Cost per action

Cost Per Action or CPA (sometimes known as Pay Per Action or PPA) is an online advertising pricing model, where the advertiser pays for each specified action (a purchase, a form submission, and so on) linked to the advertisement.

Direct response advertisers consider CPA the optimal way to buy online advertising, as an advertiser only pays for the ad when the desired action has occurred. An action can be a product being purchased, a form being filled, etc. (The desired action to be performed is determined by the advertiser.) Google incorporated this model into Google AdSense but shut down the offering in June 2008. eBay has recently announced a similar pricing called AdContext.

The CPA can be determined by different factors, depending where the online advertising inventory is being purchased.
CPA as "Cost Per Acquisition"
CPA is sometimes referred to as "Cost Per Acquisition", which has to do with the fact that most CPA offers by advertisers are about acquiring something (typically new customers by making sales). Using the term "Cost Per Acquisition" instead of "Cost Per Action" is not incorrect. It is actually more specific. "Cost Per Acquisition" is included in "Cost Per Action", but not all "Cost Per Action" offers can be referred to as "Cost Per Acquisition".
The Difference between CPA and CPL Advertising
In CPL campaigns, advertisers pay for an interested lead (hence, Cost Per Lead) - i.e. the contact information of a person interested in the advertiser's product or service. CPL campaigns are suitable for brand marketers and direct response marketers looking to engage consumers at multiple touchpoints - by building a newsletter list, community site, reward program or member acquisition program.
In CPA campaigns, the advertiser typically pays for a completed sale involving a credit card transaction. CPA is all about 'now' -- it focuses on driving consumers to buy at that exact moment. If a visitor to the website doesn't buy anything, there's no easy way to remarket to them.
There are other important differentiators:
1. CPL campaigns are advertiser-centric. The advertiser remains in control of their brand, selecting trusted and contextually relevant publishers to run their offers. On the other hand, CPA and affiliate marketing campaigns are publisher-centric. Advertisers cede control over where their brand will appear, as publishers browse offers and pick which to run on their websites. Advertisers generally do not know where their offer is running.
2. CPL campaigns are usually high volume and light-weight.In CPL campaigns, consumers submit only basic contact information. The transaction can be as simple as an email address. On the other hand, CPA campaigns are usually low volume and complex. Typically, consumer has to submit credit card and other detailed information.
Effective cost per action
A related term, eCPA or Effective Cost Per Action, is used to measure the effectiveness of advertising inventory purchased (by the advertiser) via a CPC, CPI, or CPT basis.
eCPA is used to measure the effectiveness of advertising inventory purchased (by the advertiser) via a CPC, CPI, or CPT basis. In other words, the eCPA tells the advertiser what they would have paid if they purchased the advertising inventory on a Cost Per Action basis (instead of a Cost Per Click, Cost Per Impression, or Cost Per Time basis).

Google AdSense

AdSense is an advertisement application run by Google. Website owners can enroll in this program to enable text, image, and more recently, video advertisements on their websites. These advertisements are administered by Google and generate revenue on either a per-click or per-impression basis. Google beta tested a cost-per-action service, but discontinued it in October 2008 in favor of a DoubleClick offering (also owned by Google).

Google uses its Internet search technology to serve advertisements based on website content, the user's geographical location, and other factors. Those wanting to advertise with Google's targeted advertisement system may enroll through AdWords. AdSense has become a popular method of placing advertising on a website because the advertisements are less intrusive than most banners, and the content of the advertisements is often relevant to the website.
Currently, AdSense uses JavaScript code to incorporate the advertisements into a participating website. If the advertisements are included on a website that has not yet been crawled by the Mediabot, AdSense will temporarily display advertisements for charitable causes, also known as public service announcements (PSAs). (The Mediabot is different from the Googlebot, which maintains Google's search index.)
Many websites use AdSense to monetize their content. AdSense has been particularly important for delivering advertising revenue to small websites that do not have the resources for developing advertising sales programs and sales people. To fill a website with advertisements that are relevant to the topics discussed, webmasters implement a brief script on the websites' pages. Websites that are content-rich have been very successful with this advertising program, as noted in a number of publisher case studies on the AdSense website.
Some webmasters invest significant effort into maximizing their own AdSense income. They do this in three ways
1. They use a wide range of traffic-generating techniques, including but not limited to online advertising.
2. They build valuable content on their websites that attracts AdSense advertisements, which pay out the most when they are clicked.
3. They use text content on their websites that encourages visitors to click on advertisements. Note that Google prohibits webmasters from using phrases like "Click on my AdSense ads" to increase click rates. The phrases accepted are "Sponsored Links" and "Advertisements".
The source of all AdSense income is the AdWords program, which in turn has a complex pricing model based on a Vickrey second price auction. AdSense commands an advertiser to submit a sealed bid (i.e., a bid not observable by competitors). Additionally, for any given click received, advertisers only pay one bid increment above the second-highest bid.
The underlying technology behind AdSense was derived originally from WordNet, Simpli (a company started by the founder of Wordnet, George A. Miller), and a number of professors and graduate students from Brown University, including James A. Anderson, Jeff Stibel, and Steve Reiss. A variation of this technology utilizing WordNet was developed by Oingo, a small search engine company based in Santa Monica founded in 1998 by Gilad Elbaz and Adam Weissman. Oingo changed its name to Applied Semantics in 2001, which was later acquired by Google in April 2003 for US$102 million.
AdSense for Feeds
In May 2005, Google announced a limited-participation beta version of AdSense for Feeds, a version of AdSense that runs on RSS and Atom feeds that have more than 100 active subscribers. According to the Official Google Blog, "advertisers have their ads placed in the most appropriate feed articles; publishers are paid for their original content; readers see relevant advertising—and in the long run, more quality feeds to choose from."
AdSense for Feeds works by inserting images into a feed. When the image is displayed by a RSS reader or Web browser, Google writes the advertising content into the image that it returns. The advertisement content is chosen based on the content of the feed surrounding the image. When the user clicks the image, he or she is redirected to the advertiser's website in the same way as regular AdSense advertisements.
AdSense for Feeds remained in its beta state until August 15, 2008, when it became available to all AdSense users.

AdSense for search
A companion to the regular AdSense program, AdSense for search, allows website owners to place Google search boxes on their websites. When a user searches the Internet or the website with the search box, Google shares any advertising revenue it makes from those searches with the website owner. However the publisher is paid only if the advertisements on the page are clicked: AdSense does not pay publishers for mere searches.

AdSense for mobile content
AdSense for mobile content allows publishers to generate earnings from their mobile websites using targeted Google advertisements. Just like AdSense for content, Google matches advertisements to the content of a website — in this case, a mobile website.

AdSense for domains
Adsense for domains allows advertisements to be placed on domain names that have not been developed. This offers domain name owners a way to monetize domain names that are otherwise dormant. Adsense for domains is currently being offered to some users, with plans to make it available to all in stages.
On December 12, 2008, TechCrunch reported that AdSense for Domains is available for all US publishers.
How AdSense works
  • The webmaster inserts the AdSense JavaScript code into a webpage.
  • Each time this page is visited, the JavaScript code creates an IFrame with a src attribute set to the page's URL.
  • For contextual advertisements, Google's servers use a cache of the page to determine a set of high-value keywords. If keywords have been cached already, advertisements are served for those keywords based on the AdWords bidding system. (More details are described in the AdSense patent.)
  • For site-targeted advertisements, the advertiser chooses the page(s) on which to display advertisements, and pays based on cost per mille (CPM), or the price advertisers choose to pay for every thousand advertisements displayed.
  • For referrals, Google adds money to the advertiser's account when visitors either download the referred software or subscribe to the referred service. The referral program was retired in August 2008.
  • Search advertisements are added to the list of results after the visitor performs a search.
  • Because the JavaScript is sent to the Web browser when the page is requested, it is possible for other website owners to copy the JavaScript code into their own webpages. To protect against this type of fraud, AdSense customers can specify the pages on which advertisements should be shown. AdSense then ignores clicks from pages other than those specified
Some webmasters create websites tailored to lure searchers from Google and other engines onto their AdSense website to make money from clicks. These "zombie" websites often contain nothing but a large amount of interconnected, automated content (e.g., a directory with content from the Open Directory Project, or scraper websites relying on RSS feeds for content). Possibly the most popular form of such "AdSense farms" are splogs (spam blogs), which are centered around known high-paying keywords. Many of these websites use content from other websites, such as Wikipedia, to attract visitors. These and related approaches are considered to be search engine spam and can be reported to Google.
A Made for AdSense (MFA) website or webpage has little or no content, but is filled with advertisements so that users have no choice but to click on advertisements. Such pages were tolerated in the past, but due to complaints, Google now disables such accounts.
There have also been reports of Trojan horses engineered to produce counterfeit Google advertisements that are formatted looking like legitimate ones. The Trojan downloads itself onto an unsuspecting computer through a webpage and then replaces the original advertisements with its own set of malicious advertisements.
Due to concerns about click fraud, 'Google AdSense' has been criticized by some search engine optimization firms as a large source of what Google calls "invalid clicks", in which one company clicks on a rival's search engine advertisements to drive up the other company's costs.
To help prevent click fraud, AdSense publishers can choose from a number of click-tracking programs. These programs display detailed information about the visitors who click on the AdSense advertisements. Publishers can use this to determine whether or not they have been a victim of click fraud. There are a number of commercial tracking scripts available for purchase.
The payment terms for webmasters have also been criticized. Google withholds payment until an account reaches US$100, but many micro content providers require a long time—years in some cases—to build up this much AdSense revenue. However, Google will pay all earned revenue greater than US$10 when an AdSense account is closed.
Google came under fire when the official Google AdSense Blog showcased the French video website This website violated Google's AdSense Program Policies by displaying AdSense alongside sexually explicit material. Typically, websites displaying AdSense have been banned from showing such content. Some sites have been banned for distributing copyright material even when they hold the copyright themselves or are authorized by the copyright holder to distribute the material.
It has been reported that using both AdSense and AdWords may cause a website to pay Google a commission when the website advertises itself.