All about Impression Share- How to get more traffic from Google Ads

No, I’m not talking about a first impression (although that is pretty important).

The purpose of any marketing is to get your content seen by as many relevant people as possible. That will also help you get more clicks from them, therefore, possibly more leads or sales.

Impressions and Impression Share let you measure just that- how much your content is showing up and how often compared to your overall competition.

But like I say often, simply knowing isn’t enough.

How you interpret it and doing something meaningful with it are even more important.

In this article, let’s find out what Impression Share is, what it means to you, how you can use it to your advantage, and how to improve it to increase traffic to your site.

Definition: What are impressions and Impression Share (IS)?

Impressions are the total number of times your ad is shown on your audience’s screen.

 Impression Share (IS) measures your impressions relative to the total number of impressions you “could” receive.

Impression Share is primarily used to measure how often your ads are showing up compared to the rest of the competition.

Here’s how you calculate your Impression Share:

(Total # of Impressions / Total # of eligible Impressions)*100

For example, if your total impressions is 100 and there were a total eligible impressions of 1,000:

(100 / 1,000)*100=10% Impression Share

This means you’re capturing 10% of all eligible impressions you could possible be getting, and it means the rest of your competition is getting 90% of the pie.

Why Impression Share matters to you

When you’re advertising online, you can’t achieve your goals unless your ads are shown to as many relevant targets as possible. In Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns, you show your ads, people click on them, and they take a desired action.

Advertising Goal 
Show ads 
(impressions) 
Get clicks 
(traffic) 
Desired Action 
(conversion) 
digital powerup

By increasing your impressions, you have a better chance of increasing your clicks and traffic to your site, and more conversions in the end.

impressions, impression share
clicks/traffic
conversions

Besides indicating how many times your ads show up in impressions, why does Impression Share matter to you?

Impressions can help you measure if your ads are in line with your publisher’s guidelines and best practices. If your publisher, such as Google, Microsoft Bing, Facebook, etc, does not show your ad much relative to the overall eligible impressions, that may be a sign that you need to look into what’s causing it.

Also, Impression Share in advertising or PPC is very important to an advertiser like yourself because it shows how often you show up compared to your total competition.

Google defines Impression Share as “the percentage of impressions that your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could get.”

What does it mean by impressions that your ads could get or “eligible impressions”?

Just because your ads qualify to show, it doesn’t mean they will. The primary reasons for not showing are budget and ad quality.

Eligible impressions are number of ALL times your ads can possibly be shown. You want to capture as much as of this as possible.

We’ll discuss different ways to increase your IS shortly.

Competitor insights with Impression Share

If you’re not getting all eligible impressions, then who does?

Your competitors!

If your Impression Share is 40%, that means 60% of the time your ads could show, your competitors are showing up instead.

This is good and bad for you.

It’s bad because you’re losing 60% of your impressions to your competitors.

It’s good because you have room for growth!

In order to increase your impressions, you can prioritize optimizing your ads that have a higher impact- high impressions but low Impression Share.

How to increase Impression Share on Google

Before you learn ways to increase your IS, you would need to identify where you’re losing them.

When evaluating your Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) account’s Impression Share, you’ll notice there are 2 metrics to show how you’re losing IS:

  1. Search or Display Lost IS (budget), meaning you’re losing Impression Share due to low budget
  2. Search or Display Lost IS (rank), meaning you’re losing Impression Share due to poor Ad Rank

These are showing as a percentage to indicate how often your ads weren’t shown due to budget or Ad Rank.

Ads with a high Impression Share lost due to budget or Ad Rank are not being utilized to its full potential and should be optimized to increase your IS.

So if you put together your total Impression Share, IS lost to budget, and IS lost to Ad Rank, you have 100% of all eligible impressions.

IS acquired 
IS lost due to Ad Rank 
IS lost due to budget

​​​

Your goal is to increase Impression Share and decrease Lost IS.

With that being said, you don’t have unlimited time and budget to spend on account optimization so here’s where to start.

How to get data for search IS and lost search IS

You start with the low-hanging fruit first.

Ads with the top impressions and low Impression Share mean that they’re getting a good exposure but they still have a lot of room for growth.

⚠️ Keep in mind Search lost IS (budget) is only reported at the campaign level while Search lost IS (rank) is reported at the campaign, ad group, and keyword level.

Here are the steps to get your Impression Share and lost search Impression Share data in your Google Ads account:

1. In your Google Ads account, select Campaigns, Ad groups, or Keywords in the menu.

How to get Impression Share data

2. Click the Columns icon and click Modify columns.

How to get Impression Share data

3. Select Competitive metrics, and add Search impr. Share, Search lost IS (budget), and Search lost IS (rank).

How to get Impression Share data
How to get Impression Share data

4. Click Apply.

5. Go back to your Campaigns, Ad groups, or Keywords stats page and sort by Impr. Highest to lowest.

6. Identify the ones with higher Search lost IS (budget) and (rank) compared to your overall average, Total: Search campaigns, which is shown on the bottom of your list.

For example, if your average total Search lost IS (rank) is 30% and you see keywords with the highest impressions are showing 50% or 60% in lost IS, then you’ll have a bigger impact optimizing those first.

Now that you identified which campaigns, ad groups, and keywords to optimize, let’s talk about how you can increase your Impression Share.

How to fix Search lost IS (budget) and Search lost IS (rank)

Decreasing or fixing your Search Impression Share lost due to budget and ad rank would certainly increase your Impression Share. The question is how?

In case of high IS lost due to budget

This one is easy but not easy at all.

You know you have to increase the budget to show up more but how do you know what that budget looks like without overspending?

Google provides a tool called Performance Planner which is available in your Google Ads account in Tools & Settings → Planning.

Once you create goals, it will help you forecast your performance and impact based on different budget scenarios and even provide recommendations on how to distribute budget across campaigns.

Try different budget scenarios depending on your advertising goals, i.e maximizing conversions, minimizing ad spend, etc, and use that as a guideline to test your account gradually.

⚠️ One thing you shouldn’t do is blindly accept the budget suggestions without further research and testing.

In case of high IS lost due to Ad Rank

Ad Rank determines where your ad will show or if it will show at all.

According to Google, Ad Rank is comprised of your bid amount, auction-time ad quality, Ad Rank threshold (the reserve or minimum price for your ad), competitiveness of an auction, the context of the person’s search, and the expected impact of ad extensions and formats.

To sum it up, it involves pretty much everything.

But let’s not get discouraged. There are specific things you can do to improve your Ad Rank. The first 3 of the following directly impact your Quality Score which is a big factor in determining the Ad Rank.

  1. Increase expected Click-Through Rate (CTR)
    • Make your ad copy relevant to the search intent (hint: use keywords)
    • Use a compelling offer
    • Include a clear Call-to-Action
    • Add all relevant ad extensions to provide more options for what they’re looking for
    • Test different ad copies and headline/description combinations to see what performs better (hint: add a responsive search ad)
  2. Improve your ad relevance
    • Use a closely related theme of keywords in each ad group
    • Use keywords in landing pages and ad copy, in a natural fashion
    • Consider the search intent (i.e, are they looking to learn more or buy now?)
  3. Provide a great landing page experience
    • Include keywords but naturally
    • Choose the right landing page depending on the or ad text (i.e, product page vs. category page)
    • Make your page user-friendly and easy to navigate
    • Improve your website speed and loading time
    • Create a mobile-friendly page for traffic coming from mobile devices
  4. Bid properly and competitively
    • Google will give recommendations on what they think you should bid. Do not blindly accept this. Use the Keyword Planner if your account is new or your historical performance data to choose appropriate bids that fit your goals

Next Steps

Review your Impression Share and determine where you can steal impressions from your competitors.

Once you identify where to start optimizing, follow the above recommended steps to guide you through the optimization process.

While you’re optimizing for Impression Share, be careful not to decrease the size of your pie.

If you go from 40% to 60% but your overall impressions are reduced, that may not be bringing you any better results. That’s unless you’re narrowing down and segmenting your targeting intentionally.

Use your Impression Share data together with your total impressions to reach the most of your target audience.


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