Five Ways to Increase CPMs

Five ways to increase CPMs

Sortable How-To

At Sortable, our Customer Success teams spend a big chunk of their time looking for ways to optimize our publishers' performance, which often comes down to trying to drive up programmatic CPMs. If you're just starting out on your journey of increasing CPMs, we've travelled this road before. We've developed a map of sorts, and come up with several reliable strategies to increase your CPMs. And we want to share them with you, because your success is our success.

 Optimize for viewability

Viewability fundamentally affects CPM performance as a result of a lot of advertiser campaigns making it a requirement. If a campaign from a particular advertiser requires a domain level viewability of at least 60% to bid and your site falls below that, then you simply aren't eligible for these (typically higher-paying) campaigns. If your site or an ad unit has low viewability, implementing changes to increase this metric should definitely be one of the first actions you take to increase CPMs. Viewability by ad unit contributes to the overall viewability metric for the site and impacts other ad units' attractiveness to advertisers, so a wholistic approach should be considered. Generally, you should consider removing or improving ad units with less than 30% viewability.

Another option to consider is implementing viewable ad refresh on ad units which have high viewability and are in the viewport for a long enough time. We recommend against tagging all ad units on a site as viewable refresh, because if the ad unit doesn't actually ever refresh, the ad unit could be penalized from a CPM point of view. There is a point at which increasing visibility doesn't keep resulting in large CPM increases. For example, increasing viewability from 70% to 90% will not have as much impact as increasing viewability from 40% to 60%.

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Figure 1 displays data for a site partnered with Sortable. It shows a clear correlation between viewability and CPM. Viewability increased from 20% to 60% and CPMs almost doubled!

Figure 1 - Ad viewabillity vs. CPM
Viewability and CPM


 Be smart about how you deploy your demand
With the upsurge of header-bidding over the last few years, many publishers and ad-tech providers are focused on increasing demand density. This has led to some pretty crowded stacks loaded with a lot of resellers and bloated ads.txt files. Regardless of your stack size, think critically about where each partner is adding the most value. Is it certain ad sizes or placements? Maybe some partners do better in certain geographic areas than others. Target partners to the segments of traffic where they perform the best (and remove them from segments where they don't add lift) to help streamline how partners see your inventory and improve performance. 

 If flooring, start with the simpler dimensions first
Flooring is something that should be avoided unless you really want to spend the time to do it well. Should you decide to venture down this path, when you start, don't be over eager and set floors on basic things. Size is a good dimension to consider (Larger ad sizes typically have higher CPMs, but not always. Check out our blog post Tips for Optimizing Your Ad Sizes for more info). If you have a mix of geographic areas, then you might want to look at flooring by different geographic areas. While static floors are hard to execute well, dynamic floors perform much better, but are complicated to implement because a significant sample set of data is needed. As a pioneer in dynamic flooring, Sortable knows how complicated flooring can be and has automated flooring to ensure floors are continuously optimized.

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Figure 3 - A comparison of ad unit size vs. average CPM
Ad Unit Size and CPM

 Remember your audience
Your ad stack could be a finely-tuned machine, but you may still experience swings in CPMs when different audiences visit your site. Primarily, this is a result of the type of content you're producing and/or the means by which your audience is discovering it. Pay attention to Page and Session RPM across things like traffic source, content type, section, and page layout. DFP key-values can help you keep track of these dimensions and it's worthwhile to understand how they work, as the impact of changing them is often much broader than you'd expect (For more information about reporting on traffic source by UTM parameters, check out A UTM Primer).

Figure 4 - Sample average CPM by traffic source
CPM by Traffic Source


 Do more of what is working
A good ad ops philosophy to drive yield is to identify what is performing the worst and fix that thing. It's much harder to get something that's performing extremely well to perform better. Sometimes it's less about tinkering and more about doing what you know works, consistently. So, make sure you understand what's working well “ find what drives high session RPMs and try to make that as repeatable and scalable as you can.

If you need help implementing any (or all!) of the ideas discussed in this blog post, contact us at Sortable.

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