What is happening?
Average position has always been a key metric used by search engine marketers to determine where in the search results page our ads are shown and to drive optimization tactics. Over time, Google has deemed average position less reliable as a tool to increase/maximize performance and has slowly rolled out new metrics to supplement average position. What started with impression share has evolved into absolute top impression share, top impression share, etc. As a result of this, Google recently announced that they will no longer report on average position. This change is slated to take place in September 2019.
With the additions of new ad position metrics that were introduced back in November and click share reporting, Google claims that relying on average position no longer provides a fair representation of search position. According to Google, this is because average position doesn’t reflect an ad’s actual position on the page, but rather represents the order an ad shows up against other ads in the auction. We disagree with this, as we believe average position is a vital metric to understanding visibility in relation to impression share and competition. So, what is Google allowing advertisers to use to gauge visibility?
What’s Taking Over for Average Position?
According to Google, the ad position metrics listed below provide a clearer picture to advertisers of where their ads are shown on the search results page:
- (Absolute Top) %: The percent of your ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
- (Top) %: The percent of your ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.
- Search (Absolute Top) IS: The impressions you’ve received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) 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 (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.
How to Read Metrics and How to Use Them
Using multiple metrics to understand position can seem like an overwhelming change, but Google has some tips on which metrics to use and when.
- To get a better picture of your ad’s location, use Impression (Absolute Top) % and Impression (Top) %.
- To understand the opportunity that’s available for your ads, which can help determine opportunity to scale, use Search (Absolute Top) IS and Search (Top) IS. These metrics can also be helpful if you’re looking to use positional bidding in both Google Ads and SA 360.
What Can We Expect and How Does a Digital Marketer Adjust?
We believe that average position is a key metric for advertisers to gauge visibility, as the difference in average position by slight margins can have drastic implications to CTRs and revenue. There are advertisers where this change from a position 2.0 to position 3.0 on the SERP could mean the difference of millions in revenue over the course of a year. In the example above, top impression share isn’t drastically different, as both position two and three could accompany that space and receive 90 to 100 percent of the available impressions. In the example below, both position two and three would have the same top impression share as both are visible to the user on the SERP.
There are studies done over the last few years that show anywhere between 25 to 50-percent higher likelihood to click on position two versus position three. This is all relative to the vertical/industry of the advertiser, but if they can expect 25 to 50 percent less clicks, though their top impression share is unchanged, it will be difficult to pinpoint what is happening. In situations like this, advertisers may start to increase CPCs to gain click volume, inherently increasing CPCs for those in position one and two.
We anticipate this to happen, particularly with e-commerce accounts during Q4. Black Friday/Cyber Monday will create an interesting challenge for those monitoring intraday metrics. As periods like that can make or break a company, it’s vital to capture as much potential revenue as possible. So, it’ll be on those managing these accounts to ensure revenue is being captured as efficiently as possible, to allow for increases in revenue where competition will be increased on those days. With average position going away, how do we as marketers adjust?
We’ll be using a series of available metrics over the next few months to develop strategies that’ll mitigate some of the troubles that will arise once Google sunsets average position. With the implementation of data scientists, making algorithms to adjust to the new reality is vital and something we at The Search Agency are doing to ensure we’re prepared for the new landscape coming in September. The good news is that this change isn’t going into effect for quite some time, so that gives us as an agency time to adjust accordingly.