Impression share (IS) is one of the most misunderstood data points used in search. Metrics used to maximize revenue or conversion volume are pretty straightforward to understand, since the numbers speak for themselves.
You should periodically revisit the question, “What metrics should I maximize to increase brand awareness on my search campaigns?”
What’s IS, Anyway?
You can be forgiven for thinking that the most important metric to increase brand awareness is IS. In theory, the higher the IS, the more times your ads are served, potentially providing greater exposure.
In fact, IS is simply a measurement of how frequently your keywords appear in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s easier to achieve a high IS when you target smaller audiences with little competition. The larger your target audience, the greater the competition, making it harder to achieve the desired 100% IS.
The IS Formula
IS is calculated by dividing served impressions by the estimated number of impressions that you’re eligible to receive. Google uses several factors to calculate which keywords should win an auction:
- Targeting settings
- Approval status
- Daily budgets
- Quality Score
Increasing IS doesn't always mean you’ll increase the amount of people who’ll see and interact with your brand. It should be used to monitor the frequency of your keywords appearing in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s a brilliant metric for identifying keywords that aren’t performing as well as they could.
If your keywords are eligible to receive the maximum impressions targeting your specified audience, a 100% IS means you’ve reached this limit. However, this can come at a cost, overinflating daily budgets. Achieving a 100% IS means your keywords will be entered into all eligible auctions regardless of the cost.
Optimize to Improve Clicks and Impressions
Optimizing a campaign for clicks disregarding IS can improve both the click and impression volumes while maintaining or reducing spend. This method involves bidding down on keywords with low-click volume that have high CPCs while increasing bids for keywords with high-click volume and low CPCs.
It's important to understand the relationship between aggregate IS and impression volume. Aggregate IS is weighted impressions, so there could be a scenario where there’s lower aggregate IS but higher impression volume. However, click volume, impression volume, and aggregate IS tend to be positively correlated, so maximizing clicks should be a sound strategy in most cases.
How are you using IS? Are you using it to monitor brand awareness, share of voice, or impression frequency? Whatever your optimization objective, it’s important to use the correct KPIs to monitor performance.