorts of areas and we want to help you help them!
We’ve been collecting data and turning it into insights across several broad verticals, and we’re excited to share that with AdThrive publishers in an easy-to-digest webinar format.
Our first webinar will focus on the Food vertical, with Travel, Home, and others coming soon — stay tuned!
AdThrive Vertical Deep Dive: Food + COVID-19
Wednesday, April 15
3:00 pm EDT
Sign up here
(open to current AdThrive publishers)
2. Put RPM by Page to work
We’ve heard several great testimonials recently from publishers who are using RPM by Page in the AdThrive dashboard to optimize their earnings!
Use the report to identify your most-valuable posts and analyze them using these tips, so you can take those insights and improve lower-earning posts. You can also focus on driving high-value, engaged traffic (like your email subscribers) to your highest-earning posts — and making sure those posts are fully optimized for SEO*.
*AdThrive publishers also have free access to the SEO Mastermind Course by HashtagJeff. If you’re an AdThrive publisher and you haven’t set up your login yet, click here for more details.
3. Take advantage of new eyeballs on your posts
In general, traffic is up, up, up! If you’re receiving a surge of new visitors to your site, don’t let them get away without doing your best to turn them into long-term fans.
Capture their email addresses with a Quick Start guide like Matt Molen explains here. Building your email list is one of the most valuable things you can do right now!
4. Use Pinterest’s trending searches to inform your pinning (and content) strategy
According to Pinterest, “Pinterest usage is at all time high” right now, with trending searches that tell us a lot about how the world is reacting and adapting. We’re collectively looking in the mirror and contemplating reaching for the scissors (Pinterest searches for “home hair cuts” are up 417%) and looking for ways to work out at home with minimal equipment (searches for “home bodyweight workouts” are up over 200%).
Check out the full report on April 2020 trending searches here and look for opportunities in your own Pinterest strategy — or otherwise use what it tells you about the content your readers want to consume right now.
We’ll continue to post updates on a weekly basis and any time we have valuable information to share. We hope things continue to improve (and there’s a lot that can be done right now to set your site up for future success) but we’re here for you whatever the weather!