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CPM, CPC, CPA, CTR, and RPM: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to the world of marketing and advertising There are a lot of acronyms and jargon that come with it.

You might hear terms like CPM, CPC, CPA, CTR, and RPM tossed around, but what do they all mean? Is there any difference between them?

Here’s a look at each of these acronyms and what they stand for.

What does CPM Cost Per Mille?

Cost per mille (Latin for cost per thousand) is a pricing model in online advertising. Where advertisers pay for every thousand times that ad is shown.

Sometimes referred to as cost per impression (CPM), it’s commonly used to charge advertisers based on website or app views. A view is counted each time a user sees an ad.

This pricing model should not be confused with cost per click (CPC). The price may be affected by several factors including geography, device type, time of day, and audience demographics.

What is CPC – Cost Per Click

Cost per click or CPC is what it costs an advertiser each time someone clicks on their advertisement.

What is CPC - Cost Per Click

It’s one of two ways to pay for advertising on search engines like Google and Bing. The other way is the cost per thousand impressions (cost per mille or CPM).

For CPC, you typically only pay when someone clicks; with CPM, you pay no matter what.

What is CPA – Cost Per Action

We’ve all heard of Cost Per Click (CPC) and perhaps even Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM). But what about Cost Per Action (CPA)?

All these acronyms are so confusing! We’re here to shed some light on what these terms mean. Who should use them, and why do you need to know about each.

Don’t worry—we can explain it all without a single math equation.

What is CTR – Click Through Rate

Click-through rate (CTR) is a measurement of the success of a digital ad. CTR shows how many people clicked on an ad when it appeared in their feeds or search results.

What is CTR - Click Through Rate

It’s essentially a percentage that measures how many clicks your ad received compared to how many times it was shown. The higher your CTR, the more successful your campaign is considered to be.

You can calculate your CTR by dividing clicks by impressions; for example. If you had 10 clicks out of 100 impressions, you would have a click-through rate of 10 percent (or 1 percent). Read more about CTR in our Glossary post here.

What is RPM – Revenue Per Mille

Revenue per mille (commonly shortened to RPM) is an online advertising term that refers to revenue generated by 1,000 ad impressions.

In other words, it’s a thousandth of a dollar. Put another way: If your revenue per mille is $0.01 or higher you’re making at least one cent per thousand page views.


CTR stands for click-through rate (i.e., what percentage of people who see your ad actually click on it) while CPA represents the cost per action (or cost per specific outcome).

If you’re paying for clicks, then your goal is to get as many clicks as possible—but that won’t always be valuable to your business.

For example, if you pay $1.00 per click and most of those clicks are from search engine queries, then a high CTR is meaningless. To calculate the actual value of your advertising dollar, you need to factor in both conversion rates (visitors who convert into leads or sales).

AND relevant traffic numbers when determining if a campaign was successful or not. How do you know which campaigns are worth it?


A lot of people see these two terms thrown around interchangeably but there are important differences. Simply put, CTR stands for Click Through Rate.

This is how often users click on an ad or campaign when it’s served up to them via a banner (or other forms of digital advertising). Conversely, CPC refers to Cost Per Click, which is what you pay each time someone clicks on your ad.

For example, if you bid $1 per click and a single person clicks your banner in an hour then you will pay $1 for that hour. So while they may seem similar on paper they can have vastly different implications depending on what kind of advertiser you are.


When it comes to digital media campaigns, there are two primary ways to pay for impressions. First is Cost Per Mille (or CPM), which is literally what it sounds like — paying a set price per 1,000 views of your ad.

The second is Cost Per Click (or CPC), where you pay a set price every time someone clicks on your ad. One key difference between CPC and CPM is that you’re only charged for an actual impression when using CPC.


Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) is one of a few common internet marketing metrics. It tells advertisers how much they pay for 1,000 views/clicks on their ad. This is called cost-per-mille in French.

If you’re an advertiser, you don’t want to know how many people are clicking on your ad or where they’re coming from. You want to know what it costs to get those eyeballs looking at your message.

As such, cost per click (CPC) is also very common. CPC means you only care about clicks as a measure of success. You ignore views/impressions entirely when it comes to measuring performance.

CPA stands for cost per action and has two main subcategories, cost per lead and cost per conversion.

The former is all about getting someone to submit their email address, name, or phone number. So that you can contact them later on down the line.

The latter represents an outcome that meets your specific goals: maybe they buy something, Sign up for your newsletter, make a purchase over $X amount, etc.


The Cost-Per-Click (CPC) model is a form of CPC in which advertisers pay each time a user clicks on their ads.

However, with CPC pricing, it’s also possible to receive free clicks if you don’t bid enough. Rr if your ad was not shown due to issues with your website or landing page.

In other words, CPC pricing can lead to situations where you pay for no clicks at all. On the other hand, Cost-Per-Action (CPA) models are less risky since they only charge you. When the desired action has been completed by users who have interacted with your ad.

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