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In Google Ads, Impression Share is the percentage of users who saw your ad relative to the number of users who were eligible to see your ad. By ‘Eligible’, essentially you need to have a bid that is within a competitive range, you need to be not excluding that user for whatever reason, your quality score needs to be high enough that Google Ads thinks your ad is relevant for the user, and your ad needs to be approved by Google.
When it comes to search marketing I’ve got a firm belief that WHO you market to and what you say to them is every bit as important as the keywords they type in. The last thing you want to do is to be competing for impressions from people who are very unlikely to buy anything from your website.
Competing just for the sake of competing raises your costs. A LOT!
An example of a Google Ads account where Search Impression Share dropped off a cliff and profitability plummeted
Here is an example of a Google Ads chart from a client I recently started working with after she’d had a bad experience with her last agency. You’ll see that transactions and return on ad spend were chugging along pretty nicely for this client initially. The ads would become more and more profitable over time as sales (blue) were increasing faster than costs. Then all of a sudden costs massively increased and you’ll observe that search impression share, sales and conversion value / cost (also known as ROAS – Return on Ad Spend) all plummetted at the same time. Bad times indeed!
You might wonder how it is possible that costs increased, while at the same time impression share decreased? You would think that as you got more and more impression share, your costs would increase, right? Well, wrong actually.
It us super easy to mix up impression share with impressions. Impressions are how many people saw your ad. The more people who see your ad, probably the more people will click on it and therefore the cost will go up. When you try to market to everyone and anyone, you will probably get more impressions than ever, but your “impression share” is very low. When you see this scenario, you have gone too broad with your marketing; either by trying to market to everyone, or by trying to match keywords too broadly as well.
This can also happen when you try to increase your advertising budget too fast and you do so by reducing the quality of your targeting. It ends badly, as you can see in the example above.
If, instead of trying to target everyone, you are very selective in who you target, your Search Impression Share naturally goes up. This is because you are so choosy that you are now letting fewer people see your ad in the first place. At the same time, you are offering a competitive enough bid that these people who you want to see your ads are getting to see them.
Think of it like your own “red carpet” policy. Who would you let walk down the red carpet in your life? Which VIPs who you want to have around?
If you know these people well, write advertising copy that appeals to these people, target these people using the myriad of targeting options that Google Ads allows, tighten up your positive and negative keywords and bid high enough to let in the people who you can serve best, you will show your ads to fewer people but they will be good quality people for your business.
When you show your ad to good quality people, you will naturally see that your revenue goes up, your ROAS goes up, your profit goes up and your costs go down. Only once you have maximised your impression share for your best quality traffic should you attempt to increase your budget, and therefore reduce your quality targets.
How to increase your Search Impression Share, and increase profits from PPC
So you might be wondering, how can you increase your Search Impression Share?
The first thing is to know who you are targeting, and then go after them fearlessly by cutting down on other people who are not as good prospects as your best people. If you are targeting women then don’t target men. If you are targeting 18 year olds, then don’t target 65 year olds! Refining your audience by demographics will remove the audiences who are unlikely to spend money with you.
You can work this out by looking at your Google Analytics, or by purchasing my Audience Engagement report, which tells you exactly which audiences are making you money right now, and are likely to lead to sales.
Next you want to apply in-market and remarketing audiences. These are lists of people who have either searched for certain categories of products and services with the intention of purchasing, or in the case of remarketing audiences they are people who have already interacted with your site in some way. You can also set bid adjustments based on device type and times of day and days of week that your users are buying.
All of this tightening up the quality of your Google Ads delivery has a beneficial effect on your bottom line. Find an audience of people who like your business and want to buy from you.
Do also tighten your keyword lists with lots of negative keywords and close keyword matches wherever possible. Broad matched keywords greatly broaden the number of people who see your ad who are not your target audience. Unfortunately its not always possible to work out someone’s intent by keywords as we’ve become a bit lazy and expect Google to serve us the best content for the least amount of typing. Generally however you can assume that a more detailed search phrase is going to belong to a more motivated searcher.