What Happens When Google Removes Average Position Metrics?

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Google will stop using average position metrics to rank ads at the end of September. Here’s what medical marketers need to know about preparing for this change.

For the past 15 years, Google Ads' average position metric has been a valuable statistic for medical marketers. Since this metric describes how an ad typically ranks against other ads, marketers could use this information to analyze their ad’s relative position and make informed decisions. The metric was also helpful for advertisers due to its direct link to the search results page. 

With the advent of new technologies and changing protocols, however, average position has fallen out of favor. Now that the metric will be replaced by new tools, medical marketers should take steps to prepare and adjust their Google Ads strategies.

Google Will Sunset Average Position Metric

Google Ads will officially retire the average position reporting metric on September 30, 2019. Many in the digital marketing arena believe there are two primary reasons for this change. The first is simple: Google doesn’t find average position useful anymore. The metric’s utility sharply declined with the removal of right rail ads, and many marketers have already moved on.

The second reason is that Google wants to subtly shift marketers away from manual bidding in favor of automated bidding options. Many manual-bidding advertisers used average position to balance cost and conversion and come up with an appropriate bid for position. However, now that bidding is easier and less expensive, bid-to-position strategies don’t seem as prudent as they once were.   

Average position will be replaced by four new metrics after September, but the most important ones for medical marketers will be the top and absolute top impression rates. Top impression rate refers to the percentage of total impressions coming from the top of a search page and absolute top impression rate shows the percentage of total impressions coming from the very top of the list. Top would encompass the top five ad results, for instance, and the absolute top would be the top two results from that list. 

These percentages make it easier for marketers to determine their prominence because they show how much time ads spend at the top of search engine results rather than how they are positioned based on ad buying. For example, during the era of average position, being in position two would signal high performance. However, an ad in that spot would not show up in either top or absolute top impressions because it wasn’t in the number one spot or above the organic results. In short, marketers can no longer get the clearest picture of their standing with average position.  

What Will These New Metrics Mean For Medical Marketers?

Overall, medical marketers can benefit from the increased accuracy provided by these new metrics. Google Ads is adapting to account for the way digital marketing operates now, and letting go of average position is part of that. Healthcare providers should embrace the clarity that comes with top and absolute top impressions rates and use that information to strategize efficiently. 

The biggest change for medical marketers will be adjusting their approach to bidding, since it is rapidly moving toward an automated process. Target CPA, Target ROAS, and Target Impression Share are the latest automatic bidding strategies built into Google Ads, and while they each offer unique benefits, one size does not fit all. Medical marketers should study these forms in preparation for September 30th and determine which approaches optimize their advertising strategy. 

Google’s sunset of the average position metric offers medical marketers the opportunity to revamp and re-optimize their techniques to reach new audiences. Google Ads is still a key resource for connecting with patients, so it’s important for healthcare providers to continue learning how to best utilize the platform. 

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