The Average Position Metric is Leaving. What Does This Mean for Paid Search?

September 11, 2019

The paid search evolution has been quick over the years, with Google bringing out constant streams of new features and products. While we’ve gotten excited over these new waves of automation, we’ve also had to say goodbye to features that we’ve become more comfortable with as well.

This is a particularly relevant topic this month, as we prepare to bid farewell to one of Google Ads’ longest standing features: Average position – a feature that many of us in the industry have known since day one!

This blog will cover why Google have decided to sunset the feature, as well as the opportunities and implications to advertisers following this decision.

Why Is This Happening?

Changes to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and search advertising over the years means that Average Position metric no longer provides an accurate indication of where an ad shows on the page.

Contrary to what the name suggests, the metric doesn’t provide a clear insight into the actual position of our ads on the SERP. For instance, ad in position 3 may appear either above or below the organic listing – leading to varying levels of performance despite reporting the same position.

Instead, the metric simply provides indication as to where our ad ranks in relation to our competitors.
Further, Google’s plans to disable this feature comes hand in hand with the introduction of four new metrics:

  1.  Search Absolute Top Impression Rate – Is the percentage of your ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
  2. Search Top Impressions Rate – Is the percentage of your ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.
  3. Search Absolute Top Impression share – 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.
  4. Search Top Impression share – 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.

What Does This Mean For Advertisers?

The main impact of this to advertisers is that the new metrics provide a more accurate reflection of our ad’s prominence on the page, allowing for more insightful optimizations.

However, it also means that anything currently used involving average position will be disabled, and all reports, scripts, rules and bidding strategies will need to be revised and updated to incorporate the new metrics.

To ease us into the transition, Google introduced the Target Impression Share Bidding Strategy, intended to replace the position-based strategy. Thus, advertisers wanting to continue to bid on visibility will need to transition to this recently released strategy.

The strategy provides a better level of control and influence over visibility than the position-based strategy; allowing us to target either absolute top position, top position, or anywhere on the page, as well as how often we want to hold this position.

However, determining the right target to set and predicting how performance will vary compared with position-based bid strategies may be challenging. Performance can be impacted by various factors, such as a potential influx in competition inflating CPCs, particularly for absolute top of page position.

Therefore, the transition may require assessing the relationship between IS and cost, and IS and revenue, in order to determine the best IS target that fits in line with the desired level of visibility and ROI.

All things considered, if you haven’t started preparing for the transition already, now is the time to do so, by revising your strategies and reports, and start getting used to using the new metrics to evaluate performance and exposure.

Embrace the change and prepare to reap the benefits of improved visibility, greater control and more impactful optimizations and insights.


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