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Digital Marketing

Another Great PPC Metric not to Ignore

The last couple of years have seen an enormous overhaul of the Adwords control panel, probably more than what happened combined in the 17 years before. There have been a raft of new functions, report writers, automated tools, extensions and perhaps most useful of all new metrics to help you understand your business.

If you operate Adwords in Industry it can be very hard to keep abreast of these evolutions as you often get caught up in the day-to-day and a comfort zone you are used to that keeps the ship running. But as an agency it is obviously our raison d’etre to keep our clients informed of the latest developments to help improve their accounts. So it is fair to say that Google has been keeping us very busy over the last couple of years.

An earlier blog I wrote speaks of the importance of Quality Score, an too often forgotten metric by clients. Today I’d like to talk about another incredibly useful metric that I find goes under the radar, that being Search Impression Share, which snuck into the Adwords control panel back in 2014.

Understand the Whole Journey

Too understand why this is such an important metric we first need understand what the whole journey for the customer looks like. So typically when managing Adwords you’ll be looking at the performance of keywords, how many Impressions does each generate and from that how many clicks can I get to the website and thus what the Click Through Rate will be and can we do it an average Cost per click that keeps us in budget? From here we need to understand the onsite behaviour, will those visits lead to a conversion rate and a number of goals that make the whole investment worthwhile and ultimately a Cost per acquisition. This is the classic funnel of user behaviour and continuously optimising ads to improve CTR and lower CPCs is the game to continue making your marketing more and more profitable.

In this scenario the Impression Volume, the combined total of all keywords impression volume, represents the market size of the business of which we are typically trying to get a CTR of 2/3 %. Therefore by doing more keyword research and continually uncovering new “pools” of impressions to tap into we can help build the market size and the potential traffic to the website.

This however can be subject to the law of diminishing returns once the best keywords have been uncovered, you have to work increasingly hard to make smaller and smaller gains. However the biggest wins are probably staring at you in the face and this is where understanding what your overall Search Impression Share is and why it is so important.

On a standard Adwords display which lists your keywords. Select ‘modify columns’ and from the drop-down select ‘competitive metrics’ and here you will find the family of metrics which relate to Search Impression Share.

Search Impression Share essentially sits in front of Impressions in the “funnel” and whilst you think you might be exposed to a 100% of the market it may actually only be at 30/40% on your top keywords. This effectively means that the potential market size (on keywords you are already heavily optimised for on site) could be 2/3 times bigger! Excited yet?

Understand Where It’s Being Lost

Very usefully Adwords provides a family of metrics to help you piece together where you share is being lost and it splits the loss into “Lost Through Budget” or “Lost Through Rank”.

Search IS (Lost to Budget) means that your budget is restricted in some way, either through a financial budget or possibly because you schedule ads to only run at certain times. So actually your ads won’t be eligible to be seen to 100% of the Market impressions.

Search IS (Lost to Rank) means that your ad rankis not high enough to be delivered versus the competition. This most typically refers to not bidding high in the auction but remember your ad rank is determined by your quality score too, so it may be that you are bidding on poorly optimised terms and Adwords is penalising you in poor Ad rank.
You tend to find a lot of impressions are lost through rank on mobile devices, where the real estate to have your ad displayed is extremely limited and expensive and is where I see a lot of impression share being lost.

What To Do About It

The temptation on both of these is just to solve it by bidding more, such is the allure of juicy untapped pool of impressions. However if you are already running well-optimised, profitable campaigns such action could suddenly disrupt that. Instead I like to view as a challenge thrown down by Google to improve your Search IS just by being an even better digital marketeer. I will divert my energies into very granular optimisation in the areas of the account that show the biggest loss on Impression Share versus the potential reward.

Tips To Improve Search IS:


  1. 1. Run regular Search Query Reports

This helps to filter out the queries you don’t want to be displayed for and will improve your Quality Score. It will also help identify new pools of potential keywords to potentially separate into their own campaign and optimise around.

  1. 2. Reconcile the lost IS by Type and Device

Understanding is crucial, is it my budget? My ad schedule? Is it poor rank? Is it on Mobile? Is it on Text Ads or PLAs? You need to zone in on the problems and tackle them one after another in an order of priority

  1. 3. Optimise, optimise, optimise

For text ads, it will essentially come down to tactics to improve your Quality Score that will in return improve your Ad Rank and no extra cost. Always run a minimum of 3 Ads on rotation per Ad Group that optimise towards to better CTR, this will improve your Quality Score over time.

  1. Be in it for the Long Haul

Don’t see this as a way doubling your business overnight, nothing profitable in Adwords is achieved instantly (or rarely at least!) you need to understand the data first, tweak it, learn from what works and look for week on week improvements that over the course of 6 months will start to make a material difference to your traffic levels.

Chris Thomas


Chris Thomas

CEO & Founder

Chris has been at the forefront of eCommerce and a pioneer of online retailing since the early 00s. A 5-time Drapers Award winner, Chris has extensive experience in developing fashion brands online.

Chris founded Cake in 2016. Based in Birmingham, with offices nationwide, Cake specialises in helping fashion brands understand their market online and then helps to develop appropriate strategical direction to achieve their plan, all backed by his 20 years of operating in the retail market.