Google Ads PPC is saying goodbye to average positions

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

Google is set to remove the average position metric from Google ad PPC accounts by September 2019. Some might be happy to see the back of it, but others might not be. We wanted to discuss the effect this could have on you and PPC in general.


What is Average Position?

It appears Google is Saying goodbye to ‘average positions’ what does this mean for your PPC campaigns? First of all, for those who don’t know, let’s discuss what is average position?

Average Position can be the bread and butter of PPC management for a lot of Google Ads Accounts, its been with the various Google Ads platforms throughout its history. However, there is an argument to say this metric is far less important now, considering we are moving into a world of programmatic search. So other signals and touch points become more important, and the position of the ad is becoming less important.

Average position is essentially the order your ad shows on a page, but this does not necessarily tell you the specific location on the page itself. Ultimately this is not giving you the entire picture and there are other things to consider which we will discuss.


Is Google wanting advertisers to Utilise different metrics inside PPC accounts instead?

Competitive Metrics for Audiences – Not sure if you have noticed but you can see impression share, (rank) lost impression share, and exact match impression share. All this means we are now able to use this data to make decisions on what we should be targeting more, rather than focusing on a singular position metric.

Click share – Already available in shopping campaigns, and has been for some time. But this will be available in all search accounts very soon. This gives you an estimated share of all the achievable clicks that could have been received. This is a valuable metric in terms of the actual market size.

New Average Position Metrics – Released in November 2018, you can now view Impression share (absolute top & top) and impression % (absolute top and top). These metrics supposedly give us a better understanding of where the ad is actually appearing in search results.

By using data across all these metrics, advertisers should understand the average position in much more depth, making it easier to know what to do next in terms of optimisation.


Average Position is an outdated metric.

I do sort of agree with this, and I have seen many other Digital Marketing Agencies comment to this effect. Average position has become a forgotten metric, especially over the last few years. Google’s main focus has firmly been on relevance, so understanding more about the user’s behaviour and intent behind the search query, should dictate optimisation actions rather than just average position.


So what does this mean for Digital Marketing?

A lot of Google Ads accounts I have come across have a PPC bidding strategy for Brand to be position 1, but from September onwards this won’t be possible. Instead the focus will need to shift towards looking at the impression share metrics we discussed earlier, like ‘absolute top’, and there are also several other PPC bidding strategies to consider.


Audience targeting should now be the focus

The more you understand about your customers the better any PPC/Google Ads campaign will be. It’s important to get this strategy right, even if you start off by just observing which audiences work best. It’s best to start utilising audiences now before average position disappears.


Competition could increase

Advertisers might not understand how to interpret all these new metrics, some may decide to go for ‘Absolute top’ and get themselves into a ridiculous bidding war. As mentioned, it’s likely the focus will shift more towards audience targeting as this is where the increase in competition will be, which could see an increase in CPC whilst advertisers get used to life without the average position metric.


Are Google trying to force advertisers to opt-into its solutions?

I have been thinking about this since the news broke a few months ago. If average position was to remain, but we had these new metrics, including click share, and absolute top; then we will actually have more data than before to make an informed decision. It almost feels like Google is giving advertisers more information, but at the same time making it harder to understand it by taking away a metric that simplifies everything.

This does play into Google’s hands, advertisers may be more tempted than ever to take advantage of automated bidding options and utilise machine learning to essentially make the decisions for us, if it all becomes a bit too confusing. There is no doubt machine learning and automation is the future of PPC, so it will be interesting to see the impact this has on PPC in general, and if this move from Google pays off.

Finally, it’s still unclear if the Average Position metric will disappear completely, as it might still appear in auction insight report. In which case you might still be able to bundle this together with a few other metrics like impressions share % and absolute top. You can work out from this if a competitor is above you or not. For example, low impression share and a high impression percentage (absolute top) would mean high bids, with low budget campaigns. When they appear it’s above you, but they don’t appear all the time. All these stats are relative, meaning it’s more about understanding what’s important to the business.

Naturally PPC is a confusing topic and it appears this is only going to get more complicated to truly understand as time goes on. If you need help with PPC get in touch.