Keyword Level Impression Share: Cutting a Larger Slice of The Impression Share Pie

Google has announced another AdWords update in the form of Impression Share data at the keyword level. So what does it mean? Well for one, it means even more data and performance metric columns to get your head around but it also offers more detailed competitive insight into your AdWords account. Whether you are already optimising with impression share data or whether you haven’t considered using it at all – there is no such thing as too much data (if you can stomach it!) nor too much competitive insight when it comes to your AdWords account.

If you are not already using Impression Share (IS) data the new AdWords update hype has probably been lost on you. I’ll catch you up.

What is Keyword Level Impression Share Anyway?

Image taken from – The Internet’s Animals

Impression Share (IS) is the percentage of impressions your ads actually received divided by the estimated number of impressions that you could have/were eligible to receive.  Eligibility is based on your current ads’ targeting settings, approval statuses, bids, and Quality Scores. To estimate impression share Google analyses the ad auctions where your ad was shown or when it participated in an auction and failed to show. Therefore Impression Share data enables you to identify potential opportunities to get more impressions and clicks.

Search and Display Impression Share data had been previously available at the Campaign and Ad Group level only. However AdWords latest update means that Search Impression Share data is now available at the individual keyword level – this data is not yet available on the Display network. So when it comes to your search Impression Share data you can stop the guesswork and see just how effectively your individual keywords are competing. Herein lies the hype.


Locating your Keyword Level Impression Share Data

So how can this data be used to improve your Adwords account’s performance? The first step of course is to locate this data. Within the AdWords interface choose the “Keywords” tab then the “Columns” tab to customise your columns. From here you can add the various Impression Share columns, found within “Competitive Metrics,” to your reports and view them in your interface. Here you will see the three columns that give you your Impression Share data.


Impression Share (IS) – As discussed, this will give you the Impression Share for each keyword.

Lost IS (Rank) – This column shows the percentage of impressions you were eligible for that were lost due to being out ranked by your competitors.

Exact Match IS – This column estimates Impression Share data as if your keywords were set to Exact Match. This can give you an idea of how much potential there is to gain more impressions by using Exact Match keywords.

You may be wondering where Lost IS (Budget) is? Unfortunately this metric is not available at the keyword level… yet. It seems Google wouldn’t want to spoil us.


Analysing your Keyword’s Impression Share

An impression share of 100% is setting our expectations rather high indeed. It is unlikely your ad will ever show for all possible impressions all of the time. Still, we should try to get as high a percentage of Impression Share as possible. Of course what is and isn’t possible is very different for two accounts with different budgets and in different markets. No two accounts are exactly the same, with differing goals, priorities and benchmarks for success, you can analyse this data and come up with a completely different conclusion as you might with the same data in your own account.

However, by using this example I hope to give you an idea of how Impression Share data can be used to identify opportunities and areas for improvement. Using the figures from above, the account has been based on a small Lead-Gen business for which most of the PPC traffic is driven by a handful of core term keywords.


The Impression Share for a core term keyword is around 68%

  • On first glance this Impression Share percentage seems reasonable enough (baring in mind this is a high traffic modified broad keyword) but shows that around 1/3rd of the auctions this keyword is eligible for either aren’t relevant enough to us for the ad to show, or our bids aren’t competitive enough for this keyword. The small business in my example operates within a very competitive and saturated online market, therefore a 68% Impression Share for this core keyword is pretty positive.
  • However I’d like to know what this missing 1/3rd is. Maybe some of it isn’t actually relevant to us and should be blocked with negative keywords. By reviewing the search queries that triggered the keyword we can add negative keywords which could work to reduce this 1/3rd.

The Exact Match impression share is very high at 97%

  • A high Exact Match Impression share shows that the keyword is showing an ad for just about every time a user searches for the exact terms in the keyword.
  • If this percentage was low then the bid or Quality Score must be far too low to remain competitive. A low Exact Match Impression Share is a very bad sign!

The Impression Share lost due to rank is around 23%

  • The Impression Share lost due to rank is relatively low. As discussed the small business in my account operates in a highly competitive market, therefore this relatively small percentage is acceptable.
  • However, if you wanted to improve your Impression Share lost due to rank you might want to increase your bids and improve your Quality Score. Doing this will help your keyword to rank higher and this may help you take back some of those impressions from your competitors. When increasing your bids you should monitor how your other key performance metrics like Cost Per Action and Ad Spend Revenue are affected. Only raise your bids if there’s room within your margins to do so – the real progress will be made by looking into your search queries and improving your click through rate, and therefore Quality Score.


Whether you are a small business or a huge corporate giant, Impression Share data at the keyword level can be used to help you increase your exposure and improve core keyword competitiveness. This data is particularly useful for the big spenders with tonnes of visitors coming to their website through one keyword. Equally a small business which relies on five or ten core keywords to drive the majority of their revenue or leads could see great results from investigating with these new metrics. Larger companies tend to have more resources at their disposal, this means they can afford to spend the time required to analyse keyword level Impression Share data in minute detail. When it comes to the smaller companies who want maximum return with limited time, I would recommend focusing on the core revenue and lead generating keyword areas where missing impressions will be the most worthwhile to chase.

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