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How to Make a Good Impression: Understanding a Misused Pay-Per-Click KPI

In the exciting world of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, ad impressions can be a very large, intimidating-looking number. That’s because they represent the number of times a digital ad is viewed by visitors. While your ad might only receive five clicks in one day, it’s likely to have impressions in the thousands for the same time period.

So, how many PPC ad impressions and touchpoints does it take to attract and convert a customer online?

While we’re asking that question, why not ask a few more? Like:

  • How many swings will it take to get that golf ball in the cup?
  • How many first dates to find love?
  • How many times do I have to go through the line at Chipotle before I find that glorious magical unicorn of an overzealous guacamole scooper?

There are some averages that attempt to offer simplified answers to life’s most important questions:

We’ve all seen some simplified math applied to marketing and sales touchpoints, but the reality is that success matters as much on your skill, strength of connection and ability to keep detailed research notes on fast food employees.

How strong are the ad impressions you’re making in your online marketing? Are you just showing up, or are you making an impression with impact?

The Measurable Impact of Immeasurable Impressions

Not every impression can be measured and directly attributed to the success of your marketing efforts. Yes, even in digital.

This is often the basis of arguments against outdoor advertising and traditional media buys, but a “view-through-conversion” metric – such as the one data available in platforms like Google AdWords – aren’t yet available on many paid and earned online media, including social media.

But the effects of these immeasurable impressions are clear. In a natural experiment for a higher education PPC campaign, direct-response search campaigns ran in a geographic area larger than the school’s omni-channel brand-awareness campaigns. The geographic region with PPC support experienced a 61% lift in conversion rates over the area without supporting brand ads – despite both regions being “local” to the school.

We see similar results in a home services PPC campaign where brand awareness differences between two regions show a 73% decrease in conversion rates where a history of awareness and brand trust building aren’t yet present.

While it’s obvious to invest first and foremost in advertising efforts which drive measurable business results, investments in online advertising campaigns for branding and awareness with the strict audience designing capabilities of most paid channels are an obvious next step for overall improved business performance. (After you’ve run out of direct-to-conversion PPC opportunities, of course.)

Do Ad Impressions Matter in PPC?

Impressions are an essential key performance indicator (KPI) and part of a well-balanced performance marketing dashboard. But many PPC management companies and advertising agencies put too much focus on this typically massive number.

Whether we’re promoting an eBook, product or furthering brand awareness, Vital always presents our impressions KPI in line with engagement rate (clicks) and conversions. The balance of “three humors” of PPC allows us to improve campaigns and inform further investments.

Measuring Your Impressions

Experiencing high impressions, but low engagement and conversion rates? There’s likely an issue with the audience targeting or your ads are missing the mark. A quick audit or multivariate ad test is in order.

Stricken with low impressions, but high engagement and conversion rates? Awesome! This campaign likely has some room to scale. A report of impression/search share will reveal just how much more awesome is possible.

Dealing with low impressions, low engagement and low conversion rates? Take a strong look at your PPC approach. Or, consider a quick PPC agency audit to ensure your investments are well placed.

It can be easy to over-emphasize the impressions metric as the ultimate goal, but it only truly matters in the context of engagement and eventual business goals.

Bottom line: improve your impact, not just the KPI. Do this with captivating creative, carefully crafted audiences and strong attention to the context in which your ads and brand appear.

Want to hear more about PPC KPIs or how to make your campaigns stand out? Reach out to our team!


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