Traffic monetization is why we all are here.

While you are dedicating sleepless nights to improving your website, polishing the content, and exploring new methods of bringing in visitors – you are obviously expecting traffic monetization results in your account statement that are worth the time invested, to say the least.

At first glance, nothing seems to be wrong with your website, but the CPM is still “below sea level.”

We get the frustration!

Olga DmitrenkoOne of the best monetization experts – Olga Dmitrenko, our Head of Traffic Acquisition, joins us today to break down the issues associated with CPM rates, explains how to overcome these challenges and transform the website into monetization powerhouse.

Today’s question is: Why is my CPM so low?

Olga says:

I want to start by clarifying the way advertising network works. Most probably, you know that there are two major participants in the advertising process: a publisher and an advertiser.

A publisher is getting paid by the advertiser who promotes his offer or a product on the publisher’s website. So far, so clear, right?

And then we come to the “grey area” – the PRICE for publisher’s traffic. How on earth does ad network decide how much a certain ad placement costs?

Actually, that’s a very good question.

We (ad network) are not determining the price, because we are not the ones who pay!

Let me give you an example. See ad network as a marketplace. Some goods are more popular and expensive than others; some are not popular at all, no one buys them. Then a holiday season comes, and the situation changes before our eyes: those not so popular goods are getting more expensive because of the demand.

GEOs and marketplace

Exactly the same principle applies to advertising. But instead of goods we have GEOs and other targeting options – advertisers want to show their ads to specific users, and they are buying the ad placements on the websites these users usually visit.

Seeing the advertisers’ prices on the Self-Serve Platform, quite often our publishers are confused with the difference between the rates advertisers pay for traffic and the rates they get as a PUBLISHER.

Broadcast Your Content with a New Push Service for Publishers

But publishers usually forget that advertisers set multiple requirements for their campaigns; e.g., they limit the GEOs, define platforms, browsers, carriers, frequency capping, and set expectations in terms of conversion rates – and many many more.

Our aim as an ad network is to fill 100% of publishers traffic, rotating those advertisers and matching their requirements with available traffic.

The final goal is to sell publisher’s traffic to the advertisers who pay the highest bids, according to the quality of traffic.

Asking about CPM rates, publishers usually expect a plain answer, but the thing is, there’s almost never a single reason that causes the rate to fall or be low initially.

We do our best to help “squeeze” the maximum out of the traffic so our publishers can get more money. Yet I can name at least 11 reasons why your traffic is not performing its best. Let’s go through them one by one:

1. Technical issues

One of the top reasons the CPM rate is sliding down is proxy traffic. It means your website is getting many visitors who are browsing privately: no real IP address of the user or real geolocation can be detected.

Usually, proxy traffic are users who are connected to the Internet through open proxy servers.

This statistic presents the use of VPNs and proxy servers among internet users worldwide in the first quarter of 2018. At that time, approximately 26 percent of global online users utilized a VPN or proxy server to access the internet. With 30 percent usage penetration, Asia Pacific was ranked first among the regions.

So, why proxy traffic costs cheaper?

Advertisers don’t like buying proxy traffic and paying high rates for it since we can’t determine whether a user is unique or not, as well, we can’t identify the actual location of the user. Let’s be honest, no website getting high organic traffic would have a high percentage of proxy users. Most likely, we are talking about “fake” traffic that we are not interested in selling to our advertisers.

2. Audience characteristics

This part is closely tied to statistics: over  time, we have determined what users are bringing the most value to our advertisers. These users usually share certain characteristics like GEO, OS type, the device they are using, browser version, etc.

There are distinct patterns, for example, mobile traffic is more expensive than desktop one, US traffic costs more than Indian traffic.

In other words, if your website is driving Tier-3 desktop traffic, you shouldn’t expect the same rates as US website would get with lots of mobile traffic. To find out more about your website audience, study the Google Analytics report.

Important! Don’t check the average CPM rate, switch to 30 days mode and analyze the stats by Country and OS Type.

CPM by OS type
CPM by OS type
CPM by country
CPM by country

3.Ad formats & Website type

Sometimes publishers are choosing ad formats that are just not right for their website type. Wrong ad format can also decrease your CPM rate!

So how do you choose an ad format?

  • Media converters, streaming websites, or sites with various downloads would benefit most from Popunder and Push Notifications ads.
  • Entertainment websites, blogs, news outlets should opt for Native Ads, Push Notifications or Interstitials.

The rule of thumb here: if there are no or very few user-initiated actions on your websites (clicks, hover-overs), it’s better to focus on Native ads range – Widgets, Push Notifications, Interstitials, Stickers.

Any website can see real results from Native ads because publishers are able to monetize each visit.

A universal solution that will work for any website, combined with any ad format, is Push Notifications ad format.

Becoming a Master Publisher: How to Combine Monetization Ad Formats

4. Seasonality

Your CPM rate depends on the season – that’s how the market works. For example, don’t panic if your rate drops in summer. In summer, the demand for most goods and services falls, and so do advertisers’ budgets. Some businesses are just cutting their expenses in summer, and start investing in ads again in September.

Seasonality has a positive side as well. CPM rates usually go higher during holidays and sporting events. In addition, according to our statistics, CPM rates are getting higher during the following months: November, December, and March.

ezoic online ad revenues
Seasonal advertising trends by Ezoic. Digital publishers experience natural fluctuations in their earnings from ads but most have trouble understanding if their increases (or decreases) in revenue over a particular time frame are specific to their site, or something affecting all sites. The Ad Revenue Index takes a statistically relevant sampling of global sites (of all sizes and demographics) and collectively indexes their ad earnings and displays them in a running real-time aggregate.

5. Ad density per page (too many ads)

What do many publishers think? “The more ads I place, the bigger profit I’m about to make.

Big mistake! In fact, overloading pages with ads won’t increase your revenue, but most likely will have the opposite effect.

If a website visitor sees 10 popunders at once, an interstitial, a push notification opt-in request and a banner – this person would hardly click any of these ads.

It’s just an overwhelming experience to see ads springing up like the mushrooms after the rain.

And if no one clicks, your CPM will go all the way down.

What do we recommend?

  1. Reduce the number of ads; it’s not just intrusive, it might slow down the page load speed.
  2. Test various ad format combinations, so your visitors can find the ads, they are genuinely interested in. Combinations we suggest:
  • Popunder + Push Notifications
  • Interstitials + Push Notifications
  • Native Ads + Push Notifications

6. Bad traffic sources

Your visitors are not clicking, registering, or purchasing – they are just ignoring ads. Why should that bother you?

After all, advertisers are not interested in users just seeing ads; they want users to take certain actions, because “seeing” doesn’t bring them money. And it doesn’t bring money to you either.

So why does this happen? Very often publishers are trying to increase the traffic to their website, and therefore, increase the monetization potential of their website. To reach this goal, they are purchasing traffic from non-reliable ad networks or services promising 500k visitors for $5, but all they get are bots. Bots don’t click on the ads and can be easily identified by traffic monitoring systems.

Compare: driving bot traffic and random users to your website vs. quality search traffic. So, what I mean is that poor quality traffic leads to low CPM rates.

Tips for Pubs: How to Increase Organic Traffic And Not Spend a Lifetime on It

You can get an idea of how quality your traffic is by checking the bounce rate. Even though bounce rate varies from industry to industry and is affected by the type of content you have on your website, it’s a good start when it comes to assessing the quality of the traffic.

See the Bounce rate value in your Google Analytics:

bounce rates

7. Ad placement

If you see that your CPM is falling, check where on the website your ads are and how often users see these ads.

For example, if you set your Push Notifications opt-in request to appear after the 4th page your user clicks while your users commonly visit two pages during one session, you can’t expect sky-high profits.

Or if popunder ads frequency is higher than recommended, and the ad appears after each click on page – you are just killing the advertiser’s landing page performance.

8. CPM rate vs. Real profits

You’ve noticed that your CPM is low. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your income would be low as well.

Publishers tend to focus on the CPM value, overlooking the actual money they are making.

That happens pretty often with publishers, who have experience working with ad networks that “show” next to impossible CPM rates, but “COUNT” less impressions for different reasons (for example, telling that they are “accepting” traffic only from certain GEOs and, obviously, not paying for the rest of traffic).

The real reasons why these ad networks deceive publishers is that they don’t have enough advertisers to fill publishers’ traffic fully. Let’s do the math.

How it should work:

  • The publisher provides 100k impressions per month
  • The CPM is $0.5
  • The revenue is $50

Compare to what some networks do:

  • The publisher provides 100k impressions per month
  • The CPM is $2
  • Ad network says that according to their data only 20k impressions were eligible
  • The revenue is $40

This is what we see way too often. And that’s how publishers get low profits with “high” CPM!

In my experience, it’s always better to check your account statement, the money you’ve earned, rather than looking only at CPM value.

Luckily, at PropellerAds we don’t have issues with the number of advertisers; therefore, publishers have no reasons to worry about impressions being wasted and get all the money they’ve earned.

9. New vs. Returning visitors

Good news – you have a stable audience of devoted visitors.

Overall, that’s a positive thing, but – here’s a fly in the ointment – your visitors are already familiar with all your ad placements. They know all too well when to close a popunder ad, they may not notice interstitials.

What to do?

  • Regularly change the time specifications and location of your popunder ads and interstitials.
  • Increase your search traffic. You need to bring in new users who haven’t seen the ads yet. For example, a streaming website with a stable audience can have up to 10 times’ difference in CPM with a news website.

You can check the number of new and returning visitors in Google Analytics. Go to “Behavior” – “All pages” and then add the secondary dimension: “Users” – “User Type.”

You can also check the stats for individual pages.

Google analytics - users

10. Visitors using AdBlock

If you are using Popunders or Push Notifications ad formats with anti-AdBlock codes, the average CPM might be lower than you were expecting.

You should check the CPM rates separately on zones with anti-AdBlock and without anti-AdBlock.

It’s normal that CPM rates on anti-AdBlock zones are lower, yet this solution allows you to monetize 100% of your traffic and get additional income. Compare:

Average CPM

Average CPM

Ani-AdBlock zone

anti-adblock zoneZone without Anti-AdBlock

without anti-adblock

More about anti-AdBlock

11. Ads & Quality

We are improving our quality guidelines for the ads allowed for promotion. It means that you won’t see misleading or “trashy” ads on your website.

Yet publishers have to understand that ads with…well… explicit content or misleading promises do have higher CTR and CPM rates.

For example, infamous “tech support” ads, promoting third-party tech support services (obviously, illegal and fraudulent) used to provide extreme CPM rates. Publishers, who caught those times, still compare “tech support” CPM rates with legal content’s CPM rates. More about misleading ads

We principally don’t work with this type of ads, because, in the long term, they usually backfire and destroy the publisher’s reputation.

Have questions you want us to answer? Go ahead and ask them here in the comments section below or send it to


Content Marketing Manager at PropellerAds