[SEPTEMBER 2019] Google Says Goodbye to Average Position

The old saying that the only thing constant is change certainly rings true in search advertising. Between frequent algorithm updates, modifications to ad formats and the introduction of new products, features and tools, Google keeps search marketers on their toes. Earlier this year the search giant announced it would be removing the Average Position metric from Google Ads reporting on September 30. As the time is drawing near, it’s important to understand the new suite of metrics introduced to take the place of Average Position.

How Does Google Decide Positioning?

First, let’s review how ad position is determined. Google decides which ads to show and the order they will appear in based on the ad auction. Every ad is assigned an ad rank, which determines position (ad rank and ad position are often used interchangeably). Ad Rank is based on five key factors:

How Ad Position Is Determined

Source:  Google Ads Help

  1. Max Bid – the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click, specified by keyword.
  2. Quality Score – Google assigns a score based on how relevant and useful the ad and the website it links to are to the user.
  3. Ad Rank Thresholds – the minimum thresholds required for an ad to show based on various factors like ad quality, position, user location and device type, topic and related search queries.
  4. User Context – Google considers the search terms and time of day as well as the user’s location and device type and even the other ads and search results on the page.
  5. Expected Impact of Extensions – how the additional information included in an ad like phone number or links to specific pages on your website will impact ad performance.

What Is Average Position?

Average Position is one of Google’s oldest metrics. It’s been around as long as the search product itself. Back in the day, when ads reliably showed up in consistent locations on the page, it was a really useful metric for understanding where an ad appeared on a web page. Those were simpler times, when position on the page actually correlated to Average Position. But, as the search engine results page evolved, what the metric was actually showing became a bit muddled.

Average Position refers to the order in which paid search results appear. It’s an auction rank that refers to an ad’s position compared to others and has nothing to do with where on the page an ad is shown. For example, an average position of “1” means the ad is the first paid advertisement shown, although it could be appearing below organic search results. Confusing and not super helpful. Google gets it, so they’ve introduced a new suite of metrics to give advertisers a better idea of their prominence on the page.

The New Position Metrics

Googled rolled out four new position metrics last year in preparation for phasing out Average Position. These metrics reflect positioning at the top of the page (above organic results) and absolute top (the very first ad at the very top of the page). According to Google Ads product manager Pallavi Naresh, “These new metrics give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does.”

Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Top Impression Rate = Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Rate:  The percent of ad impressions shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.

Absolute Top Impression Rate = Absolute Top Impressions / Total Impressions

Top Impression Share:  The impressions received in the top location (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Top Impression Share = Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions

Absolute Top Impression Share:  The percent of ad impressions received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions an ad was eligible to receive in the top location.

Absolute Top Impression Share = Absolute Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions


Source:  Google Ads Help

There are only a few weeks left before Average Position disappears for good, but considering how misleading it can be, many search experts are saying, “good riddance.” They feel these new metrics are more helpful for understanding placement and guiding optimization efforts.

Want to learn more about search engine marketing? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our paid search solutions can help your brand connect with consumers no matter how they search.