Since AdSense launched, it seems that every major holiday weekend that hits the US causes a panic over lowered earnings. Now, since most sites experience reduced traffic over long weekends (notable exceptions include sites about the particular holiday – ie. a turkey recipe website at Thanksgiving; a craft website at Easter) seeing reduced earnings is expected. However, the majority of publisher panic surrounds lowered EPC. And with all the smart pricing brouhaha, it seems the first thing people think is that they have been smart priced.
But there are several common reasons why publishers see not only reduced earnings (directly related to reduced traffic) but also a lower-than-usual EPC as well. And none of them have anything to do with smart pricing whatsoever.
So when will this most affect you? Any of the long weekends. And don’t forget the same thing can happen when a holiday occurs mid-week. If a holiday falls on a Thursday, people could “make a long weekend” by taking Friday off as well, which would result in lower traffic, earnings and EPC. And you will see a similar pattern begin to occur shortly before Christmas that will last into the New Year. Also consider the source of your traffic – I am Canadian, yet my sites have a majority of traffic from the US, so I need to watch US specific holidays, not just those in my own country.
First, traffic will very likely be reduced to your site. So you will see a reduction not only of impressions, but also in the number of clicks. So this is the first part of why your income is reduced over holiday weekends.
The second reason to consider is geotargeting. For example, yesterday (Friday, November 11th) was Veteran’s Day in the US. And since the amount of US traffic to your site is reduced, it is very likely you are then serving a higher percentage of your ads to non-US visitors. And because of geotargeting, an advertiser might be bidding $1 a click for US traffic, but only $.50 for anywhere outside of the US. So if you have a higher percentage of non-US visitors on Friday, even the identical ad being displayed to visitors could yield quite different earnings for that click. Or there might not be as much ad inventory outside of the US (or whichever country your traffic is primarily from) which could also mean a higher percentage of PSAs. But again, this has nothing to do with smart pricing.
The third reason to consider is advertiser patterns. And advertisers frequently lower bids or even pause campaigns over long weekends. Since many of them are taking a long weekend off, or even traveling away from home for that weekend, they cannot watch and manage their campaigns as well as they can when they are available during “work hours”. So advertisers often pause or lower bids on their AdWords campaigns for holidays. So this will result in lower paying ads appearing in their regular spots, meaning lower earnings per click because of it. But after the holiday weekend, you should see your EPC jump back up again.
Obviously, a site with primarily UK traffic will notice similar patterns for bank holidays in the UK. And likewise for other sites that have traffic predominantly from one region or country.
Does the same affect the Yahoo Publisher Network? Likely, but there obviously has not been the same history available to evaluate any changes. But I would be surprised if YPN does not have the same pattern as AdSense when it comes to earnings over holiday weekends and weeks.
So when you see your earnings take a nose-dive, consider the possibility it is a holiday weekend, before jumping off the deep end and blaming smart pricing, CPM ads, Google being evil, or any of the other varied reasons for it. There has been a recognizable pattern to holidays weekends and AdSense earnings that can be tracked back to when AdSense first launched, so it is not a new phenomenon. But definitely something you need to take into account when you see a dip in earnings and EPC on a holiday.