The holidays are over, and many marketers are destined to spend a great deal of Q1 recouping from the mad marketing dash that marks the end of the year. They’re devising their yearlong distribution strategies, and they’re figuring out how to deploy their budget over the next 12 months. But those who wait too long to pump money into paid distribution campaigns are missing a huge opportunity: Q1 is a goldmine of super low costs per click (CPC).
“I’ve seen significant drops in CPCs already, across the board on all campaigns,” Contently Studios Manager Amanda Weatherhead says. “Since the very end of December, CPCs have dropped anywhere from 10 to 17 percent.”
Why? It’s simple. Towards the end of each year, most companies push out a great deal of campaigns to close the year strong. B2C marketers are scrambling to engage consumers with holiday-themed content; B2B marketers are trying to drive their last round of conversions for the year. Everyone’s trying to burn through the rest of their budget while getting maximum results. That creates a competitive market—and inflated CPCs—that drop dramatically when January hits and the spending slows dramatically at a time when many brands’ paid media plans still not in place.
“Q4 will see significantly higher CPCs [than in Q1], and it is definitely much more competitive,” explained Asaf Hochman, senior director of product marketing at Outbrain, a leading paid content distribution platform. “In general, as the year progresses we often see CPCs increasing,” says Hochman.
(Full disclosure: Outbrain is a Contently partner.)
For example, Hochman notes that healthcare companies overload their content in Q4 because of flu season, and retail companies up their distribution to drive sales during the holidays.
Weatherhead also reports that CPCs went up throughout the year, meaning you’ll never find a time to buy cheaper content placements than in January. Specifically, as many brand publishers work to gain footing for their content operations in 2015, marketers are still putting their efforts into building an engaged audience around their brands. In fact, for many, 2015 is the year when higher-ups aren’t going to approve of content marketers simply creating content and throwing it against a wall (or Twitter feed) to see what sticks. They’re going to want to results and ROI. For nascent brand publishers that have yet to build a robust audience, paid distribution provides a relatively inexpensive way to get eyeballs on their content. Then, they can figure out what’s working best and optimize accordingly.
“If a brand doesn’t have a seasonal preference for when its audience discovers its content, it might make economic sense to front load an Outbrain media buy in the first half of the year,” says Hochman.
As Weatherhead urges, “Now is the time to start gaining momentum, growing your audience, and driving up engagement.”