Google Ads Average Position Is Gone – How To Effectively Manage Campaigns Without It

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Late last year, the average position metric was taken away by Google Ads. Average position was a historic data companion over the years telling you where your ad was showing on the search engine results page (SERP) in comparison to your competitors. While it was a vanity metric that prompted a warm and fuzzy feeling, it could also be misleading. Search Engine Journal points out how average numbers can fail to tell the whole story:

Three advertisers all see they got an average position of 3.0. But the average is actually quite useless at helping to understand what could be optimized.

Here are the positions in which the ads showed. All have the same average, but it was attained with very different individual placements.

  • Advertiser 1: position 1 + 4 + 4 → avg. pos. 3
  • Advertiser 2: position 2 + 3 + 4 → avg. pos. 3
  • Advertiser 3: position 1 + 5 + not shown → avg. pos. 3

These advertisers could make better optimization decisions if they understood how their average position was attained.

We will explain which metrics you should now use to tell where your ad is ranking and how to digest this data to properly make actionable optimizations to your campaigns going forward. Given that we have to compete against OTAs in almost every market, our strategies in this post-average position world continue to prove quite effective 🙂How To Measure Your Ad’s Position On The Page

To get a sense of where your ad ranks on any given SERP, you can use the ‘search top impression rate’ and ‘search absolute top impression rate’ metrics that are available within your Google Ads dashboard. Whereas the average position compared the order of your ads to competitor ads, these two metrics provide the actual location of your ads.

  1. ‘Search Top Impression Rate’ aka ‘Impr. (Top) %’

Search top impression rate tells you the percentage of impressions that show up anywhere above the organic search result. The impression rate is calculated by impressions on top/eligible impressions on top.

  1. ‘Search Absolute Top Impression Rate’ aka ‘Impr. (Abs. Top) %’

Search absolute top impression rate tells you the percentage of impressions that show up as the very first ad above the organic search results. This is calculated by ‘Impressions on the absolute top/eligible impressions on top. 

Here is an example of how average position (when it was still available) equates to ‘Impr. (Top) %’ and ‘Impr. (Abs. Top) %’.

Applying these new metrics

Similar to how we would optimize our campaigns with the average position metric, we can still do so without it.  In the past, if you saw a decrease in conversion rate while there was an increase in average position (say position went from 1.7 to 2.2), you might increase that keyword bid and optimize for quality score in an effort to get your ad back to that 1.7 position so it would convert at a higher rate. The same methods apply here, you just have two metrics to use as a tandem to inform your decision. If your ‘Impr. (Abs. Top) %’ went from 78% to 65% and your conversion rate went from 4.3% to 2.9%, you may want to think about increasing your bids and optimizing for quality score to show up in that 1 position at a higher percentage of the time (closer to 78% than 65%). Please note, ranking #1 does not mean you will necessarily convert higher.  

The ‘Impr. (Top) %’ is moreso a metric to let you know how often your ad is showing up anywhere on top of the page (above organic results).

As with any change, this will take some getting used to, but the information is still there, just in a different light. Google’s explanation for this change is that these two new metrics actually “give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does”.

We hope this article was helpful in getting you over that FOMO FONAP. As always, please reach out to us with any questions you may have. Good luck PPC’ers and let us know if you would like help outranking those big-budget OTAs! 

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