Written by Ben Morrisroe

17 Apr, 2020

Publisher Resources

Publishers have several tools at their disposal to achieve and keep a path to revenue growth. One of the key metrics they can monitor and influence is page RPM. It’s an important metric to detect issues with ad effectiveness as well.

Although RPM is quite a volatile metric, there are several strategies you can implement to influence this metric and increase your overall advertising revenue.

What is page RPM?

RPM is an abbreviation of Revenue per Mille, or Revenue per Thousand. It’s a digital advertisement metric used by publishers that estimates the revenue a site can generate for each thousand page views. 

In a sense, it’s a metric that mirrors the much more well-known cpm, which is the cost, for an advertiser, of one thousand ad impressions.

You can easily calculate your page RPM by dividing your total estimated advertising revenue by your total number of page views and multiplying the result by 1000:

Page RPM = (estimated advertising revenue / total page views) * 1000

So if you have 1500 page views per month and an estimated revenue of 15$, your page RPM would be (15$/1500)*1000 = 10$. Increasing page views would increase your total revenue, but there isn’t a direct correlation between the two metrics. Doubling your page views won’t necessarily mean you’ll double your revenue, as there are more factors that influence page RPM.

What influences page RPM?

There are two metrics which directly influence your page revenue:

  1. Click-through rate (CTR). This metric measures the number of clicks on an ad per thousand impressions. Increasing CTR would increase your page revenue. First, because the more your ads are clicked, the more you’re paid. But also because a higher CTR means this is a high-quality placement for that kind of ads, which would allow the publisher to get a higher price per click on the ad placement bid.  
  2. Cost per click (CPC). This metric measures how much money an advertiser is willing to pay for a click on an ad placed on your site.

Increasing these two metrics will drive the growth of your page RPM. There are several strategies you can use to increase the effectiveness of your advertising real estate. 

How to increase your page RPM

The actions you take to increase your page RPM won’t necessarily have an immediate effect. So when doing A/B tests to implement any of these recommendations remember to use a significant sample size and let each experiment run for at least a week before evaluating the results.

Adopting an experimentation mindset is the most critical change you can implement. Never stop looking, tracking, analysing and experimenting with possible optimisations.

There are three main areas where you can work on improvements to increase your page RPM: your own site, the ads that are shown on your site, and the audience which visits your site.

1. Focus on your content quality

It may be a cliché at this point, but focusing on your content quality is the foundation that will allow you to command a higher page RPM. Having strong content that your audience cares about has a waterfall effect on all the other metrics and optimisations.

True, having great content is not a guarantee for success. We all know great publications with high-quality content on their niches that disappeared. But look at it from the other side: how many successful, sustainable sites you know with poor content?

2. Suggest relevant content to maintain user engagement

Content recommendation engines are designed to provide navigational pathways to related content to keep users engaged and increase their time on site. Increasing the number of page views will drive up your page RPM, as it increases the chance that the user will end up clicking on an ad.

3. Increase site speed and fix technical issues

Increasing your site and your ads loading speed is a key factor for improving user experience and ad viewability. But you should also pay attention to any other technical issue which may hurt your performance, like mobile rendering issues or broken links. These technical issues have a gradual, accumulating negative effect on your SEO efforts, which will impact your page RPM as well.

4. Increase ad viewability

How effective is an ad that is not seen by the user? Not very effective, is it? Increasingly, advertisers and publishers are using this metric to evaluate ad campaigns. There’s a growing trend among advertisers to pay only for their viewable impressions.

According to some studies, ad viewability on a desktop is around 50%. This means that almost half of the advertising investment goes to ads that are never seen by any person. For publishers, it means that if the industry would switch overnight to pay only for viewable impressions, they would lose an important part of their revenue. Is in everyone’s interest then, to take measures to increase ad viewability

According to our research, there’s a strong correlation between ad viewability and CPM, which means that increasing viewability will directly impact your page RPM.

Reducing ad latency, (increasing ad loading speed) is one factor that can impact ad viewability. Improving your ad layout and placement can also help you increase the viewability of your advertisements.

5. Optimise your ad formats and sizes

There are now a variety of ad formats that you can accept on your site: text, display, video, rich media or expandable ads are some of the options you have. Some ad formats command higher prices per click and impressions. That doesn’t mean that switching all your ad inventory to video ads will allow you to increase your page RPM. You’d need to experiment and find the optimal combination of formats that can allow you to maximize your ad revenue.

There is also a variety of ad sizes, which are defined and standardized by industry bodies like the IAB. The Interactive Advertising Bureau released in 2017 guidelines which are based on image proportions rather than fixed sizes.

Some ad sizes are used more frequently by advertisers, which results in a higher competition. Implementing these ads would drive the CPC of your ads up, which would result in higher page RPM. 

Some ad sizes are also more effective and have higher CPCs than others. You should conduct your own experiments to find out what ad size works best for you, but in general, wider advertising sizes tend to have higher CPC.

6. Diversify your ad networks

Fill rate is an online advertising metric that defines how many ad placements a publisher can fill with advertisements. You should aim to have a high fill rate to maximize your revenue potential. 
Reaching 100% fill rate is impossible due to external factors like network issues or a visitor closing the site before the ad had time to load.

One strategy to increase your fill rate is to work with an ad server that allows you to diversify your ad providers. You could serve first your own direct campaigns and then fill the rest of the ad placements with several ad networks. Doing this will allow you to serve the most profitable advertisement in each case, and also maximize your fill rate by having several options from where to serve an ad.

7. Use header bidding

Header bidding is a programmatic advertising technique that allows you to offer your ad space to multiple ad networks, which then bid for the opportunity to place an ad in your content.

Allowing ad exchanges to compete for advertisement placements is an effective way to maximise your advertising revenue. Instead of selling your inventory to the biggest ad exchanges, which was traditionally done using the waterfall model of ad selling, you sell your space to the highest bidding exchange.

Switching to header bidding from waterfall will also reduce ad loading times, increasing ad viewability and effectiveness.

8. Implement ad refresh

With ad refresh you can serve multiple ads on the same advertising placement to the same user. After a condition is met, which can be time on page, an action performed by the visitor, or any other event, the current ad is refreshed and replaced with another different ad. 

You should only refresh the ad units which the user is currently viewing. Even though cpm for those impressions will be lower than for the first ad served, you will increase your page RPM.

9. Make sure the ads are relevant to your audience

Setting up the correct targeting for your users is a critical step to increase your page RPM. Showing relevant ads to your audience increases their effectiveness as they’re much more likely to click on an ad.

You can set up different targets for different sections or topics of your website to increase the relevancy of your ads.

10. Deliver a world-class user experience for your readers

Your audience didn’t come to your site to be bombarded by ads and notifications. They came to access and consume the content you make. It’s difficult to quantify and measure, but great user experience will make your audience more engaged and loyal. Bounce rate and repeated visits are two metrics you can monitor to gauge improvements in user experience.

Repeated visitors will increase your page RPM over time. It’s a more sustainable approach than suffocating your audience with ads or implementing obtrusive ad formats that interrupt the user on their task.

11. Optimise traffic for quality

Your traffic acquisition efforts should aim to increase traffic quality and not just quantity. Users from SEO are usually high-quality, as the reason they visit your site is that they found your content relevant to their search query.

But depending on the content, you may see a different picture on your site. The best approach would be to build a profile of your referral sources and see which traffic source brings the most engaged users. You can use that profile to focus your traffic acquisition efforts on high-quality traffic sources.

A highly engaged audience would be more attractive to advertisers, which will increase their bids for ads on your sites, increasing your page RPM.

Why does page RPM change?

Remember that page RPM is an estimated metric. It’ll fluctuate and vary, so it’s important to monitor trends and use rolling averages instead of focusing on day-to-day metric updates. Any change you implement will take some time to affect your RPM, so give each optimisation enough time to evaluate their effectiveness. In any case, you should never stop testing, experimenting, analysing and optimising.

But keep in mind that page RPM is just one part of the story. For example, you could have a decrease in page RPM, due to an increase in traffic, which would also increase your overall advertising revenue. Combine page RPM with other metrics to get a complete picture of your site’s success and the ways to maximise your advertising revenue.

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