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Average position in Google Ads is changing

Change is not just the name of the band that produced one of my favourite disco albums of all time, it is also an inevitability when it comes to PPC, and we’ve had our fair share of positive and negative changes to Google Ads over the years (which funnily enough just rebranded from Google AdWords).

Personally, I’m still getting over the recent changes to how exact match keywords work, but I’m equally loving the new interface introduced last year – it’s all swings and roundabouts.

The latest change to be announced is that we’ll be saying goodbye to average position in September, which is fairly significant when you consider it is one of the original Google AdWords metrics – a sad day in that respect!

However, after Google introduced four new metrics that were all based around the % of time ads appear at the top of the page, we started to expect that these will become our way of understanding our position on the results page longer term. So, whilst this isn’t the worst change we’ve had to endure, it is one we will need to adapt to.

To explain why, here’s a summary of what has changed:

What's going on?

The average position metric will be gone in September and we will be left with ‘% of impressions at top of page’ and ‘% of impressions at absolute top of page’, which in simple terms will tell you how often your ads appear in the top 4 spots compared with how often it appears in the top spot. We’re also able to see these same two metrics but by impression share as well. There isn’t a metric for ‘% of impressions at bottom of page, which is not particularly helpful, but it can be calculated once you have your data in Excel / Google Sheets (ideally they will introduce this metric as well, but I’m not hopeful).

Why have they done this?

Whilst average position has firmly kept its place in my go-to performance column set up, its importance has declined since the removal of the right-hand side ads. I’ve also since realised that I have subconsciously been looking at average position as absolute top of page, top of page, and outside of top of page for quite some time anyway (given the minimal changes in performance for avg. position 2 vs. 3 for example). As I mentioned earlier, the removal of average position was somewhat expected after Google released these metrics, as well as the impression share bidding strategy, which will essentially replace the bid to position strategy some of you may be using.

Should I be scared?

My answer would be no. The benefit of this change is that you’re going to get a lot more visibility on how often your ad appears at the top or number one spot, which wasn’t so easy with average position. You will naturally then be able to compare performance by these two factors and hopefully make some better decisions around where you’d like your ad to appear. It will impact you a bit more if you currently base a lot of your strategies around average position, but I have some tips below on what to do in this case.

What to do?

First and foremost, start looking at these metrics now. It’s so easy to procrastinate on these things (lord knows I did it with the new Google UI) but it really will be valuable to start including the new metrics in your standard columns now, alongside average position. This will help you get used to them in comparison to a metric we’re all used to seeing.

Export your data. This change is scheduled for later in the year and whilst I don’t believe it’s been confirmed that average position and all its historical data will be removed at the same time, it will be better to be safe than sorry. I’d strongly recommend exporting all of your performance data segmented in as many ways as you can think of – it will come in handy once the data has gone forever!

Update your bid strategies. This is a big one if you’re currently using average position in any bid strategies or automated rules, as you will need to start planning for the future ahead of the change. I would recommend testing different bid strategies ahead of time, so you aren’t left scrambling when we finally say goodbye to average position in September.


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