January is a challenging revenue month for almost all publishers. Coming off of Q4, when advertiser spend is at its highest and people are online, scrolling through webpages with intent to purchase. But the high-traffic, high-CPMs of November and December are followed by typically the lowest in January.

The drop is largely because advertisers pump the brakes on spend, reassess the budget and analyze the performance of Q4.

You can mitigate the loss by planning ahead, always budgeting for January’s low CPMs, while also capitalizing on the lower-risk timeframe.

Ways to Offset the Slow RPMs of January

1. Clean up content

If you’re looking for a project that will pay off, assess the content Google sees in the search index. This can be done most efficiently via Google Search Console in the indexing section. You can also go to google.com and type “site:” before your website domain and Google will return the pages of your site.

Match that with analytics to see what is still getting traffic of any kind. If you can identify outdated content that isn’t getting traffic, either update it to improve the quality or noindex/remove the post. Any sort of indexing optimizations you can make to ensure Google sees more of the high quality content and less thin content, the better.

2. Tackle the riskier projects you’ve been delaying

Some of the most common issues we see for publishers are outdated design and taxonomies that no longer align with current day editorial. Newer companies with more modern design and friendlier UX are beating legacy sites who didn’t progress with the digital landscape. These projects are expensive, yes, but also big changes are risky.

January is a great month to push forward the taxonomy consolidation or redesign you’ve been putting off.

3. Publish more content

If you know you’re about to make half as much revenue, plan to double down on new content production. For mid-sized publishers, 5-10 new articles a month of high quality and brand relevant content should be enough to gain traction in your industry. If that’s your normal cadence, add to that.

Many of the publishers monetized at Freestar are enterprise-level News sites. The core of their business is content production, sometimes publishing 20-40 stories a day. For them, it might be more about introducing a different type of content to the mix. Adding an evergreen content strategy into trending news can lessen any season of slow-news.

4. Try new ad formats, like video or sizes

Ask your network about top performing ad formats. For publishers running a video player, it’s normal to see that one unit make up 20% of their overall revenue. Certain sizes do better than others, test. Another place to look is sidebars. Shorter is better, make sure the bottom ad unit is sticky and 300×600 as preferred size.

5. Test more ad units

Your ads-per-page strategy doesn’t have to stay the same all year. If you typically operate prioritizing users, with at least a moderately conservative layout, you’ll be able to afford adding to the layout in January. You can also be strategic about where you increase the amount of units. Instead of across the whole site, you can temporarily add units to a segmented group of top performers.

January Content Trends

The below trends and themes can be used across many different site verticals. Think of how they fit into yours. Aligning your content to target seasonal trends is just smart. By doing so, you’re meeting your audience at relevant and pivotal times in their life.  And second, the more search interest in the topics you target, the better.

  • Health related topics peak in January. People start the year hopeful, with goals of exercise and eating healthy. Publishers can incorporate this angle into recipes, fitness challenges, exercising, fitness products, and mental health.
  • The seasonal theme of winter provides an array of content options. Fashion, home decor, songs for kids and outdoor activities are just a few examples of how people use winter-specific search queries. Try Soovle.com for a free tool that auto-suggests the top queries across 7 or so different engines.
  • People start the year wanting to improve. Topics like organizing, cleaning, goals, good habits, productivity, planning, journaling, making new friends, decluttering, budgeting, all the things it would take for you to live your “best self”.
  • Best-of lists are always a hit, predicting this year’s trends, both content formats work and can easily fit within any vertical.
  • More official holidays on the January calendar include New Year’s Day and MLK Jr. Day.

We understand the frustrations of January CPMs. It happens every year, across every ad network and provider. but there are ways to offset the loss with quality content and even improve things across your site until it picks back up again.