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The end of average position in Google Ads platform

Yet more significant news was announced by Google recently, with the update that in September, ‘average position’ will be retired, meaning advertisers will no longer have the ability to see the average position of their individual keywords.

What is the change?

The average position metric in Google Ads (formerly AdWords) will be removed, to be replaced with ‘absolute top’ and ‘top’ impression share metrics. The idea is to better represent the location of your ads, versus their order.

Quick Summary of key metrics:

  1. Search (absolute top) impression share
  • This identifies as a percentage the rate at which your ad is appearing at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP)
  • Absolute top impressions / Eligible absolute top impressions
  1. Search (top) impression share
  • This identifies as a percentage when your ad is appearing at the top of the SERP listing (above organic results).
  • Top impressions / Eligible top impressions

What is Google’s rationale?

Google’s position is that average position isn’t the best way of interpreting ad visibility, rather it denotes to the order in which they appear. Under the old remit of search, with ads on the right-hand side, it was easier to establish the location. However, an average position of 1 might not mean top position, as in fact your ad could be displayed below the organic listing.  These new metrics, in theory, should give a better indication of the location your ads are displayed.

All Response Media viewpoint

Average position has always been a fundamental component of bid management and spends forecasting, allowing advertisers to forecast expected sales volume and efficiency in various ad positions.

The removal of this metric will take away insight and control from advertisers and considerations will have to be factored in conjunction with bid strategies with average position no longer a data point that can be leveraged by the algorithm.

We would expect this to have a significant immediate impact on performance when it lands in September. Whilst we accept Google’s theory, the reality is that the change is so fundamental to how PPC is planned and bought, that it will result in inevitable cost per click (CPC) inflation as advertisers try to adjust to the new climate.

However, over the coming months we will be interrogating the new metrics, testing rigorously and ensuring that when the change lands in September, we have a tried and tested approach and have fully accounted and planned for the inevitable volatility in the first few days and weeks.

The decision appears to be a further move by Google towards a more accessible and automated PPC solution: taking the focus away from the mechanics of buying and more towards the strategy. Especially when you consider the changes to exact match keywords in September last year, responsive search ads, and further refinements to dynamic search ads.

And finally it’s important to mention that advertisers that are just running PPC activity, or rely heavily on any one media channel, should consider that a broader media mix better insulates performance against the impact of a change by a single supplier.