The Loss of Average Position; Why and What Next?

For many people the Average Position column within Google Ads or their monthly reports is one of the most important metrics. It’s an easy measure of how “well” your ads are performing. An average position of 1 means your ad is stomping all over your competitors’ ads when it comes to appearing before potential customers’ eyeballs.

As of the end of September 2019, Google are discontinuing this metric. The information will simply be no longer available.

Why is it going?

What has changed? Well, Google has changed. Google’s search results page is highly customised these days. The first page of search results changes depending on what Google knows about what you’re searching for.

To test this is simple, just search for something. Search for Teddy Bear Slippers and you get some shopping results followed by some image results, and then the organic search results. Search for Teddy Roosevelt and you get different results. The Wikipedia entry takes first position, with a summary card to the right and a “People also ask” box to narrow down what it is you’re looking for. For the third most obvious result format, search for Build-A-Bear Workshop. This gives you a big entry at the top of the organic search results, with sitelinks added to help you get where you need to be. You get a summary card to the right again, but this time (providing there’s a Build-A-Bear within 100 miles or so of you) you’ll also have a Google My Business card, with a map and reviews of your local store.

With all these changes on the home page depending on what people search for, you learn why Average Position is less useful. Position one doesn’t necessarily mean that your ad is on the screen when it loads (i.e. above the fold). The first ad might be buried beneath the shopping results and the image results. It’s even worse for flights or hotels. Position 3 might not even be on the first page of results.

So, what next?

Instead of position, we can now work with a couple of metrics that Google introduced some time ago. These aren’t quite so straightforward, but they give us useful information, nonetheless. Both of these are part of the Search Impression share family.

Search Impression Share

Search Impression Share (Search IS) is the most important of these metrics, as it gives us the baseline from which to judge the other data we get. This metric shows us how often your ads appeared for how often someone searched for your keywords. There are two reasons why this number might be below 100%, insufficient budget or too much competition. I’ll address these in another blog.

Search Top Impression Share

This lets us know how often your ads appeared above the organic search results for all the times someone searched for one of your keywords. This value can never be greater than the Search IS, as it is based on the overall total, not just the times your ads appeared. So, if you have a Search IS of 80%, and a Search Top IS of 75%, that means 93.75% of the time that your ads appeared, they were above the organic search results.

Search Absolute Top Impression Share

Like Search Top IS, this metric (Search Abs Top IS) refers to the percentage of times your ads appeared at the very, very top of the search results. This slot isn’t always available for search ads. If your keyword triggers a business card or Google Shopping results, then your ad simply can’t have absolute top position.

What does this mean to me?

For our clients, it means the Avg Pos value will be disappearing from your reports. We will include the Search IS, Search Top IS, and Search Abs Top IS columns instead. We will include some commentary in our reports explaining what these figures mean, why the figures are the way they are, and whether these can be improved.

Aside from that, there’s no changes. We’ll still be working to get you the very best performance for your Google Ads account and we’ll still be completely open with our reporting.

And, as ever, our team are available to you to answer any questions you might have.