Updated March 20, 2016
Anyone monetizing a website through display ads wonders at some point how their earnings compare to their peers. Display ad earnings can be standardized through the CPM metric–or, more appropriately, revenue per thousand impressions (RPM). This figure refers to the cost to advertisers (which equates to revenue for publishers) for 1,000 ad impressions. In other words, it makes it possible to compare the earnings rates for sites regardless of audience sizes. The higher a site’s RPM, the more money it will earn for every thousand page views generated through ad networks (check out our media.net review). Don’t have a site yet? Click here.
CPM Rates By Channel
Calculating an “average” CPM (or RPM) is of course very difficult. For starters, online advertisements are of course not served exclusively on desktop computers using Internet Explorer anymore; there are multiple mediums through which Web traffic consumes content and ads. More specifically, a growing number of ads are served on mobile devices, within online videos, and within emails. Each of these channels has a number of unique characteristics that impacts the value of the ads to advertisers (and therefore the expected revenue to the publishers). We’ve compiled detailed information about average CPMs across various channels in our detailed CPM Rate Guide. A summary of this information is below:
|Ad Type||Average CPM||Verified Data Points|
|Email Ads||$5.00 [a]||3|
|Mobile Ads||Various [b]||8|
|[a] Reflects an estimated banner ad CPM for sent emails. [b] This guide contains multiple data points, including averages for iOS, Android, Interstitials, and Banner Ads|
In addition to the simple averages, each individual CPM rate guide contains:
- Education of general trends and nuances of generating revenue through each medium
- Commentary on the role of networks and impact on bottom line revenue to publishers
- Details of and links to each data point included in the analysis
Average CPMs: Traditional Display
Though ads are served in multiple environments, the most interest exists around traditional display ads. The following section takes an in-depth look at some data points for average RPMs here.
The revenue earned and RPMs generated will depend in large part on the demographics of the audience and the focus of the site. When it comes to display advertising, not all Web traffic is created equal. Some audiences are much more attractive to advertisers than others, and some verticals can command much higher rates. The more valuable the audience (i.e., the wealthier and more likely to be making a purchase), the more a site will make per visitor.
Even among similar sites, the earnings from traditional desktop display ads depend quite a bit on the site layout; the positioning and appearance of ad units can have a major impact on clicks and earnings. (See How to Place Banners: 11 Proven Layouts.) A poorly structured site in a valuable niche could very possibly make less than an optimized site in a less valuable vertical. All this to say: figuring out an “average CPM rate” is not as simple as it seems!
Research on Average CPMs (including Google CPM)
Despite the difficulty in computing averages and establishing benchmarks, there are several data points we’ve assembled that hopefully shed some light on what types of CPMs sites are generating in 2015:
- Average CPM for video ($24.60), mobile ($3.00), general display ($1.90), and premium display ($10.40) — Source: ZenithOptimadia
- Estimated video eCPMs, for indirect, midtier, and premium sites — Source: Credit Suisse
- Average CPMs to rise from $2.66 in 2012 to $4.68 by 2017 — Source: Forrester
- General AdSense Benchmarks for generic, content rich, and product sites — Source: Webglide
- DoubleClick Display Benchmark Tool — Source: DoubleClick
- Estimated CPMs for BleacherReport, HuffingtonPost, TechCrunch, SBNation, and more — Source: MonetizePros
One of the best tools for figuring out an average CPM is BuySellAds.com. Their interface is designed for buyers looking to place ads, but has some great information for publishers as well. You’re able to filter by channel to find sites generally comparable to yours, and see what they’re charging (and, in many cases, receiving). Here’s an example from their Entertainment channel:
Not surprisingly, there’s a pretty wide range in the CPMs that different publishers are earning here. But the data from this tool helps to give some timely and targeted real-world data on CPMs. We analyzed the public data on this site to add some more detail to the average CPMs being seen in the market now. Below is a summary of the top performing ad units for several different verticals. For each, we took the top ten sites listed under the “best performing” screen described as “top” (i.e., appearing at the top of the page). Note that these rates reflect the gross amount charged to the advertiser, and are for a single above-the-fold ad unit:
Updated: 15th December 2015
|Web Design & Development||$0.75||$7.00||$2.47|
|Business & Finance||$0.30||$12.50||$4.97|
|Beauty & Fashion||$0.30||$2.75||$1.61|
|Family & Parenting||$1.00||$4.95||$2.26|
|Food & Drink||$0.25||$5.00||$1.48|
|Government & Politics||$1.00||$2.80||$1.33|
|Home & Architecture||$0.25||$8.00||$2.89|
| Only 3 sites|
While this data is extremely useful, there are a few points to note:
- It reflects the gross amount paid by the advertiser; the net amount to publishers will be reduced by the ad network’s take.
- It is a relatively small sample size.
- These are the prices shown by the publishers; it’s tough to know how much demand there is at these price points (though some of the placements are currently “sold out,” indicating that there are some buyers at these prices).
- In 2014 our data showed the average CPM to be $3.10. After updating our data in 2015, the above shows the average CPM has risen by nearly 15% to $3.56.
Another data point (from a small sample size) comes from Hochman Consultants. They’ve tracked advertising costs for their clients over the past several years:
Again, this data contains a fair amount of volatility. But the general range of CPMs is fairly consistent with the other data points highlighted above.
While a 2015 article by Wordstream puts the average CPC (in Google AdWords) between $1-2.
RPM vs. CPM
It’s worth expanding upon the differentiation between cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and revenue per thousand impressions (RPM). The former (CPM) refers to the amount paid by an advertiser. The latter (RPM) refers to the amount earned by the publisher. In some instances, these amounts will be equal. For example:
- An advertiser pays a $10 CPM to run 100,000 ads (a $1,000 total expense).
- The publisher earns a $10 RPM for serving those 100,000 ads ($1,000 in total revenue).
In other cases, there may be a meaningful difference between the CPM and an RPM. This occurs for two primary reasons:
- An ad network takes a cut of the amount paid (i.e., the ad spend is split between the publisher and the network).
- A publisher has a fill rate of less than 100% (i.e., some pageviews have no ads served–or an effective RPM of $0).
To use our example above, let’s assume that the advertiser spends the $1,000 to get 100,000 ad impressions–their RPM remains constant at $10. The publisher, however, serves a total of 200,000 pageviews. Half of those show the ad, while half are blank because no ad was sold. (I.e., supply was greater than demand; in reality, this is a pretty rare occurrence given the sophistication of ad networks.) Further, the publisher used an ad network that takes 50% of gross spend. The result is $5,000 in revenue to the publisher for 200,000 pageviews, or an effective RPM of just $2.50. This is obviously quite a bit less than the advertiser CPM of $10.
Bottom Line & Further Reading
Determining an average CPM for benchmarking your site is a very tough process. The rates earned can vary significantly by vertical, and even among sites with different layouts. For improving the earnings of individual sites, the following MonetizePros articles may be useful:
- Seven AdSense Experiments To Boost Earnings
- Three Easy Ways to Make More Money With AdSense
- Take Advantage of Google’s New Testing Interface With These Three AdSense Experiments
- MonetizePros Ad Network Reviews
If you’re looking for ways to maximize revenue through direct sales, these might provide some value:
- Should You Sell Ads On Your Website Directly?
- How to Sell Ads on Your Website Directly: 11 Tips & Tricks
And lastly, if you’d like to see further information on average CPM rates (including by channel, i.e. Google CPM), don’t forget to check out the MonetizePros CPM Rate Guide.