Goodbye “Average Position”, please clean out your locker and turn in your keys and badge at the front desk.
Google is not shy about quickly and decisively killing off parts of its business it no longer views as valuable; you better believe that features are no stranger to this cold chopping block.
In February 2019, Google announced that it would be removing the Average Position metric from Google Ads later the same year. Now the time has come, and the Average Position metric is going away later this month (Google says it will be removed from dashboards after September 30th).
Also being no stranger to launching several seemingly overlapping but somehow distinct products, Google has also launched four new metrics to take its place, but let’s understand what Average Position is and what impact it has had during its tenure as a simple PPC manager’s favourite stat.
What is Average Position?
Your ad’s position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is calculated by an ad rank (a metric that comes from your bid) and your quality score. The process is designed in such a way that it rewards advertisers with a good ad position when that advertiser creates quality ads, targets appropriate keywords, and creates compelling landing pages, instead of just ranking ads higher who have the highest bids.
Google defines Average Position as a statistic that describes how your ad typically ranks against other similar ads. This rank determines in which order ads appear on the search results page. Ads on the 1st through 4th positions are accommodated on the first page of the results.
One important thing to note is that the Average Position is a mean calculation, and for instance, a score of 2 doesn’t necessarily mean that your ad was at the 2nd position all the time. The majority could have been two, but it could also have been in position 1 or 6… Google isn’t that cut-and-dry about its rankings and these auctions change in real-time.
Why is Google Removing Average Position?
Google has been manipulating its SERPs for quite some time now and currently. There are several variations available for SERPs for different users. In some cases, Google shows all four ads at the top while in others, there could be either three on top and one on the bottom or only one on top and three at the bottom.
Average position was intended to tell users the position of their ad on the results page. Due to these new and increasingly custom variations in the SERPs, what an “average position” is isn’t so clear anymore.
The other problem is how average position was being used as a quality metric to optimize for. Instead of telling you where on the page your ad appeared, Average Position had evolved into a proxy for ad rank. For instance, if your Average Position score is 3.1, you can infer that most of the time, two other ads had beaten you in the auction. This would be without having any idea about how often your ad had even been appearing above the organic results. You could have an “average” of 3, but if the platforms you are most popular on only have two spots above the fold, you may as well be in position 10.
This poses a problem since the ads that appear above the organic results naturally tend to perform better than those that don’t. In the case of Average Position, advertisers weren’t able to tell if their ad appeared up top or not. This started creating a lot of confusion about bid rates and CTRs.
Google has heard your lamentations and has launched FOUR new metrics as a replacement. You can stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth, people!
Before listing out the four new metrics, Google announced we need to clarify a couple of things:
“Top” refers to ads ranking above the organic results
“Absolute Top” refers to ads in the first position. WE’RE #1 BABY!
Now that we’re done with the book learnin’, here are the new metrics:
- Top Impression Rate
This is the percentage of your ad impressions delivered at any position above the organic results.
- Absolute Top Impression Rate
This is the percentage of ad impressions delivered as the topmost ad above the organic results.
- Search Top Impression Share
A percentage value showing how frequently your ad was displayed above the organic results. This is compared to the approximate number of impressions you were eligible to get in that location.
- Search Absolute Top Impression Share
A percentage value indicating how often your ad was displayed as the very first ad above the organic results. This is compared to the approximate number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the absolute top location.
Digital Marketing has always been about catering to the changing trends online. The removal of Average Position seems to be one of those changes. Although the Average Position was used by a lot of advertisers to get some idea of their ad’s standing, it had become ineffective and useless over time. The only thing it gave us was a false representation of your ad’s position. It played no role in helping advertisers monitor and improve their ROI.
The new metrics, on the other hand, might take some getting used to, but it seems that they are going to be way more helpful than Average Position.