Facebook Ad Costs Explained:
CPM, CPC, CPA and More.

The basic abbreviations you need to know.
Maxwell Gollin
Maxwell Gollin
April 12, 2018 - 6 min. read

CPC, CPM, CPA, CPL, CVS, CD-ROM…sometimes the acronyms for ad costs on Facebook get confusing (okay, fine, the last two aren’t real Facebook ad terms).

That’s why we’ve set out to clarify what each Facebook advertising acronym means. We’ll also offer some insights on when you should optimize for each cost metric.

Whether you’re a veteran Facebook marketer who needs a quick refresher or a new SMM getting buried under the weight of a million abbreviations, we’ve got you covered.

Facebook ad costs: the ABCs of CPA

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In alphabetical order, let’s run through the basic Facebook ad cost terms every social media marketer needs to know.

What is CPA on Facebook?

CPA stands for cost per action. Known on other digital marketing channels as cost per conversion, this is the price you pay for each action a user takes on your website because of your Facebook ad.

An action could be a purchase, a newsletter sign up, an app download, or one of several other conversions.

You pick the desired action ahead of time, then track user interactions with your ad that lead to that action. Facebook will then optimize your ads so you get as many actions as possible within your set ad budget.

What is CPC on Facebook?

CPC stands for cost per click. This is the price you pay for each click on your Facebook ad.

You can choose to optimize for CPC if you want as many visits to your website as possible. Facebook will try get you as many clicks as it can within your budget if you choose this option.

While this used to include clicks on any part of an ad, Facebook announced in a 2015 update that CPC now only counts “link clicks” that relate to specific ad objectives.

Here is the official list of clicks that factor into your cost per click on Facebook:

-Clicks to visit another website
-Call-to-action clicks that go to another website (i.e., “Shop Now”)
-Clicks to install an app
-Clicks to Facebook canvas apps
-Clicks to view a video on another website

What is CPL on Facebook?

CPL stands for cost per like. This is the price you pay for each like on your Facebook Page that comes from your Facebook ad.

You should choose to optimize for CPL if you want to grow your follower base on Facebook and cultivate a community around your brand.

If you select this option, Facebook will track interactions with your ad that result in Page likes and get as many as they can for your budget.

CPL counts a like when a user clicks the Page Likes button on your ad. It also counts a like when someone sees your ad and later clicks the like button on your actual Page.

By default, Facebook will count any Page like that happened within 1 day of seeing your ad. However, you can adjust this attribution window in Facebook Ads Manager.

What is CPM on Facebook?

CPM stands for cost per mille. This is the price you pay for 1,000 impressions on your Facebook ad.

Fun fact of the day: ‘mille’ means 1,000 in Latin.

You should optimize for CPM on Facebook if you’re looking to get your ad seen as much as possible. If you select this option, Facebook will get your ad in front of as many eyeballs as it can within your budget.

But what counts as an impression on Facebook ads, exactly? Well, Facebook formerly counted an impression every time your ad was placed in someone’s News Feed.

As of November 2016, however, Facebook has only charged for “viewable impressions”.

Viewable impressions only count if your ad enters the screen of the user, so they’re a lot more valuable than “impressions” that users never see.

Why pay per 1,000 impressions instead of per individual impression?

Impressions are pretty cheap (the average CPM on Facebook for Q4 2017 was $12.45 in the US), so if you counted the cost of each one you’d be dealing with fractions of a cent—it’s just easier to multiply by 1,000.

What is CPV on Facebook?

CPV stands for cost per view. This is the price you pay for a view on your Facebook video ad.

You should optimize for CPV on Facebook if you want people to pay attention to your video content. With this option, Facebook will get as many views of a given duration as it can for your ad budget.

You’re probably wondering what actually counts as a view, right? If someone just looks at your video ad for one second and keeps scrolling, will your CPV take that into account?

Fortunately, no.

As of November 2016, Facebook has two separate ad cost metrics for video views: cost per 3-second video view and cost per 10-second video view.

So, you can either look at the price you paid for each view that lasted three seconds or longer or you can see how much you’re paying for views that last 10 seconds or longer.

EMFBAA (Even more Facebook advertising acronyms)

What is CTR on Facebook?

CTR stands for click-through rate. This is the percentage of people who actually clicked on your ad after seeing it.

To calculate CTR on Facebook, divide the number of link clicks on your Facebook ad by the number of ad impressions (x 100% to get a percentage). 

For example, if 100 people see your ad and 10 of them click on your link, then your CTR on Facebook would be (10 link clicks/100 impressions) x 100%, or a 10% click-through rate (which would be awesome).

Looking at your CTR is a great way to see how well your ad is performing, since it basically tells you how many users were interested enough your ad enough to actually click on it.

A low click-through rate on Facebook shows you that your ad was not very engaging to those who saw it.

A high click-through rate, meanwhile, probably indicates that the ad was really convincing.

What is CVR on Facebook?

CVR stands for conversion rate. This is the percentage of link clicks to your website that resulted in a conversion (a purchase, a webinar signup, or any other form of lead generation).

To calculate CVR, divide conversions from your Facebook ad by the total number of link clicks it received, then multiply by 100%.

So if you had 100 people click the link in your ad and 5 convert on your landing page, your conversion rate on Facebook would be (5 conversions/100 link clicks) x 100% = 5%.

Examining your CVR is excellent for determining the effectiveness of your landing page once people click your Facebook ad.

A low conversion rate means that few people who clicked on your ad actually completed your desired action.

A high conversion rate likely means your landing page did a great job of convincing people to buy your product, download your app, sign up for your email list, or take another action of your choice.

What is ROI on Facebook?

ROI stands for return on investment. This is the ratio of the amount of revenue you’re making through Facebook ads to the amount of money you put in.

Though this is one of the more basic concepts in digital marketing, actually calculating your Facebook ROI can be pretty complicated.

At its simplest, your Facebook ROI is (total revenue generated from user actions on your Facebook ads – your total ad spend) / total ad spend x 100%.

For example, if you spend $100 on a Facebook ad and it results in $200 of revenue from sales on your website, your ROI is ($200 sales revenue – $100 ad spend) / $100 ad spend x 100% = 100%.

100% ROI means your Facebook ads are doubling your money, essentially.

Of course, there are a lot more costs and factors to include in any real-world calculations, but that’s the basic idea.

A good rule to follow is that as long as your Facebook ROI is positive, you should keep investing more in ad spend until it stops making you a net profit.

Facebook from A to Z

These Facebook advertising acronyms are pretty useful to know in today’s increasingly complicated social media marketing environment, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

If you want to know more about the price of ads on Facebook, we recommend reading about the current ad space crunch in Facebook’s News Feed.

And if you want to learn about social media marketing, we suggest this elementary guide to marketing on Facebook.

Regardless of whether you’re optimizing your CPM, your CPV, or your C-3PO (okay, fine, the last one is a Star Wars character), make sure your advertising objectives are clearly defined and you’ll see great ROI on your Facebook ads.

Cheers!

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