A New Way to Look at Impression Share Metrics

Posted by: on Mar 19, 2012 | 2 Comments

Opinions on impression share are mixed. Some marketers love them and others couldn’t pay less attention. But as the impression share metrics in AdWords and adCenter become increasingly accurate, I think they’ll start to become a metric that simply shouldn’t be ignored. But not for the reasons you might expect.

I use impression share not as a metric to judge account success, but to gauge my performance as a manager. Everyone wants their ad to show up in every search that will generate a conversion, but that’s impossible to predict. A manager’s job should be to maximize the amount of impressions with conversions and decrease the number without. Since impression share is the number of impressions you received divided by the number of impressions you were eligible for, you have a built-in metric to help you reach 100% efficiency. Managing for impression share can be done two ways: cutting out the crappy impressions you know won’t convert, and grabbing the the highest percentage of the good ones that can convert.

Cut the Crap:

For every business, there are impressions you simply will not convert on. Get those out of there. As you exclude these bad impressions, the number of eligible impressions decreasing, improving your overall impression share.

Geographic Targeting:

Plain and simple. If you don’t sell products or provide services in an area, your ads should not be showing there. Geotargeting is a basic, common sense way to cut bad impressions out of your equation IS and make sure you’re not wasting your budget in an area that will never yield profits.


Along the same lines as geotargeting, day parting can be a strong tool in optimizing your impression share metrics. Take a little trip to your Dimensions tab. Break down your account’s performance by hour of the day and day of the week. Look for periods where your ads are ineffective and exclude that time slot. You’ll cut out bad impressions and possibly make your budget stretch a little further too.

Negative Keywords:

Having a healthy list of negative keywords in your account is a great way to cut out crappy impressions and reduce its eligible impressions. When starting new accounts, campaigns, and ad groups, be proactive with your negative keywords. While conducting keyword research, keep a list of terms you know you don’t want to show for and add them to your account before you launch.

Also, be reactive with your negative keywords. Let’s be honest, if anything is going to think some ridiculous query is related to your keywords, it’s Google’s search algorithm. Regularly go through search query reports and exclude terms that are hurting CTRs and get them out of your eligible impressions.

Match Types:

Each match type gives a varying degree of control over what queries your ads are shown for. The more restrictive the keywords, the easier to it is to control impression share. But not every account can survive on only exact match keywords. When using the less restrictive match types (phrase, broad, and broad match modifier), be sure to stay diligent with the other crap-cutting methods to prevent your ads from showing up in crappy queries.

Grab the Good Stuff:

This is where you’ve got to get your hands dirty. You’ve cut out the impressions least likely to convert. Now comes the time to go after the ones that will. This is a little more difficult. Luckily, both AdWords and adCenter give good feedback. The first step is to check out the lost impression share columns.  Find out where the good impressions are being lost, then go after them accordingly.

IS Lost (Rank):

You’ve got two options here: increase your quality scores or increase your bids. For quality score, increasing CTRs should be the main focus. There are lots of methods to try to increase quality scores. A few basic ones: constantly test ad copy to find the best keyword/ad copy combinations, try using special symbols, and use dynamic keyword insertion. Ad extensions also add a nice amount of bling to your ads to help you grab more click share. But if you’re quality scores are solid 7’s and above, the other option is to raise keyword bids. Take a look at bids vs. cost per clicks.  If there’s a decent amount of space between the two and you’re not capping out your budget everyday, raise bids a little to grab those good impressions.

IS Lost (Relevance):

Currently, this metric is only available in adCenter, and it also seems a bit redundant. Both landing page and keyword relevance are accounted for in the ad relevance portion of ad rank, but these metrics provide more focused feedback.

Impression share lost due to relevancy can be caused by two things: low landing page relevancy or low keyword relevancy.  Landing page relevancy takes page content into account and even some SEO type factors such as meta descriptions and title tags. Even if you don’t know SEO, take the time and learn enough ensure you’re grabbing all the good impressions out of adCenter you can.

Keyword relevancy is a little less technical. If you’re losing impression share here, employ the same basic strategies you would use to increase quality scores in AdWords. Ad copy testing, tightly themed ad groups, etc. As relevancy improves, your keywords will grab more impression share and get you closer to the goal of 100% impression share. For further suggestions, check out Microsoft Advertising’s Support Center.

IS Lost (Budget):

This can get a little tricky. If you’re losing impression share due to budget, then you’re burning through the allotted funds too quickly. If you’ve already cut out all the crap you can, and your ad rank is good, it might be hard to overcome a budget cap. The best tactic: achieve and exceed your KPIs, then suggest a larger budget. Not every company is going to be able to put more money toward their account, and in those situations you’ll have to cut your losses. But for the companies who can, increasing the budgets for a well performing account can help business as well as your impression share numbers. A win-win situation.

Although impression share metrics might not be the best way to measure your account’s performance, I’ve found them to be a great help when evaluating my own performance. What ways do you measure your own performance? Share your strategies in the comments section, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • http://www.seominteractive.com/ Mark Kennedy

    Hi Michelle,

    Very good post. It really does come down to the 2 ways to look at impression share as you said…

    “Managing for impression share can be done two ways: cutting out the
    crappy impressions you know won’t convert, and grabbing the the highest
    percentage of the good ones that can convert.”

    And doing the latter is where it gets tricky (and fun). Some good tips in here to do both.

    • http://www.michellemsem.com michellemsem

      Thanks for reading Mark. I’m glad you liked it.