Google Removes Average Position: What That Means for Digital Advertisers

by | Sep 27, 2019 | GUIDES

Google Removes Average Position Feature Image

Google announced in February that it would sunset the Average Position metric this year. That’s happening on Monday, September 30. 

We sat down with LumenAd’s resident Paid Search specialist, Mike Hofmaier, to explore what this means for digital advertisers. 

But first…

Magnifying Glass Icon - Google Average Position

What is the Average Position metric?

The Average Position metric is (soon to be was) a statistic that shows where your ad’s position is in relation to other ads on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Google is sunsetting Average Position, but Bing (via Microsoft Ads) will not. So, if you run Paid Search ads through Bing, it’s still in your toolbox.


What is Google replacing Average Position with?


Google has two biddable metrics that will replace Average Position:

1. Absolute Top Impression Share

The impressions your ad has received at the absolute top SERP location (the first ad above organic results) divided by the estimated impressions it was eligible to receive.

In other words, it helps you understand the rate at which your ads are showing up at the very top of the page, and whether or not there is an opportunity to show up on the top spot more often.

Absolute Top Impression Share Formula

2. Top Impression Share

The impressions your ad has received anywhere above the organic search results compared to the estimated number of impressions it was eligible to receive.

In other words, how many impressions your ad got when it was among the top results of the SERP. 

Top Impression Share Formula

The big difference is that these metrics, alongside overall Impression Share, give you an idea of where your ads will show up on a SERP but tells you less about how your ad ranks compared to other ads

This is kind of a big deal and has implications for everyone who runs Paid Search campaigns through Google.  

Phone Notification Icon - Google Average Position

How does removing Average Position affect my campaigns?

Optimization Opportunities

For some campaigns, it will be more work to identify optimization opportunities without Average Position. 

Mike says, “With the old format if I saw Average Position of 3, then I knew I had the opportunity to get a higher Impression Share by increasing the bid. In the new world, I have to look in more places to understand if that opportunity is there.”

It’s simple math, but it’s still math. You can do some basic subtraction to figure out what proportion of your ads are being served in 2, 3 and 4 positions (and beyond).

Impression Share Calculations

“Instead of having a 1:1 comparison, which was handy, you will have to try to weight three different Impression Share metrics: overall Impression Share, Top Impression Share and Absolute Top Impression Share.” Mike says. 



Put simply, removing Average Position won’t directly affect cost. 

“But,” Mike says, “some advertisers who are optimizing for top positions will probably end up bidding more than they would have previously (that’s ultimately Google’s goal, I suspect).

In the old way of doing things, if I see my Average Position is 1.2 and I have an Impression Share of 90%, then I know I’m capturing almost all the volume that’s available.”

But what about the SERPs where Google only serves organic results at the top? This situation means that “position 1” is at the bottom, below the organic results.

“In this case, we’ll still see 90% Impression Share, but only, say, 30% Top Impression Share, and 10% Absolute Top Impression Share. That would make one think that bidding more will help capture more volume, but in reality, there may not be any opportunity above the fold.

I haven’t found a ton of examples of this, so it might not be a big issue. At the very least, it’s something to be aware of.“


Campaign Storytelling

In regards to reporting, Mike says “I think it’s a big loss because Average Position tells a better story than just Search Impression Share.” 

It’s a more intuitive number to ingest when identifying how your ads are performing in relation to other ads. While Impression Share is important, there is some context lost without Average Position.

Maze Icon - Google Average Position

What can I do about all this? 

“Roll with it.” Mike says, “This is more annoying than anything. Average Position wasn’t perfect, but it sure complements the Impression Share metrics.”

Unfortunately, this is just the reality of working within walled gardens. When it comes to changes like this, you just have to be agile

Mike concludes, “Google is moving towards more and more automation, so getting on board with that will help you keep up to new practices. The best thing you can do with automation in mind is to improve your conversion tracking. Better conversion data makes automation more reliable.” 

Subscribe to Impressions

Get the latest news, tips, tricks and best practices delivered to your inbox.

Read More

Three Must-Haves to Deliver Stronger Advertising Reports

Three Must-Haves to Deliver Stronger Advertising Reports

As you near the end of an advertising campaign, are you scrambling to make sense of mountains of data, striving to deliver a panoramic view for your stakeholders?  The problem is not necessarily the quantity of data or the number of data sets, it’s trying to get the...

A (Nearly) Complete Guide to Video Advertising

A (Nearly) Complete Guide to Video Advertising

As an advertising medium, video is a grab-bag of some of the digital advertising industry’s most promising technology and its worst tendencies. Understanding how to navigate the turbulent video advertising landscape is no small task.  Rising stars like Connected TV...

Creative Fatigue: How Often Should I Update Creative?

Creative Fatigue: How Often Should I Update Creative?

When it comes to digital campaign performance, there is a silent killer that often goes overlooked: creative fatigue.  Every ad has a shelf life — people get tired of seeing the same ad over and over again. As intuitive as this fact is, we see it ignored all too...

YouTube TrueView Ad Specs & Everything Else You Need To Know

YouTube TrueView Ad Specs & Everything Else You Need To Know

YouTube TrueView ads serve a special purpose in modern video advertising due to its unique pricing model and targeting capabilities. More than most other ad types, TrueView ads are versatile and effective across the marketing and sales funnel As you set up your...

3 Viewability Benchmarks & Why It’s Important

3 Viewability Benchmarks & Why It’s Important

In the early 2010s, the industry as a whole — brands, agencies, publishers, etc. — realized we all had a big problem: advertisers were buying ads that no one could see.  So, they all got together in 2014/2015, created some standards. Now viewability, the measurement...

Present: Reporting You’ll Look Forward To

Present: Reporting You’ll Look Forward To

With accurate and relevant reporting, it’s easy to showcase your value. Proving return on investment fortifies the relationship between you and your stakeholders, opening doors to bigger budgets.   Reporting on the success of a particular advertising campaign...

LumenAd logo      © Copyright LumenAd 2019




111 North Higgins Avenue, Missoula, MT 59802  -  406.552.1022  -