Businesses and marketing managers who advertise on Google AdWords: forget pay per click health checks, forget PPC audits, forget campaign performance reviews. The quality of your Google AdWords strategy is apparent from just two simple numbers – 1) impression weight and 2) click weight. And the best news? You can calculate those two numbers yourself, to get a robust and powerful understanding of the quality of your Google AdWords campaigns without needing expert analysis and feedback. Quite simply:

The greater your spread of impressions and clicks over different keywords, the fewer the number of impressions and clicks which are sent to each keyword, the better your campaigns are able to respond to search query variation, so the better your campaigns are likely to perform.

GOOD – if clicks are impressions are spread over a large number of different keywords (with each keyword on average receiving a small number of impressions and clicks – low impression and click weight), this suggests your campaigns are efficiently set up to divert searches of a different nature to different ad messages, allowing powerful analysis and optimisation and strong campaign performance. Expect high CTR, high Quality Scores, low CPCs, strong visitor engagement, and high conversion rates and ROI.

BAD – if clicks and impressions are sent to only a handful of different keywords (with each keyword on average receiving a large number of impressions and clicks – high impression and click weight), only a handful of different ad messages are being used to respond to a wide range of very different search queries, suggesting irrelevancy and lack of ability to respond to the varying needs and requirements of searchers. Expect poor CTR, low Quality Scores, high CPCs, poor visitor engagement, and low conversion rates and ROI.

It really is that simple. Two magic numbers – and you’re on your way to a comprehensive, reliable, and powerful understanding of the quality of your current Google AdWords campaigns. Let’s calculate those two numbers.

1. Impression Weight

Impression weight is simply the average number of impressions which are sent to each keyword which received at least one impression:

Impression weight = Number of impressions from search ads / number of keywords which received at least 1 impression

To calculate your impression weight, login to Google AdWords, navigate to ‘keywords’, and select a relevant date range (e.g. ‘all time’ or ‘last 30 days’). Go to filter > performance > impressions, and enter ‘1’ to show only keywords which have received at least one impression.

Scroll to the bottom of the page, look for a row which says ‘Total – Search’, and make a note of the number of impressions you’ve received from search ads.

Divide this number by the number of rows (6,481 in the example below).

The figure which pops out is your impression weight – the average number of impressions which were sent to your keywords which were shown at least once.The lower your impression weight, the better.

Aim for an impression weight under 50, and ideally under 25. Anything over 100 – you’re in trouble.

To provide some benchmarking for your reference, below are some impression weights for AdWords accounts I’ve managed using a long-tail and granular campaign structure. Accounts 1, 2, and 12 have low impression weights of 10-15 impressions per keyword, and tend to perform exceptionally well – strong click through rates, high Quality Scores, strong visitor engagement, and high conversion rates and ROI. Accounts 3, 5, and 7 have high impression weights of 50-90, and although campaign performance is acceptable, they are clearly in need of search query expansion to further improve campaign performance and ROI.

Let’s add in a few other Google AdWords accounts I’ve reviewed recently (highlighted in yellow). Despite a relatively high click spend, these campaigns had fewer than 1,000 keywords, suggesting a relatively minimal use of the long-tail. Average CTR ranged from 0.8% – 1.5%, weighted Quality Scores ranged from 4.2 – 6.1, and ROI was mediocre. Clearly much room for improvement.

Now let’s see how the metrics change for some of the worst accounts I’ve seen recently (highlighted in red). These campaigns were terrible. Fewer than 200 keywords, over-use of broad match, and only a handful of different keywords and ads accounting for a huge percentage of campaign activity. Average CTR was under 1.0% for both accounts despite a high average position, with weighted Quality Scores ranging from 3.7-4.6. Conversion rates were terrible, return on investment was non-existent, so it was no wonder the campaigns were paused and the business seeked an alternative PPC strategy.

Impression weight gives you a great understanding of the quality of your campaign structure without getting distracted in the detail. But to fully complete the picture, and assess campaign performance through from search to click, we need to also assess click weight.

2. Click Weight

Click weight is simply the average number of clicks which are sent to each keyword which received at least one click:

Click weight = Number of clicks from search ads / number of keywords which received at least 1 click

To calculate your click weight, repeat the steps above for clicks, rather than impressions. Login to Google AdWords, navigate to ‘keywords’, and select a relevant date range (e.g. ‘all time’ or ‘last 30 days’). Go to filter > performance > clicks, and enter ‘1’ to show only keywords which have received at least one click. Scroll to the bottom of the page, look for a row which says ‘Total – Search’, and make a note of the number of clicks you’ve received from search ads. Divide this number by the total number of rows (bottom-right), and out pops your click weight. The lower your click weight, the better.

Aim for a click weight under 5, and ideally under 2.5. Anything over 10 – you’re in trouble.

If clicks are being spread over a large number of different keywords, and the number of clicks being sent to each keyword is relatively low, then chances are you’re doing a great job to provide tailored messaging to cater for a wide range of different searcher needs and requirements. But if your click weight is high, and each keyword is receiving a high number of clicks, then chances are your keyword and ad group structure is poor job at catering for different search queries. Chances are, you’re displaying the same generic ad message for a wide range of very different searches.

Nobody likes that – not least of all your bottom line.

From the Google AdWords accounts I assessed (see below), those which had a small click weight tended to have considerably better campaign performance than those with a larger click weight. CTR much higher, CPCs much lower, and conversion rates and ROI in a different league – everything most businesses would want from their PPC marketing.

“But what if the clicks and impressions in my campaigns suddenly double? Won’t my impression weight and click weight also double?”

In part, yes – your impression weight and click weight will likely increase, as each of your keywords now receive a higher number of impression and clicks. But even still:

There’s no excuse for an impression weight exceeding 100, or a click weight exceeding 10.

If your keywords start to receive more than 100 impression or 10 clicks, perhaps due to increased spend or higher bids, then treat that as a signal to adopt campaign expansion strategies to keep your impression and click weight under control. The greater your impression and click volume being churned through your campaigns, the greater your opportunity (and need) for more specific keywords and ad messages. The lower your impression and click volume, the lower the need for an extremely long-tail campaign structure.

What Are Your Two Numbers?

Impression weight and click weight applies for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and the same metrics can be used in all cases where the ultimate objective is improved campaign performance and ROI.

They’re metrics which apply to everyone. What are your two numbers?

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is a Google AdWords PPC specialist, based in Melbourne, Australia, with a proven track record at improving return on investment (ROI) from Google AdWords. Find out how Alan can help your business.

  • Kelsey Carroll

    Alan, Great article. When calculating these weights, does the time period matter? I.e. I’ve made some major changes and upon calculating these weights, they look good but this is only for a few days. Do you need to wait say 30 days or what do you recommend?

  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com Alan Mitchell

    Hi Kelsey,

    In theory, the time period doesn’t really matter. If you select a short date range (i.e. a few days), impression and click weight will likely look very good. This is expected – the amount of search query data at your disposal over a short date range will be limited, presenting limited opportunity to expand your campaigns based on collected search query data.

    However, if your impression and click weight start to rise significantly over a longer date range, then this is an indication that campaign expansion has not kept up with the rate of click growth over that time period.

    The longer the time period, the higher the click volume, the higher the number of unique search queries, the greater the opportunity to divert different search queries to their own keywords and ads, and the greater the ability to keep your impression and click weight low.

    Click weight and impression weight are therefore retrospective metrics to understand whether there has been sufficient campaign expansion over a selected date range. The longer the date range you select, the greater the campaign expansion which should have happened over those dates, the greater your weights are likely to be if campaign expansion over those dates was minimal.

  • kasexamtips s

    is this rule hold good for brand reach(only impression strategy) or brand leads ( conversion strategy).

  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com alanmitchell

    It’s relevant for any search strategy where the ultimate goal is return on investment.

  • kasexamtips s

    Thank you for your reply. I agree but when it comes to brand reach ( only impression strategy)impression weight increases …when it comes to brand leads( only conversion) click weight also increases… i think above rule holds good for ROI strategy only. thank you for reading

  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com alanmitchell

    It can apply to any campaign strategy where the ultimate goal is ROI. So for campaigns where the primary focus is ‘branding’ (i.e. not ROI), this technique would therefore not be relevant.