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top and absolute top impression rate metrics: what are they and what do you need to know?

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Google will soon be retiring their average position metric. You may be in fear as to what you will do without this handy metric, but fear not! As expected, Google has put alternatives in place of average position and with the removal date of September 2019 fast approaching, the time has come to refocus your efforts and start getting used to Top and Absolute Top metrics.

why is google removing average position?

As one of the original metrics in Google Ads, many marketers and advertisers have found the average position a useful feature over the years. This metric provides more tangible results than most pay-per-click metrics and it is still used for bidding purposes today. So why would Google get rid of it?

Google continues its efforts to provide users with new, innovative ways to help analyse data. Average position has always been a useful indicator to where your ads appear within search page results, but it does not tell you the actual position your ads show on Google SERPs, instead, it tells you the average of where your ad is shown in comparison to competing ads, Google has previously provided clarity to this topic.

Although helpful when analysing campaigns and adjusting bids, average position doesn’t consider the full picture. In November 2018, Google rolled out Top and Absolute top impression rates metrics stating, “These new metrics give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does.”

Additionally, these new metrics encourage advertisers to move away from manual bidding into automated bidding. With multiple bidding options available, Google pushes machine learning as a way of delivering enhanced bottom-line results. The new metrics may aim to provide a better indication of where your ads appear on SERPs, but how will they impact your ads?

average position is OUT, top and absolute top are IN

Top and Absolute Top are now the primary focus for brands when it comes to Google Ads. You will need to pay attention to these two metrics in order to fully understand your ad’s position on the SERP. Both metrics centre around impression shares, measuring the percentage of impressions your ads are eligible to receive.

Absolute Top impressions are what we call position one, this ad sits at the very top of the SERPs above the organic results and all other paid ads. This metric is capable of indicating the frequency a competitor has been in position one, and through analysing this data, we can detect whether a company is effectively sustaining this placement. Top position ads, on the other hand, show above organic results and include Absolute Top position.

what should you expect?

With the removal of average position in September 2019, the true impact of these new metrics is yet to be seen but predictions are being made.

There is no doubt that there will be an increased sense of competitiveness as users will naturally begin to target Top and Absolute Top of page positions, or any placement closer to the top of the page for that matter. This heightened targeting is likely to lead to an increase in the cost-per-click (CPC) and potentially the cost-per-acquisition (CPA).

If a hyper-competitive market is created, it’s crucial you revise and fool-proof your PPC strategy. This will give you a fighting chance at achieving the Absolute Top position.

what should you do next?

Prepare and learn. The two fundamentals of an upcoming change. The new metrics are already live on Google, giving you plenty of time to use and understand them before average position disappears in September. The faster you begin the transition and align your thinking process to Top and Absolute Top impression rate metrics, the easier it will become to gain visibility for your brand. If you’re still using average position for bidding purposes, we suggest beginning to use the new metrics and update your automated bidding strategies.

The days of relying on average position only to gain an understanding of where your ad is showing up on the SERP are coming to an end. The focus needs to shift to Top and Absolute Top positioning as this is where advertisers will want their ads to be showing. The introduction of these new metrics will benefit PPC teams, creating more valuable, actionable insight for advertisers. But, as with anything new, time needs to be taken to understand and learn. The faster you adjust, the better the outcome and the smoother your transition will be.

If you are wondering how to adapt your paid media strategy to consider top and absolute top impression rate metrics, or need support with your current automated bidding strategies, speak to a member of the equation team.

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