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Are you ready? Google set to remove average position next month

Our current take on the change

You might have read our blog earlier this year on the removal of average position. The change is finally going to come into place in under a month. With this being one of the most fundamental metrics in PPC – it comes as no surprise that this announcement from Google Ads raised some concern for us and others in the industry.

In the past year, with the removal of this metric on the horizon, Google Ads have introduced newer metrics. What they give us is some clarity how often ads are given top position, when they get an impression and what share of all the top (often 2 to 4 position) page impressions they are receiving.

New metrics replacing Average Position?

You might be familiar with some of the metrics that have been introduced this year – but how exactly can these be used to understand your ad placements and boost your online presence? Here are the newer metrics:

  • Impression. (Absolute Top) % – This new metric shows the percent of your ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad – this is essentially the replacement metric for position 1 in the search ad results
  • Impression. (Top) % – The percentage of your ad impressions that are listed anywhere above organic search results. This metric is slightly less clear as it’s essentially replacing positions 2 – 4, so it will not be possible to determine how often you might be in 2, 3 or 4.
  • Search (Absolute Top) IS (Impression Share) – The impressions you’ve received in the absolute top location above the organic results, divided by the estimated number of impressions you could have received in the top position. This metric will give you a good indication of how often you were in “position 1” vs what was possible
  • Search (Top) IS – The impressions you’ve received in the top positions above the organic search results – compared to the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location. This will give an indication of how often you appeared in the old position 2-4.

The two Impression % metrics reveal when and where ad impressions display above organic results, albeit with a bit less clarity on the positions 2 – 4. Impression Share is a percentage of how many impressions your ads received, out of the total number of impressions you could be expected to get with no limitations of budgets or bids.

The benefits of these new metrics  

One thing that average position doesn’t tell us is whether the ads actually appear above organic results or not, as they just tell us the position rather than where, so sometimes position 1 ads are at the bottom of the page. These metrics tell us if we are actually appearing at the top. We can also get a better understanding of how often we are in the top position, as this is less clear when the position is averaged out across all of your activity.

This might sound a bit confusing at first, so we’ve put together some scenarios and how the new metrics would be useful – arguably more so than average position. The main benefits are:

  • Well informed decisions for optimisation – We can now see the process behind an ad’s position, for example:

–      Advertiser 1: position 1 + 5 + 3 → average. pos. 3

–      Advertiser 2: position 1 + 4 + 3 → average. pos. 3

As you can see in this scenario, both advertiser 1 & 2 achieved average 3, but their ad positions fluctuated. These new metrics provide a bit more clarity on how often you are seen in position 1, as well as providing more information on how often you are dropping out of the top results altogether.

  • A clear understanding of impressions – If you were simply relying on average position alone to analyse your Google Ads presence, then there is a good chance you could be missing impression whilst appearing to have a high position. It has always been important to consider average position as well as impression share metrics as you need to know how often you were appearing vs what is possible. Here is an example of why average position alone doesn’t work:

–      Advertiser 1: Not shown + Not shown + 2 → average. pos. 2

–      Advertiser 2: 1 + 2 + 2 → average. pos. 2

As you can see, both advertisers will be shown they are position 2. Without looking at impression share metrics, advertiser 1 wouldn’t be aware of the improvements they need to make.

Thankfully after the new change, we will still have impression share metrics, with the added benefit of being able to distinguish between the impression share we got at the absolute top (old position 1 and at the top) v the top (2-4). This is one addition which will help increase our understanding of how often we are in the absolute top position.

  • Understanding how an ad ranks against organic results – Whilst average position would reveal your position, the new Impression Top (%) metrics can tell you if you appeared above organic results.

Ads placed above organic results are obviously expected to receive a higher CTR than if the same ad is shown below organic results. So understanding your position in relation to organic results is helpful for understanding your ad and keyword performance.

Going forward

Average position has been massively beneficial and its removal is undoubtedly a loss, but we accept that it has never been the clearest indicator of where your ads appear on the SERPs (search results pages). The first ad position is not always at the top of the page & above the organic results – which might have left users with a fuzzy understanding of how to improve their activity. As with any major change we need to accept it’s a new challenge. We’ve started using new approaches within our PPC management to ensure we deliver value by optimising client’s accounts.

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