Average Position Was Always a Bad Metric

Google recently announced they would be doing away with the average position metric. Of all the changes I have seen Google make, I genuinly thought this would turn out to be a bigger deal than it is. And I was prepared to hold an unpopular opinion… one of supporting the change! One of the easiest metrics to understand, in terms of ad performance, this metric is notoriously more dangerous than it is beneficial.

What’s the inherent problem with average position? Simply put, there’s a point in which it no longer means the difference between being in the ad spots at the top of the page, and being in the ad spots at the bottom of the page. Let’s say Google is going to serve up 4 ad spots at the top, and another three at the bottom. Your average position might be #4. But from that can you tell me if you were the 4th of the top 4, or the first of the bottom 3, and how often? No, you can’t. And that’s a huge difference!

As a marketing professional who has worked with companies selling Google Ads services, I know first-hand how this metric gets used between agencies and clients. I wouldn’t even dare to begin to wager how many times average position was touted as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Even in the face of other horrible metrics, it was always, “but hey, you’re showing up towards the top!”. Cool man, but am I really? Or am I showing up at the top of 1 or 2 ad results? Who cares at that point?

Now, Google is introducing new metrics to replace this. And I truly believe these are superior. Let’s take a quick look at them:

Impr. (Absolute Top) %

Impressions at #1 / Impressions


This metric tells you what percentage of all your impressions were displayed at the top of the ads block. Not #2 or #3… but specifically #1. It’s basically what agencies made average position out to be, but now actually is the case!

Impr. (Top) %

Impressions above organic / Impressions


Where Impr. (Absolute Top)% is the #1 spot, Impr. (Top)% is the percentage of impressions where you show up before organic results. The top ad spots, if you will.

Search (Absolute Top) Impression Share

Impressions at absolute top / Possible impressions


This and the next Impression Share (IS) metrics actually show you opportunity, and provide context to the performance of your ads. This metric scores you based on how many times you were at the absolute top out of every possible search where you ad could’ve been delivered.

Search (Top) Impression Share

Impressions in the top / Possible impressions


And this gives you a ratio for how often your ads were at the top of the page, regardless what actual position they held.

Hopefully you find this breakdown useful when decrypting the meaning of these new metrics. I’ve found that they are far more telling than the more simplistic metrics we’ve been working with thusfar, and actually tell a story worth listening to.