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The never-ending decline of my eCPM

     
1:27 pm on Aug 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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So, quite a few of us here who have seen a more or less significant decline in eCPM--be it due to decline in CTR or CPC or both--compared to the past years. Of course, some might have seen the opposite, but fact is most are down compared to... whatever date they choose to compare.

Well, if you ask me, it shouldn't be all that suprising that the money we can squeeze out of a visitor is declining. When 1.5 years ago, at the end of the month, I recorded an almost double-digit eCPM, I knew it wouldn't last forever. I simply didn't think the traffic was worth this much. Since then, every month was worse than the previous one.

OK, I can agree that, due to increased competition in my niche, my eCPM can go down, say, 30%. OK, I understand that people are no longer so click-happy--that's 20% less money from 1000 page impressions. I can understand that the economy tanked a lil' bit. BUT, this month's eCPM is one-fourth, or even one-fifth, of what it was 1.5 years ago! To cap it all, my currency got annoyingly strong over the aforementioned period, so that's a double-whammy. The only bright spot is actually HOW MUCH traffic I get: it has increased ca. five-fold (note that the source of traffic is almost identical--no cheap traffic etc).

So, here I am scratching on my head: Has the structure of my traffic changed SO much over this period? Or maybe it is some kind of penalty? Maybe it's just a combination of a number of factors: lower CTR, poorer traffic (not so willing to buy), a penalty, more competition? Maybe Google itself has *something* to do with this?

Whatever it is, it's just insane. My niche is education-related, so I don't think it is a very "cheap" niche--like gaming and such. Getting traffic is rather difficult and time-consuming, so I can't imagine anyone starting a website in this niche with the prospect of 10 bucks earned for 5000 page impressions.

So, is anyone here experiencing anything similar to what I have described? If so, how are you dealing with it? I do not make a living off my website, but it's really annoying because I have put quite a lot of effort into developing it.

3:34 pm on Aug 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You could have been smartpriced by Google but the more likely answer is the niche competition mixed with a poor economy.

There's really no use complaining about the Adsense drop...if you need more money I would consider trying some other niches.

7:23 pm on Aug 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The only bright spot is actually HOW MUCH traffic I get: it has increased ca. five-fold

Some sites may experience a drop of eCPM when traffic increases, especially if there's a limited amount of ads inventory for that particular niche.

8:43 pm on Aug 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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<Some sites may experience a drop of eCPM when traffic increases, <especially if there's a limited amount of ads inventory for that <particular niche.

Yeah, but we are talking about 10,000 page impressions as of today :-)
I can't have exhausted the advertising budgets in the whole niche.

Gosh, one year ago I would NEVER have thought that in the future I would look at an eCPM of slightly above $2 with respect and relief that it's not EVEN less. :-)

But hey, I'm not this kind of person who gets depressed by such things. It's more something of curiosity: what's the real cause of this decline? Of course, we won't know the answer for sure.

Anyway, September usually brings higher eCPM, so maybe I will at last get some decent eCPM... Which is what I wish anyone with ridiculous eCPMs :)

9:33 pm on Aug 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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in the future I would look at an eCPM of slightly above $2 with respect and relief

Yeah I know what you mean, I was speaking from experience too (was not being condescending). I've resigned myself that one of my site is in a bad niche and will never amount to much money. We have to learn to cut our losses and try other projects in those cases. It's just a bit sad when you realize it after soooo much work. But such is the life of a web entrepreneur. Always look forward ;)

1:20 am on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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>>>but fact is most are down compared to... whatever date they choose to compare.

On what data are you basing that opinion on to call it a fact? The fact is that publishers do not have the data to make that statement.

I am doing well year over year. So are many other publishers. You're not doing well. Perhaps it's because we're better webmasters and know enough to create better opportunities or are simply luckier than you, who knows why some do better than others. The main point is there are no facts and it's incorrect to claim a majority are suffering. To the extent that many who enter business on or offline aren't wildly successful and treading water, then that's a statistical average having more to do with the business acumen of the average individual not anything to do with AdSense itself.

Any program, whether it's affiliate work or AdSense does not guarantee riches so it shouldn't be a surprise if your niche sucks while others don't. The mindset of blaming Google for results that suck is mistaken and probably symptomatic evidence of why they're sucking if they can't even grasp why they're sucking and instead blame Google. Otherwise they wouldn't be blaming Google because it's clearly an issue of niche, followthrough, marketing ability and other factors. This sense of entitlement is what prompted incredibill to coin the phrase Webmaster Welfare when referring to AdSense (not saying you feel entitled to making more than you do).

What you need is to take control of your situation with a little more knowledge, as in knowledge is power. So can we focus on that? ;)

Now here's how you can turn it around
I think this topic is not too helpful because it doesn't directly address improving site performance, just asking for how others in the same death spiral are dealing with it. Obviously, someone who is spiraling downward on a barbed wire like you won't be able to help you as they're too busy swallowing water. What you need is to refocus and figure out what areas need improvement, and not just to have an idea of what works but most importantly WHY. Those are the questions you should be asking.

12:44 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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On what data are you basing that opinion on to call it a fact? The fact is that publishers do not have the data to make that statement.

It's just a logic of mine, it doesn't have to be correct.

I believe that an average publisher MIGHT have been making more from 1, 000 page impressions 3 years ago because people used to be more click-happy and his niche was not so crammed.

With regard to the latter, it's perfectly normal. When people realise that a business is very profitable (like Internet entrepreneurship was a couple years--at least in some niches), it becomes no longer so profitable over time: the money is splitted between extra players.

Still it doesn't mean that everyone is making less now than 1, 2 or 3 years ago from 1, 000 page impressions.

There are so many variables...

I am doing well year over year.

What do you mean? Your eCPM is stable?

So are many other publishers.

Never denied it :) There are hundreds of thousands of them!

Perhaps it's because we're better webmasters and know enough to create better opportunities or are simply luckier than you, who knows why some do better than others.

Perhaps. I'm just a 19-year-old from Central Europe--got loads to learn! :-)

You're not doing well.

Kinda... I believe that IF my website was always above $6-8 eCPM for almost fourteen months (a period that shouldn't be discounted) before it began going lower and lower (ca. 1.5 years ago) to finally reach an average of $1.8 this month, it's not quite normal. That's it. I'm not tearing my clothes, not damning Google. That's because I'm not at all dependent on the income. In fact, no one expects me to earn a living just now. I expect MYSELF to find the truth.

We have heard stories of people smart-priced into oblivion--that's an abrupt process. Mine is a prolonged one.

Any program, whether it's affiliate work or AdSense does not guarantee riches so it shouldn't be a surprise if your niche sucks while others don't. The mindset of blaming Google for results that suck is mistaken and probably symptomatic evidence of why they're sucking if they can't even grasp why they're sucking and instead blame Google.

If I was getting the same eCPM from the very beginning, I would say "OK, my niche sucks", and drop it. But since Google seems to think that I do not deserve to get more than $15/day, I'm investigating. I know this phenomenon has been described many times at WW that if page impressions grow, the eCPM often goes the opposite way. That's basically what's happening here.

Now here's how you can turn it around
I think this topic is not too helpful because it doesn't directly address improving site performance, just asking for how others in the same death spiral are dealing with it. Obviously, someone who is spiraling downward on a barbed wire like you won't be able to help you as they're too busy swallowing water. What you need is to refocus and figure out what areas need improvement, and not just to have an idea of what works but most importantly WHY. Those are the questions you should be asking.

Martinibuster, your post is a little weird to read because at some points it looks like you were replying to a standard f*ck-Google-they-stealing-my-money post, and not my post. I think I presented a little bit more reason than that.

Anyway, no one but me can solve the problem. Thus, I never expected any ready-made solutions from You. Of course, I'm thankful for any kind of help I can acquire here.

My original post, in which I described my problem in what some may consider an overly detailed manner, was aimed to find out if similar endless decline of eCPM is a frequent occurence. From the limited number of answers I got, I presume no one else suffers from this "malaise"--at least not from such an extreme case of it. And thank Goddess! This gives me hope there is at least a partial recovery ahead of me.

In my original post I mentioned that I understand declines in eCPM. And so I realize eCPMs of $5-10 are unrealistic, are the past. Right now, I would be more than happy to average an eCPM of $3.

2:39 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In my original post I mentioned that I understand declines in eCPM. And so I realize eCPMs of $5-10 are unrealistic, are the past. Right now, I would be more than happy to average an eCPM of $3.

ECPMs of $5-10 aren't unrealistic at all, for some topics. If I eliminated 95 percent of the pages on my site, or if I ditched AdSense for Content and limited myself to AdSense for Search, I could easily earn eCPMs far above that range. However, in doing so, I'd be cutting my revenues substantially. I'd be like a dairy farmer who skims off the cream, then throws away the milk and gloats about how much richer he is now that he's selling only cream.

As for the question of whether "most" publishers are seeing a decline in CTR, EPC, or both, there's no way to know unless you've got a mole working for you at Google. But even if that were true, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing: It could simply mean that Google and its advertisers are getting smarter about differentiating between valid clicks and invalid clicks, and about rewarding publishers who supply quality leads while providing less of an incentive to publishers who don't. We no longer live in 2003; the AdSense program has matured, and publishing skills (as opposed to AdSense skills) are more important than they were five years ago.

3:08 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I presume no one else suffers from this "malaise"--at least not from such an extreme case of it.

Oh there are quite a few and some have been priced out altogether.

My eCPM and real earnings are way down on a couple of years ago, basically half what they were even though my EPC is substantially up.

The biggest problem I have is my reduction in CTR even though traffic is higher.

I'll clarify this statement by saying that I now get half as many actual clicks as 3 years ago therefore it's no surprise my earnings are down even though my EPC has increased.

Whether this is caused by ad-blindness, familiarity, downturn in economies, my expensive widgets, competition in my niche, or some other reason I have not yet been able to fathom out, I simply do not know other than when my traffic levels increase my clicks do not increase proportionately, not that I expect them too however I reckon a small increase maybe ought to be expected not for them to remain static!

I always find it interesting to read that some publishers write that their traffic is up over the year and their earnings sometimes as much as 20-50%.

I'm not at the point of ditching AdSense since it is a very easy solution for my sites, even though I do have an in-house alternative and ready-to-go, however I do have a threshold below which AdSense will be removed should it go down to that and, sincerely, I hope it never does but it nearly did last Autumn!

3:37 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for you comments.

HuskyPup, I take you combine AdSense with other ways of monetizing traffic: affiliates, text links and, presumably, your own e-goods? If so, what % of the income you get from 1,000 page impressions is from AdSense?

A quick question: is your AdSense eCPM much higher than mine? (below $2)

If I found other ways to monetize the traffic, maybe the overall eCPM could reach the dreamed $3. Gee, I know that would yield "only" $30, but that's a God-send for me. :)

3:48 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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ECPMs of $5-10 aren't unrealistic at all, for some topics. If I eliminated 95 percent of the pages on my site, or if I ditched AdSense for Content and limited myself to AdSense for Search, I could easily earn eCPMs far above that range. However, in doing so, I'd be cutting my revenues substantially. I'd be like a dairy farmer who skims off the cream, then throws away the milk and gloats about how much richer he is now that he's selling only cream.

Yeah, but in the case of my website, it's unrealistic--however high the eCPM of this website might have been in the past.

4:02 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I take you combine AdSense with other ways of monetizing traffic: affiliates, text links and, presumably, your own e-goods?

Nope, we're a very old business, nearly 170 years, supplying trade widgets to our global wholesale trade. We run AdSense to give the opportunity for retail widget stockists to offer and promote their products etc. through our network of various country-specific web sites as well as our informational trade directory site.

If so, what % of the income you get from 1,000 page impressions is from AdSense?

100%, the only other ads we run (for free) is for promoting the worldwide wholesale stockists of our wdigets aimed directly towards the wholesale/retail trade.

is your AdSense eCPM much higher than mine?

August's was more or less $8.00.

To be honest when AdSense was introduced it was a beautiful fit for us since it meant we had to do nothing except add the code and go. We didn't even need to change any design, within 5 minutes thousands of pages were displaying ads automatically through one .inc file!

We had tried all sorts of different advertising proposals but trying to get trade customers across the world to actually sign-up was a nightmare.

AdSense created and encouraged its own mass-movement of businesses online extremely well simply because the advertiser was in control of the budget and could see immediately whether or not it had any effect to their business.

[/end AdSense sales pitch:-)]

11:58 pm on Sept 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An eCPM of $2 is definately unhealthy. In fact, anything below $10 needs fixing from my point of view.
2:06 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An eCPM of $2 is definately unhealthy. In fact, anything below $10 needs fixing from my point of view.

Not all topics pay well. Try to get $10 eCPM on a site about clouds. You'll be "fixing" it for a loooong time.

Finding a niche with underlying commercial interest is key these days.

8:31 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Assuming there is a gradual decline in eCPM it is a good thing for the long run because eventually YPn, MSN and others will reach a parity or tipping point where they can actually become competitors.

But I doubt Google would let that happen intentionally, they would have to be stepping into a hole that created an irreversible spiral.

I too have seen some fluctuations and have my doubts about those who claim they haven't.

8:49 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have the interesting issue of CTR on one site dropping to approx 60% of the foregoing figure on June 9. The curve is a sharp step and I have no idea why. :(
I assume the advertiser mix changed, but it doesn't *look* that different. *sigh*
10:45 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I didn't use adsense for so long, just about 1 year, but from end July until now my eCPM is at exactly 50% of previous months. Also, the traffic in July and August was around 2 times bigger than in June (so => August earnings are 50% of July earnings)

I would like to contact google to ask if my account is somehow penalized but I cannot find their contact form anymore. Seems that they removed it. Someone knows where it is now or how to contact them otherwise?

11:11 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An eCPM of $2 is definately unhealthy. In fact, anything below $10 needs fixing from my point of view.

Oh, I DO like your attitude! :)

11:52 am on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I would like to contact google to ask if my account is somehow penalized but I cannot find their contact form anymore. Seems that they removed it. Someone knows where it is now or how to contact them otherwise?

I'm not sure they are going to tell you whether your account is panalized or not.

12:51 pm on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It's just a logic of mine, it doesn't have to be correct.

Gone, I like your perspective, attitude and balance on this thread. Don't listen to the pundits whom would have you believe your revenue challenges are exclusively your problem. I’m an old bald guy with children older than you and I agree with most of your estimated conclusions.

Over the years my web site traffic has increased to the point that I need two dedicated servers to handle the load during peak hours. For the most part, AdSense revenue has dropped though recently I have seen an unexplained rise. My other revenue streams have developed stronger the AdSense. In fact, I keep reducing the number of CPC ads on my web space to ensure that my visitor eyes are on the more profitable revenue medians.

First: I strongly recommend that you diversify your revenue streams. Sell books, educational supplies, back-to school pencils, on-line tutor services or what ever.

Second: Have an old educated person review your content and site. Nothing personal, but I am skeptical that an “19-year-old from Central Europe” or anybody under 35 can crank out the level of quality that a educational site needs to keep the spenders around.

Third: Have a young educated person review your content and site. Make sure you are hip (still use these words) enough to keep your target age group around.

Forth: Don't pay for any of these services I just recommended.

2:52 pm on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you're wondering why you might be experiencing a decline in eCPM, your first step should be to determine the root cause: i.e., whether the decline is the result of a falling clickthrough rate (CTR), lower earnings per click (EPC), or both.

CTR: A falling clickthrough rate could be caused any number of things (especially if you've made any changes to your layout), including--but not limited to--Google's increasingly rigorous method of counting clicks. In the past, a click was counted if the user clicked anywhere within the body of an ad; currently, a click is counted only if the user clicks the ad's text link. This new way of counting clicks is good for advertisers (and ultimately good for the health of the AdSense network), but it obviously hurts publishers who have profited--intentionally or otherwise--from confused or clueless users.

EPC: A drop in average earnings per click could be the result of market forces (i.e., supply and demand), "smart pricing" discounts for advertisers, or both.

If you're experiencing a falling CTR, you might be able to able to improve things by trying different ad placements and formats. (I remember seeing an immediate and significant jump in CTR when I switched from 2-ad banners to 4-ad leaderboards a few years ago.)

If you're experiencing a decline in EPC, the cure may not be so easy, especially if you're in an overcrowded category where the number of publishers jockeying for AdSense revenues is growing faster than advertisers' budgets are.

5:25 pm on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have been experiencing a very regular and predictable oscillation in my eCPM, 2-3 days good, 2-3 days bad. This has been going on for months with only an occasional rare exception. It correlates with absolutely nothing that I am doing.

This is accompanied by a very slow decline over-all. Since this first phenomenon is clearly a Google artifact I think the second certainly could also be.

Nobody, repeat nobody, outside of Google can speak authoritatively on this, there are only agenda and ego driven opinions ex-plex.

8:08 pm on Sept 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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First: I strongly recommend that you diversify your revenue streams. Sell books, educational supplies, back-to school pencils, on-line tutor services or what ever.

Yes, this is definitely a good idea. I have already taken a few steps to diversify revenue streams. But it seems that for small players like myself it's not necessarily so easy to replace AdSense--even in a small fraction. Having larger websites (with over 15,000 visitors a day) opens a wide range of possibilities.

Anyway, thanks for the tips and kind words!

[edited by: Gone at 8:10 pm (utc) on Sep. 2, 2008]

1:16 am on Sept 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm sorry to read that your eCPM is on the decline. And it still amazes me that so many webmasters are willing to state their eCPM even though it's against the Adsense TOS.

Anyway, these threads tend to attract the attention of those that share this kind of problem. As martinibuster points out, there are winners and losers in this game. My eCPM is pretty steady and as my traffic increased the eCPM actually went up. I know that's contrary to what others say can happen.

I think you make a lot of good points. It's getting more competitive out there, so earning a share of the pie is getting harder. I suspect it's not going to get easier either.

2:00 am on Sept 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An eCPM of $2 is definately unhealthy. In fact, anything below $10 needs fixing from my point of view.

This made my day considering I'm super-unhealthy.