Impression Share Deep Dive (Pt. III – Winning Back Lost Impressions)

Earlier we looked at the Google Adwords Impression Share metrics. These tell you if your ads are running when people type search queries that match the keywords you’re bidding on. Google Adwords Impression Share ChartVery rarely will you find that the ads in your campaign are running anywhere near 100% of the time. Often you will find that they’re not running 25%, 50%, even 75% of the time when you probably expect that they’ll appear. This will be shocking to some, and should be considered a huge problem. The only reason to bid on keywords is if you want your ads to run when matching queries are typed. There is no logic to the idea that missing impression share is ‘ok’ because you don’t need the ‘extra impressions’.

  • Isn’t it possible that the impressions you’re missing are the best – meaning highest converting – impressions? Or the most competitive impressions – those others are trying the hardest to take away from you? Do you really want to buy only the remnant impressions? .
  • Or it could be that you’re getting the best ones, and missing the worst impressions – particularly if you have much lower impression share than impression share exact match (and if you’re keywords are well chosen). It could be that you’re missing lots of wierdo-broad-match Google Gumbo queries that you wouldn’t want anyway.

The point is that lost impression share is an uncontrolled mystery. If your campaigns have high amounts (say over 30%) lost impression share you’re letting Google decide how and when to advertise your site and spend your money. Shouldn’t you decide? Divide And Conquer As discussed in post II in this series, your first step is to break down your campaigns into logical units for which IS becomes meaningful. IS metrics across campaigns with dozens of dis-similar ad-groups aren’t actionable. Of course, re-organizing campaigns is a large and difficult process. Adwords Editor makes it possible in a simpler matter than before, but it’s still a lot of work. At a minimum your ‘must win’ ad groups should be isolated in ways that give you good visibility into their IS performance. Your core brand terms, which we’ve written about before in terms of organization, are a good place to start. Then I’d suggest creating a slum for your losers, misfits, and keywords of questionable origin. Every campaign has them, ad groups that are a bit of stretch, a test, perform terribly but are hung onto for sentimental value, whatever. shortbusGet anything you really don’t care about, or know deep down isn’t likely to work moved out of your bread-and-butter campaigns and onto ‘short bus’ campaigns. You can let them run there, work on improving them, ignore them, whatever. But they will no longer be mucking up the impression share metrics in your more meaningful campaigns. Now Do Everything Right Once you have reasonably tight campaigns, and clear IS metrics for these cleaned-up campaigns, you can start working on a fix to the real problem(s). Except for one tiny problem: You can’t fix what’s causing lost impression share. Lost impressions are a symptom of a much larger disease – the overall quality of just about every aspect of your campaigns design and performance. So if you want to eliminate lost impression share, you’re just going to have to improve nearly every aspect of your campaigns:

  • Build out your match type keyword traps. Increasing coverage of exact and phrase match terms, and bidding them properly, should garner more impressions for those terms for broad-match heavy campaigns.
  • Harvest search queries to increase negatives and add new phrase/exact match keywords. Every step to remove excess and intelligently expand your keywords improves the value of the IS measurement and hopefully the number as well.
  • Check and address quality score across your campaign. Ad Rank = bid x QS, and often QS isn’t thought of enough.
  • Write and test more text ads. This is the most overlooked effort in PPC, can drive quality score which drives ad-rank, and more importantly can multiple CTR by many times which grows everything positive.
  • Bid differently. As a component of ad-rank, which plays a huge role in Impression Share, bids are a factor. Notice that bids don’t have to be your first or only lever 🙂 (And watch for our upcoming blog post series on bidding.)

Impression Share is an interesting, and perhaps unexpected, broad measure of the quality of our campaigns because of how it’s influenced by the wide range of factors suggested above. Paid search is way too complex, and still to opaque (and perhaps inconsistent and imperfect) to pretend that it’s a clear measure that will track ‘campaign quality’ in any precise way – but it is an indicator and one we can use in surprisingly far-reaching way. Impression Share Wrap Up A lot of the paid search process happens without enough feedback or context. Any available metrics that help us understand and measure the funnel we’re trying to push people through, therefore, is very important. Paid Search Conversion Points Other than the laughably inaccurate traffic/click estimates in the keyword tool, impression share is our only way to get critical visibility into the size of the audience we’re aiming at and keep a scorecard of our progress toward reaching it. Bonus Link: Watch our ‘ClickEquations in 90 Seconds’ video on how ClickEquations Analyst enables you to track and report on Impression Share.



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