With impression share reporting changing a bit this week, there’s no better time than now to revisit the ins and outs of the metric and how it works!

Odds are pretty good that your PPC accounts are not reaching their entire potential audience, but how do you know how much you’re missing? More important than that, how do you increase the pool you’re reaching? The key here is impression share, both measuring and tracking. If you consistently check in on where you stand in terms of your market, it becomes much easier to prioritize the best ways to improve that share.

What is Impression Share?

I feel like it’s easiest to think of impression share in terms of where it falls in the grand scheme of PPC traffic. Check this out:

Impression Share 101

The biggest circle represents the entire market for your vertical. The smaller circle inside of that one is traffic you’re eligible for. The last circle in the middle is your impression share, or the portion of market traffic you are pulling in from all that you’re eligible for. Super watered-down version: how big is your piece of the pie?

The eligibility portion is determined by the keywords you’re bidding on, bids for those terms, Quality Scores, targeting settings and approval statuses within your account. Obviously we’re talking about a fairly convoluted number, but that doesn’t make it impossible to maneuver or optimize to the best of your ability.

At what levels or segments can I see Impression Share data?

I guess I’m in a chart-making mood today, so again…here’s the best way to understand what different segments of impression share data you can look at in your accounts:

As you can see, there are quite a few possibilities for how you can dig in to your impression share data and analyze your overall performance. A few segments (noted in the graphic above) are only available at the campaign level, but otherwise the oyster is yours to shuck…or whatever you do with oysters. Perhaps you have a new competitor for only a portion of your product base; checking in on ad group level impression share for search on this product category would allow you to monitor that specific competitor’s impact on your market share, without the data getting lost in your campaign or account level numbers.

I suggest really taking a look at the different segmentation combinations and coming up with a tracking schedule to be sure you’re staying diligent with this metric in the long-term, and not just when it’s an issue.

What helps increase overall Impression Share?

I will say first to be cautious here, and make sure you track impression share gains against your KPI metrics before running full steam ahead. As you expand your overall account reach, you need to be sure to optimize those new slices of the cake so they don’t get out of hand and ruin all the awesomeness you’ve been working for.

Given the eligibility rules listed out above, there are numerous ways you can begin increasing your overall impression share:

  • Keyword research/expansion (match types, etc.)
  • Bid testing
  • Quality Score improvements
  • Expanding targeted locations, languages, networks, etc.
  • Audit keywords, ad copies, and the like to be sure all account areas are in full approval and eligible to run

How can I improve or decrease the amount of Impression Share I’m losing due to rank?

Rank in terms of impression share is based on the max CPC x Quality Score formula that determines ad position among competitors. If you’re losing impression share due to rank, it means you need to do some bid or Quality Score work, (un)simply as that!

Run some Quality Score analysis to determine what areas of your account are the biggest offenders and start running the list of Quality Score improving best practices. If this is the portion of rank that’s killing you, prepare to have a longer road ahead to make strides. It can be done however, so stay with it!

Should the bid half of the rank formula be your trouble, start small and gradually test increases in those ad groups with the largest impression share lost from rank first. After you’ve tracked some significant data and determined if the increases were beneficial in their overall value (remember – don’t get stuck at impression share here – more impression share doesn’t matter without leads or revenue!), look in to duplicating a similar test in the next worst offender in the lost impression share from rank category.

What about if I’m losing Impression Share due to budget?

If a large portion of your lost impression share is indicated as due to budget, this is an easily explainable (note: I did not say easily achievable) segment. This purely means your campaign or parts of your account are running out of budget before all impressions are reached. A good indicator of this is if you have your ad delivery set to accelerated and you’re still coming up as budget restricted before the day is out.

Now back to that “not easily achievable” part. If you’re requesting additional budget for this lost impression share from your supervisors or your client (if you’re an agency manager), you’ve probably got a bit more of a discussion to have beyond “Impression share said so!”

This will certainly be a bit easier for you if you’ve been tracking progress in terms of impression share against revenue or leads for some time. Even small gains can be heavily influential, especially if you’re looking for a testing budget for the first time.

So…how reliable are these Impression Share stats?

As with any interface-based data, take the reported potential and test it in a controlled way. First page bid estimates, average CPC of a given term across the network, impression share (just to name a few); all of these numbers should be used as a guideline rather than a rule. If you’re seeing that you may be missing out on a great deal of your total market, the interface isn’t making that up entirely, right? I’ll give you the “<10%” number is a bit vague, but otherwise you are definitely getting, at the very least, a good directional compass for what could need attention.

Now that we’ve got a fresh look at impression share data, how to analyze, track and optimize for it, what are your thoughts? Tell us about some ways you’ve increased impression share in the past or ways you tested that turned out not-so-great. We’d also like to hear about unique ways you use impression share reporting to optimize your paid search accounts. Share all your ideas, experiences and thoughts in the comments section below! Also, feel free to share any possible impression share-related topics you’d like us to cover in the future and we’ll be sure to put the topic on our list. Thanks for reading!