How Impression Share Impacts Ads On Google Search Results

Simply put, Impression Share is a way of measuring how much exposure your ad campaigns are getting in front of your potential customers.

This is measured through the impressions your ad receives, out of the total possible number of impressions it could receive.

We can compare it to the term market share. Market share is the total amount of sales a particular company makes out of the total overall sales of that particular product.

If you and your friend sold ice cream on a beach, and after one day you managed to sell 90 share ice creams, and he managed to sell 10, then you would have a 90% market share. Because 90 of the 100 sales of ice cream went to you.

In the real world, we can look at the big tech company Apple.

So, for example, in 2020, in the US, the big boys at Apple had a 47% market share of the smartphone market. This means that for every smartphone purchased, roughly 1 in 2 would be an Apple product, an iPhone. That is a very large share of the market, making Apple hold the highest amount of the market share for smartphone sales in America.

Just like Apple had a large share of the smartphone market, it is possible to measure similar trends with your google ads. Namely, what percent share of ad views your ad receives.

We call this the ad impression share.

What is an impression?

An impression is just a fancy word for an ad view; a measure of every time your ad appears to a potential customer. Yet not every customer wants to click on that annoying ad, they usually want to continue browsing. And so this metric looks only at views or impressions, not the number of ‘clicks’ your ad receives.

One thing Google takes into account when calculating total possible impressions is the targeting settings. You may only want your ad to appear to specific demographics or searches.

Clearly, you wouldn’t want an ad for a steakhouse to appear when someone is browsing an animal welfare charity, or you wouldn’t want an ad for a walking holiday to appear to someone looking up wheelchairs.

Therefore with targeting settings, google will only calculate possible impressions as relevant searches. Times where your ad is supposed to appear according to your ad targeting.

Another area Google Ads share will take into account is quality. Quality with Google Ads is a system where higher quality adverts are rewarded by being given a higher quality grade (from 1/10 to 10/10), the higher the grade quality, the more positions the ad will be shown in and so the higher the view count. Things that lead to a higher quality grade are areas like design, mobile usability and ad relevance. I recently discovered this infographic from Tenscores that explains it all in detail, and a tool that helps with ad relevance.

With the ad impression share, you are being marked against your potential impression count, and so you are compared with impressions that would only find ads within your quality range. For example, if an ad appears at the top of the search but requires a quality rating of 7/10, yet your ad has a score of 4/10, the potential impressions will not be compared with the higher quality ad.

There are many other calculations at play to work out the total, including, Keywords, or quality controls. In this way, Google will omit certain circumstances where your ad doesn’t appear, as these may skew the data. Clearly, you don’t want to measure your impression share against every ad of every quality for every product with every search.

Calculating your Impression Share

Impression Share is available in your Google Ad account, you don’t need to calculate. All you need to do is modify the columns of which metrics to show in your data table as explained here.

So, like Apple which sold nearly 1 in 2 of every smartphone in America, you want as high a ‘share’ of the impressions as possible. If you have a 50% impression share, then like Apple, one in two users who search or browse with the relevant criteria, will see your ad. And so your ad has reached 50% of your browsing target audience. If you have a lower impression share, say for example 10%, then you are only reaching 1 in every 10 of your possible viewers, that is a massive reduction when compared to 50% or 1 in 2 viewers.

Poster Example

Imagine that you are running for school president. You are making posters to get people to vote for you. The school tells you that you have $5 to spend on your posters. From 5 dollars you can make 10 cheap posters or 5 premium high-quality posters. Now you want your posters to appear in the most places, with the most traffic or potential viewers.

You decide to buy 10 cheap posters. You start placing them up all over the school, but when you get to the art department of your school, the snooty art teacher tells you that these posters are not worthy of display. So you have your posters everywhere in the school apart from the art department. You find out that in your current locations, your posters are seen by 300 students a day. 300 out of a total possible 900 students who go to your school. You have a 33% impression share.

But you find out the art department is the busiest part of the school, and just having one poster appear there, would increase your views massively. So to get posters put up there, you have to go back and buy a high-quality poster that the art department will allow. A poster of premium design worthy of art display. You now have a poster in the art department and your view count goes massively up to 600 students, you have doubled your impression share to 66% of students.

You may need to spend more on your ad’s budget to get to appear to more people and increase your impression share. Like the posters in the school, you want your ad to be visible to as many potential customers as it can.

So why is it useful?

Clearly, you want a higher impression share, and it can help you test what changes increase your impression share.

You could see that you have a low impression share, so you try to change an aspect of your ad. So for example,  you see you have a 10% impression share and decide to loosen up the targeted setting on your ad. You notice your impression share goes up a few percent, and so you try other elements. You increase your budget and see your impression share go up once more. Your ads are now appearing more frequently.

But maybe you make a change that costs you money but does not increase your impression share. In which case, the google ads impression share is telling you that the changes are not worth it. It is down to you to decide from your impression share, what changes are worth the price, and what change will increase your impression the most.

In the poster example, you may buy 10 more posters but you notice your poster views stay at 600 students, therefore you have increased the budget, without increasing your impression share.

Generally the higher the impression share, the better. So this is a perfect tool for making your ads reach more people at a more efficient cost. Just like a high market share, a high impression share reflects success.

Tina Johnson helped bring The Marketing Folks from a-weekly newsletter to a full-fledged news site by creating a new website and branding. She continues to assist in keeping the site responsive and well organized for the readers. As a contributor to The Marketing Folks, Tara mainly covers industry new.