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What Is the Difference Between CPM, CPC, CPL, CPA and Other Performance Marketing Pricing Models?

1081 754 Bartosz Bielecki

If you’ve only just entered the world of performance marketing, you might be slightly overwhelmed with tons of different abbreviations and unfamiliar terms.

One of the most important things to learn at the very beginning of your marketing journey is the pricing models for your performance campaigns and marketing metrics which turn them into insights. You should know by now that campaign cost needs to be factored into your affiliate business model. That’s why we’ve created this digital marketing glossary for you.

Read about various advertising models, learn the difference between CPM, CPC, CPL, CPA marketing, find out why not everything works on a cost-per-click basis, and become a digital marketer whose quality score is always on point.

Pricing Models

For starters, let’s break down the pricing models which you may encounter on your new professional path. Each of these will vary depending on which internet traffic source you choose so bear that in mind.

CPM – Cost Per Mille

Originating from Latin, the word Mille stands for a thousand views. Simply put, CPM is the cost of your ad per thousand impressions.

An impression occurs whenever the ad gets successfully loaded on a viewed webpage or application. The CPM form of pricing is most common with ads that score a lot of impressions, which usually comes down to banners and native ads. CPM rates usually range from fractions of a dollar to just a few bucks.

CPV – Cost Per View (also known as PPV – Pay Per View)

The CPV is quite a unique buying model. Unlike the CPM, it’s a cost for just a single view (unlike cost per thousand impressions), and hence, it’s not used for traditional banner ads.

You can encounter CPV when setting up a campaign utilizing alternative forms of advertising, such as video ads or pop ads. Beware that CPV rates are usually small fractions of a dollar, so mistaking the CPV for CPM can cause the campaign cost to grow rapidly drain your budget in no time.

vCPM – Viewable Cost Per Mille (also known as CPVM – Cost Per Viewable Mille)

This pricing model came up as a response to the ineffectiveness of banner ads. Sometimes ads are located in lower parts of websites, so if a user is only interested in what’s at the top of the landing page, they won’t be able to see those ads. In the best-case scenario, they might only see a small piece of them, even though, they technically count as impressions. In this case, rewarding the publisher doesn’t seem fair. vCPM lets advertisers pay only for those ads which really appear on the recipients’ screens.

CPC – Cost Per Click (also known as PPC – Pay Per Click)

This one is as simple as it gets and quite self-explanatory. Also known as pay per click, the CPC form of ad monetization means that both an advertiser and a publisher benefit whenever users click on an ad.

Unlike the cost per lead or cost per acquisition, CPC means advertisers pay whenever, and only if their ad gets clicked on. This is a popular pricing model used within digital advertising with many ad formats including Facebook ads and Google ads, usually to increase brand awareness.

CPE – Cost Per Engagement

Even though it seems similar to the CPC model, engagement doesn’t always end up being a click. The CPE model is used for specific formats, like expandable hover ads. The engagement is complete when a user hovers over an ad, so it expands to a larger size of the banner. Since this can be done accidentally, usually the pointer has to be held on an ad for at least two seconds for the engagement to count.

CPA – Cost Per Action (or Cost Per Acquisition)

In the CPA pricing model, advertisers pay only if a conversion happens. But conversions may be various things. It means that advertisers have to set up some sort of goal, which they’ll interpret as a conversion before they start their CPA campaign based on this model.

This goal (a conversion) may be a sign-up, a sale, an impression, obtaining a qualified lead, simply engaging with an advertisement for long enough, or even getting to the desired section of a website. Whenever a user achieves that, the advertiser pays the agreed rate. The rate might be a flat rate or a percentage of profits. Obviously, the cost per action model is devoured by most advertisers, yet it’s not very popular among publishers.

CPL – Cost Per Lead (also known as PPL – Pay Per Lead)

Basically a type of CPA, CPL is limited to collecting leads, that’s why CPL means cost per lead. It’s used in lead generation campaigns, so the ultimate goal for an advertiser is just to get data (like e-mail addresses) from potential customers. A CPL model is perfect for promoting newsletter sign-ups which might be then used for sale generation.

CPI – Cost Per Install

The CPI model is reserved for mobile app adverts. It works just like the CPA model, but it’s just more specific. In this model, an app advertiser pays whenever the app they’re promoting gets downloaded by a user who interacted with an ad.

REVSHARE – Revenue Share

The revenue share cost model is based on the percentage payouts off the revenue made on offers. Basically, every time some eager customer clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays publishers a fraction of their profits.

Want to Learn More About Affiliate Marketing Payment Models? Click here!payment models header

Basic Metrics

Pricing models are fundamental for calculating the costs of advertising. Some other metrics, however, come in handy when checking the effectiveness of your PPC/CPC, CPA, CPL, or CPM spending. That’s why below you’ll find a list of top metrics to follow and include in your marketing reporting. In case you’d like to learn more, just have a look at the below article.

5 Tips How To Read Data: Top Metrics & Insights For Digital Marketers

Top Metrics How To Read Data Affiliate Marketing

ROI – Return On Investment (also ROAS – Return On Advertising Spend)

One of the simplest, and at the same time the key metric for any advertising business. The Return On Investment is the relation of your profits to the capital you’ve invested. The ROI is calculated by subtracting the investment from the income and then dividing this amount by the amount of investment. If your ROI is at 0%, it means that you didn’t make, but also didn’t lose any money on your activity. A negative ROI means a loss, while a positive ROI equals gain.

Whatever works best for you, CPA, CPL, CPC, or CPM – monitoring your ROI is a must.


LTV – Lifetime Value

LTV metric is extremely meaningful for some advertisers. Imagine that you’re running a mobile app campaign based on the CPI model. Your conversion rate may be high, you might be getting a lot of installs, but it can be all in vain if users never open and use your app. This is when the LTV comes into play. It measures an average profit made off one user, which is much more important than the number of downloads.

The general formula for calculating LTV is Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) divided by churn rate. In order to stay profitable, advertisers need to keep the CPA or CPI rate lower than the LTV.

CTR – Click-Through Rate

Another one of the key performance indicators you should keep an eye on is your click-through rate (CTR). The CTR metric is simply tracking the effectiveness of your campaign in terms of the number of people clicking on your affiliate link. To calculate the CTR you need to divide the total number of clicks by the number of ad views. The higher the CTR, the more effective your campaign is. It also helps you to search for the most profitable placements and optimize your CPC campaigns. If you want to succeed you need to use a call to action on your landing page, so people will be more likely to click on your affiliate link, and that way your click-through rate will surely increase.


CR – Conversion Rate (also abbreviated as CVR)

The CR metric is quite analogical to the CTR, but instead of accounting for a click ratio, it relies on the number of conversions, which are the goals you set up (like a purchase, sign up, or reaching a particular point of a website). CR is calculated by dividing the number of total conversions by the number of people who interacted with your ad. Again, helps publishers to search for the most profitable sections of traffic.


eCPM – Effective Cost Per Mille

eCPV – Effective Cost Per View

eCPC – Effective Cost Per Click

eCPA – Effective Cost Per Action

eCPI – Effective Cost Per Install

eCPL – Effective Cost Per Lead

What the little ‘e’ preceding the pricing model brings is the metric of the effectiveness of the campaign. These metrics have been invented with unification in mind. Thanks to them, you can calculate your true CPM, CPA, CPL, and so on, regardless of the pricing model you’re operating on. For example, you can find out your rate for 1000 impressions (CPM), even if you only pay per install.

To calculate the eCPM you divide the total costs of your ad by the total number of impressions and multiply it by a thousand. To calculate the eCPA, you shall divide the total advertising costs by the total number of actions. To calculate the eCPC, divide the advertising costs by the total number of clicks. Other eXXX’s calculations are analogical.

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  • Digital marketing, one of the best platforms for any business, I am also a digital marketer and running my own DM agency and I want to say that increasing click through rate is very necessary and the above information will help the marketer to increase his efficiency and I also suggest some tricks which will help the reader- 1. Start generating urgency with countdown timers. 2. Use ad extensions to increase visibility. 3. Use symbols to get attention. 4. Put the main keyword you’re bidding on in the URL of your ad. 5. Call your readers to action to get the click.

  • Great post , its very interesting , thank you for sharing the blog

  • I have bookmarked your website, the articles are route superior to anything other comparative web journals.. a debt of gratitude is in order for an awesome site!

  • This is awesomely insightful.


  • Super Amazing tricks 21st Jun 2019 at 5:04 am

    good article and very informative thank

  • I see being able to compare apples with apples is necessary to know if you truly are being effective in your ad spend.

    That starts with having a deep understanding of exactly how each format works. Then being able to translate the figures into comparable numbers.

    Having the exact definitions is crucial to this. I always start with a good glossary. This one is great! It’s nice having these ad formats clearly explained. I’ve bookmarked this page.

  • I really enjoyed this tophic and off course my favorite tophic in digital marketing.i learn lot of things from your blog. After reading your blog i want to ask one thing from your blog? How to increase the CTR and Conversion rate? can you give me any suggestions for that?

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