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Cost per mille (CPM) refers to the average cost of one thousand ad impressions or the average amount you pay every thousand times internet browsers load your ad. The “mille” in cost per mille is the Latin word for “thousand,” so to find CPM, you divide cost by impressions and multiply by one “mille” or thousand.
The equation looks like this: CPM = cost/impressions x 1000.
Some display networks offer CPM as a pricing structure or bidding option. Most Facebook campaign types operate on a CPM pricing structure as well, even if you target different metrics for optimization.
While CPM is not a metric that one should spend a lot of effort optimizing, it provides an excellent signal for campaign diagnosis. Abnormal CPM levels can alert you to possible problems with your targeting or lead you to closely examine the quality of networks and placements your ads show up on.
There are a variety of reasons why D2C brands should pay attention to CPM. Consider CPM as a health check — abnormalities in CPM might be an indication of a number of things that may lead you to conduct a more in-depth investigation and ask certain questions.
Viewable CPM (vCPM) is different from CPM in that it measures how frequently an ad is seen by users, as opposed to the number of times a browser loads it. This means that instead of tracking cost per thousand impressions, vCPM tracks cost for viewable thousand impressions. vCPM is preferable for D2C brands because they would not be charged if users do not see an ad. For example, advertisers would not be charged if a browser loads an ad that a user does not see due to an overlay that blocks the ad element.
According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), an ad is classified as “viewable” when a user sees more than half of the ad for more than one second. This also applies to video ads sold on a vCPM basis — users need to see more than half of the video for longer than two seconds.
Ultimately, because no one really sees more than half of all ad impressions, advertisers pay almost 3X more for CPM advertising to reach the same amount of people.
Now that you know what CPM is and how it is useful, what about SEO? Do not miss out on these tips and tricks to get started on your SEO journey (and don’t forget to use the template provided).
Originally published on December 8th, 2019, last updated on August 16th, 2022.