Google Removes Average Position: What That Means for Digital Advertisers
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.
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.
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.
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.
How does removing Average Position affect my campaigns?
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).
“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.“
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.
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.”
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