Impression Share: The Little Known Metric with a Big Impact (Part 1)
What if your paid search ads didn’t run?
You picked the keywords, placed the bids, people searched, but your ads didn’t show up? It happens every day and it’s documented in a metric called Impression Share.
If you’re campaign is profitable, but you’re losing Impression Share, then you’re leaving money on the table.
Impression Share is often misunderstood or, worse, ignored in campaign optimization. This month, we’re sharing tips to help you understand, find and organize your Impression Share to improve your campaign ROI.
Impression Share Refresher
There are four Impression Share Metrics. IS, IS Budget, IS Rank, and IS Exact. The first three are relatively straight forward. The last is a bit confusing.
- Impression Share = The percentage of the time your ads where shown (for this campaign) out of the times it was eligible to be shown. Eligible means the search matched your keyword, your account was active, the geo-targeting and day-parting and other settings were right, etc.
The next two metrics explain the Impression Share you didn’t get. If your Impression Share is 70%, then your Lost Impression Share is 30%. But why didn’t your ads run those times? The next two metrics tell you:
- Lost IS (Budget) = The percentage of impressions lost due to budget constraints
- Lost IS (Rank) = The percentage of impressions lost due to low Ad Rank (cost-per-click bid x Quality Score).
So Impression Share + Lost IS (Budget) + Lost IS (Rank) = 100%. These tell you what you got and what you didn’t get, and why.
Think of it visually:
Exact Match Impression Share: The Ugly Stepsister
The last impression share metric is trickier. For that reason, it probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
- Exact Match Impression Share = The impression share of your campaigns as if your keywords were set to Exact Match.
That’s the official Google definition – the one that seems generally misunderstood.
So let’s try it a different way. Exact Match IS tells you the percentage of the time when your ads were displayed for search queries that exactly match the keywords in your campaign.
One minus Exact Match IS is the percentage of the time when someone typed exactly your keywords in as their search query and Google still didn’t show them your ad.
For a more detailed overview of Impression Share, download our white paper.
One Important Caveat
Google only reports the 4 Impression Share metrics at the Campaign level and only for search campaign (the content network is not counted).
Like any average and metric at the campaign level, the actionability of Impression Share is entirely dependent on how well grouped your ad groups and keywords are under each campaign.
Know Your Impression Share
The first step to optimizing is admitting you have a problem. In the report tab of AdWords, run a Campaign Performance report:
Select all 4 Impression Share metrics, and any others you want, in the Performance Statistics section:
To get conversions, you must be tagged with AdWords or Analytics conversion tagging. AdWords runs on last click attribution.
ClickEquations automated analytics gather Impression Share for you and you can include any of the metrics you’re used to seeing at the campaign level: net profit, ROI, conversion, assists, etc.
Impression Share in the ClickEquations web interface
Conversions are calculated under any attribution type you choose: linear, weighted, first click or last click.
Wondering what your impression share is for Yahoo and MSN? Well, keep wondering. Neither engine reports these data at the moment.
Organize Your Impression Share
With your Impression Share data in hand, you can now tackle two questions:
- Does Impression Share even matter?
- Where should I focus?
Does Impression Share Even Matter?
Assuming your campaign organization is accurate enough (see the caveat above); the first question is easily answered. If the campaign is profitable, then you don’t want to miss out on potentially valuable searches.
If you’re losing Impression Share due to budget, simply increase your budget. Problem solved. In most cases, though, this isn’t the issue.
If your Impression Share is lower than, say, 85% (there is no “right” cut off point), and it’s due to rank, you’ll need to do some more digging to figure out where to prioritize your limited optimization time.
Where Should I Focus?
With limited time, we need to focus our optimization on campaigns with the lowest Impression Share where the missing clicks would be most profitable and worth our time to chase.
Thus, we need to make a list of high priority campaigns.
Exact Match IS is one of the easiest ways to prioritize. Think about it this way: if Google doesn’t think it’s worth their while to show your ads to people typing in exactly the keywords you’re buying, how can you expect them to think running your ads is worth it for search queries you aren’t even directly buying?
Start by plotting your Exact Match IS and its inverse, Share of Exact Queries Missed as a bar graph.
In this example taken from a ClickEquations Analyst template, you can quickly see which campaigns are suffering the most (more red, less blue).
In this case, 4 campaigns are performing well below their peers with an Exact Match IS less than 55%.
Even better, we can project how much those lost impressions and clicks would be worth to us based on current performance with another ClickEquations Analyst Impression Share template:
We’re now armed with the potential value of improvement, which is a much more powerful way to prioritize.
We can go through a similar exercise with Impression Share and Lost Impression Share due to Budget and Rank.
Start with a graph of all 3 types of IS in one bar chart that adds up to 100%. We can quickly see where Lost IS Budget is an issue (red) and where Lost IS Rank is the source (green).
It’s much more revealing to understand where those lost impressions and clicks are cost us:
GS Product Dog Categories represents a huge opportunity. With only 2% Impression Share, it’s potentially leaving $100,000 in revenue on the table.
Your Prioritized List
With this Impression Share audit, which you should do at least once a month, you’ll either end up with a list of campaigns you need to investigate or have a clearer sense of how your campaign structure needs to be reorganized.
Stay tuned for part two of our series about how to optimize to improve your Impression Share. In the meantime, download our free Impression Share white paper.