BlogThe latest for Creators, Brands, and Fans

Imagine the following: You spend weeks creating your latest video, hours optimizing its metadata, days marketing it, and despite it receiving a decent amount of views, the earnings are far less than you expected.

You likely don’t have to imagine that scenario. You’ve lived it. We all have.

Underperforming earnings are very common on YouTube, but many creators don’t know the reasons behind it. Let’s take a look at a few.

Earnings are low in general

Before we get into the many factors that can result in low CPMs, it’s good to point out that earnings on YouTube aren’t anything to get too excited about – especially when compared to traditional media.

On average, CPMs sit around $4, give or take. This means that for every 1,000 views, you will receive a whopping $4. To earn a $400 payout, your video would need approximately 100,000 views, and to safely become a full-time content creator on YouTube, your videos should be consistently driving several million views per month. This isn’t easy, especially in YouTube’s current state, and doesn’t take into account many of the other factors that can lower your CPMs.


The location where your videos are viewed can drastically impact CPMs, since advertisers tend to dump their ad dollars in the United States. If you have a large international audience, especially in Brazil and the Middle East, there’s a good chance your earnings will be on the lower side.

How to improve

  • Consider marketing your content to US viewers
  • Google Adwords has fantastic targeting tools

To check your CPMs by country, go to your Analytics, click on Ad Rates, CPM, then view the Geography at the bottom.


Almost 75% of all videos on YouTube are viewed on a device that’s not a traditional computer (phone, tablet, television). Until recently, not all of these devices were enabled for ads, and advertisers preferred to target videos that would be watched on a computer.

Because of this, if your videos have very high mobile/TV viewership, your CPMs may be slightly lower than what they would be on a computer.

How to improve

  • Wait. Mobile/TV ads will eventually catch up

Non-family-friendly content

If you missed the #adpocalypse news, advertisers finally decided to push back on YouTube, demanding that their ads only appear on family-friendly content. The problem is, no one except YouTube really knows what the line is. Within their article on age-restricted content, YouTube points out the following:

  • Vulgar language
  • Violence and disturbing imagery
  • Nudity and sexually suggestive content
  • Portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities

In short, if your videos contain anything in the list above, it may be restricted from certain audiences, and could bring down your earnings.

How to improve

  • Avoid using potentially inappropriate metadata
  • If possible, avoid excessive swearing


The first few months of the year are always the hardest for creators. Advertisers just finished dumping their holiday budgets and the demand for ad space has dropped drastically. Expect your CPMs to be on the lower side until March or April.

Read more about the seasonal CPM blues.

Many other factors

Low earnings can be the result of a slew of other factors, including:

  • Ad blockers
  • Low retention
  • Botting

Don’t rely on YouTube

We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again. Don’t rely solely on YouTube to pay your bills. CPMs are very unpredictable and frankly, you could be making a lot more by introducing additional forms of revenue, such as Patreon and sponsorships.

Follow @FullscreenNet    •    Follow @Pinsky