The skinny on YouTube CPMs

YouTube CPMs: A comprehensive guide

September 7, 2023

As a YouTube creator, the world of ad-based revenue holds the promise of financial reward, but understanding the intricacies of CPM rates is pivotal. This guide aims to demystify the concept of YouTube CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions), empowering creators with insights to maximize their earnings potential.

Table of contents:

  • What is YouTube CPM?
  • CPM vs. RPM
  • CPM's impact on YouTube creators
  • Unraveling CPM earnings for YouTubers
  • Calculating your YouTube CPM
  • How much does YouTube take from your CPM?
  • What is a healthy YouTube CPM?
  • Why do CPM rates vary on YouTube?
  • Which categories have the highest CPM on YouTube?
  • How to elevate your CPM game. 

What is YouTube CPM? 

Cost Per 1,000 impressions or “CPM” for short is a metric that represents how much advertisers are spending to run ads on YouTube. 

There are two main CPM types in YouTube analytics.

  1. CPM: This is what an advertiser pays for 1,000 ad impressions. An ad impression is counted anytime an ad is displayed on a YouTube video.
  1. Playback-based CPM: This is the cost an advertiser pays for 1,000 video playbacks where an ad is displayed.

CPM vs. RPM 

CPM is the cost advertisers pay per 1000 ad impressions before YouTube’s revenue share, whereas RPM or “Revenue Per Mille” is your total channel revenue per 1000 views after YouTube's revenue share.

Keep in mind: RPM tends to be a much better metric for YouTube creators, as it gives a better snapshot of where your monthly revenue is coming from.

Here’s a quick overview of the differences between CPM and RPM.

CPM's impact on YouTube creators

Although RPM is more creator-oriented, understanding CPM can provide valuable insights. Tracking your channel's average CPM overtime enables informed decisions. Plus familiarizing yourself with the rates that advertisers typically pay for topics relevant to your niche can help you generate content with higher ad-based revenue potential.

Unraveling CPM earnings for YouTubers 

Earnings stem from CPM-based ads displayed and played back, except for skipped ads. Monetization prerequisites include an AdSense account and a monetized YouTube channel.

Calculating your YouTube CPM

Your playback based CPM is the estimated average gross revenue per thousand playbacks where one or more ads are shown.

You can find your channel’s playback based CPM by visiting:

Your revenue and ad rates reports will also show you which ad types are driving the most revenue on your channel.

How much does YouTube take from your CPM?

Google offers a 45/55 split to all YouTube creators. Google keeps 45% of all YouTube advertising revenue generated from your videos, and you receive the remaining 55%.

What is a healthy YouTube CPM?

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. YouTube CPM rates vary hugely from category to category. They’re impacted by factors like seasonality, ad type and more. And they are not publicized by Google.

To determine if your current YouTube CPM is trending above or below average, you’ll need to do some research. See if you can find discussions on CPMs from other creators in your niche, and use that data as a benchmark.

Why do CPM rates vary on YouTube?

Numerous dynamics including ad types, audience demographics, location, device, seasonality and niche influence CPM rates.

  • Ad type: There are several ad types you can add to your YouTube videos and some of these are more expensive (higher CPM rates) for advertisers to run than others.
  • Audience age: Some age groups are more expensive to advertise to than others. If you’re running an educational YouTube channel for kids, your CPMs will likely be a lot different than a vlogger whose audience is in the millennial age bracket.
  • Audience location: Advertisers can control where their ads are seen. And different countries have different levels of competition in the ad market. Hence, CPM rates often vary by country. If your audience is based in a country with a top-performing CPM, you’ll see better CPMs across the board.
  • Device type: Ads displayed on mobile devices typically have lower CPM rates than ads displayed on desktop devices.
  • Seasonality: Advertisers tend to bid for higher or lower CPM rates depending on the time of year. For example, there’s usually a higher level of competition to run ads during the holiday season, so CPMs often fluctuate during this period. Similarly, if your YouTube channel focuses on a seasonal topic like snowboarding—content that’s more relevant during ski season—CPM rates will be higher during winter because that’s when more advertisers will be willing to pay to promote to your audience.
  • Niche and topic: High competition amongst advertisers and a lack of ad inventory can drive up CPM rates in certain niches. This is why YouTubers in underserved niches with hyper-focused content (e.g. personal finance, retirement) often benefit from higher CPM rates than YouTubers in oversaturated niches with broadly-focused content (e.g. entertainment, comedy, gaming). 

Which categories have the highest CPM on YouTube?

Google doesn’t make a habit of releasing CPM rates for each of its categories. But according to VloggerPro, the following niches have the highest CPMs on YouTube:

  • Ecommerce
  • Real estate
  • Insurance
  • Personal finance
  • How to make money
  • Stock market
  • Loans
  • Mortgage
  • Lawyers and attorneys
  • Software
  • Trading
  • Marketing
  • Website hosting
  • Makeup
  • Fitness

It’s important to remember that while some YouTubers are willing to reveal their CPMs online, AdSense Terms of Service discourage creators from disclosing this information. Which means that publicly available information on “who’s earning the highest CPM on YouTube” is hard to come by and difficult to verify.

How to elevate your CPM game.

Let’s get one thing straight: As a YouTube creator, you cannot increase YouTube’s CPM rates. These are set and calculated by Google and influenced by a variety of factors, many of which we covered above. You can, however, increase your chances of attracting higher CPM rates and CPM-based revenue with a strategic approach to monetization and content creation.

Enable monetization, and make sure it’s optimized

Monetized your channel? Great. Now go back into YouTube Studio and:

  • Enable monetization on all videos
  • Enable all relevant ad formats
  • Enable ads at eligible positions (e.g. midrolls)

Focus on content that attracts higher CPM rates

If you’re lucky enough to be in a lucrative niche, then this step won’t be a huge stretch. Just keep creating videos and watch that keep riding that high-CPM wave.

However, if you’re in a category that has lower CPMs, see if you can come up with content ideas that straddle the line between “videos your audience will love” and “content that typically attracts higher CPM rates”.

The only caveat here (and it’s a big caveat) is that you should always put your audience first. If you’re in the Comedy category on YouTube, don’t start making boring videos on personal finance or digital marketing just to attract a higher CPM.

Create advertiser-friendly content

If a video gets demonetized, that’s less revenue for you. Need we say more?

Improve video thumbnails and metadata

Optimizing your video metadata (e.g. video titles, video descriptions, and tags) and eye-catching thumbnails won’t improve your channel’s CPMs. But it can drive more views on your channel, which will ultimately have a net-positive impact on your ad-based revenue over time.

Don’t cram your videos with ads

While this may sound counterintuitive, taking a “less is more” approach to putting ads in your videos may actually improve your revenue over the long run. So be smart about which types of ads you choose to display on your videos.

If every single one of your videos is jam-packed with ads, you’ll risk losing subscribers and views, which is bad news for your CPM-based ad revenue over time.

Ready to Uncover Your Channel's Worth? Now that you're armed with insights on boosting YouTube CPM, the next step is to understand your channel's valuation. 

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