Impression Share deserves a little more attention

Impression share is one of the simplest metrics in your paid search account. It is a measurement of how often your ads show up compared to when they should show up. You might bid on a keyword (in AdWords) but Google doesn’t always serve up your ad.

If your ad doesn’t show up, you’ve missed an opportunity to make an impression.

With AdWords we aim for the click, and conversion is the ultimate goal. Still, impressions are a nudge in the right direction. Even if a searcher chooses a different result (organic or paid) instead of your ad, your ad still makes that connection between your brand and their need.

As you might imagine, high impression share is usually a good thing. After all, if your target audience doesn’t see your ads, they can’t click on them.

But the thing is, many of the best paid search campaigns miss out on a significant percentage of their possible impressions. As a result, those campaigns don’t get the clicks they deserve.

Google suggests that this can usually be tied to weak quality score and/or low bids. That is worth reviewing, but there is an even clearer answer. Many advertisers are wasting their budgets on the wrong impressions.

The keywords aren’t “bad” keywords, but they might not be right for what this advertiser is offering. Even keywords that once got you a lot of clicks might have lost their pull over time. When Google sees this, it could hold back your ad in favor of others.

Your first move toward growing your impression share (and overall campaign health) is to make sure that you are finding your best keywords that will convert.

Find your highest-converting keywords

To see which keywords deserve funding, you have to know which keywords have the highest conversion rate.

Using Your Keywords Report

You can find the Keywords report by opening your account and clicking on the “Keywords” tab.

Once you’ve done this, click Filter and “Create Filter.” Then create a filter for “Conv. rate < 2%”. If you’re in AdWords, it should look like this:

Conversion rate filter on Google Adwords

Once you click “apply” your results page will be something like this.

Wasted spend on Google Adwords

This will make keyword conversion problems very apparent.

In fact, in this client’s campaign, we were faced with having 5 poorly performing keywords eating up nearly 11% of their ad spend. In part 2, we’ll share more on how we countered that. Until then, a word about conversion tracking…

Track Conversions Well…and Prosper

Let’s take a quick moment to talk more about conversion tracking.

After all, if you’re not tracking which keywords convert, you can’t tell which keywords are worth bidding on.

Now, you might think, I track form completions, so yeah, I’m tracking conversions!

Think again.

Tracking form fills is good, but you have to track everything that’s important to your company—email signups, calls, chats, purchases—everything!

For example, if you’re only tracking form completions, you might think that a campaign with 500 clicks and only one submitted form is a waste of money. However, that campaign might have produced 100 call leads for your business.

But, if you aren’t tracking calls, you’ll never know that and you might shut down an incredibly valuable campaign.

TIP: Write down what you hope people will do after clicking on your ad and make sure you are tracking those actions.


Now that we’ve introduced impression share and its benefits, this is a good place to stop. In part 2, we’ll look at the effects that low impression share had on an actual client campaign and — more important — how you can spot (and recover from) low impression share in the campaigns that you manage.


This article is a guest post from the SpyFu community. We welcome ideas from digital marketing professionals whose frustrations and successes “in the field” can inspire some lessons for others in the same boat. 

  • Drewry Tatterson

    What impression share to do shoot for?

    • Jacob Baadsgaard

      Generally speaking, you should shoot for at least 90% impression share.