Earlier this year, Google announced that the average position metric will be sunsetting as of September 2019. Advertisers should prepare for the elimination of this widely-utilized metric by understanding the rationale behind the change, getting familiar with the new metrics that will replace average position, incorporating the new metrics into their reporting and bidding processes, and ensuring the new metrics’ compatibility with other key processes and technology.
Understand what is changing and why
The announcement that average position will sunset followed the November 2018 introduction of four new prominence metrics, which are intended to give advertisers more insight into how prominently their ads are serving on the search engine results page (SERP). As the SERP and ad formats have evolved, average position no longer provides clear insight into an ad’s exact positioning on the SERP; over time, it has become only an indication of how an ad is served in the auction relative to competitors. The new metrics allow advertisers to better understand their overall visibility on the page beyond just specific order in the auction.
Get to know the new metrics
The four new prominence metrics include two impression rate metrics and two impression share metrics:
- Impression rate metrics:
- Search top impression rate – “Impr. (Top) %” – the percentage of an advertiser’s impressions that are shown anywhere above organic search results
- Search absolute top impression rate – “Impr. (Abs. Top) %” – the percentage of an advertiser’s impressions that are shown as the very first ad above organic search results
- Impression share metrics:
- Search top impression share – “Search top IS” – the impressions an advertiser received anywhere above organic search results relative to the impressions they were eligible to receive anywhere above organic search results
- Search absolute top impression share – “Search abs. top IS” – the impressions an advertiser received as the very first ad above organic search results relative to the impressions they were eligible to receive anywhere above organic search results
Incorporate the new metrics into reporting and bidding processes
- Advertisers who incorporate average position data into their reporting processes should replace the average position metric with the new impression rate metrics – as these metrics provide the clearest insight into SERP location.
- Advertisers who incorporate average position data into their bidding processes should begin to utilize the new impression share metrics – as these metrics provide the clearest insight into the opportunity to improve SERP location. Note that Google specifically recommends that advertisers do not utilize the impression rate metrics for bidding decisions, as these metrics could decrease with a bid increase due to higher bids entering an advertiser into more competitive auctions at lower page locations.
- Leveraging automated bidding solutions may prove even more beneficial for advertisers in the absence of average position data, as automated bidding algorithms utilize many signals beyond average position to support the achievement of broader business goals.
Ensure compatibility with other key processes and technology
- Advertisers should confirm the availability of the new prominence metrics at all levels of Google Ads reporting necessary for their business needs. For example, if an advertiser utilizes average position data from Google Ads location reporting to make geographic bidding decisions, the new prominence metrics are not yet available at that level – so this should be escalated to the Google team to be addressed prior to the elimination of average position.
- Microsoft Advertising has already introduced the four new prominence metrics, and it wouldn’t be unexpected for the sunset of average position to follow – so advertisers should prepare accordingly.
- Advertisers should ensure that any third-party reporting and bidding technology they utilize will fully integrate the new prominence metrics prior to the elimination of average position. If not, like the Google Ads example, this should be escalated to the necessary product teams for prioritization.
Ultimately, the sunsetting of the average position metric and the addition of the four new prominence metrics is expected to benefit advertisers by opening the door for greater insight into (and ability to act on) how prominently their ads are served on the SERP – not just how their ads are served on the SERP relative to competitors. RMI recommends that all advertisers begin leveraging the new prominence metrics in reporting and optimization decisions now to take advantage of this additional insight and gain confidence utilizing the new metrics prior to September when average position data will no longer be available.