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April 2, 2019

Average Position is being killed off.

Gary goes to great lengths to explain why this is a good thing.

These blogs have so far looked at different aspects of the world of search. This month we will be taking a closer look at one the old boys from the world of Google Ads, Average Position and saying goodbye forever now that Google has officially announced the removal of this key metric from the system.

It was announced in March 2019 that Google will no longer be providing the Average Position metric.  From September 2019 onwards our accounts and your reports will be forever changed as we move towards two new base metrics that will be taking its place. ‘Search Top Impression Share’ and ‘Search Absolute Top Impression Share’.

This is a bit of an upset for the industry and will change the way we report, but it is not without precedent. Google has over the years removed and added new metrics at will and we have had to roll with it. (Organic search terms in Google Analytics anyone?)

This major change has been brought about after three years of significant changes to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Since early 2016 average position has become less and less relevant and less defined in its meaning.

Once upon a time AVG POS 1 on search meant ranking on the very top of the page. Sitting neatly above two other ads with a whole mess of organic rankings below it – and with a neat row of smaller ads running down the right-hand side:

 

This changed forever when Google moved the ads away from the right-hand side and stacked four larger than ever ads right at the top of the page to push the Organic rankings down even further.

A quick search online shows just how dramatic this can be with the term “pipe relining” where there are NO organic rankings showing above the fold!

 

The Modern SERP

 With all that (and more) in mind why does this mean that Average Position is now somehow less relevant than it used to be?

The answer is actually quite simple; What used to work for Google AdWords doesn’t quite work for Google Ads.

The SERP has changed so much over the years (and let’s not forget mobile here) that the metrics that had value way back in the digital dark age of 2006 are simply not relevant any more.

A dramatic example of the need for the change in reporting is that position 1 no longer means that the ad is at the very top of the page. Instead position 1 simply means that your ad is above the other ads, even if the ad block is at the bottom of the page under the organic ranked listings. While this is still fairly uncommon, we have all seen it, and we have most definitely all experienced it

A position ranking of 1 has value, but only when we know what it means. With the changes to the modern SERP, we as marketing managers simply cannot be confident what AVG POS 1 really means anymore.

 

The way forward.

The new metrics that replace Average Position are: 

  • Search Top Impression Share
  • Search Absolute Top Impression Share

Direct Clicks have long been reporting with these metrics for our clients who would benefit from the data, for everyone else we will are rolling it out slowly over the coming months, but what is it?

Search Top Impression Share looks at the times an ad appears in the top four paid positions (regardless of position) and calculates it as a percentage.

Search Absolute Top Impression Share looks at the times an ad appears in what we would traditionally call position 1.

This means that more often than not you will be confronted with data like this:

 

But why is this valuable?

Taking the above sample, if an Account Manager (Yours Truly) only had access to the impression share and the average position, I might believe that my ads are sitting happily at the top of Google around 20% of the time. But with these added and more powerful metrics I actually know that my ads are only at the very top 14% of the time and that for the rest of my searches my ads fall off the edge of the digital cliff. So, to speak.

Scale this out to some of our larger + $250,000 per month accounts and a dropped 6% of traffic represents significant losses!

 

What do you need to do?

 Simply be aware of the changes.

if you are using the newer metrics already, hats off to you. If you are not then simply try adding the columns and start working with the new data. If you are more comfortable sticking with Average Position and Impression Share for now then continue to do so – but remember the historic crutch that is Average Position will be lost forever from September.

 

The clock is ticking.

 

For a follow up please contact Gary Devine directly at gary@directclicks.com.au to learn how these changes may affect you.

Gary Devine

Gary Devine

Head of Search

I’ve worked in Advertising & Digital since I graduated from university in 2010. I spent 2 and half years working for Google in the UK where I fell in love with digital and creative work. I now run a great team here in Sydney doing great work.

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