Login is restricted to DCN Publisher Members. If you are a DCN Member and don't have an account, register here.

Digital Content Next


InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Holiday blues? 7 tips to boost affiliate and advertising revenue

November 21, 2022 | By Rebecca Cole, Director of Content and Communications – Sovrn @sovrnholdings

We’re in the busiest — and traditionally, the most profitable — weeks of the year for retailers and publishers alike. And while we’ve seen plenty of unusual conditions over the past few years, the 2022 shopping season is creating a whole new set of challenges.

Publishers can typically rely on strategic diversification to broaden their earning opportunities and mitigate the effects of economic uncertainty.  However, the current market conditions are wreaking havoc on two of the most common income streams for publishers: programmatic advertising and affiliate marketing.

  • Advertising: Our research found year-over-year programmatic ad rates were down across the board in Q3 2022. In the US, CPMs were down 15%-20% versus 2021. The drop was even sharper in the UK, where the death of Queen Elizabeth in September prompted many brands to pause their ad campaigns.
  • Affiliate: During the same period, affiliate conversion rates in the U.S. were 25% lower than 2021 and a full 50% below 2020 levels. Earnings per click were similarly affected, as inflation continues to shrink consumer wallets.

7 tips to maximize revenue through year-end

Despite these challenging conditions, there’s still a wealth of opportunity for smart publishers this holiday season. After all, Deloitte is projecting a 4%-6% increase in holiday retail sales for 2022.

The keys to success this year? Start by understanding the current market conditions, then optimize your advertising and commerce efforts to help capture every revenue opportunity.

Here are seven tips to get you started:

1. Embrace the extended shopping season

Don’t bank on Black Friday alone to capture the best affiliate revenue opportunities. Nearly three quarters of consumers believe the best deals will come throughout November; Walmart’s month-long shopping event is a good example. Additionally, Adobe predicts discounts will continue through year-end — so keep your content fresh throughout the extended shopping season to bring your readers back again and again.

2. Leverage price floors in programmatic bidding

To maximize the value of your ad inventory, you need to optimize your pricing strategy. But first, you must understand the factors that buyers use to shape their bidding strategy — including ad attributes, page attributes, and user attributes. While each individual buyer will weigh these factors differently, knowing which variables they consider will help you set an appropriate price floor.

3. Focus on promotions

Discounts are expected to hit record highs in 2022 as retailers attempt to offload surplus inventory and attract consumer spending. With brands deliberately lowering prices and consumers looking for deals, you’ll likely find more affiliate success by offering popular products at reduced prices rather than specialty items or limited-edition merchandise.

4. Maintain high ad quality scores

Don’t dilute ad quality for the sake of increased frequency.Adding more ad units to the page or employing aggressive refresh practices will impact the rates you can earn, both short-term and long-term, as buyers will price down your inventory. Even worse, you could find your side blacklisted from future campaigns.

5. Test different commerce strategies

With constantly changing market conditions, it’s hard to predict what will resonate with readers this season. Experiment with different content strategies and be prepared to pivot quickly when you find something that works. Test a variety of content elements, including link placement, product photos, and content length. And give your audience convenient, flexible ways to shop — like shopping galleries and price comparisons — to make holiday buying as painless as possible.

6. Grow ad deal revenue

If you have existing relationships with ad buyers, leverage them to maximize revenue. Ask demand partners which audience segments, context, and inventory most appeal to them, and then package up deals to hit their objectives. If you don’t have direct buyer relationships, talk to your SSP partners. Make sure they add you to all applicable deals based on either their own measurement criteria or signals you can send from your site.

7. Keep up with ever-changing affiliate deals

This year, merchants will be pulling out all the stops to entice consumers to buy, so deals will change often during this critical time. Make sure you have up-to-date information on all the latest promotions, deals, and coupons to optimize your affiliate efforts this holiday season.

The takeaway

Whether your monetization strategy is focused on advertising, affiliate marketing, or some combination of tactics, the 2022 shopping season offers plenty of opportunities — if you know where to look. Stay nimble and keep on eye on the data to maximize your revenue opportunities. Here’s to a successful holiday season and a profitable New Year!

About the Author

Rebecca Cole is Vice President of Marketing for Sovrn, a publishing technology platform that provides advertising tools, technologies, and services for content creators to build their businesses, remain independent, and thrive on the Open Web. Rebecca has more than two decades of experience driving increased attention through purpose-driven content. She has held communications positions in tech, energy, and consumer brands and was a journalist and editor. Rebecca has an undergraduate degree from The University of Iowa and a master’s degree in journalism from The University of Colorado Boulder.

Liked this article?

Subscribe to the InContext newsletter to get insights like this delivered to your inbox every week.