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Declining eCPM - action checklist
What to do when your eCPM continues to drop
macavity




msg:1417283
 9:55 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone,

I've noticed a slow but steady decline in the eCPM associated with my account over the past 12 months. Compared to January last year traffic is up four-fold but eCPM is down by about 50% (can I say that without breaking the TOS as long as I don't mention specifics figures?)

I'm a fairly regular reader of this forum and I know that a lot of people have seen the same thing (traffic up, eCPM down) but there are also those who see the reverse, or no change at all. I appreciate there are some things out of our control such as the number of advertisers and the amount they're willing to bid at any one time, but leaving that out of the equation are there steps we can take to give us the best chance of at least maintaining a good eCPM?

So far, I've tried the following:

- Removed underperforming ads
- Reduced the number of ads per page
- Experimented with different colour schemes to maximise CTR

Unfortunately I've met with little success. Are there other steps I can/should take? For example:

- Does traffic from the AdWords content (rather than search) network have the potential to negatively impact AdSense eCPM due to a lower conversion rate, or are content related clicks one of those figures not factored in to the AdSense eCPM?
- Is there any point in contacting Google to ask if smartpricing is in effect (I'm guessing they're unlikely to give an answer to that, at least not a specific one as far as individual sites within an account are concerned)?

Perhaps we could develop a list of actions to take for anyone in the same boat, any suggestions gratefully received! If there's already such a list and I've missed it please forgive me and point me in the right direction ;-)

Kind regards,

Mac

 

Scurramunga




msg:1417284
 10:22 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

From my experiences I have found that either changing and experienting with different ad formats/placements or shutting down underperforming ads helps me.

I have a very small website with only about 50 or so pages yet it is doing quite wll now since I rationed the supply of ads. I also hunt down the scummy advertisers (MFA's or poor content spammy sites) under the assumption that are very low payers, especially if they are expecting to pay for clicks and sitll make a profit as publishers within the same niche. Worst of all (I believe) that besides being unethical in many cases, that they insult your readers intelligence, destroy your site's credibility and repeat business.

There is a theory going around here which I subscribe to. That theory is that bad quality advertisers or off target ads lead to a poor conversion rate which in turn leads to the dreaded effects of smartpricing.

I don't know if you mentioned much about your ctr, but I am assuming that's down also. Look for unattractive unclickable ads such as ebay etc (if they are not relevant) because they only hog up valuable space sitting there contributing to a decline in your ctr.

In short get everything as targeted as possible. Also see my post re meta tags, that might be of some help.

macavity




msg:1417285
 10:54 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

My CTR is pretty steady but looking out for poor quality ads is a good point, definitely one for the list, thanks!

Any more anyone?

Mac

Mentat




msg:1417286
 11:33 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I dont know what to do.
In this month my visitors rised from 280 000 to 320 000 unique visitors/day.
Now 320 000 is a stable figure since 2 weeks ago.

The problem is that I earn now less than when I had 280 000 and is getting lower (yesterday was a little disaster).

It's like a barrier and the more I invest in my site Google is lowering the payment :(

21_blue




msg:1417287
 11:41 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

macavity wrote:
a lot of people have seen the same thing (traffic up, eCPM down)

One potential action is to do nothing, be happy, and concentrate on producing more content. I'm not being facetious in saying this but, to open that old chestnut again (or recent chestnut in the case of my discussions with EFV), I genuinely believe it may sometimes (but not always) be misleading to worry about a "declining eCPM".

For example, suppose the world is completely static, advertisers, bids, smartprice, nos of visitors, etc.. However, the one thing that changes is your ISP upgrades their server to be much faster. As a result, by definition, traffic goes up and eCPM goes down.

This is because, in the "slow" era, a lot of people gave up waiting for your page to load. And those that were patient exited your site, perhaps via an Adsense ad, never to return. In the new "fast" era, however, the pages load much more quickly, so you get more people seeing your pages, and they are more likely to stick around your site before exiting, or return to it because it is a nice, quick site.

The earnings on our site this month are looking as if they will be roughly 5 times what they were in the first month (Dec 04). But eCPM is running about 10% lower. One reason (amongst others) for this is that we have speeded up our site and improved site navigation. As a result, the average number of pageviews per visitor has increased as they explore the site. This increases 'traffic' as measured by pageviews, which by definition depresses eCPM, but it also increases earnings because it is easier for them to find more relevant ads and they come back to the site more often.

So, the first action I suggest when observing a declining eCPM is to ask the question whether the decline is an artifact, a statistical quirk that results from a change that is actually increasing your earnings, which is where Earnings Per Visitor can help.

Mentat's post suggests that his problem is not an artifact - less income with more visitors. In that situation, we would look in detail at our channel statistics to see where any variation in earnings is coming from. Mentat, I hope this may be helpful: we use a recent 'good month' as a benchmark and make a detailed comparison of channel performance; often any decline is due to a significant change to one or two particularly important channels, not a site-wide problem.

The next question to ask is whether this is a temporary change or a long term trend. If it is a short term decline, then unless there is something obvious about the ads on the website, it may be best to leave it a while and see what happens. As a rule (with some exceptions, perhaps), the Adsense robot will try and maximise your earnings, but it can take a couple of weeks for it to do so after a change.

Even if it is a long term change, there may be nothing one can do about it. It may be a decline in bidding rates, because of a shift in the demand/supply equation (could this be happening to you, Mentat?). I'm afraid this type of change is just a tough fact of life and can only be counteracted by adding more content.

Only then, if there seems to be a long term decline not explained by other factors, is it worth trying some of the other measures. But, as I've said before, trying to manipulate smartprice is like trying to untangle a plate of spaghetti with a blindfold and gardening gloves on. It's not straigthforward.

level80




msg:1417288
 11:56 am on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

To be perfectly honest - comparing January as a month with December is not a fair comparison. In the lead up to Christmas advertising is increased. After Christmas, people tighten their belts more.

It's best to compare like with like - eg Jan 06 with Jan 05 if you want a fairer comparison.

Regarding declining eCPM - I'd look at a few factors:-

1) Have you made your site more "sticky"? Eg if visitors looked at just 2 pages then clicked an ad before but say 5 now it'll lower eCPM.

2) Are your impressions so high daily that advertiser's budgets at the higher levels are used up quickly forcing lower paid ads to be displayed?

3) Are the ads off-target (if so have you tried section targeting)?

4) Have you considered the income to be made from both alternate URLs in case Google and also making money from the 11% or so of visitors without javascript enabled?

21_blue




msg:1417289
 12:12 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

level80 wrote:
It's best to compare like with like - eg Jan 06 with Jan 05 if you want a fairer comparison.

That's a fair point, and another external factor that can articifically affect eCPM - it does seem to change 'seasonally' to some degree, in line with visitor patterns/habits/interests.

macavity




msg:1417290
 12:29 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

1) Have you made your site more "sticky"? Eg if visitors looked at just 2 pages then clicked an ad before but say 5 now it'll lower eCPM.

Great point. It's certainly true that the forums have become busier and I know that's traditionally a poor converter in AdSense terms.

2) Are your impressions so high daily that advertiser's budgets at the higher levels are used up quickly forcing lower paid ads to be displayed?

Interesting, not something I'd thought of before but a definite possibility. Is this something I can track somehow?

3) Are the ads off-target (if so have you tried section targeting)?

Targeting appears to be fairly good across the board but I've just added section targeting to the content pages of my busiest site. I'll wait a while and see if that improves those channels at least.

4) Have you considered the income to be made from both alternate URLs in case Google and also making money from the 11% or so of visitors without javascript enabled?

To be honest, no. I don't see and PSAs at all (from my location at least) but the javascript issue isn't one I'd considered before. Would that involve adding a bit of code to the page which basically tests to see if javascript is enabled and runs the AdSense ad if so and an alternative if not?

Thanks for those very useful points, very much appreciated.

Cheers,

Mac

level80




msg:1417291
 1:26 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

4) Have you considered the income to be made from both alternate URLs in case Google and also making money from the 11% or so of visitors without javascript enabled?

Regarding URLs it's explained better by Google here - [google.com ]

However I'll explain quickly:-

If Google can't find an ad instead of showing PSAs it'll show your alternate ad (that's it in a nutshell anyway).

Showing ads to non-javascript users is just a case of putting in a noscript tag which'll only show your ad to those without javascript.

caran1




msg:1417292
 4:13 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

adding new content on a different topic helps.

ArtistMike




msg:1417293
 4:32 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Generate content with higher paying keywords.

Link ads ONLY on your highest paying/earning pages.

Blocking ads that are irrelevant to the topic of the page.

Erku




msg:1417294
 4:45 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am seeing very low CTR today?

Anyone too?

macavity




msg:1417295
 5:16 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks for those last few replies. Content generation has been one of the things I've been working on pretty steadily over the last year but it's true that I could put more emphasis on content related to higher paying ads. Another good point to add to the list.

Cheers,

Mac

palomar55




msg:1417296
 10:31 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

It might seem that increasing impressions would decrease eCPM but it is inaccurate to state that increasing impressions "by definiton" decreases eCPM; it doesn't.

eCPM is calculated by using click-thru-rate, earnings/click, and impressions. If you have 100 impressions, 5% CTR and $1 EPC, then eCPM will be $50.

110 impressions, 5% CTR and $1.08 EPC = $54 eCPM.

Or 110 impressions, 5% CTR and 0.97 EPC = eCPM of $48.50

All three variables go into calculating eCPM, not just impressions.

jahfingers




msg:1417297
 10:42 pm on Jan 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

What to do when your eCPM continues to drop

Ditch G, go with YPN or Chitika. It is unbelievable, the amount of money I passed up leaving G ads on my sites. Switching was an almost instant change from terrible ecpm to higher-than-ever ecpm

macavity




msg:1417298
 12:39 am on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

YPN is certainly something I look forward to testing when it becomes available to International publishers.

Mac

21_blue




msg:1417299
 8:36 am on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

palomar55 wrote:
it is inaccurate to state that increasing impressions "by definiton" decreases eCPM; it doesn't.
eCPM is calculated by using click-thru-rate, earnings/click, and impressions.

Sorry, palomar, but your understanding of how eCPM is calculated is incorrect. The Adsense Glossary states "It is calculated by dividing total earnings by the number of impressions in thousands.".

CTR is not used as part of the calculation of eCPM, but calculated using impressions: "the number of clicks an ad unit receives divided by the number of times the ad unit is shown (impressions)".

So, if you increase impressions - eg: by increasing site stickiness - and everything else stays the same (no of visitors, no of clicks, CPC, etc.) then, by Google's definitions, CTR and eCPM will go down. This fact is slightly confounded by site-targetting, but not significantly.

Nitrous




msg:1417300
 1:40 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

From Macavity's first post

>>> Does traffic from the AdWords content (rather than search) network have the potential to negatively impact AdSense eCPM due to a lower conversion rate, or are content related clicks one of those figures not factored in to the AdSense eCPM?

Well personally speaking I always get rid of all ads that lead to pages with nothing directly to sell. If your site is supported by ads rather than actually selling a product. then you get put in the competitive ads filter. Why should you pay me less than the same users pay you?

Those types of sites are not where I want to send my visitors to - or want to help!

In my real, genuine sites created purely to give free info about a bunch of niche hobby stuff (well before adsense ever existed) my eCPM, click through, and EPC have all stayed more or less the same for well over two years. The actual income has gone up over this time from 2.5k monthly to 3.8k. This is because the search engines traffic increased.

Because they have got rid of a load of garbage "content" sites/MFAs/and also "content" taken from newsgroups etc just to put ads on from the results!

These kinds of pages are all worthless and are rightly getting less and less free traffic.
I have not updated a web page in about 2 years. REAL quality original useful content will always be valuable to users. Search engines and advertisers know this. They both like these kinds of sites. Because of this smart pricing has always worked in my favour (so far!).

If you don't like smart pricing take a good look at your "content". If you are buying traffic to click your ads then your just diluting the epc for real sites. And google get two slices of the same pie. Thats why all sites that exist only to make money from advertising, mfa's etc go straight in the bin. This also seems to have kept my own EPC / click through up!

My ad filter is full. Every time I add another bunch of MFAs the income goes up dramatically, then slowly falls untill I find another new bunch!


21_blue




msg:1417301
 2:04 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nitrous wrote:
My ad filter is full. Every time I add another bunch of MFAs the income goes up dramatically, then slowly falls untill I find another new bunch!

Nitrous, have you ever tried Jensense's idea: copy your ban list to notepad, save it, delete them all from your filter and see what happens? (You can restore the list later from the saved file).

I'm not suggesting you should, as I've said elsewhere I can see how high CTR/low conversion ads could depress earnings. However, I'm just interested in whether you (or anyone) has done this, and what the results were.

Thez




msg:1417302
 3:12 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Since Nov/Dec my traffic has doubled, ctr has remained the same so clicks are up by 100%. My daily clicks are now way over 2,000.

The result, I'm earnings less per day this month that I did on last two months. eCPM is down over 70%. While I understand that seasons affect bid prices, this is just ridiculous. Twice the clicks, and less earnings.

My site is a music site, related to instruments and stuff, so it's not really what I would consider 'seasonal'. I'm seeing 90% the same ads as before.

Any ideas of course are welcome, but I think I've done pretty much everything (blocked unrelevant ads, removed poorly performing channels, optimized the ads to get max clicks, and I run 1 unit per page).

:(

NoLimits




msg:1417303
 3:20 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

A couple months back I got tired of playing games.

Now when things on AdSense take a dive, I shift 100% of my inventory over to Yahoo. I can't think of a better way to let them know how I feel.

21_blue




msg:1417304
 3:35 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thez wrote:
I've done pretty much everything (blocked unrelevant ads, removed poorly performing channels, optimized the ads to get max clicks, and I run 1 unit per page).

Thez, of your four tactics, we've found that three of them generally depress earnings. In particular, we:

  1. Don't block ads (with one exception, a high CTR/low conversion ad, an experiment currently ongoing)
  2. Have lots of 'poorly performing' channels (though, collectively, they all add up to about 50% of our earnings)
  3. Run a second ad unit at the bottom of the page (they get very low CTR but a decent EPC and we suspect a high conversion rate; when we removed them en mass, earnings dropped dramatically).

Scurramunga




msg:1417305
 4:08 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

"My ad filter is full. Every time I add another bunch of MFAs the income goes up dramatically, then slowly falls untill I find another new bunch!"

Yep, I'll vouch for that.

Thez




msg:1417306
 8:08 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

"Don't block ads (with one exception, a high CTR/low conversion ad, an experiment currently ongoing) "

I just block ads that are totally off topic, and I clear the list like once every two weeks. What I'm blocking are ads like "Gredna Green Weedings" on my Green Day page, or something like "Oasis Hotel California" -hotel ads on my Oasis -page, etc. And the usual, yahoo and ebay.

My previous attempt at removing poor channels resulted in ecpm going up to 70% higher. But considering the situation I couldn't be doing much worse... Maybe adding a few low-performing channels back would bring me to at least what I was making previously with half the clicks...

21_blue




msg:1417307
 8:46 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thez wrote:
I just block ads that are totally off topic

Are you able to tell from your stats package how many 'off topic' visitors you have? Eg: if a page about building architecture is getting visitors who are interested in network architecture, then off-topic ads might actually provide a source of revenue, and drive up the price of on-topic ads because of the competition for space.

Some of our 'older' pages used to get quite a lot of off-topic visitors, but we've optimised most of our site, now, so we only get relevant, targeted visitors.

However, we have had really badly off-topic ads appearing even on well-optimised pages. Usually, if left to their own devices, they disappear after a couple of weeks. If they persist, though, and the whole page is mistargeted, we've asked Adsense support to reset the page, which has usually fixed it.

If your earnings really are in the toilet, perhaps it is worth temporarily (for a couple of weeks) removing all the bans and seeing if things recover.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

Nitrous




msg:1417308
 9:40 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>Nitrous wrote previously:
My ad filter is full. Every time I add another bunch of MFAs the income goes up dramatically, then slowly falls untill I find another new bunch!

>>> 21_blue asked:
Nitrous, have you ever tried Jensense's idea: copy your ban list to notepad, save it, delete them all from your filter and see what happens? (You can restore the list later from the saved file).

Yes, I often do this for a few days. Earnings and clicks tank straight away.... Hugely. Just get rid of all the those "crap" sites have no real genuine content of their own, and who are not selling anything directly. If they exist to make money from ads or affiliates then they are just another layer. They are getting more for their clicks than they pay you, or they wouldnt do it! This costs you, the advertiser and the poor surfer money and grief. Dump all such sites. Everybody wins.

Scurramunga




msg:1417309
 9:46 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nitrous,
I couldn't agree with you more.

I have tried removing my blocked list before and the effects are always negative.

21_blue




msg:1417310
 10:25 pm on Jan 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nitrous wrote:
Yes, I often do this for a few days. Earnings and clicks tank straight away....

Do you have a record of when you unbanned and rebanned these sites? (I keep a website log of changes, so I can look back, sometimes months later, to find the origin of any changes in long term trends).

If you have that record, I think it would be great to write up what happened and send your data to Google. I suspect it is difficult for them to do anything about unspecified or general observations/complaints. However, I've found them to be appreciative of well-presented, hard data, probably because that's something they can investigate.

Nitrous




msg:1417311
 8:52 am on Jan 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

no, no log...

Mentat




msg:1417312
 9:24 am on Jan 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hmm :(
Yesterday (26.01.2005) was the lowest point in earnings since october...
The traffic is normal, payment is dropping

This 47 message thread spans 2 pages: 47 ( [1] 2 > >
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