Google’s New Visibility Metrics

Google Ads introduced new metrics to measure search engine visibility in November, which can be found in the Competitive Metrics section when you modify columns. They are called Search (Top) IS and Search (Absolute Top) IS, and they help advertisers better measure the visibility of their text ad campaigns. They mark a natural progression from August last year when Google introduced Search (Absolute Top) IS for shopping ads.

Competetive metrics - screen shot
Competitive Metrics section

The Search (Top) IS metric enables advertisers to see the percentage of impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results, and the Search (Absolute Top) IS metric enables advertisers to see the percentage of impressions that are shown as the first ad above the organic search results.

As with the original Impr. Share metric, you can see:

  • the percentage of eligible impressions lost due to rank.
  • the percentage of eligible impressions lost due to budget.
  • the metrics on a campaign level, ad group level, keyword level, or product group, or product level.
  • the same metric for each of your competitors in the ad auction that Google has chosen to reveal to us in the Auction Insights.

How We Measured Visibility Before Google’s New Visibility Metrics

Before the introduction of the new visibility metrics, we could use the following metrics:

With the new visibility metrics, we can finally see whether our efforts to get top of page or position 1 visibility in Google’s paid search results work or not.

  • Impr. Share or Display Impr. Share to measure how often we showed ads to users, expressed as percentage of times when our ads were eligible to show. We could also see our competitors’ Impr. Share in the Auction Insights.
  • Avg. Pos. to gauge where we were roughly in comparison to our competitors in the ad auction, with 1.0 meaning that we were one of the advertisers with the highest visibility. We could also see our competitors’ Avg. Pos. in the Auction Insights.
  • Auction Insights to see who our competitors were.
  • Position Above Rate in the Auction Insights to see how often our ads showed above those of our competitors when both we and our competitor showed an ad at the same time, expressed as a percentage of our impressions.
  • Outranking Share in the Auction Insights to see how often our ads ranked higher than those of our competitors, expressed as a percentage of times when our ads were eligible to show.
  • Search (Absolute Top) IS to see how often our shopping ads showed “in the most prominent search position” (to quote Google).

In summary, we could see how visible we were for the search queries we wanted to be visible for and how visible we were in relation to our competitors.

What We Could Not Measure Before Google’s New Visibility Metrics

Though the metrics available to us were useful, they were not precise. Before the introduction of the new visibility metrics, we could not measure the actual position of our text ads on the search results page. Though there was an Avg. Pos. metric, the position given was relative to the positions of our competitors in the ad auction and a position 1 did not necessarily mean that our ads showed first above the organic search results.

This made no sense, as Google allowed you to raise max. CPC bids to “top of page CPC” and Google’s bid simulator recommended bids with the aim of showing your ads “above all organic results” or “above all other ads”. Advertisers could implement Google’s recommendations but not see whether those recommendations proved to be trustworthy.

With the new visibility metrics, we can finally see whether our efforts to get top of page or position 1 visibility in Google’s paid search results work or not. This links our work delivered more strongly to our results and ultimately helps us better explain our work and report our performance to clients.

Supporting phote - handwritten note held up to the sky - says i can see clearly now
Photo credit: Katerha

What We Still Cannot Measure Despite Google’s New Visibility Metrics

Google’s new visibility metrics help advertisers better measure their visibility, but there are still obstacles in the way of fully accurate measurement.

  • Google’s definition of Search (Absolute Top) IS does not specify whether the prominent search position equates to the shopping results carousel before the user scrolls, or to all shopping results in the carousel before the user clicks the link to view the full list of shopping results. If Absolute Top impressions include ads shown in the shopping results carousel after scrolling, it means that not all he Absolute Top impressions are immediately viewable to the user and that users who do not scroll will not see the ads.
  • Search (Top) IS gives us an idea of how often our ads are shown anywhere above the organic search results but does not tell us whether there are shopping ads featured above the organic search results alongside text ads. If shopping ads are featured, on mobile this means that not all the Top impressions are immediately viewable to the user above the fold (before they scroll further down the page) and that users who do not scroll will not see the ads.

The following improvements would shed more light into whether impressions were immediately viewable or not:

  • A better definition of Search (Absolute Top) IS.
  • A new visibility metric that takes visibility above the fold into consideration.

Exactly How Many New Visibility Metrics Are There?

Finally, you may have noticed that sources that mention Google’s new visibility metrics differ on the number of metrics introduced. The number depends on whether the writers have checked their Google Ads accounts to confirm the news and how granular their description of the metrics are – let us explain how each number has been reached to remove the confusion.

  • Most articles suggest that there are four new metrics, but we have not been able to find the additional metrics mentioned – Impr. (Absolute Top) % and Impr. (Top) % – in our accounts. If they exist, they are likely to be account-level metrics that averages out the impression share of campaigns across different networks (e.g. search, shopping, display, video). The writers of these articles do not mention their own experience with using the metrics, nor does they include a screenshot showing whether the metrics may be found.
  • You may encounter other articles that state that there are eight new metrics – this number is reached by counting the metrics that show the % lost due to rank and due to budget as separate metrics. They are Search Lost Top IS (Budget), Search Lost Top IS (Rank), Search Lost Abs. Top IS (Budget), and Search Lost Abs. Top IS (Rank).
  • If you acknowledge the Top of Page Rate and Abs. Top of Page Rate metrics in the Auction Insights as additional new metrics, you may say that there are 10 new metrics. They help us see the Search (Top) IS and Search (Absolute Top) IS of every competitor in the ad auction that Google has chosen to reveal to us.

Hopefully that helps shed some light on the situation for everyone. Follow my contributions to the blog to find out more about PPC management, or sign up to the ThoughtShift Guest List, our monthly email, to keep up-to-date on all our blogposts, guides and events.

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