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Impression Share – Is It Really That Important?

What gets measured, gets managed. It’s perhaps even truer today than in the time of management guru, Peter Drucker.

But there are a lot of measurements. And there is a lot to manage, especially in the world of paid search, where software algorithms and data mining give you more numbers to manage than ever before.

If you thought, “Surely, all measurements can’t be equally important in determining the health of my business,” you’d be right. Some are more valuable than others; some are overrated, too. So how does Impression Share rank in the grand scheme of things?

Let’s begin by defining Impression Share (IS) and discovering what it is most commonly used for:

What is Impression Share?

Man leaning contentedly on percentage symbol
What is impression share and is impression share important?

Impression Share is the percentage of impressions (views) an ad has received over the estimated number of impressions it was eligible to receive. Eligibility will be different for everyone competing (or not competing) for a search phrase, and it is based on a number of factors: current ads, targeting settings, approval statuses, bids, and quality score.


A campaign can lose out on impressions due to Budget or Ad Rank:

  • Lost IS (Budget) is the percentage of lost impressions due to budget constraints
  • Lost IS (Rank) is the percentage of impressions lost due to low Ad Rank (cost-per-click bid x quality score).


NOTE: Keep in mind that “eligible impressions” refer to the number of auctions in which you have competed, and not your share of the whole market.

What is it used for?

Impression Share is usually used as the key indicator of your market share in the online space.

Let’s say you are advertising through your PPC Account in Edmonton and you want to reach as many “qualified users” as you possibly can. Think of Edmonton as a pie. You and your competitors will be trying to get the biggest slice of that pie. Keeping track of impression share metrics will tell you the size of your slice compared to the entire pie (your market share).

Slice of pie
How big of a slice of the market pie is your dealership taking online?

Is Impression Share that important?

Now that we understand what impression share is and what it represents, we can evaluate its overall importance. Should it be one of the main metrics when optimizing your PPC Accounts?

The short answer: NO.

Your primary aim should be maximize qualified leads, and thus maximize your profit. Working on improving impression share does not necessarily mean the campaigns will generate more leads. On its own, Impression Share won’t help you sell cars, but figuring out a strategy that can help you increase leads will.



Which would do you prefer?

Scenario A: $3,000 monthly budget that got you 150 leads with an impression share of 60%

Scenario B: $3,000 monthly budget that got you 75 leads with an impression share of 90%


I hope the best choice is obvious: Scenario A.

Scenario B is telling you that although the ad showed 9 times out of the 10, the amount of leads was much lower than in Scenario A. Improving Impression Share does not guarantee higher lead rates. A high impression can be misleading and easily increased if most of the keywords are set to exact match or if the modifier (+) on broad keywords is used excessively. But the problem with this strategy is the campaigns will probably not generate a lot of new traffic from which new leads can be obtained. According to Google, every day, 15% of searches are completely new.

If your campaigns are already reaching your goals, impression share becomes less important. However, you can use it to figure out what to optimize next: keyword quality score, click-through rate, etc. Which metric you tackle next will depend on why your campaigns are losing impression share. It could be due to budget or due to rank.

So what can we conclude? There is no direct correlation between lead rates and impression share.

Why? Because Impression share should improve on its own when your efforts are focused on other front-end metrics that directly affect your main goal: increase lead rates.


A few optimization tips:

  • Optimize to increase qualified traffic (i.e. clicks): find users who are ready to convert.
  • Optimize to find the ideal cost per click that can help maximize site traffic. Strathcom uses Acquisio’s Bid & Budget Management to figure out what the optimal CPC should be.
  • Check your targeted locations. There may be some areas that could be excluded due to a pattern of poor performance. This will help reduce wasted spend, meaning more money could be put towards ad groups/campaigns that generate the most leads.
  • Create a user-friendly website that converts.
  • Create relevant ad copy and keyword groups to ensure that your account gets a high quality score.


Naturally, working to make the account more relevant will help improve impression share. All the points above will help if the campaigns are losing impression share due to budget. The idea is to decrease wasted spend as much as possible without cutting relevant traffic.

NOTE: If the accounts are still losing impression share due to budget limitations after optimizing all main metrics, then this metric can help you get a clue about how much additional money you need for your campaign.

Calculating your ad spend budget
How many extra pennies do you need to invest into your ad spend to capture lost leads?

How to calculate additional budget required:

  1. Calculate Missed Impressions

Potentially Missed Impressions = Search IS Lost (Budget) x Total Impressions

  1. Calculate Missed Clicks

Potentially Missed Clicks = Average Click-through Rate (CTR) x Missed Impressions

  1. Calculate Budget Required

Budget Required = Potential Missed Clicks x Average Cost per Click (CPC)


If you are losing impression share due to rank:

  • Try improving the keyword quality score before increasing bids (build more relevant ads or improve campaign segmentation)
  • Increase your bids if you have good quality score and low rank

NOTE: If you increase your bids, you will be increasing your costs per click. This will have a direct effect on the amount of clicks you are getting each month. As well, if you don’t get more leads, you will be increasing your cost per lead. Be sure to monitor your account regularly to avoid this from happening unnecessarily.


Share Your Thoughts

Are there any other metrics that you feel are misunderstood or overrated? (We’ve talked about Bounce Rate in some detail in the past.)

Google Ads, PPC Glossary Terms

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