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As the face to every paid search account here at AdVision, I run into a lot of the same questions. Why would I want to bid on my own name? What is an expanded text ad? What’s a good benchmark on the data we’re looking at? How do you go about optimizing an account? Etc.

Even though I’m more than happy to explain all of these in detail, no question gets my energy flowing quite like "Search impression share, what’s that?”  I love this curiosity, and it’s because it’s the start to truly understanding how Google AdWords’ system works. Not enough paid search managers fully understand the value into search impression share and what it actually means for an account. A lot of the time, the client never even gets to hear of what it is simply because it’s overlooked. However, the really good paid search managers understand this factor... and after this, I’m sure you can blow someone’s mind next time you jump into your account.

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Search Impression Share

A lot of the time, people focus on cost-per-clicks, click-through-rates, conversion rates, or cost per lead. All of these are great factors to look at, but nothing will diagnose an account quite like impression share stats. 

Think of it this way, when your car is acting up and not functioning properly, you don’t take it to the service center and the technician just looks at your car and knows what’s broken. It takes expertise and knowledge, but more importantly it takes the service tech to look under the hood and get a feel for what’s going on. Search impression share stats work the same way. You can get a lot of information about why your CPC is what it is and how to move it in a better direction. Instead of just calling out stats for what they are, it will allow you to know the reasoning behind them.

Search impression share is essentially your market share in the search results. Everyone in sales understands market share and paid search is no different. There can only be so many searches in any given day, and by knowing how often you show up and why you don’t can dictate your outcome.

Yes GIF.gifFor simplicity sake, let’s say there were 100 searches that happened yesterday for a keyword you’re targeting labeled “travel agencies in Colorado”. Your ad showed 70 times out of 100 times. This means your market share was 70% - or in other words, your search impression share value. This means 70 times out of 100 times, your ad showed during the keyword search. A typical goal for search impression share varies, but generally a 70-80% share is respectable.

Great, so your ad showed up 70% of the time, but what about the other 30% of the time? Well that’s where the magic happens, get ready.


Search Impression Share Loss Due to Budget

There are another two factors that come into play that really allow you to understand why you only had 70% of search impression share. The first one is the easiest to understand, called "search impression share loss due to budget". Simply put, this specifically tells you that you missed out on X% of the searches due to not having a large enough budget for your current targeting efforts.

Let’s role-play and imagine you’re in a boat. Now, imagine your boat is in the middle of the ocean. How much of the ocean could you see in one day? If you’re a normal human being like me, you’d see only a fraction of a percent of the entire ocean. Now, imagine your boat is in the middle of a lake. How much of the lake could you see in one day? I’d have to imagine it’d be a whole lot more than a fraction of a percent. Who knows, maybe you could see the entire lake in one day. It may sound silly, but the boat example is a perfect picture of the impact of budget on your account in paid search.

If you can’t afford to increase your budget, don’t worry! There are other ways to get more out of your account regarding the budget. Instead of just throwing money at the wall and hoping something sticks, you could cut back on geo-targeting or the amount of keywords you’re targeting.  By shrinking the areas you’re targeting (ocean vs. lake), you can trim the “fat” on the account pretty quick. If you’re a local brand, just look at your location settings and see where the performance outliers are and trim or enhance accordingly.

If you’re a national brand, maybe geo-targeting is something you don’t want to cut but you have no more room in your budget. There’s a strategy for you too, my friend.  Just begin eliminating keywords that aren’t performing well from your account to cut down what your ads could qualify for. Or, start trimming the offerings you’re offering to begin with. Maybe you don’t have enough budget to offer ALL of your services online.

The larger your targeting is, the more likely you’ll have to cut and trim according to geography or keyword depth. Or if a budget increase is a better approach, there are tools we can use at AdVision to plug in your data and spit out a budget recommendation down to the penny.

Overall, it’s a best practice to usually aim for a loss due to budget of around 15% for most normal accounts. If it’s a little higher, that’s ok, but once it gets in the 30-50% range, then there’s some opportunity to increase budget or redefine targeting.

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Search Impression Share Loss Due to Rank

Budget and targeting isn’t everything though. Google isn’t naive. Even though you may have a blank check from the boss and can spend whatever you want, Google isn’t going to make it easy. That’s where "search Impression share loss due to rank" comes into play. It’s the secret recipe in how or why your ad may rank above or below your competition and easily the most complex situation in this whole equation. It tells you what percentage of searches you didn’t qualify for, simply based off of your account performance.

Search impression share loss due to rank looks at overall Ad Rank, and if your Ad Rank isn’t high enough, Google won’t show your ad. Google truly cares about user experience on their search engine. The better performing ads will get better placements and favorable costs because Google wants to make sure you find the answer you’re looking for and actively keep coming back to Google since they have a record of delivering.

Ad Rank consists of a few factors: Quality score, max CPC’s, and ad formats. I’ll save these for a more in-depth blog down the line, but each of these items are complex in their own right. The three combined are used to rank your account on how “good” your ads really are. Each of them will take time to make an impact on Ad Rank, which means this category is usually the harder of the two items to improve (loss due to budget versus loss due to rank). 

Game Changer.gifSimilar to loss due to budget, it’s best to aim for 15% - but that varies due to competition. We have a few printer companies here at AdVision that have very expensive keywords ($64 CPC’s on some). Most of our accounts can’t afford to spend $64 on ONE click, so we’re going to miss out on some searches simply because we’re not willing to play with the big boys. That’s ok! It’s a balancing act, but if you truly understand why it may be higher or lower, that’s a game changer in knowing how to tweak your account to move it in the right direction.


Connecting the Two

Now that you know what both of these underlying factors are, we can start analyzing things. I have a few situations outlined below for explanation:

  1. Your search impression share is 20% with a loss due to budget of 70% and loss due to rank of 10%. This one is simple, your biggest opportunity to get more at bats at the plate is to either (A) Increase budget, (B) Decrease geographic targeting, or (C) Decrease keyword depth.
  2. Your search impression share is 20% with a loss due to budget of 10% and loss due to rank of 70%. This one is a little tougher since it looks like your Ad Rank is taking a hit. (A) Check out your max CPC’s in the account, (B) Check out your Quality Score on your keywords, and (C) Make sure you have ad extensions setup. Are some keywords super expensive and competitive? Or are your keywords just coming through with poor Quality Score?
  3. Your search impression share is 75% with a loss due to budget of 15% and a loss due to rank of 10%. Your account is probably performing really well. There’s not much that can be done here outside of making sure your Ad Rank is even better than it is right now. Try and get both of these fields down to 0% if possible, but things are looking good!
  4. Your search impression share is 40% with a loss due to budget of 30% and a loss due to rank of 30%. This one is a little interesting because it looks like you have opportunity to change up targeting or improve ad rank. I’d begin by checking out your Ad Rank, and see if there’s a reason for the low performance. The high loss due to budget and high loss due to rank is likely due to competition. Your max CPC’s are likely lower than your competition and your budget is a bit too light to compete throughout the day. This is the most common situation among accounts – so there’s a lot of tinkering in the account that needs to be done. 

Overall, search impression share is an incredible stat that often gets overlooked. If you understand what a “good” or “bad” value is, you can start to head in the right direction on where in the account you need to look to optimize. Instead of getting into an AdWords account and not knowing what to do, this is the first step in success. By understanding each of these factors, you can jump into any account, and get a feel for what needs done immediately. You may not know exactly how to fix the account quite yet, but at least you’re looking in the right area.

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Post by Adam Ross
April 25, 2017