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As predicted when they introduced new Average Position metrics in 2018, Google Ads are now looking to sunset Average Position metrics later this year. There is a mixed reaction to this news throughout the industry. Some are happy to see the back of Average Position; believing that the new metrics that are now available are a more useful and accurate representation of where your ad is placed in the results page. Others are not so positive, with some believing that this simply gives advertisers less transparency at a time where we are screaming out for more.


Goodbye Average Position :'(

To understand why some might miss average position metrics, let’s understand what average position actually means.

What is Average Position?

Average Position has been one of the most staple metrics in Google’s advertising history. But as search has continued to evolve it’s arguably become less important a factor in bidding decisions and performance. We have moved into a new world of programmatic search where signals, machine learning, context and intent are more important for relevance than which position my ad should appear in.

Average Position refers to the ordering of your ad in the search engine results page and therefore does not necessarily tell you the specific location of your ad on the page. It’s in bold because i think it’s really important to understand the difference. Average Position doesn’t necessarily give you the whole picture and has arguable caused confusion over the years.


Why have Google Ads made this change to Average Position?

They say it’s an outdated metric

I think i’d agree with them here. Over the years average position has become a less important metric for optimisations and bidding. Relevance is now more important than ever, it’s more about understanding the context and intent of the user behind the search query; this is what should help dictate your actions rather than Average Position.

They want us to utilise the new metrics made available to make decisions

Click Share – Google announced that we will be getting click share in our Search campaigns in the coming weeks. This has been available in Shopping campaigns for a while. Similar to Impression Share, it gives you an estimated share of all of the achievable clicks that you could have received.

New Average Position Metrics – Since November 2018, we’ve been able to look at Impressions % (Absolute Top and Top) and Impression Share (Absolute Top and Top). These metrics, according to Google, should give us a better understanding of where our ad was appearing on the search results page.

Competitive Metrics for Audiences – We can now see Impression Share, Lost Impression Share (Rank), Exact Match Impression Share, Average Position (probably not for much longer). This means that we can use this data to make decisions on which audiences we should be targeting better, rather than focusing on driving a high Average Position for everyone. By bidding more/less against our ‘Known’ audiences, we should see the ‘Unknown’ decrease.

By combining all of these metrics together, we should roughly understand our positions in the results page and ultimately what to do next.

It forces more advertisers to opt-into Google’s solutions

By making this decision to remove Average Position based on the argument of ‘giving advertisers more clarity’, we are forced to lose some transparency.

Why can’t we have both Average Position (to help understand order and gain better competitor insight) and the new Average Position metrics? For me, it would still be really useful to use Average Position in context to all of these new metrics to help understand the order of our ads in comparison to competitors in the Auction Insights. However, what this does for Google is it forces advertisers to utilise more of it’s machine learning options and automated bidding solutions to make the decisions on behalf of us. Otherwise, we’d be bidding with one eye closed in the auction.


What does this mean for you?

Continue to protect your Brand Ad positions with ‘Absolute Top’ metrics

Most of you are probably bidding to Average Position 1.0 for your Brand ads. Obviously you wont be able to do this from September onwards, so you’ll need to look at Absolute Top metrics such as ‘Impression (Absolute Top) %’ and ‘Search absolute top impression share’.

Your Paid vs Organic testing may need to be revised

If you are running any testing between ad position and the impact on your organic search results, you’ll need to rethink how you do this from September onwards. For example, were you bidding in a lower position to determine the incremental impact on your organic search results on Brand? You’ll need to think about what else you can define testing constraints here.

Competition will no doubt increase

With this change, it could increase competition and therefore CPCs. Now that it’s somewhat less transparent as to which order your ad appears against the competitor set, it could see an indirect increase in competition in the positions covering ‘Absolute Top’ and ‘Top’. What you will probably notice in particular is competition increasing on certain audiences and audience types.

Audiences and signals are more important than ever

Get your strategy right for Audiences. Utilise as many of the different audience types you can. The more you understand about your audience (both before they come to the website and after they leave), the better the decisions that you can make.

You’ll may need to revise the way you look at Auction Insights

It’s unclear yet whether Average Position will also disappear for Auction Insight reports. If so, you would have to match a couple of the new metrics together to understand where/which order the ad was placed. For example, if a competitor has a lower Impression Share than you, and they have a high Impression % (Absolute Top) then you know that they are adopting a strategy of High Bids with Low Campaign Budgets. This means that they will be appearing above you in the auction. You could then look at the Audience Impression Share reports to see if you can help improve this Impression % (Absolute Top) against the audiences that matter most to your objectives.

Dan Roberts
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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked in agencies for over 5 years and was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards for the work delivered for his clients and wider industry. Dan founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

LinkedIn - https://uk.linkedin.com/in/siondanielroberts
Dan Roberts
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