Google recently announced they would be doing away with the average position metric, replacing it with four new metrics. And I genuinely thought this would turn out to be a bigger deal than it actually is. And I was prepared to hold an unpopular opinion… one of supporting the change! This metric is one of the easiest to understand in measuring ad performance. However it’s also 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. To clarify, 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. However, you cannot determine from that statistic alone how frequently that meant you were in the top or the bottom. With the difference between the two placements being so significant, that’s an important distinction to be capable of making!
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). Regrettably, even in the face of other horrible metrics, it was always, “but hey, you’re showing up towards the top!”. Towards the top of all the ads, regardless of placement, sure. At the top though? Who knows based on the average position metric!
Now, Google is introducing new metrics to replace this. And I truly believe these are superior. Let’s take a quick look at them.
Introducing the New Metrics!
Impr. (Absolute Top) %
Impressions at #1 / ImpressionsHOW TO CALCULATE
This metric tells you what percentage of your impressions were displayed at the top of the ads block. That is to say, not #2 or #3… but specifically #1. This is what everyone seemingly wanted average position to be, but never was.
Impr. (Top) %
Impressions above organic / ImpressionsHOW TO CALCULATE
Where Impr. (Absolute Top)% is the literal #1 spot, Impr. (Top)% is the percentage of impressions where you show up before organic results. The top block of ad spots, if you will.
Search (Absolute Top) Impression Share
Impressions at absolute top / Possible impressionsHOW TO CALCULATE
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 your ad could’ve been delivered.
Search (Top) Impression Share
Impressions in the top / Possible impressionsHOW TO CALCULATE
Lastly, this gives you a ratio for how often your ads were at the top of the page, regardless what actual position they held. Again, it’s a ratio against how often your ads could have been delivered.
Read Your Analytics Better
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. After all, what matters most to us digital marketers? Getting our ads front and center, where they’re most likely to be seen and clicked!