The Importance of Impression Share

Tony Fazzini - April 13, 2016

When creating a Paid Search Strategy, it’s important to understand several features within an advertising platform to feel confident your campaigns can be successful. One report that is often overlooked is the Impression Share report. This is one of the most valuable reports within the platforms and can help you understand and define, not just your Paid Search Strategy, but your overall SEM Strategy also.

So what is impression share? Impression share is the number of times your ad is served versus how often the search is performed. For example, if I bid on the term “widgets” within my ad platform, I will see that I received 10 impressions, 2 clicks, and my impression share is 20%. This means that the total searches completed for widgets was 50, but my ad was only visible 20% of the time (50 total searches multiplied by 20% will equal the number of impressions). This brings up several additional questions:


  1. Why did I only receive 20% impression share?  There could be several factors, but the leading cause is typically budget. If you do not have enough daily budget available to receive all impressions, search engines will limit your exposure and show other ads that still have the opportunity to rank. Other factors could be quality score and max CPC, so these should be considered when reviewing the numbers.
  2. Why should I care about a low impression share? Impression share is valuable because it allows your ad to be served consistently and often giving brand recognition for the search terms being used. The more specific the search term is, the higher you want your impression share to be. Low impression share will cause spikes in click-through rates and conversions based on if you’re able to get enough quality users to see your ad specifically. Best practices are usually to have between 70-90% impression share for all terms seen as valuable or converting at a great cost.
  3. What if my budget doesn’t allow me to gain a high impression share? If budget is a challenge, consider removing some terms that do not convert well and have the highest cost per click. This allows you to have a more targeted campaign that can gain the best audience.


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