Part 9 - Portfolio Management - EPC/CTR May Not Be What You Thought

Part 9 - Portfolio Management - EPC/CTR May Not Be What You Thought

I’ve been asked a lot of questions by readers on the topic of traffic optimisation and I thought that it would be worthwhile diving a little deeper into some of the metrics that underpin all our traffic monetisation earnings.

To fully understand click through rate (CTR) we need to take a look at the formula.

CTR = (total number of clicks) / (total views) x 100%

Both of the measurements used in the CTR formula are subject to various levels of filtering. For example, is the “total number of clicks” the actual number of clicks on advertisements or the number of clicks on advertisements within a specified time frame? Or is it actually the number of clicks within a specified time frame for a particular IP address? Or is it the number of clicks within a specified time frame for an IP Address/Cookie combination?

Different companies will count clicks differently and there isn’t really much we can do about this. I have unpacked views in previous articles but it basically boils down to:

Views = (Raw Traffic) x Factor

The factor is a wide range of filters that are applied to the raw traffic by monetisation sources to strip out everything except traffic that is actually monetisable. Since there is no industry standard definition for views this metric will vary greatly from one parking company to another. This does not mean that any of the parking companies are behaving in a fraudulent manner but it does mean they count things differently.

So given the fact that both metrics used in calculating the CTR are completely subjective is there any point in looking at the CTR? Let me say that comparing the CTR between companies is a lesson in futility but comparing the CTR over time for a domain within a single company is actually worthwhile.

The CTR is actually a measurement of user intent. If a domain has a low CTR then it invariably means the parked page has little relevance to the desires of the traffic visiting it. So from an optimisation perspective we want to match the traffic to the page results as accurately as possible. In many respects Google gets this pretty right but there are always cases where Google gets it completely wrong and keyword optimisation comes into play.

With the introduction of CAF (Custom Ad Frame) by Google a number of years ago it essentially means that Google now serves the parked pages. You only need to do a “view source” to see that this is the case. What Google did was mimic the various parking provider’s templates and then they serve the pages themselves. The CAF strategy was driven by Google trying to stamp out fraudulent traffic – and they largely succeeded.

What this also means that when you set a keyword Google largely views it as a serving suggestion. Setting a keyword does not guarantee that Google will use that particular keyword for your domain.

Many years ago some domainers quickly realised that by setting mortgage keywords for all of their domains they would get awesome earnings per click but really low CTR. The huge EPC rates more than offset the decline in CTR. This is one of the reasons why Google doesn’t completely allow you to set keywords anymore…..they want to provide a better user experience (ie. CTR).

Earnings per click (EPC) is exactly what is says, how much money do you make for each click.

EPC = (Total Revenue) / (Total Views)

This formula seems pretty obvious until you begin to dig into “Total Revenue”. The total revenue for a domain is influenced by many different factors, including:

  • Google tags at the parking level to encourage parking companies to maintain quality
  • Sub-tags where a group of accounts at a parking company will be evaluated on their quality
  • DRID (Domain Registrant ID introduced by Google at CAF time) – are you a good player or not?
  • Clawbacks (often known as advertising credits)
  • Account adjustments

A lot of these different metrics are wrapped up in the phrase “smart pricing”. In other words, has your domain/account been smart-priced up or down? This will all contribute to influencing the EPC.

But at its core, what is EPC? EPC is the measurement of advertiser demand on the Google advertising exchange. It’s a position on the supply/demand curve where if there is less supply the EPC goes up or if there is less demand for the same volume of traffic the EPC rate goes down.

If you ever see an EPC rate that suddenly jumps up, then it’s typically the result of a marketing manager putting the decimal point in the incorrect spot for a bid. Don’t get too excited, just enjoy the increase and expect it to fall off as their budget is quickly consumed…..with any luck you won’t get a clawback!

What we should also appreciate is that advertisements higher on a parked page get paid more than those lower down the page. The spread in EPC rates down the page will really depend upon the number of advertisers bidding for the traffic (think of it like market depth with shares).

Don’t forget that EPC is implicitly a measurement across a period of time. When you look at your parking company stats the lowest level of data you can view is the EPC rate for a day. I’ve said this before but it’s important to recap…..what you are viewing is an average EPC rate. This is vital in understanding how to optimise domain traffic.

So ultimately what domain investors want is a high CTR (user intent) and a high EPC (advertiser demand). The best way to achieve this is to examine the data, "suggest keywords" and then revisit the changes you've made......which is a LOT of work.

In my time as the vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association of Australia I had the privilege of chairing the committee for setting the online advertising standards for our nation. There is one thing that I learned from that experience, fully understanding the definitions driving the metrics is mandatory if you wish to grow your online advertising based business.

Anyone that earns money from monetising their domain traffic should spend a considerable amount of their time not just looking at their numbers but interpreting what they mean. The only way you can do this is to understand the definitions. I hope this article has helped you out on your journey…..BTW, definitions can also change over time….so beware!

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