If you’ve worked in paid search before, you’ll have definitely come across and frequently used average position as an optimisation metric. For those that haven’t, Google define it as metric “which describe how your Ad Rank compares with other advertisers. Ad Rank determines the order in which ads appear on the page”. So basically, it’s where your ad ranks in the search engine results page SERPs!
Google have announced this metric will be retired on 30th September 2019. Ciao average position!
Average position was a really useful metric for understanding whether there was room to either reduce or increase your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bids based on performance. For example if you had a set of keywords which had a really low CPA and an average position of 5, then you’d want to increase the maximum CPC bids. The idea was you would get a higher click-through-rate (CTR) because your ad is higher up in the SERPs which would mean more conversions! Losing this metric would have meant this would have been impossible to do but Google have kindly given us 2 new metrics to replace average position.
The two new metrics are Impression share Abs. Top% and Impression share Top%. Impression share (IS) Top% gives the percentage of impressions your ads were above the organic search results (any position). IS Abs. Top% helps you understand if your ads were the very first ad above the organic search results of the SERPs.
Unlike average position, these metrics don’t reflect the order of your ads compared to other ads, but the actual location of your ads on the SERPs.
These metrics can be used in exactly the same way as average position. They actually give more insight into where your ads are appearing the SERPs which will further help your optimisation efforts. This is because an average can have significant outliers skewing the number whereas the new metrics give you an absolute number of impressions your ad was above the organic results or in position 1. So in the earlier example of using average position to judge what to set your max CPC bids at, you’d use the 2 new metrics to understand if there is an opportunity to boost your CTR and impression share for low CPA keywords.
To get full picture of how your max CPC bids are shaping your impression share, you should use Search Lost IS Rank and Search Lost IS Budget columns. Both have been around for some time now but are very useful in giving you the full picture. Search Lost IS Rank will tell you if you’re ad rank is too low (thus you have to increase bids or improve quality score). Search Lost IS Budget tells you the number of impressions you’ve lost due to budget restrictions. Yes budgets are a campaign level optimisation but if your campaign is limited by budget, you should consider reducing your bids to mitigate this.
As previously mentioned, average position is just an average, so it doesn’t provide specific numbers of your performance.
There is also the challenge around what the position equates to in relation to the actual whereabouts in the SERPs your ad is shown. Some auctions can have 4 ads above the organic results whereas others may only 1 ad. Thus an average position of 3 means your ad could be displayed in vastly different areas of the SERP which could have huge implications for your CTRs.
Finally, as Google continue to test new ad formats such as carousels, the notion of an average position becomes less important. The important point is whether your ads have enough ad rank to be eligible for these tops of page ad formats.
Hopefully this article has been of use to you and thanks for reading it! If you’d like to discuss anything to do with Google Ads and how to get the most out of it, then please feel free to get in touch.
Head of Biddable