At the end of this month Google will be sunsetting the average position column in Google Ads, so advertisers will no longer be able to see the average position their ads appeared in.
Currently average position is “a statistic that describes how your ad typically ranks against other ads. This rank determines in which order ads appear on the page… The highest position is “1,” and there is no “bottom” position“.
Google now recommends that we use Search top impression rate (Impr. (Top) %) and Search absolute top impression rate (Impr. (Abs.Top) %) as it believes “these metrics reflect the actual placement of your ad on the page, rather than the position of your ad compared to others”.
These new metrics are calculated as follows:
Search top impression rate (Impr. (Top) %) = [Impressions on top]/Impressions
Search absolute top impression rate (Impr. (Abs.Top) %) = [Impressions on the absolute top]/Impressions
What does this actually mean?
What Google is saying is that Search top impression rate and Search absolute top impression rate metrics show us the percentage of times the ads appeared at the top of the search results page, above any organic result. Whereas before, it argues, that if your ad was in position 1.0 it would have been above all the other paid ads, but could have been shown at the bottom of the page, below the list of organic results.
Here are some genuine results seen across some of our accounts, for example:
This shows that some campaigns which were given an average position of 1.0 and 1.1 were actually shown at the top of the page less often than campaigns given an average position of 3.9 and 4.0.
This change is especially important for those using average position as part of rules or scripts, as after the 30th September 2019 these will be disabled, as will saved filters and saved reports that use the metric as a filter. It will also be removed from saved column sets, scorecards and ValueTrack parameters will start returning an empty string.
What happens next?
I personally don’t like this change and think it’s unnecessary. Some advertisers will have learnt that they actually want to aim for, what was, average position 3-4 to get the best ROI from their campaigns. They might have found from vigorous testing that their campaigns perform better slightly lower down the paid results, where they pay less per click and therefore get more clicks for their smaller budget.
Really it boils down to Google, yet again, pushing everyone towards using automated bidding strategies, which are as follows:
Now these bidding options can work really well for some advertisers, but others not all. So what would be the harm in leaving the average position metric available, and giving us the choice of which we want to look at and report on? But as we are not getting that choice we need to evolve and learn how to use the metrics we have. Fundamentally, this change isn’t going to impact the way that our current ads perform, so we don’t need to panic. If we notice any dramatic changes over the coming weeks/months, where a change in position could be the cause, we can use these new metrics to see where the ads were positioned previously and how/if that has changed since the performance has changed.
Luckily it would appear that Google is waiting until October so that we can compare year on year stats when it comes to Impr. (Top) % and Impr. (Abs.Top) %, as they started tracking in October 2018:
This means that if advertisers see a change in clicks, CTR, conversions etc after the average position metric has been taken away, at least we can compare year on year metrics for the new statistics and see if there has been any change that might be impacting these other metrics.
When it comes to new campaigns the usual testing can be carried out and it may be that testing the bidding strategies listed above is the best option. And if manual CPC bidding is the way to go, as you want to have control over the amount you spend per click, then the usual testing can be applied. Although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that is the next thing to go!
What do you think? If you need any help managing your Google Ads campaigns, get in touch.