Search engine result pages (SERPs) have changed drastically since Google Ads introduced average position over 15 years ago. Average position, as you may have guessed, used an ad’s ranking to indicate the physical position of the ad on a page when it first launched.
But as the Google platform evolved, average position became a more and more inaccurate performance metric. When Google Shopping ads started to dominate the top of SERPs, it was the last nail in the coffin for average position, as “Position 1” no longer guarantees real estate above the fold – especially on mobile.
This has lead Google Ads to retire average position in September 2019 and convert to the four new metrics that were introduced at that same time.
Google Ads Shifts From Average Position to Impression Share
Google Ads designed the new metrics to give a more accurate representation of where an ad is appearing on the search results page. The change will also provide consistency by using impression share across the board, rather than just for Google Shopping.
Image courtesy of Google.
Here’s a quick overview of the four new metrics and their impact on your ad rankings:
- Impr. (Absolute Top) % – the percent of your ad impressions shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
- Impr. (Top) % – the percent of your ad impressions shown anywhere above the organic search results.
- Search (Absolute Top) IS – the impressions you’ve received in the absolute top location divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.
- Search (Top) IS – the impressions you’ve received in the top location compared to the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.
Interpreting Impression Share Metrics
Understanding impression share can give you a more accurate interpretation of why an ad is showing positive results (or not so positive). The first two metrics above (Impr. Absolute Top % and Impr. Top %) show when and where ad impressions display above the organic results.
These percentages can help you interpret significant changes in clickthrough rate. The second two metrics (Search Absolute Top IS and Search Top IS) show the portion of impressions that were eligible for impressions above the organic results.
These measures can help you determine if you should be increasing your bids or ad quality to harness more of the available impressions.
What This Means for Your Business
Without average position as a metric, businesses will target either the absolute top-of-page position, or any placement on the page. This will likely lead to an influx of competition for absolute top placement, and in turn, an increase in CPCs and CPAs.
This will also push the importance of having even higher quality ads. Although this change may feel disruptive, in the long run these measures should provide much more insight than average position. It is also fortunate that Google Ads provided several months to adjust strategy and any campaign settings that rely on average position.
If you’re looking for even more information on how changes to Google Ads are affecting the paid search landscape, you need to get our 2019 Ecommerce Paid Search Report. It’s full of insights on new, customizable ad formats, paid search trends, and analyzes over $300m in annual client ad spend across Google, Bing, and Yahoo.