Reach More Prospects by Optimizing Impression Share
You’ve set your bids, picked your keywords and launched your campaigns. They’re running profitably. But, are they even showing up for all of the searchers you’re targeting? Probably not.
Google’s Impression Share metrics measure your visibility. They document how many impressions you lost and hint at why. In our last newsletter, we defined Impression Share and discussed how to find and organize it (read more). Now, we’ll focus on optimizing impression share to increase the exposure of your most profitable campaigns and improve ROI.
Start with Impression Share Exact
Good Impression Share analysis starts by asking two questions:
- Do the missed impressions matter?
- If so, where should I focus?
Do The Missed Impressions Matter?
Assuming your campaign organization is accurate enough, 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?
Focusing on Exact Match IS also lets us eliminate match type as a potential cause lost rank and impressions.
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.
What Exactly is Missing “Rank”?
Assuming you’ve addressed any budget shortfalls in your prioritized campaigns, the issue is about rank.
More specifically, it’s about Ad Rank, which is Google’s method of determining how ads rank on a particular search results page.
Bid and Quality Score play an equal role in determining your Ad Rank. Increasing your bids is easy, but expensive. Improve your Quality Score and you can capture some of your lost impressions without increasing your costs. Who doesn’t want more conversions with no incremental cost?
We’ll start our Impression Share optimization by focusing on Quality Score. For a refresher on Quality Score, download our free white paper.
Improve Quality Score to Boost Ad Rank
Quality Score is Google’s secret sauce and the source of a lot of misinformation. As we learned from this video from Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian, there’s one thing for certain: Clickthrough Rate (CTR) is King.
CTR accounts for around 2/3rds of your Quality Score, so you should be spending the same amount of your optimization time trying to improve it.
There are 2 major ways you can do this:
- Improve Search Query/Text Ad Alignment
- Text Your Text Ads
1. Improve Search Query/Text Ad Alignment
Clickthrough rate is a proxy for relevance. Think of your text ads as answers and search queries as questions. Clickthrough rate helps answer the question: How well do the promised goods and benefits in your text ads (and presumably your site) match the needs and intent of the searchers you’re targeting?
The more specific and targeted your question/answer, the higher your clickthrough rate.
Improving your relevance starts with how you group your ad groups. Note that they’re called ad groups, not keyword groups. Each text ad in an ad group should be a different attempt to answer the same questions with your text ad, or attract people with the same interests.
Would you want to present the same text ad to someone looking to ‘buy a house’ as someone trying to ’sell a house’? How about someone wanting ‘bell bottom jeans’ vs one looking for ’stone washed jeans’. ‘discount headphones’ vs ‘3-driver stereo headphones’?
The more narrowly you can segment your user queries, which you control via keywords and match types, the higher your clickthrough rate and conversion rates.
Consider this example from Google:
Start in your ad groups with the highest spend and lowest CTR that are using broad or phrase match. Review the search queries by clicks, cost or net profit and you’ll quickly notice trends of intent:
Obviously, someone who searches for “studded dog collars” has a specific product in mind and a generic “dog collars” ad isn’t as likely to stand out from the competition:
Either you want to target that person more finely or, if you don’t carry the product, it might be a good candidate for a negative keyword.
For more info on search queries, watch our webinar “Master Search Queries to Decrease Cost and Increase Conversion”
Improvements in text ad performance — meaning higher click-through — rates -are within reach of every paid search advertiser.
With a simple approach and a little effort, you can drive up CTR by 2x-4x or more, which brings a lot of advantages:
- Higher Quality Score
- Lower Cost-Per-Click
- Better Impression Share
- Higher Positions
We go into more detail in the video of our presentation from SMX West.
Most discussions of text ads focus on tactics you can take to change particular parts of your ad. Best practices are a fine starting point, but they aren’t universal.
It’s more important to focus on developing a testing habit:
- Write at least 2 text ads for every ad group, preferably with one that is a copy or variant of one you’ve seen work in similar ad groups.
- Review text ad tests several times per month. Tests should run for at least a week to include different performance on weekends. Your test length time will vary on statistical significance.
- Measure results through to conversion as well as CTR. Quality Score and improved Impression Share are useless without profit.
Technical note: Make sure your Ad serving option is set to Rotate, not Optimize. You can find the option in campaign settings:
Cut Keywords and Target Your Geography
Lost Impression Share due to Rank is often an indicator of poor performance. Sometimes, it also reflects a mismatch between the searchers you’re targeting and how you’re targeting them in two ways:
- Intent of keywords/search queries and
Intent of Keywords and Search Queries
If you’ve done all you can to tighten your ad groups, it may be that the intent of a search isn’t what you expected it to be. These low performing keywords drag down your performance and Impression Share.
Impression Share is reported against the keyword/match type combinations you’re using in each campaign. Delete keywords and you essentially decrease the universe of queries that Impression Share now measures.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to eliminate words that work just to improve Impression Share Exact. That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. Rather, by examining and cutting out words that aren’t profitable, productive or relevant, you improve the relevance of Impression Share as a metric, since it’s reported as an average.
Impression Share Exact is an average. It’s only an effective measure when the segments are meaningful and the keywords are valuable.
Refer back to your list of key campaigns. Now, create a list of the top 50 exact match keywords sorted in descending order based on impressions. Add clickthrough rate, conversions and Quality Score data.
Report created with ClickEquations Analyst
In this case, the keyword “wellness dog food” has a low CTR, does not convert and has a low Quality Score. First, make sure the text ad and landing page are answering the searcher’s question.
If they are, then the searcher’s intent may not match what you offer. You can either move these low performing keywords into their own campaigns (with appropriately lower bids) or pause them. Either way, you’ll improve the relevance of your Impression Share.
Target Your Geography
Impression Share Exact is calculated as impressions during which your ad actually showed / total possible impressions for which you could have appeared.
Not every search in that denominator, your potential impression opportunity, is equally valuable. In addition to reviewing keyword performance, you may find that searchers in different states are more or less valuable. This is often true for retailers with physical stores.
In their own tips for optimizing Impression Share, Google themselves acknowledge the role it plays:
Regional and placement targeting act as filters for where an ad can show
If you increase your regional or placement targets, remember to consider readjusting your budget so that it will cover the costs of your new campaign settings
If you decrease your regional or placement targets, you may see an increase in impression share – but keep in mind that the size of the “pie” has been reduced
You can “improve” your Impression Share by reducing the pie. As with pausing keywords, it only makes sense if those states are unprofitable.
Start by compiling your paid search data by state. Here’s a report of the Top 10 worst performing states that I pulled together with ClickEquations Analyst:
Obviously, something is going on in Mississippi. If these visitors are consistently unprofitable, you might want to cut them out with geo-targeting.
The Value of Impression Share
Impression Share matters. First, simply being aware of IS and the associated metrics help you understand your share of voice. More importantly, it’s a quick snapshot to summarize the overall health of how well you’re targeting with keywords, campaign structure and text ads.
Optimizing for Impression Share forces you to go through your account and ask difficult questions:
- Is this account well grouped?
- Are we answering the questions asked by the search queries?
- How relevant are our products to the needs represented by these keywords and queries?
Any steps you take to improve your answers to those questions will make your paid search more efficient and effective.