Impression share (IS) is one of the most misunderstood data points used in search. Metrics used to maximize revenue or conversion volume are pretty straightforward to understand, since the numbers speak for themselves.
You should periodically revisit the question, “What metrics should I maximize to increase brand awareness on my search campaigns?”
You can be forgiven for thinking that the most important metric to increase brand awareness is IS. In theory, the higher the IS, the more times your ads are served, potentially providing greater exposure.
In fact, IS is simply a measurement of how frequently your keywords appear in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s easier to achieve a high IS when you target smaller audiences with little competition. The larger your target audience, the greater the competition, making it harder to achieve the desired 100% IS.
IS is calculated by dividing served impressions by the estimated number of impressions that you’re eligible to receive. Google uses several factors to calculate which keywords should win an auction:
Increasing IS doesn’t always mean you’ll increase the amount of people who’ll see and interact with your brand. It should be used to monitor the frequency of your keywords appearing in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s a brilliant metric for identifying keywords that aren’t performing as well as they could.
If your keywords are eligible to receive the maximum impressions targeting your specified audience, a 100% IS means you’ve reached this limit. However, this can come at a cost, overinflating daily budgets. Achieving a 100% IS means your keywords will be entered into all eligible auctions regardless of the cost.
Optimizing a campaign for clicks disregarding IS can improve both the click and impression volumes while maintaining or reducing spend. This method involves bidding down on keywords with low-click volume that have high CPCs while increasing bids for keywords with high-click volume and low CPCs.
It’s important to understand the relationship between aggregate IS and impression volume. Aggregate IS is weighted impressions, so there could be a scenario where there’s lower aggregate IS but higher impression volume. However, click volume, impression volume, and aggregate IS tend to be positively correlated, so maximizing clicks should be a sound strategy in most cases.
How are you using IS? Are you using it to monitor brand awareness, share of voice, or impression frequency? Whatever your optimization objective, it’s important to use the correct KPIs to monitor performance.
This post is by Mason Garrity, Account Manager at PPC Associates. Mason got his start in PPC in 2006 at Kayak.com while still in college at Pomona. After graduation, Mason started an internet division for a New York City-based yellow pages company and went on to start his own agency to work with New York City-based startups.
Many of you may know that Google has been planning on making some big changes to their Impression Share (IS) algorithm and that the changes, to be implemented early this month, will impact historical IS data.
Here’s a breakdown of Google’s new IS developments:
The Google reps I’ve heard from haven’t provided many specifics on when exactly these improvements will be released – the one date floated was Nov. 3, but from the looks of my accounts, that wasn’t the case. The good news is that if you were planning on using some historical IS numbers for reporting or presentations and haven’t yet grabbed the pre-Oct. 1 info yet, you can still access it. So go ahead and download any data that you think you may need before it’s gone for good! The latest AdWords blog update suggests it was sometime earlier this month.
At PPC Associates, our process is centered on the Alpha-Beta Campaign structure, which allows us to do some pretty neat things with IS. Our Alpha campaigns are our high-value, high-volume queries in exact match single keyword ad groups. These keywords are also exact-match negged out across the rest of our Beta Campaigns, ensuring forced mappings. What’s awesome about that is when Google gave us Ad Group level IS data at the start of 2012, they were essentially giving anyone who runs their campaigns in this manner query-level IS data since 1 AG = 1 Query with guaranteed mappings. Being able to ensure that you have maximum coverage on your high value queries is great from a management perspective, and it lets you reassure your clients that you are not missing out on any clicks on their most valued queries.
Impression Share is a powerful metric that should be incorporated into your regular checks and reporting, and can be used to find holes and opportunities that you are not fully taking advantage of. Once your account is really running on all cylinders and you have your fundamentals locked down, you can start to do some advanced things with IS, like creating Opportunity Reports to show your clients.
Stay tuned for Google’s imminent changes and share any interesting ways you plan on using these new features.
– Mason Garrity