August 04 2021


Impression Share: What is it? And why is it important?

Impression Share is a term often used when discussing pay-per-click advertising performance, but what does it really mean for you? In addition to being measured hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc., the reasons behind what causes the percentage you’re shown can be complex. In today’s blog post, we pull back the curtain and walk you through what you really need to know when it comes to impression share.

Why Am I Not Seeing My Ads?

Search Engines rotate ads based on a daily allowance designated by the advertiser. Your daily budget is your monthly budget divided by the number of business days in a month. Oftentimes, this is then divided between Google and Bing Ads based on your business goals and historical performance on both search engines.

PPC Daily Budget Breakdown
Daily budget breakdown for $1300 monthly spend

For example, if your monthly spend was $1,300 (like it is in the budget breakdown shown above) and your ads were being shown Monday – Friday, you’d have around $60 to spend across both Google and Bing each day. If you wanted to show your ads on the weekends too, you’d have to stretch your daily budget a little further.

Both Google and Bing display your ads as often as possible while staying within your daily budget. When the budget limit is reached, your ads will typically stop showing for that day. Your daily Google exposure can be measured with a metric called Impression Share.

What is Impression Share?

Google Impression Share represents the percentage of times your ads were actually shown in relation to the total number of chances your ads could have been shown, based on your keyword and campaign settings. Your impression share is updated daily and can be viewed as an average for a longer period of time, based on the day of the week, and even hourly.

Hourly Impression Share Report
Hourly Impression Share Report

In the example above, you can see how Google is attempting to stretch the duration of the time the program’s ads are able to receive impressions by showing them as evenly as possible throughout the day. This is why the impression share stays in the mid 20% range for the majority of the day. If it started the day off at 100%, the program would run out of budget quickly and ads would not be shown for most of the day.

What is a Good Impression Share?

A good impression share truly varies based on your business goals. Let’s say one of your PPC Campaigns has a 100% impression share but isn’t driving the right leads for your business while also costing you a lot of money. It’s a great impression share on paper but isn’t a great impression share for your business. Finding that sweet spot where the leads coming in are exactly what you are looking for while you’re also comfortable with the amount you’re spending (and the return on your investment is there) is ultimately what your “good impression share” should be measured at.

Why is Impression Share Important?

Taking It to the Next Level

Let’s say your business is located on the East coast, and you are wanting to grow your online presence and leads on the West coast. You are getting traffic and leads throughout the day, your ads are set to show until 9 pm ET, (which is 6 pm PT) but you aren’t seeing any increase in traffic or leads from the West coast like you were wanting. It’s time to check your impression share.

If your impressions are dropping off long before the evening hours on the West coast, that may be the reason your exposure hasn’t increased as you had hoped.

Another important area to look at is your average phone calls and form submissions by hour. If your hourly lead graphs are dropping around the same time as your impressions, that may be a good reason to test a budget increase or make other updates to your program in order to extend your ad exposure to later in the day.

How Do I Improve My Impression Share?

If you’d like your ads to remain more visible throughout the entire day, you may need to make a few adjustments to your program. While you don’t need to make all of these adjustments, a combination of a few of them would improve your ad exposure.

  • Continue to refine and optimize your paid search program through negative keyword additions and bid strategies. (If you work with TopSpot, this is something your SEM Account Manager does on an ongoing basis.)
  • Decrease the amount of time your ads are being shown on a daily basis.
  • Increase your monthly pay-per-click budget to allow for more spend each day.

In addition to the basic Impression Share metric, Google Ads also measures a variety of other competitive impression share metrics. These include:

  • Search exact match impression share
  • Search top impression share
  • Search absolute top impression share
  • Search lost impression share (rank)
  • Search lost impression share (budget)
  • Search lost top impression share (budget)
  • Search lost absolute top impression share (rank)
  • Search lost top impression share (rank)
  • Search lost absolute top impression share (budget)

While the names may sound confusing, they are generally based on comparisons of the following:

Top Versus Absolute Top

Any mention of top impression share is speaking to instances where your ads appear above any organic listings where absolute top impression share is referring to the 1st ad position.

absolute top versus top for impression share definitions

Lost Impression Share Based on Budget Versus Rank

These metrics are focused on why you may not be seeing your ads. If your average impression share was 40%, your lost impression share would be 60%. From there, Google will narrow it down as to whether that 60% was due to your budget restricting your impressions or your ad rank.

Your ad rank is determined at the time of each Google search and is based on a variety of factors (think of it like Google’s organic algorithm, but in this case, they tell us what they’re looking at). You can learn more about the ad rank and ad rank thresholds here.

In conclusion

Though impression share can mean a lot of things, it comes down to one thing – how often your ads are being seen by your potential customers. The nuances of impression share can tell you a lot about your paid search campaign, so it’s important to understand what is behind the numbers. If you still have questions, reach out to the TopSpot Team today.