Understanding CPM in Digital Advertising

Digital Marketing
Understanding CPM in Digital Advertising
Article by Sumana Ganguly
Last Updated: March 11, 2024

Digital marketing efforts are crucial for raising awareness and reaching customers. CPM, or cost per mille, is a standard pricing model in digital marketing that represents the cost a marketer pays for every thousand impressions of a digital ad.

In this detailed guide, we’ll share what CPM is, its importance, and how to calculate it.

What Is CPM?

CPM refers to the average cost of one thousand ad impressions in digital marketing. It's calculated by dividing the price by impressions and multiplying by 1000.

CPM is used for campaigns designed to reach thousands of people and is based on the number of times an ad is loaded and viewed as an element of a web page. Understanding CPM is vital for a digital marketing strategy and how it fits into a broader company marketing strategy.

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How Does CPM Work?

CPM is a traditional online marketing metric companies use to charge for ad views. It's commonly used in media selection, web traffic marketing, and online advertising, with platforms like Google Ads and Facebook campaigns operating on a CPM pricing structure.

Because one impression carries little weight, CPM is typically measured in thousands or more and measures high-level awareness of a company, unlike a cost per click (CPC) model.

How To Calculate CPM

To calculate CPM (Cost Per Mille), divide the total cost of the advertising campaign by the total number of impressions, then multiply by 1000. The formula is:

  • CPM = (Total Cost / Total Impressions) * 1000

For example, if an advertiser spends $500 on a campaign that generates 100,000 impressions, the CPM would be calculated as follows:

  • CPM = ($500 / 100,000) * 1000 = $5

So, the CPM for this campaign would be $5, meaning the advertiser pays $5 for every thousand impressions of their ad.


CTR, or click-through rate, is a metric that measures the number of clicks an advertisement receives from its impressions online. The formula for CTR is the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions multiplied by 100.

CTR serves as a measuring stick for the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. It can provide insights on whether a CPM marketing campaign is worth it, allowing businesses to optimize their strategies for better results.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that CPM is far from the only pricing system for digital ads.

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CPM vs. CPC vs. CPA

Other than CPC and CPM, there’s also cost per action (CPA), and each of the three has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the marketing goals. As already established, CPM is a traditional online marketing metric used to pay for ad views.

CPC, or cost per click, is another popular pricing model in digital marketing, where whenever someone clicks on their ad, as opposed to simply seeing it as with CPM. This model is beneficial for campaigns that aim to drive traffic to a website or generate leads.

On the other hand, CPA goes even deeper, where advertisers only pay when a specific action is taken, such as a purchase or a lead form submission. CPA is beneficial for campaigns aiming to generate leads or sales, as it ensures that advertisers only pay for results. This pricing model is often used in affiliate marketing, where advertisers pay publishers a commission for each sale or lead they generate.

ProsBrand awarenessDriving traffic and leadsGenerating sales and leads
ConsHard to calculate true ROIDoesn’t always lead to conversionsHigh competition

Tips for Getting Started With CPM Campaigns

Getting started with CPM campaigns can be an excellent way for businesses to get their ads in front of many people. However, it can be challenging for those new to CPM campaigns to take time to figure out where to start. Here are some tips to help businesses get started with CPM campaigns:

1. Define Campaign Goals

Before starting a CPM campaign, businesses should define their goals, such as increasing brand awareness or driving traffic to a website. Having clear goals helps businesses create better targeted ads, which can lead to more effective campaigns.

2. Identify the Target Audience

While knowing the target audience is essential for any advertising campaign, it's crucial for CPM campaigns because businesses are paying for every impression. Identifying the target audience based on demographics, interests, or behaviors can help companies create ads that are more relevant to the target audience.

3. Choose the Right Ad Format

There are many ad formats available, including banner ads, video ads, and native ads. Each format has strengths and weaknesses, so businesses should choose the correct format based on their goals and target audience.

4. Set a Reasonable Budget

CPM campaigns can be expensive, so businesses should set a reasonable budget that aligns with their goals. It's also essential to monitor and adjust the budget as needed.

5. Test and Optimize Campaigns

CPM campaigns require testing and optimization to maximize effectiveness. Businesses should test different ad formats, targeting options, and content to see what works best. Continuous optimization based on the results can help companies to get the most out of their CPM campaigns.

6. Monitor Campaign Performance

Monitoring the performance of a CPM campaign is essential to ensure it meets the goals. Businesses should track metrics, such as CTR and conversions, to see how the campaign performs and adjust as needed.


What does CPM stand for in digital marketing?

CPM stands for cost per mille, which refers to the cost an advertiser pays for one thousand impressions of their ad.

How is CPM calculated?

CPM is calculated by dividing the total cost of the advertising campaign by the total number of impressions and multiplying by 1000.

Why is understanding CPM important for advertisers?

Understanding CPM allows advertisers to budget efficiently and measure the cost-effectiveness of their advertising campaigns based on the number of impressions generated.

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