They’re Lying To You… Impressions Don’t Mean Anything

Managing Director, Meg Raiano

Opinion

The most common question I get asked when presenting reporting to our clients is, “What do those impressions mean?”

And the short answer is, they mean nothing. And when I say nothing, I literally mean nothing. When we take over a client from another agency typically what we’ve seen is the emphasis on how amazing a campaign is doing based on how many impressions that it gets,

“We had one million impressions last month, that is incredible!”

Really, it’s not. An impression means how many people *may* have seen your ad. Why do I say ‘may’? Well because depending on your platform, an impression can be counted on page load. Which means that you’ll see an impression whether a human actually saw your ad or not.

Take google for example, if you’re not paying a premium to have your ads seen at the top of the page, you ad still receives an impression all the way down at the bottom even if someone didn’t scroll all the way down there. They simply loaded on the page and that counts as an impression.

Impressions are nothing to write home about. Wow, a million people saw my ad but only ten clicked on it. COOL. That’s a really terrible click through rate. The craftier agencies will say, ‘well, see this increase in direct traffic, its because instead of clicking on the ad they physically typed your URL into the bar.’ but there is no proof that that may be the case. It’s a lovely story to tell, with nothing to back it up but very large numbers with no information behind them.

I don’t mean to sound cynical here, but I am genuinely exhausted from listening to people say they are doing great work on campaigns that only receive tons of impressions but have no other metric that could inform a positive strategy for you. Make sure that your agency is actually giving you transparent data, and not sugar coating whats visible to you.

On a call a few weeks back we were presenting reporting with another company, that company spoke very highly of their campaigns and how many people it reached, but on further inspection of the analytics account we found that 99.96% [Yes, 99.96%] bounced. Which means they left the website immediately. Suggesting that either the audience, the ad, or the landing page was not resonating with the messaging. Probably all three.

During our reporting calls, we lay it all out. Some of it will be bad, you can’t consistently climb up the SEO mountain month after month, you won’t always have the highest bid on Google Ads, but its important to know where you stand. It’s important to understand what you’re actually getting from what you’re spending.