This article shares tips to improve impression share that our experts used to help brands increase traffic by 42%. We also highlight common challenges we see when it comes to impression share — and how to avoid them.

Are your Google Ads really capturing that many impressions? Or are they missing out on tons of possible ad placements and costing you valuable clicks and conversions?

When you track impression share, you can learn what percentage of impressions your ads are capturing, identify areas for improvement, and take action to improve campaign outcomes.

In this article, we’ll cover why this metric matters, tips to improve impression share, and common mistakes to avoid in the process.

What is impression share?

Impression share is a Google Ads metric that reflects how many impressions your ads received versus the number of impressions they were eligible to receive. It’s displayed as a percentage. Here’s the standard formula for ads on the search network and the display network:

Actual Impressions / Eligible Impressions x 100% = Impression Share
Say your ads received 500 impressions, but were eligible to receive 1,000 impressions. Your impression share would be 50% (500 / 1,000 x 100% = 50%).

Google Ads also provides this metric for Shopping campaigns, but the formula works differently. Shopping campaigns can display multiple ads from one advertiser, but the impression share formula only accounts for the highest-ranked ad.

How Google Ads tallies eligible impressions is similar, no matter which campaign type you use. The platform considers ad quality, targeting options, and approval status.

What is search top impression share?

Search top impression share refers to how often your ads display above organic search results on a search engine results page (SERP). Search absolute top impression share refers to how often your ads display at the very top of the SERP.

This metric applies to search, Hotel, and Shopping campaigns. Here’s the formula:

[Absolute] Top Impressions / Eligible Top Impressions x 100% = [Absolute] Search Top Impression Share

For example, in one week you receive 300 Absolute Top Impressions, meaning they appeared as the very first result in the search results page 300 times. However, your ads were eligible to appear at the very top 500 times based on the search criteria.

The calculation of top impression share would look like this: Search Top Impression Share = 60% (300 / 500 x 100% = 60%)

So your search top impression share for the week is 60%. This means your ads appeared at the very top of the search results 60% of the time they were eligible to do so.

Should you aim to get your ads in a top position? Ads that appear above organic search results get way more clicks, according to Google. So, aim for a top position to improve impression share and clicks simultaneously.

What is a good impression share?

As a general rule, 60-70% is a good impression share for most Google Ads campaigns. But as you’ll see below, several factors affect this metric and how much focus to place on it.

Either way, aiming for 100% impression share every time isn’t a realistic goal. “‘The higher, the better’ is the wrong approach. Advertisers should optimize their campaigns to achieve the right balance between visibility, relevance, and cost-effectiveness,” advises Domanté Gerdauské, Senior Senior Digital Advertising Manager at Omnisend.

How can you get impression share data?

You don’t have to do manual tracking or measurement to access impression share metrics. Google Ads tracks this metric automatically. All you have to do is add it to your campaign, ad group, product group, or keyword dashboard.

impression share data

Add the right metric (i.e., display impression share or search impression share) to your dashboard to track the right type of impression share for your campaign.

7 Strategies to improve Google Ads impression share

Could your impression share use a boost? Use the strategies below to optimize this metric.

  1. Increase keyword bids
  2. Optimize keyword lists
  3. Enhance ad quality
  4. Rethink audience targeting
  5. Review scheduling and device targeting
  6. Revisit ad placements

1. Adjust campaign budgets

Campaign budget is an important factor for impression share. Google Ads can show your ads more often when you budget more for a campaign. This change can lead to higher impression share.

Check your campaign status to determine if a low daily budget is costing you impressions. If it shows “Limited,” there’s a good chance that a higher daily budget could increase impressions.

Another option: check your Google Ads recommendations. If you see a recommendation to increase your budget to capture more search traffic, there’s a good chance that adjusting your budget could improve impression share.

How much should you increase your budget? Use your impression share as a guide. If you’re currently capturing a small share of available impressions (e.g., 20%), consider a larger increase.

Also, use Google Ads’ budget simulator to estimate campaign performance at different budget levels:

Adjust campaign budgets

Don’t have extra advertising budget to spare? Move some budget from underperforming campaigns to get more impressions and boost performance across your Google Ads account.

2. Increase keyword bids

Adjusting the budget opens up more ad spend for the campaign. But what if your keyword bids are too low? A higher campaign budget won’t help your search ads compete against other advertisers in the auction if you’re using manual cost-per-click (CPC) bidding strategies.

To improve search impression share, revisit your current keyword bids and increase them as necessary. Higher bids can improve Ad Rank, which gives you a better chance in the ad auction and determines if and where your ads display on the SERP.

How much should you raise your bids? Check Google Ads’ estimated recommendations for:

  • First-page bid
  • Top-of-page bid
  • First-position bid

Add any or all of these metrics to your search keyword dashboard. Use them to guide your keyword bid updates.

Increase keyword bids

Do higher keyword bids not fit into your budget? Use the same decisions as above to reallocate ad spend as necessary. For example, remove some underperforming keywords to give top-performing keywords a better chance to display.

3. Optimize keyword lists

Ideally, you’ve built ad groups based on keywords with decent search volume and strong relevance to your business. But if you aren’t careful, ad groups can become unwieldy with overly long keyword lists.

If your budget doesn’t support your keyword lists, you could end up with low impression share and few clicks to show for it. To increase impression share, pare down your keyword lists.

For instance, pause:

  • Keywords with a low impression share and below average click and conversion metrics
  • Keywords with a low impression share and a low Quality Score

For broad match keywords, take an extra step to review your keyword lists. Check them for exact match impression share by adding this competitive metric to your search keywords dashboard.

This metric compares how often a campaign received impressions for search queries exactly matching your broad match search keywords to how often your campaign was eligible to receive exact match impressions.

If your exact match impression share is relatively high but your search impression share is relatively low, review your keyword match types and refine your keyword list.

Switching a broad match keyword to phrase match or exact match can capture more of that exact match impression share without wasting ad budget on broad matches. To find other keywords to add to your ad group, review your search term report to find top performers.

4. Enhance ad quality

Keywords and bids aren’t the only factors that determine Ad Rank. Ad quality also affects if and where your ads display. As a result, ad quality can impact impression share.

Follow best practices for your campaign type to enhance ad quality and improve low Ad Rank (e.g., search or display).
For search ads, start by checking your Quality Score. This metric has three components (expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience). Each can have above-average, average, or below-average ratings. Look for keywords with below-average ratings for any of these components, and prioritize addressing them.

For example:

  • Improve CTR by making your responsive search ads more appealing to potential customers. In the ad copy, include compelling offers and speak your audience’s language.
  • Include keywords in your ads to increase ad relevance. Experiment with dynamic keyword insertion to add keywords to ad copy automatically.
  • Ensure the destination aligns with the ad to enhance landing page experience . Increasing page load speed and optimizing for mobile users can also help.

For display ads, focus on improving ad copy and creatives. Open your Google Ads dashboard and look for low-performing elements. Replace them with new versions of headlines, descriptions, and images.

5. Rethink audience targeting

How you configure audience and location targeting directly affects how many impressions your ads are eligible to receive. By expanding your targeting (i.e., adding more locations or contextual targeting) you open up more impressions. As a result, you need more budget to achieve a higher impression share.

When increasing impression share is your main goal, pause or remove some targeting settings. Look for locations, topics, or other content with low impression share, clicks, and conversions. That way, you’ll open up the ad budget for locations and audiences more likely to engage with your ads.

6. Review scheduling and device targeting

Any targeting you apply to your ad campaigns can change the total number of eligible impressions dramatically. Take device targeting and ad scheduling, for example.

If you don’t use these settings at all, you’ll open up your ads to more potential impressions. However, you’ll need a bigger budget to keep the impression share high.

To increase impression share, add an ad schedule or device targeting based on campaign performance so far. That way, you’ll limit available impressions, but you’ll deliver ads as often as possible using the parameters likely to deliver the best results.

7. Revisit ad placements

For display ads, placements can also affect the total impressions available for your ads. Note that this option only applies if you use manual placement targeting.

By enabling more placements, you can open up more impression opportunities. To increase impression share across these opportunities, increase your campaign budget accordingly.

Disabling underperforming placements can limit impression opportunities to those more likely to drive clicks and conversions. Your impression share should increase automatically because you’ll have fewer impressions available overall.

Why is impression share important?

Impression share isn’t a ranking factor for Google Ads. It doesn’t affect if or where your ads appear.

Instead, it shows how much available impression share you’re capturing — and how much you could potentially get if you make strategic changes to your ads. It reveals two important pieces of information:

  1. How visible your ad is. For example, an ad with an above-average impression share has nearly maximized its visibility.
  2. How many potential clicks the ad can stand to gain. For example, an ad with a below-average impression share is missing tons of potential impressions and clicks.

Can a higher impression share make your campaigns more successful? It depends.

Say your conversion and click-through rate (CTR) for a campaign are already above average. If the campaign gets more impressions, it could drive exponentially more clicks and conversions.

In contrast, a low-performing ad probably won’t have as much to gain from a higher impression share. If its conversion rate is low, then investing in more impressions won’t move the needle.

“Impression share is an important piece of the puzzle,” explains Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “But we believe your strategy should take a quality over quantity approach. In other words, ensure you’re getting in front of the right eyeballs and not just a more general audience.”

For example, HawkSEM helped Radar, a location infrastructure provider, increase paid web traffic by 42%. Increasing impression share was only part of the equation. Our team also optimized Radar’s keyword strategy and improved ad quality, ultimately increasing pipeline opportunities by 125%.

Common challenges with improving impression share

As you take steps to increase your impression share, beware of common challenges you’re likely to face. Use these tips to guide your process.

Believing every impression is equally important

As an advertiser, you may be tempted to raise every impression share score to a certain percentage. Yet, not every low impression share score is worth addressing. After all, not all campaigns, ad groups, and keywords share the same level of importance.

The importance of impression share depends on the campaign and its goal. For example, if you’re running a brand campaign and there’s a lot of competition (i.e., other advertisers are bidding on your brand terms), you’d want to display your ad above theirs.

“I’d suggest keeping at least 95% impression share. However, it isn’t vital to be that high with your other more generic campaigns,” advises Gerdauské.

“It really depends on the goal, volume, and budget. The key is to monitor your competitors’ strategies and adjust your campaigns accordingly. Identify areas where competitors outperform you and look for opportunities.”

Focusing on impression share over other levers

You can pull several levers to improve campaign performance, including Quality Score, Ad Rank, and impression share. Focusing too much on the latter may cause the others to slip, negatively affecting performance.

To focus on the right lever, identify the metrics that matter most for your digital marketing strategy. For example, increasing CTR and conversion rate or lowering CPC may have a much bigger effect on campaign outcomes than getting more impressions ever could.

“One mistake I see advertisers make is obsessing over impression share at the detriment of more important metrics like CTR and conversion rate,” suggests Josh Neuman, Founder of Chummy Tees. “While a very low impression share indicates a budget issue, once you reach 50-60% or higher, it’s better to focus on improving ad relevance and landing page experience rather than endlessly chasing 100% impression share.”

Some keyword types like hyper-competitive commercial terms are nearly impossible to achieve high impression share for.

“Advertisers shouldn’t tear their hair out trying to gain share for challenging keywords,” continues Neuman. “Improving other elements of the account often yields better results.”

Measuring percentage increases rather than incremental gains

Remember, impression share is just a percentage of the potential impressions an ad captures. If you pay too much attention to this metric, you’ll ignore the true impact: the gains you can achieve from more impressions.

“One thing advertisers often get wrong about impression share is focusing too much on the raw percentage. They see a low impression share percentage and immediately think they need to increase their bids or budget to capture more of those impressions,” shares Will Yang, Head of Growth and Marketing at Instrumentl.

But what matters is the incremental value of raising your impression share, not just raising it for the saer number.

“As an expert, I always advise looking deeper at metrics like CTRs and conversion rates at different impression share levels,” continues Yang. “Often, just a small increase in impression share delivers most of the value, while pushing it higher brings diminishing returns.”

Getting the reason for low impressions share wrong

Many advertisers instinctively increase their budget to overcome low impression share. While budget is often the issue, it isn’t always the problem.

In many cases, your Google Ads dashboard can tell you whether a low budget or a low Ad Rank is causing low impression share.

On your Google Ads dashboard, add:

  • Search lost IS (rank)
  • Search lost IS (budget)
  • Display lost IS (rank)
  • Display lost IS (budget)

impression share wrong

When the rank-related lost impression share scores are high, you’ll know that ad quality and Ad Rank are key issues. In that case, ad optimization can regain lost ground.

When the budget-related lost impression share scores are high, you’ll know that budget is the main issue. If so, increase the budget to improve impression share.

Neglecting to factor impression share into your long-term strategy

When you need to improve ad or campaign visibility, avoid waiting until the last minute to take action. That way you’ll have plenty of time to test strategies to improve impression share. You’ll also have ample opportunities to get your ads in front of your target audience and meet your campaign goals.

“We may rely less on paid ads during holiday seasons when custom-printed gifts are in demand,” explains Michael Nemeroff, CEO and Co-Founder of Rush Order Tees.

“However, we’d like to see our reach up to a healthy level during off season, when we rely on more generic uses for our products — like private parties, group events, and business conferences. That would usually mean increasing our bids early on to allow the impact of our ads to build on our target audience.”

“People tend to act on ads only after seeing them multiple times in their search backgrounds, so we can’t plan to increase our impressions too late in the season if we want to generate sales all throughout. We really need our ads to be pushed toward people searching for these items and related terms to consistently drive revenue.”

Lacking deeper insights into the buyer’s journey

Tracking is an essential part of any digital marketing campaign. But tracking impression share is just the beginning. You need more nuanced PPC tracking to fully understand impression share trends and resulting conversions.

That’s why we use ConversionIQ (CIQ) for client campaigns. It tracks each step of the buyer’s journey so we can see that’s really working. Even better, we can apply CIQ insights to other marketing channels (e.g., paid social or search engine optimization) to get more value from the data.

The takeaway

Impression share is an important metric for successful Google Ads campaigns, as it directly affects campaign visibility. But it’s far from the only metric that contributes to a high-performing campaign.

Curious about how HawkSEM could improve your impression share and overall Google Ads performance? Contact our experienced team for a free consultation and learn how we can help you.

Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is a writer for B2B SaaS companies. She specializes in product-led and strategic content for marketing technology, sales automation, and productivity tools.