Sad That Google’s Retiring Average Position? Here’s How You’ll Be Better Off

May 7th, 2019 by Brandt Arceneaux

As Google has grown into an advertising powerhouse, it has created and improved ad performance metrics. After all, why would advertisers stick around without actionable data for boosting performance?

Average Position is one metric that has been around since the launch of AdWords in 2000. You, like many other advertisers, may use this metric to track the success of your online ads.

In late 2018, Google announced they would retire Average Position in September 2019. Let’s take a look at what this means for advertisers.

What Does Average Position Mean?

The Average Position metric shows the average position where ads are appearing on the search engine results page (SERP). At least, that was its original function.

At first, Average Position helped advertisers gauge the effectiveness of their account changes. It’s easy to see why: if you know where your ads are appearing, you can work your way up to the top of the SERP with adjustments.

Everyone wanted to be at the top because research showed that top search results get the most clicks by far. The Average Position metric was crucial for advertisers chasing the most valuable SERP space.

What’s more, the immediate visibility of an ad at the top of the SERP made Average Position a popular, tangible metric.

Great! We have an intuitive, valuable metric to measure our advertising performance. Why on Google Earth would they get rid of it?

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The Decline and Fall of the Average Position Metric

… Because it’s no longer intuitive, and that makes it much less valuable. Let’s look at what changed over the years.

Average Position used to be helpful when all ads appeared above the organic results. If your ad’s average position was 1, it meant the ad was at the very top of the SERP.

Later, ads appeared at the top of the SERP and also down the right side. Google realized they could combine the ads’ spaces and create an auction for all the real estate on the page.

Google restructured the SERP so only highly relevant ads would appear above the organic results. If no ad was relevant enough, they all appeared on the side of the SERP or below the organic results.

Advertisers could no longer be certain where their ads were appearing. Even auction winners may never appear at the top of the page. By this point, Average Position was more of an “Average Auction Rank” metric.

By now, Average Position data was less helpful for optimizing campaigns. There was just no good way to know where on the SERP your ads would appear. Even your best ads could be languishing at the bottom of the page in the dreaded No Click Zone.

Average Position lost more value as Google reorganized the SERP and added features. So, what’s an advertiser to do? How can we find out how our ads are appearing to our audience? What will save our KPIs?

New Metrics to Save the Day

Google introduced two new position metrics ahead of the retirement of the Average Position. These new metrics are helping advertisers transition more easily. Here’s what they tell us:

  • Search Top Impression Rate is the ratio of impressions appearing anywhere above the organic results. It’s given by Impressions Above Organic / Total Impressions.
  • Search Absolute Top Impression Rate is the ratio of impressions appearing above all of the other ads that are above the organic results. It’s given by Absolute Top Impressions / Total Impressions.

Raccoon gif for Search Influence blog about average position in Google Ads

There are also a few helpful Impression Share (IS) metrics you can bid for to increase Impression Rates:

  • Impression Share (Top and Absolute Top) is the ratio of impressions at the top or absolute top of the SERP and the impressions you were eligible for.
  • Search Lost Impression Share Budget (Top and Absolute Top) shows how often your ad wasn’t top or absolute top because of budget limits. This metric can help with bidding and budget changes for more top-of-SERP impressions.
  • Search Lost Impression Share Rank (Top and Absolute Top) shows how often your ad wasn’t top or absolute top because of your ad rank. This metric can help identify ad copy and landing page changes for more top-of-SERP impressions.

With these new metrics, advertisers are better able to gauge when and how often their ads appear at the top of the SERP. Moreover, with the Lost IS metrics, advertisers can dial in their optimization efforts to where they will have the most tangible impact on ad placement.

Even though Google is retiring a much-loved metric, it’s safe to say that advertisers will wind up with even more and better information than before. Overall, this move is a boon to advertisers who crave control and incremental performance improvements.

What This Means for Advertisers

There’s no reason to be upset over Average Position. The first step is to familiarize yourself with the new metrics. Once you begin using them, you’ll quickly see how useful they are. Here are three ways the new metrics will benefit advertisers:

First, advertisers will be able to create more competitive campaigns with these new metrics. For example, at Search Influence, the new metrics are working well along with the new Auction Insights tool. Using both gives us a starting point for optimization tasks. Now we have to do much less detective work to identify performance-increasing adjustments.

Second, we can examine how our other KPIs (like CTR) are affected by our ad’s position on the SERP. This means we can zero in on the external and internal factors affecting our ad placements and we have more optimization options available.

Finally, the new metrics will help engaged advertisers stay on top of their ad performance. Even not-so-engaged advertisers should find campaign optimization easier. Both groups should capture more valuable impressions and clicks with less testing, guesswork, and time.

If you’d like to know more about how to boost your advertising power, get in touch with the digital advertising experts at Search Influence. We’ve got the expertise and experience to help you reach your business goals.

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