Get started
Get in touch
From publishing your first piece of content on the internet to earning your first dollar, it can feel like climbing a mountain, but once you’re at the top, the game of digital advertising finally begins. The most important lesson in the publishing world lies in mastering the metrics that drive your ad revenue. These metrics might seem overwhelming at first, but understanding them is key for better revenue optimization, performance management, and making smart decisions about ad placements, ad formats, and ad strategies.
In this blog, we’ll understand the essential metrics every publisher needs to know: CPM, CPC, CPA, CR, eCPM, eCPC, eCPA, and ROI. These aren’t just industry buzzwords — they’re the heartbeat of your website’s performance.
So, whether you’re new to the game or looking to refine your strategy, this article will equip you with the knowledge to optimize your platform effectively and boost your earnings. Let’s dive in.
Metric |
Formula |
Use Case |
What does it indicate? |
CPM (Cost Per Mille) |
CPM = (Total Ad Spend / Impressions) * 1000 |
Publishers use it to set effective targets for selling ad space. |
Higher CPM indicates that publishers' ad inventory is more valuable. |
CPC (Cost Per Click) |
CPC = Total Ad Spend / Total Clicks |
Publishers use it to measure revenue per click. |
Higher CPC indicates a more valuable audience. |
CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) |
CPA = Total Cost / Conversions |
Publishers use it to understand the revenue generated per conversion. |
Higher CPA may indicate a potentially more valuable customer for publishers. |
CR (Conversion Rate) |
CR = (Total Conversions / Total Clicks) * 100 |
Publishers use it to assess ad effectiveness. |
Higher CR indicates that you have an effective ad placement strategy, whereas a lower CR requires optimization of ad content or placement. |
eCPM (Effective Cost Per Mille) |
eCPM = (Total Earnings / Impressions) * 1000 |
Publishers use it to compare revenue performance across different ad formats, and revenue streams (CPM, CPC, etc.) |
Higher eCPM shows that you have an effective monetization strategy. |
eCPC (Effective Cost Per Click) |
eCPC = Total Earnings / Total Clicks |
Publishers use this to understand how to maximize revenue per click. |
Higher eCPC indicates better revenue per click, reflecting effective ad placements. |
eCPA (Effective Cost Per Acquisition) |
eCPA = Total Earnings / Total Conversions |
Publishers use it to calculate the profitability per acquisition. |
Higher eCPA means that you have earned more revenue per acquisition, also potentially on a very valuable audience. |
ROI (Return On Investment) |
ROI = (Revenue - Cost) / Cost * 100 |
Publishers use this metric to calculate the overall revenue effectiveness. |
A higher ROI means a profitable advertising strategy. |
One of the most commonly used pricing strategies is CPM, which stands for Cost per Mille, and mille means ‘thousand’ in Latin. In simple terms, CPM means cost per thousand impressions – you will get paid a certain amount for every 1000 impressions received for the ad published on your website.
So, when an advertiser is looking for a CPM value of your website, they are dealing with not only the number of impressions but also the cost of the ad campaign.
Tip: Due to its focus on views rather than clicks, CPM is best suited for campaigns where the goal is to maximize visibility and impressions rather than immediate actions like conversions or clicks.
On the one hand, a CPM value allows the advertisers to determine the specific amount of money they’ll have to pay for a given number of impressions, while for publishers like you, CPM can enable you to set effective targets for selling ad space.
These targets can vary depending on the advertiser's goals, such as reaching a small, highly targeted audience with specific interests such as looking for a luxury car, or seeking a broad audience to maximize ad exposure and brand awareness such as spreading buzz about the launch of the next big hit.
But to calculate the cost per thousand impressions, you must first understand what an impression is.
When a user visits your website, and an ad is shown or displayed to him, it is considered as one impression. You are paid irrespective of whether the user clicked or interacted with the ad when using CPM as your pricing strategy.
To calculate CPM, divide the total cost of the ad campaign by the number of ad impressions generated, then multiply the result by 1,000.
Example: Suppose an advertiser agrees to pay $50 for certain ad campaigns (cost of the ad campaign), and the ad receives 50000 impressions. Then the cost per 1000 impressions will be (50/50000) x 1000 = $1.
Thus, the CPM that the advertiser agrees to is $1.
Calculating CPM accurately allows you to establish competitive prices, draw in advertisers, and improve your revenue streams. Regular tracking and analysis of CPM data are also important to identify trends and adjust strategies.
*Insider Tip: If you have enabled lazy loading, the inventories below the fold will not be considered an impression unless the user scrolls to the part and the ad loads.
CPC, or Cost Per Click, is a pricing model where advertisers pay each time a user clicks on their ad. Unlike CPM, which focuses on impressions, CPC is directly tied to user interaction with the ad.
Even though CPM is the most commonly used metric in the online advertising industry, it is CPC that provides insights into your ad campaign’s effectiveness, and helps optimize content and ad placements.
CPC stands for Cost Per Click. So here, the advertiser will compensate you for each click generated by an ad placed on your website. This means that the advertiser will only pay for the number of times the ad has been clicked, not for the impressions it gets.
To calculate CPC, you need to know the total cost of the ad campaign and the number of clicks generated by the ad.
For example, if a campaign costs $300 and generates 100 clicks, the CPC would be $3 ($300/100) for each click.
CPC can also be calculated using CPM and click-through rate (CTR). CTR measures how often the user clicks the link in the ad.
For instance, an ad campaign receives 50,000 views and 100 clicks. The advertiser decided to pay $200. The calculation of CPC using CPM and CTR looks like the one below.
CPM= (200/50000)x1000=$4.
CTR= (Total number of clicks/total number of impressions)x100=(100/50000)x100= 0.2 or 20%.
Hence now CPC= (4/0.2)x0.1= $2.
Therefore, the cost per click is $2.
*Insider Tip: Google AdSense also supports both CPM and CPC (but there are many alternatives) and pays you based on clicks.
Conversion Rate (CR) is a key performance metric that measures the percentage of users who take a desired action after interacting with an ad. People usually confuse conversion rate with click-through rate, as unlike accounting for a click ratio in click-through rate, conversion rate relies on the number of conversions, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, filling out a form, or downloading an app.
Remember, the higher the conversion rate, the more effective your content. This ratio helps users find the most profitable portion of traffic on their website (most engaged audience) and leverage it for higher returns.
CR, or Conversion Rate, is an important term you may need to consider during an ad campaign. It means the ratio of the number of positive conversions to the total number of clicks received on the ad. The positive conversion may be a situation that profits the company for which the ad was created, like a product’s sale or subscription.
Why does a publisher need to know the CR of a campaign?
It’s simple. If your website has higher Conversion Rates, you can switch to the CPA/CPL pricing model, which is higher than CPM or CPC. This, in turn, boosts your ad revenue.
So, if the total number of conversions is 25 out of 1000 ad clicks, the CR will be 2.5%.
*Insider Tip: You can double your ad revenue with the help of header bidding.
CPA, or Cost per Acquisition (also known as Cost per Action), focuses on the cost of driving a specific user action, irrespective of clicks or impressions on the ad campaign. Just like CPC, CPA also requires users to take an action. However, you’ll not be paid until the specific desired action has taken place, which can be either making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, filling out a form, or downloading an app.
For publishers, CPA can be a useful metric to evaluate the performance of ad placements and partnerships.
CPA – Cost Per Action/Acquisition is another ad model that compensates the publisher for any positive customer action like the product sale or sign-in of the newsletter.
To calculate CPA, you need to know the total cost of the ad campaign and the number of conversions generated by the ad.
It can also be computed by dividing the cost to the advertiser by the product of the Number of impressions, Click-through-rate, and Conversion rate.
Thus,
CPA = Cost to an advertiser / (Number of ad impressions x CTR x CR)
Example: Suppose a specific ad campaign was viewed 5000 times, received 200 clicks, and there was a total of 20 positive conversions. The total cost that the advertiser decides to pay is $200. Then the CPA can be calculated as follows:
CTR = (200/5000) x 100 = 4% or 0.04.
No. of positive conversions = 20.
So, CR = (20/200) x 100 = 10% or 0.10.
Total cost to the advertiser = $200.
Thus,
CPA = 200/20 = $10.
Or, CPA = 200/ (5000 x 0.04 x 0.10) = $10.
One of the metrics that should be at the top of your list to track and improve your ad revenue is eCPM, which stands for effective cost per mille. This metric measures the amount of revenue a publisher like you can earn per thousand ad impressions through your website. A higher eCPM indicates that your ad placements are performing well and attracting high-paying advertisers.
eCPM and CPM may seem interchangeable, but they have different use cases. eCPM is a metric for publishers, whereas CPM is used by advertisers to understand the value of your ad inventory per thousand impressions.
While CPM represents the cost advertisers are willing to pay for a thousand impressions, eCPM represents a publisher’s ad revenue from a thousand ad impressions on average. In simpler terms, eCPM is an average of the total revenue earned from all the ad campaigns and the total revenue earned.
Some of the factors that influence eCPM are ad format, ad type, ad placement, geographical location, seasonality, and user engagement. The value of your ad inventory fluctuates depending on each of these factors, and thus having a holistic understanding of these factors will give you a better representation of the outcome of your eCPM.
eCPM stands for Effective Cost Per Impression, a metric measuring the revenue earned per thousand ad impressions. Calculating eCPM can help you evaluate your ad revenue and identify areas for improvement.
Example: Let’s say that a publisher earns $100 from an ad campaign, and the total number of impressions the ad campaign received is 10000. Then, the eCPM = (100 / 10000) x 1000 = $10
As a publisher, you get an effective earning of $10 for every 1000 ad impressions.
eCPM is a great metric to help publishers calculate and optimize their ad campaigns as it allows publishers to compare ad revenues across various platforms directly.
For example, if you see that a video ad on your website received 500 impressions and earned you $5, while a banner ad received 800 impressions and earned $3. You cannot evaluate the performance of both ads directly, but if you find the eCPM quickly, you will know that the video ad had an eCPM of $10 while the banner ad had an eCPM of $3.75. You can directly conclude that the video ad is making you more money.
Unlike eCPM which focuses on impressions, eCPC, as the name states, gets the value of each click. eCPC is another metric that advertisers use to understand how their ad campaign could have performed if they had used a different bidding strategy.
eCPC stands for Effective Cost Per Click, a concept similar to eCPM. However, there is a slight difference, i.e., it considers the number of clicks received by the ad rather than 1000 ad impressions. Hence, eCPC calculates the earnings made from an ad for every click that it gets. eCPC considers any additional costs associated with generating clicks, such as ad serving fees or third-party creative costs, providing a more accurate measure of the actual cost of advertising.
eCPA stands for Effective Cost Per Acquisition, a metric that provides valuable insights into the performance and profitability of your ad inventory and audience engagement.
Unlike traditional CPA metric, eCPA factors in additional factors such as conversion quality, ad targeting, ad creatives and campaign optimization to provide a true picture of the actual cost incurred per acquisition.
eCPA stands for Effective Cost Per Action. Like eCPM and eCPC, eCPA calculates the effectiveness of the CPA ad model. It is determined by dividing the total earnings generated by an ad campaign by the total number of actions taken on that ad.
Return on Investment (ROI) is an important term in the field of digital marketing. To know about the success of an ad campaign, it is necessary to analyze the overall profit gained from it. ROI is calculated by subtracting the total campaign cost from the total ad revenue earned and dividing it by the total campaign cost. Sometimes, marketers refer to it as ROAS (Return On Ad Spend).
Example: Suppose a company spent $500 on an ad campaign and earned a return of $1500 as revenue. Then, the ROI = (1500 – 500) / 500 = 2. This is equal to 200% of the cost. In other words, for every $1 spent on the campaign, the company earned $2 in return.
In digital advertising, each pricing model comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which can significantly impact your revenue and profitability. Understanding these pricing models can help you choose the best option for your advertising campaigns, optimize ad inventory, and improve ad performance.
For instance, if you are a large publisher with a large audience, CPM or CPC is the suitable model to monetize your inventories and generate revenue. The cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or revenue share pricing models may be more appropriate for you if you can deliver high-quality traffic and conversions.
If you still need clarification about which pricing model is best for you, it is advisable to connect with an adtech monetization partner. They can perform a complete website audit to analyze its strengths and choose the right solution to maximize your revenue.
Choosing the best partner from various choices can be an intricate task. Contact us today to find the right one that suits your needs and budget!
Q1. How to Calculate CPM?
To calculate CPM, you need to divide the total cost of the ad campaign by the number of impressions generated and then multiply it by 1000.
Q2. What is the CPM Formula?
The CPM formula is (Total Cost of Campaign / Total Impressions) x 1000.
Q3. What is CPC vs eCPC?
CPC (Cost Per Click) is the amount an advertiser pays for each click on their ad. At the same time, eCPC (Effective Cost Per Click) considers any additional costs associated with generating clicks, such as ad serving fees or third-party creative costs.
Q4. What is CPM vs. eCPM?
CPM represents the revenue publishers earn for every 1,000 website ad impressions. eCPM (Effective Cost Per Mille/Effective Cost Per Thousand) takes into account all the different campaigns running on the publisher’s inventory, including CPM (cost per mille), CPC (cost per click), and CPL (cost per lead) campaigns.
Q5. What is CR?
CR (Conversion Rate) for publishers is the percentage of users who take a desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase, after clicking on an ad.