What is an Impression?

Impressions are a digital marketing metric that quantifies the total number of times a digital advertisement, organic search result, or a specific piece of content has been displayed to your audience over a given time period.

An individual impression can be defined as a single occurrence of a web page, digital advertisement, or an organic search result being found and loaded for a single person in your audience.

3 Types of Impressions You Should Know

1. Impressions on Google Search Console

Installing Google Search Console (GSC) for your website allows Google to track and report on the number of impressions your web pages are generating in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Once you install Google Search Console (GSC) for your website, Google will automatically begin tracking and reporting the number of impressions your web pages are receiving in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

In GSC, impressions measure how many times someone saw a link to your website on Google Search, Discover, or Google News.

GSC counts an impression whenever your URL is loaded into a results page, regardless of whether the user actually scrolled down far enough to see it.


2. Impressions on Google Advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google remains one of the best ways to market and remarket your products to your target audience. Whether you’re running text ads on the Google Search network, or executing a visual remarketing campaign on the Google Display network, you’ll be able to track and measure your ad impressions using Google Ads.

Google counts an impression each time your ad is shown on a search result page or on another site in the Google advertising network.


3. Social Advertising Impressions

If you’re running ads for your business on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, those platforms will automatically count and report on the number of impressions your ads receive.

In social media advertising, an impression is usually counted when your advertisement is delivered to a user’s feed, regardless of whether the user stopped to view the advertisement or kept scrolling.

Impressions on social advertising platforms are sometimes confused with Reach, but there’s an important distinction to be made here.

Reach is a measurement of the total number of people who see an advertisement, while impressions are a measurement of the total number of times an advertisement was displayed.

If a given advertisement was displayed to the same user ten times, social advertising platforms would count 10 impressions, but the total reach would be one. You might think of social media reach as “unique impressions” – the number of unique individuals that have been reached by your advertisement.


Served vs Viewable Impressions – What’s the Difference?

Advertising platforms differ in their criteria for counting an impression.

While the majority of platforms today focus on served impressions, some platforms like Facebook advertising are already counting only viewable impressions – so what’s the difference?


Served impressions are recorded by ad servers at the time when the advertisement is loaded for a user – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the user scrolled down far enough to see the ad.

Viewable impressions leverage data from user devices to only count impressions where the advertisement actually appeared on the user’s screen. This counting method defines a viewable impression as a single instance of an advertisement being at least 50% viewable to a user for at least one second.

Viewable impressions are more difficult to measure, but they give businesses a more accurate reflection of how many users are seeing their advertisements.

Why are Impressions Important in Digital Marketing?

Generating Brand Awareness

It generally takes at least 5 to 7 impressions for a user to start recognizing your brand. Every impression you receive on the Google Ad network or in the SERPs gives you an opportunity to increase brand awareness and recognition within your target audience – even if the impression doesn’t yield a click-through to your landing pages.


Driving Clicks

With that said, the real purpose of appearing in advertisements and organic search is to generate clicks to your landing page from relevant users in your target audience. The more impressions you generate, the more opportunities you’ll have to pull target audience members into your funnel and eventually convert them into customers.


Measuring CTR

Impressions are also important for measuring and understanding click-through rate (CTR) for your advertisements and organic search results.

CTR is a marketing metric that measures how frequently an organic search or digital advertising impression results in a click-through to your landing page. A higher CTR for your PPC and social advertisements indicates that the messaging in your ads is resonating strongly with your target audience.

A higher CTR for organic search results can indicate that your page title and meta description (which make up the bulk of your snippet in the SERPs) are resonating with your target audience, and/or that Google is effectively ranking your website for search terms that are highly relevant to your target audience.

Impressions Can Be a Vanity Metric for B2B SaaS Companies

Tracking impressions can help digital marketers understand the overall reach and impact of their efforts, from generating brand awareness to driving clicks that pull new prospective customers into the top of the marketing funnel.

But impressions can also be a vanity metric – one that looks good when improved, but doesn’t necessarily translate to meaningful business outcomes.

As part of our Customer Generation methodology at Directive, we’ve shifted our focus away from vanity metrics like Impressions and onto reliable North Star Metrics like sales-qualified lead (SQL) generation that are directly tied to revenue for our B2B SaaS clients.

We still track impressions as a means of evaluating and improving our marketing efforts, but when it comes to measuring success, we’re laser-focused on SQL, customer, and revenue generation.

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