Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition?

On September 30th, Google turned off average position as a metric for search campaigns and now requires advertisers to transition to new impression share and impression rate tools.

The news was first announced in February as an effort to establish more accurate and transparent forms of measurement. Advertisers now get to experience how often ads are appearing for eligible searches (share) and how often ads are showing at the top of the search results page (rate)—and while these new tools will ultimately be beneficial, the forced change from Google will undoubtedly stir up routine for many advertisers.

Here are a few ways advertisers can get set up with the rollout of new metrics.

Understanding the basics

To understand the impact of this change, let’s first define impression share and impression rate. Impression share is the percentage of impressions an ad receives compared to the total number that the ad is qualified for on the search engine results page (SERP). Impression share is a novel way to discover room for ad performance improvements—it displays any missed opportunities by showing how often a certain ad showed up in the top search results.

In contrast, the average position did not properly measure whether ads showed up above the organic results or not; it just showcased their order compared to other ads. Advertisers were left with a guessing game.

Impression rate shows advertisers how often their ads show up at the top of the SERP based on their total impressions—in other words, what percent of the time an ad is in the very top spot (absolute top) or shown anywhere above the organic search results (top). These details address another shortcoming of average position since even an ad in position two might be at the bottom of the page.

Measuring impression share and impression rate

There are three versions of impression share, all which measure ad impressions divided by the total eligible impressions for that ad, but based on different locations on the SERP:

  • Search (abs.) top IS: The new impression an ad has received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) divided by the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is new.
  • Search top IS: The impressions an ad has received anywhere above the organic search results compared to the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is also new.
  • Search impression share: This already-existing metric measures impressions anywhere on the page.

For the impression rate, there are two metrics that are only based on ad impressions, not the total number of eligible impressions.

  • Impr. (absolute top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
  • Impr. (top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Optimizing for awareness and performance

If an advertiser is more focused on driving awareness than ROI, impression share and impression rate are both greatly valuable, as they guarantee the ads are meeting a visibility threshold and can boost awareness.

On the other hand, advertisers using Google’s new impression share options in Smart Bidding should be cautious. The impression share data is not accessible on the same day, so it’s hard to track performance – and setting a high target may significantly boost spending by making an ad eligible for additional, unwanted auctions. A better strategy for Smart Bidding is to bid to impression rate, which has data available intraday. This approach allows advertisers to optimize their impressions showing at the top of the SERP.

As a general starting point, the easiest way for advertisers to set targets is to look at recent performance for campaigns across the three impression % (rate) metrics. This should ensure the smoothest transition from targeting a position to targeting impression share.

Impression share metrics table updated

Setting up for the transition

Advertisers using Google have been encouraged to focus on the impression metrics for some time. Still, many advertisers probably feel an impact from the shift to these metrics, particularly because of the new obstacles it presents for bidding strategies. Therefore, advertisers should set the right bids to achieve their shared goal.

With this switch to the new metrics, advertisers should check any rules that support average position, and update reports and saved columns that include the average position. The following applications may include average position:

  • Bidding settings and AdWords rules
  • Custom columns
  • Saved reports (especially any with filters)
  • AdWords scripts
  • Saved column sets
  • Scorecards that use average position in dashboards
  • URLs using the {ad position} parameter

Google announced it will be automatically migrating “Target Position on Page” bid strategies, but there’s no certainty on a timeline or details regarding the migration. Therefore, advertisers should watch for any campaign targeting average position from now on to ensure they’re getting the expected results.

Wes MacLaggan is SVP of Marketing at Marin Software.

The post Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.