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The Sun is setting for Average Position

Google announced back in late February that the Average Position column is to disappear at the end of September 2019, and it is now fast approaching that date.

The Average Position metric typically describes how well your ad ranks against competitor ads, which determins the order in which the ads are displayed.

Naturally, the best rank is 1.0. Google, however, are not just cutting this but they have already signalled the metrics replacement with ‘Search Absolute Top Impression Share’ and ‘Search Top Impression Share’, introduced back in October 2018, to allow for a deeper understanding into the true placement of your ads. These will be named ‘Impr. (Abs. Top) % and ‘Impr. (top) %’ respectively.

Why Change?

The issue originally with Average Position is that the ranking is based only on paid ads, and does not take into consideration the organic results, as such if an ad was ranked 1.0, the top paid ad position, you still don’t know whether this was above or below the organic search results.

The new metrics will provide a more advanced insight into your ads and how often they place. As such Search Absolute Top Impression Share regards the very top paid ad position, that also sits above the organic results which means you will be able to tell exactly how often your ad has been in this position.

Search Absolute Top Impression Share is worked out by [Impressions on the absolute top]/Impressions based as a percentage.

Similarly, the Search Top Impression Share regards the percentage of how often your ads are shown anywhere above the organic search results, usually between positions 1-3, but can vary.

Search Top Impression Share is worked out by [Impressions on the top]/Impressions based as a percentage.

Overall, advertisers will be more clued up as to how their ads perform within the top search results page which can lead to richer data being available, and better knowledge on actually how well ads are doing, instead of just always assuming an Average Position of 1.0 is the absolute top of the search results page.

The impact

Firstly, for ads that appear lower than the Absolute Top and Top results, it won’t give as valuable data as the Average Position as any position below the organic results won’t contribute to any percentage points on this value, leaving you in the dark about the exact ad position – although you still will be able to view the usual Impression Share metric and create logical conclusions based on this data, but no hard evidence.

Another issue will be that some advertisers may be using the Average Position metric as part of their scripts, within rules, saved filters or reports which will mean these scripts/rules will no longer work as intended and the filters/reports, as well as scorecards and ValueTrack parameters will return empty strings.

Google could easily have left the Average Position metric in, and ran it alongside the newly added Top and Absolute Top Impression Share ones, however this gives advertisers too much data and over the years Google has put a lot of resources into their Automation and advanced machine-learning that it’s another signpost to Google’s automated bidding strategies. Whilst Google still provides a lot of data, it does not reveal every single piece of information about your ads and potentially, if an advertiser is not seeing results in the form of Top and Absolute Top Impression Share, they may be influenced to try out a new automated bidding strategy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as these can work in certain situations, but not everyone wants to hand over control to Google’s machine algorithm and want to remain in complete control.

Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Although this change isn’t affecting any algorithms on how our ads can potentially perform, it does affect the way we view and report our ad performance, and whilst we cannot do anything about the change we need to embrace it and learn. On the first of October, the first day Average Position is not available, it would have been a year since Impr. (top) % and Impr. (Abs. Top) % were introduced, meaning that we would already have a years’ worth of data available for us to analyse – so it is not a complete shock change but one that has been in the making for a while.

Whilst we have had these metrics for almost a year now, with Average Position coming to an end, it places a new importance on these new metrics that will now take the limelight. If advertisers notice any differences in Clicks, Conversion Rate, Click-Through-Rate etc, it could be a new time to test new bidding strategies to then compare which strategy is the best way forward to help maximise an ads Top and Absolute Top positions.

What do you think about this upcoming change in Google? Let us know!

If you need any help managing your Paid Search ads, get in touch.

Luke has a thirst for industry knowledge and likes to share that with his clients. Despite being the youngest member of the team, his attitude and expertise should not be underestimated.

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