Sustainable Growth

How To: Increase RPM for High-Traffic Websites

How To: Increase RPM for High-Traffic Websites

Summary: how high-traffic websites increase RPMs

There are two, and only two, discrete ways for high-traffic websites to RPM:

  1. Increase revenue per session, aka “Increase RPS”
  2. Increase total number of sessions

Think of monetizing high-traffic websites like monetizing a stretch of highly-trafficked urban highways via billboards — you can either acquire more billboards, or improve how the billboards convert their audience to action. Let's dive in. 

Quick note: how NOT to increase RPMs

Infinite ads: Yes, you can increase RPMs short term by jacking up the number of ads/billboards to the point that every viewable piece of real estate earns you money. But the strategy is not sustainable. The city will shut you down for harassing the audience, and the audience will do business elsewhere. 

Monochannel: yes, you can run programmatic ads only, or subscriptions only. However, you eliminate your ability to diversify out the inherent riskiness in any given channel.     

Video blasts: yes, video earns you more money. But a slow-to-load site will tank your long-term success. 

Infinite ads: Yes, you can increase RPMs short term by jacking up the number of ads/billboards to the point that every viewable piece of real estate earns you money. But the strategy is not sustainable. The city will shut you down for harassing the audience, and the audience will do business elsewhere. 



  • CPM is the revenue earned from 1,000 impressions of a given ad slot.
  • RPM is the sum of those CPMs for every 1,000 pageviews.

Consider, as an example, a bustling marketplace: 

  • In this marketplace, there's a main street where most of the action happens. Think of this main street as the content of the website—the focal point for visitors.
  • Now, each stall or storefront along this main street represents an ad slot. The bigger and more prominently placed the stall, the higher the cost to rent it for advertising. This cost represents the CPM.
  • When shoppers walk through the marketplace, they pass by these stalls. Each time a shopper glances at a stall, it counts as an impression. When 1,000 shoppers pass by a stall, it's akin to reaching the CPM milestone.
  • Now, imagine a shopper walking through the marketplace, not just glancing at one stall but taking in the whole scene—perhaps even stopping at multiple stalls. This journey through the marketplace represents RPM. It's the revenue generated from all the stalls the shopper interacted with during their visit.

To increase revenue in this marketplace, you have two options:

  1. Expand the marketplace: You can add more stalls for advertisers to showcase their products. This increases the volume of potential impressions and, consequently, revenue.

  2. Enhance stall quality: You can improve the attractiveness and visibility of each stall. For example, you might introduce eye-catching displays or strategically position stalls in prime locations within the marketplace. This improves the quality of inventory, similar to upgrading to a floating billboard that captivates shoppers without being intrusive.

Just like with internet advertising, in this marketplace analogy, revenue growth boils down to acquiring more advertising space or enhancing the appeal and effectiveness of existing advertising spots.

Just like with internet advertising, in this marketplace analogy, revenue growth boils down to acquiring more advertising space or enhancing the appeal and effectiveness of existing advertising spots. 

There are exactly 2 ways to high-traffic websites to increase revenue per 1,000 pageviews:

#1: Increase Revenue per Session, also known as “Boosting RPS”

"Sessions" begin when a visitor lands on a website's domain, and conclude upon their departure. To push up revenue per session, you can increase CPM, or the number of ads loaded per page. You can also deepen session engagement by fostering captivating user experiences that encourage exploration and interaction, exercise moderation in displaying ads to avoid deterring the audience, and streamline page load times to minimize instances where users abandon the page before it fully loads (i.e. reducing bounce rates).

#2:  Increase total number of sessions

Primarily achieved through the implementation of SEO (search engine optimization) best practices, which increases the number of sessions generated from organic search queries on platforms like Google, social media, or other referring domains.

Some quick hits on enhancing SEO, publishers can:
  • Enhance Core Web Vitals to improve website performance metrics
  • Optimize ad loading by prioritizing non-ad content to decrease "Page Load Time" and mitigate delays in "Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)."
  • Ensure ad placements are pre-configured on the page to minimize layout instability, thus improving "Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) Score."
  • Initiate targeted marketing campaigns across social media, paid advertising, email, etc., to drive more sessions directly.
  • Improve overall page load times, ensuring both the page content and ads load promptly to prevent user abandonment, which is particularly crucial for mobile or low-bandwidth experiences.

Digging deeper into 8 discrete ways high-traffic website increase RPM via a more streamlined tech stack 

Digging deeper into how exactly high-traffic website increase RPM

1. Enhance viewability of ad units on the page:

  • Utilize "lazy loading" to request ads when users are most likely to see them, avoiding excessive ad loading below the fold.
  • Implement a view-ability-focused refresh algorithm that tailors ad refreshes based on user behavior; (easy to implement via AI)

2. Amplify the impact of existing ad slots:

  • Increase the size of ad slots to accommodate larger ads.
  • Customize the user experience to draw more attention to ad slots through sticky features, highlighting, animations, etc.
  • Shift towards video ads over traditional display ads to enhance engagement.

3. Maintain top-level authority to safeguard user experience:

  • Analyze page speed and bounce rate to mitigate negative impacts.

4. Enhance addressability for advertisers:

  • Integrate data targeting partners to track users.
  • Drive traffic from sources with rich targeting data like Google Discover.
  • Collect more first-party data and share it with advertisers.
  • Produce targeted content to attract specific audiences.
  • Partner with anti-fraud entities to bolster advertiser trust and reduce invalid traffic.
5. Direct traffic from Google Chrome and other reputable sources to boost ad targeting capabilities.

6. Expand the pool of bidders for ad opportunities:

  • Curate the pool to remove underperformers, minimizing adverse effects on user experience and Core Web Vitals.

7. Reduce ad opportunities intentionally:

  • Set bid floors to reject low-value bids and decrease ad fill rate.
  • Decrease the number of ads shown while exploring alternative methods to increase ad loads.

8. Optimize ad inventory allocation:

  • Increase the number of ads in the initial viewport, bearing in mind potential impacts on user experience and SEO.
  • Expand the total number of ad slots per page cautiously to balance viewability.
  • Adjust lazy loading parameters to request ads earlier or increase refresh rates to optimize fill rates.
  • Extend time spent on page to accommodate more ad refreshes.
  • Lower bid floors, onboard more demand partners, and streamline ad delivery processes to decrease latency between user request and ad display.

Remember, ad slots don't only have to contain programmatic ads, or direct sold ads, or affiliate products. You're just using "ad slot" to differentiate monetized real estate vs. the E-E-A-T content on a site

The 5 Levers for high-traffic websites to increase RPM

1. Demand and Inventory Management

Balance demand, view-ability, user experience, and inventory levels.

2. Partner and Ad Configuration

Select and manage Demand Partners; Optimize Ad Slot presence and permissible Ad Sizes; Adjust Ad Refresh Rates; Implement Lazy Loading and Starting Delays.

3. Pricing Strategy

Set strategic Bid Floors; Determine the percentage of inventory allocated to Direct Sales.

4. Granular Strategy Application

Apply strategies based on:

  • Network and Site specifics.
  • Content Type and Device Categories (Desktop, Tablet, Mobile).
  • Browser compatibility and Traffic Sources.
  • User’s Internet Speed and Time considerations (Time of Day, Day of Week, Month, Holidays).
  • Geographic Location.
  • First Party Data and User-specific Information, including previous brand interactions and user engagement levels (e.g., comments).

5. Content and Data Strategy

Link ad performance to content engagement for feedback on content strategy; Employ a Data Management Platform for enhanced data collection and activation; Develop a data-driven publishing strategy that is responsive to analytics from ad content correlations.

Key Takeaways: 

In conclusion, high-traffic websites aiming to maximize their Revenue Per Thousand Impressions (RPM) can effectively channel their efforts into two distinct but complementary strategies:

  1. Increase Revenue Per Session (RPS): This approach focuses on enhancing the value of each user session. By implementing targeted advertising strategies, optimizing ad layouts, and improving user engagement through personalized content, websites can increase the revenue generated from each individual session. It is crucial to continually test and refine these strategies to align with user behaviors and preferences, ensuring that each session remains both profitable and engaging.

  2. Increase Total Number of Sessions: The second strategy involves expanding the user base or increasing the frequency of visits by existing users. This can be achieved through SEO optimization, content marketing, and social media engagement to attract new visitors, while retaining current users through newsletters, push notifications, and personalized content recommendations. Increasing the total number of sessions naturally amplifies the overall impressions, thereby boosting RPM.

By meticulously applying these strategies, high-traffic websites can not only maximize their revenue potential but also enhance user satisfaction and engagement, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and profitability. Implementing both strategies in tandem offers the best opportunity to optimize RPM and achieve sustained success in the competitive digital landscape.