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Absolute Top Impression Share: Should You Vie for the Top Spot in Google Shopping?

Mike Perekupka

Recently, Google Shopping rolled out absolute top impression share, the latest metric in the new Adwords user interface. Absolute top impression share tells you how frequently your ads are shown in what Google deems the “top impression” position — the top left of the Shopping carousel on the SERP.

There’s a lot of hype around this new metric: Google reports that the top, leftmost ad on mobile receives 3X more engagement from shoppers than other positions. With holiday right around the corner, a stat like that makes you eager to get your products into the top spot. Before you vie for that top position, pause and ask yourself if striving for absolute top impression share is the right strategy for your business.

Here’s what you need to know about absolute top impression share, and how to approach this metric moving forward.

The Basics

Google defines the top impression position as the upper, leftmost spot in the Google Shopping carousel. With the release of absolute top impression share, you can now see how often your Shopping or local inventory ads occupy this prime location.

Absolute top impression share = number of times of “absolute top” impressions received/the number of times you were eligible to be there

Before the release of absolute top impression share, it was possible to think your ads were maxing out in terms of impressions and click share. Without the visibility into when and where your ads were served, it was easy to think your work was done.

Now, you have another lever to pull. The release of the absolute top impression share metric points to a larger trend: Google is revealing more information that will eventually help us understand how to get certain products in certain ad positions.

The auction is evolving from a world where you aim to simply appear — somewhere — in Google Shopping results, to a world where you can aim to appear in a specific spot within the Shopping carousel.

While you won’t see data on all positions in the Shopping carousel (yet), Google is beginning to give a clearer view of how your products compete in Google Shopping, and on the SERP.

Absolute Top Impression Share Position

Granularity and control are critical to success in a data-driven channel like Google Shopping. The more factors you understand and count on, the better you can reverse-engineer your efforts to meet your business goals. By starting to analyze position data now, you’ll stay ahead of the curve — and glean more value from these channel insights — as more information becomes available.

How to Make the Most of Absolute Top Impression Share

The question when striving for absolute top impression share is: Will it result in stronger performance — for you? Visibility into ad position data is heightening competition for the first ad slot. As a result, CPCs on desirable, branded search terms will likely rise. This ripple effect can have real implications for your budget.

Are product visibility and brand awareness alone enough to make the cost of that top spot worth it for your business?

The question then becomes: How much does that top slot matter to your business? For instance, say your product appears in the top slot and garners the lion’s share of impressions, but it doesn’t yield the clicks or conversions you had anticipated. Are product visibility and brand awareness alone enough to make the cost of that top spot worth it for your business?

For many marketers, it depends on the cost.

When CPCs rise beyond your budget threshold, it’s time to ask yourself: Can you achieve the same or comparable value from other positions — at a lower CPC — in the mobile carousel or desktop SERP?

That’s where — you guessed it — testing comes into play.

Test, Measure, Compare

Before you begin, you’ll want to identify a small sample to evaluate how absolute top impression share ties into your campaign goals. We recommend determining the sample set by product type. Keep in mind that it will likely cost more to win absolute top impression share, so only allocate a small amount of your overall Shopping budget — ideally less than 10% — to the test group.

To check your absolute top impression share performance against your goals, follow the steps below. 

First, develop your test:

  • Isolate testing products into their own campaign. Consider using products you want to put on promotion or a group where you’d like to see increased visibility.
  • Determine your current baseline metrics and change bids to increase the frequency of top placement as you track performance. Use benchmark max CPC as a guide.

Then, segment product groups to measure:

  • High Search absolute top impression share: Products with high impression share, and show often in the top spot
  • Average Search absolute top impression share: Products with high impression share, but don’t show as often in the top spot
  • Low Search absolute top impression share: Products with high impression share, but don’t show often in the top spot

Here is an example of how you can segment, comparing high, average, and low absolute top impression share product groups.

High Average Low Absolute Top Impression Share Comparison Data
Source: Sidecar, July – September 2017

Finally, compare test results:

Analyze the results of the three product segments above against your baseline metrics. Some key areas for analysis:

  • Click Share: Do products in the top spot get clicked at a higher rate?
  • CPC: How much more expensive is it to win the top spot?
  • Conversion Rate: Is position related to performance in any way?

Dig Into Test Results

This test will help you connect the top ad position to performance. You’ll see whether shoppers are clicking your items more often when they appear in the top position.

Also, keep in mind CPC when vying for the upper left. Notice in the sample data above the uptick in CPC as absolute top impression share rises. In most cases, it won’t fit your budget to jockey for that position all the time. Be smart, and segment specific products or product groups to be there when it counts.

By evaluating these metrics and comparing them against your goals, you’ll have a clearer picture of how important absolute top impression share is to your success.

By evaluating these metrics and comparing them against your goals, you’ll have a clearer picture of how important absolute top impression share is to your success and when to adjust your bidding strategy to hit that top spot.

Put Absolute Top Impression Share Into Action

Now that you’ve determined when to vie for absolute top impression share, be strategic about getting there. Luckily, many of our recommended strategies to increase impression share can be implemented with absolute top impression share in mind.

Optimizing product titles to how shoppers search during the holiday season is an excellent way to push your impression share to the top. Segment by device and search query to increase the odds of your highest value product groups getting into the top spot. Make sure to keep ad quality in mind by using high-quality images and correct GTINs across your inventory, in addition to relevant product titles.

It’s important to note that impression share is still a key metric to watch. While absolute top impression share is the number of times your products are shown in the leftmost location, impression share tells you how frequently your products are seen overall during eligible searches. This critical metric should not be confused with, or replaced by, absolute top impression share.

What’s Next

Google revealed that the leftmost ad on mobile shopping results receives up to 3X more engagement. That’s no surprise to the digital world.

The web has long recognized the power of the left side of a page. Across articles, e-commerce sites, and search engine results, users nearly always browse in an F-shaped pattern that favors the left side of the screen.

Many marketers might have already intuitively assumed that the leftmost ad gets the most engagement. Now, with absolute top impression share, you can see how your Google Shopping ads fall in line with this leftmost engagement philosophy.

Now, it’s not just about appearing in Google Shopping, as well as organic and paid search, it’s about appearing in the right places at the right times in those outlets.

The introduction of this metric also shifts the conversation to what it means to own the SERP. By taking a multichannel approach, and targeting shoppers with text ads and Google Shopping ads, you can increase visibility among your key audiences. Add to that the power of organic search results underneath or beside Shopping and text ads, and you quickly own the prime real estate on the SERP.

Now, it’s not just about appearing in Google Shopping, as well as organic and paid search, it’s about appearing in the right places at the right times in those outlets. Absolute top impression share is just the start of the data Google will likely begin to reveal about ad position and performance.

Marketers who learn to use this data and think holistically about marketing their products across Google Shopping, paid search, and organic search will see the most value from competitive metrics like absolute top impression share.

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