Google Plans to Sunset Average Position with Prominence Metrics


Google recently introduced four new “Prominence Metrics” giving advertisers more clarity about where, and how often, their search ads are appearing. Not long after, they announced they would be sunsetting one of the original metrics reported in Google Ads: average position. Google giveth and Google taketh away.

These will be welcomed changes for the majority of search advertisers, although there are a few notable verticals that will be particularly impacted by this change. The common first reaction has been, “Why can’t we have both?” The reason: When we begin to look at these changes in the context of evolving search behaviors and search engine results pages (SERPs), they make a strong case for themselves – and potentially reveal areas of future focus for Google.




Figure 1: Google then and now (2007 vs 2017)

In the 18+ years since AdWords launched, with the inclusion of Average Position, there have been dramatic shifts in how users interact with Search (and the internet in general) and major changes to the types and forms of information Google serves in response to user queries. The images above demonstrate how complex the SERP has become. The new SERPs are fluid, not static – the layout will differ significantly depending on the query, the intent signals, and perhaps most importantly, the device.

In years past, all users accessed Google.com from a desktop or laptop computer, so the SERP was 100% text based, including upwards of a dozen ad slots, and “average position” was easy to understand and build strategies around. In today’s landscape, position 1.0 does not always mean that ad is displayed at the top of the SERP. Advertisers have to contend with Shopping Ads, news cards, twitter cards, knowledge graphs, local results, local carousels, and more. Factor in the complexities of users searching on tablets and smartphones, and the variables are head spinning! Google has responded to this emerging need for viewability reporting with the below Prominence Metrics.


How It Works

Back in November, the following “Prominence Metrics” were introduced in the Google Ads UI:

  • Absolute Top Impression %: This represents the percentage of impressions that are shown at the very top of the SERP, above the organic search results.
  • Top Impression %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.
  • Absolute Top Impression Share: The impressions your ad received in the absolute top ad location above the organic search results, divided by the estimated total number of impressions your ad was eligible to receive.
  • Top Impression Share: The impressions your ad received in the overall top SERP space above the organic search results, divided by the estimated total number of impressions your ad was eligible to receive.

Additionally, like traditional Impression Share, these metrics have insight into Absolute Top/Top IS lost to budget or rank, so advertisers can clearly see where there’s an opportunity to optimize, increase coverage, or elevate their competitive bidding.

How will this affect your search team and overall account performance?

  • Heightened accuracy of overall viewability and related performance
  • Compelling new competitive reporting and auction insights
  • Migration from position based strategies toward Top or Absolute Top focused strategies
  • Increased clarity and actionable insights behind CTR performance changes
  • New automated bidding strategies and test-and-learn opportunities for optimum search success


Resolution POV

These changes do not mean that thinking about the position, or viewability of search ads is obsolete or irrelevant to performance. To the contrary, these changes highlight the utmost importance of understanding exactly where and when ads are shown. Search advertisers will simply have to shift away from thinking about position on a numeric scale and familiarize themselves with these new Prominence Metrics. All Google Search advertisers should take advantage of the availability of Average Position until September to observe and analyze the effectiveness of Prominence-based strategies as compared to their existing Position-based strategies. In the meantime, Omnicom’s Center of Excellence will continue to aggregate learnings across the network and evaluate possible workarounds that emerge in the market.