What is Q1?

Q1 is the nickname for the first tax quarter of the year, but there’s so much more to it than that, especially when it comes to digital advertising.

When is Q1? 

Short for “quarter one,” Q1 represents the months of January, February and March.

In digital advertising, it’s the quarter known for having the biggest revenue slump of the year because it comes right after the fruitful Q4, when advertisers spend most of their money.

It’s not uncommon for RPMs to drop on the first day of any month, and that drop is usually a bit higher when the first of the month is also the first day of a new quarter.

And it’s the most drastic on the first day of a new quarter within a new year.

Why advertisers spend less in Q1

In the Q1 months, advertisers are faced with a new budget and a new year ahead of them, so they’re often more cautious the first few months of the year and spend less.

After all, they’re coming off of Q4, when advertising is high due to the holiday season. They are also eager to spend what’s left of their annual advertising budgets.

So when New Year’s Day comes around, it’s not uncommon to see a big drop in revenue, because advertisers’ spending plans have changed.

Don’t worry, though: Advertising spend will increase steadily — yet fluctuate — throughout the year. It is normal for RPM to change.

Q2 will see an increase, followed by a drop at the beginning of Q3, with advertising spend increasing through the rest of the year.

A woman typing on a laptop computer.

Events and Holidays in Q1

Though it is known for its lower advertising spend, Q1 will often see an increase in ad spend around events and holidays like the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day and, depending on the year, Easter and spring break.

If you see your traffic spike paired with an RPM drop around a holiday, don’t fret. This is expected behavior.

Advertisers plan their spending in advance, so when your traffic exceeds their expectations, it can affect fill rate which in turn affects RPM.

Is this true for all niches?

Typically yes, but we do see some niches succeed more than others depending on the time of the year.

Ad revenue changes by the seasons but it’s a little different for every niche.

For example, although websites with holiday content (like recipes or crafts) tend to do the best in Q4, because higher traffic often coincides with higher RPMs, websites with health and fitness content might have their best months during Q1 thanks to New Year’s resolutions.

A woman taking photograph of cookies on a table, set with a tea cup and tea pot as accessories.

How do you prepare for Q1?

The name of the game is optimization. We have an entire guide dedicated to optimizing your site to prepare for Q1.

Also, Mediavine publishers can take our RPM Challenge any time of year, but Q1 is a great time to look at your top posts and optimize them.

But the gist of it all is our magic formula for boosting RPMs: Long content that’s easily digestible with optimum ad placements.

It takes work but your RPM will thank you. Here’s a short guide to optimizing, but don’t miss this list of 25 ways to increase your RPM:

A camera records a woman holding a bouquet of flowers across a kitchen table.

Do these things, and the jump from Q4 to Q1 won’t be as bad. Q2’s higher RPMs are right around the corner.

Our team is always around to help you make the most of the lulls in RPM — don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any site-specific questions at publishers@mediavine.com.