Cost per action

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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.

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.

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 CPM 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 Mile/Thousand basis).


  • Dozens of smaller companies have addressed the majority of the cost-per-action advertising network market, including companies like Commission Junction, Performics, and others including new entrants such as W4, [1] and Perfect Storm Media.
  • Google started testing CPA on 2006. On June 2007 Google expanded its beta trial, opening it to users of AdWords[2] As of October, 2008, Google has discontinued their pay-per-action beta in favor of an offering by Google owned DoubleClick.[3][dead link]
  • eBay has moved into CPA advertising with its AdContext system on 2006.[4]
  •, CPA pioneer and later merged with other to form NBC Internet (NBCi), has long touted the advantages of the CPA model, such as the elimination of click fraud.[4]
  • was the Internet's first comparison shopping search engine to operate exclusively on a Cost Per Action (CPA) ad model, has a patent pending on an improvement over CPA where part of the ad revenue goes to the customer, and has been bought by Microsoft for integration into Live Search.[5]

See also


The Online Lead Generation Glossary

Tutorial on the CPA / CPM / CPC / dCPM advertising models

pl:Pay per lead

vi:Cost Per Action zh:每行动成本

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