Are Impressions Reliable as a KPI?

This is an interesting question. I’m sure that most marketers would say that there are more important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) than tracking and measuring impressions. But let’s think about this for a minute because I think that there are some characteristics about impressions that are important. Important enough for us to consider impressions as a KPI.

But before we get to these points, let’s look at where impressions fit in the scheme of things, specifically marketing.

What is an Impression?

By way of definition, impressions are the number of times an advertisement or other image that represents a company is shown to a viewer.

For online (digital and social) marketing, an “impression” usually means the number of times the ad was loaded and shown (at least potentially) to someone looking at a webpage (or a video).

For traditional advertising, an “impression” usually means the number of times the ad was shown to members of the target group.

Note: “impressions” means the audience was exposed to the ad; it does not imply that members of the target group actually saw or remembered the ad. Seeing and remembering an advertisement (i.e. recall) is a totally different issue and not the focus of this article. 

When we work with clients, we divide the types of impressions into three very broad categories: digital, social and traditional.

Impressions from digital channels include: 

  • Organic Search

  • Paid Search

  • Display and Banners Ads

  • Remarketing

  • Direct Visits to a website (assuming they are not from a traditional channel)

  • And Email

Impressions from social channels includes:

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • LinkedIn

  • Twitter

  • Pinterest

  • Yelp

  • TripAdvisor

  • And others

Impressions from traditional channels on the other hand include channels such as:

  • Radio

  • TV

  • Out-of-home (billboards)

  • Trade show

  • Print (newspapers and magazines)

  • Direct mail including catalogues 

  • And a few others

The Importance of Impressions

So why are impressions important? First, as you can see from the diagram below, impressions are at the top of the Customer Acquisition Funnel. This is important because without impressions, marketing and sales are not going to happen. Period. People - prospective buyers - need to be aware of your company and the products you offer. If there are no impressions, then there is not going to be any sales and without sales there will be no revenue. 

Funnel.png

You can read more about our specific version of the Customer Acquisition Funnel in this post 17 Essential Marketing Metrics for Customer Acquisition. For this article, the outcome will be sales. 

Second, when a company makes an investment in marketing it is essentially buying impressions. That may sound overly simple but that is reality. No Impressions = No Visits = No Prospects = No Quotes = No Sales. Impressions are the start point of the buying process and the very first level of the Customer Acquisition Funnel. 

Third, impressions are important because they show managers and owners where marketing and advertising are happening. A manager can look at a marketing statement or report that identifies the volume of impressions by marketing channel and see that some channels have impressions, and some don’t. If this is intended - great. However, if there was a strategic plan for the company to be present on a specific channel and there are no impressions showing up on for that channel, then the manager can ask, “What is going on?”.

Finally, the number of impressions gives a rough idea of the effectiveness of a campaign. If the number of impressions is low - in the thousands - then a manager can assume that the level of awareness was low. Similarly, if the number of impressions is in the millions then a manager can assume that the level of awareness is much higher. This isn’t saying that the campaign was effective or not. As many marketers have discovered, it is very possible to have a large number of impressions and yet have zero visits and zero sales. And believe me this is frustrating - very frustrating. 

Finding Impressions

Finding out the number of impressions is always not easy. Each marketing platform and marketing channel is different. Some channels are easy but others are not easy at all. Let’s look at a few examples.

Organic Search

This should be easy, but it isn’t. If you look at your Google Analytics account they are nowhere to be found unless you link your Google Search Console account to your Google Analytics account, then miraculously they show up. You can get this number in Search Console, but it is much easier once you have the two accounts linked up

Acquisition \ Search Console \ Landing Pages \ Acquisition \ Impressions

2019-07-09 - Search Console Impressions.png

Paid Search and Display

If you are using Google Ads, then this is easy. Just log into your account and there they are. Done.

2019-07-09 - Paid Ads Impressions.png

If you have linked your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account, then it is even easier. Here’s help.

Acquisition \ Google Ads \ Campaigns - select Impressions and click on Month

2019-07-09 - Paid Ads Impressions - in Google Analytics.png

Twitter

Finding impressions in Twitter is relatively easy. Log into your account and click on your profile picture (top right). Select Analytics.

2019-07-09 - Twitter Analytics.png

Next scroll down to the month that you want to review and there they are - Impressions. Easy.

2019-07-09+-+Twitter+Impressions.jpg

Facebook

Finding impressions for your company page on Facebook is painful but it is possible.

First go to Insights and download a spreadsheet with the date range that you want.

2019-07-09 - Facebook Impressions.png

Open the spreadsheet and scroll way over to column W for Daily Organic Impression, column Z for Daily Paid Impressions, and column AC for Daily Viral Impressions. Sum each of these columns for the respective totals.  Like I said - painful.

LinkedIn - Personal Profile

There aren’t really “impressions” in your personal profile. But it is worth looking at how many profile viewers that have you had. Here’s the path:

Click on Home and you will see the number of people who viewed your profile over on the left side. 

2019-07-09 - LinkedIn Profile Viewed.png

Note, however, that this is for 90 days. To get the number of profile viewers for a month, you will need to divide by 3.

2019-07-09 - LinkedIn Profile by 90.png

LinkedIn - Company Page

The first step is to navigate to your company page.

2019-07-09 - LinkedIn Company Find.png

Click on Analytics \ Visitors \ Select the dates that you want \ All Pages \ Page Views

If you select Unique Visitors instead of Page Views, you will have a rough number of people who viewed your company page over a specific period of time.

2019-07-09 - LinkedIn Company Unique.png

Email

Calculating the number of impressions for your email campaigns is pretty easy. Find out the number of subscribers and multiply that by the number of campaigns that you did in the month. For example, if you have 5,000 subscribers (not including bounces) and you sent out 4 emails in a month, then the total number of impressions is 20,000 for the month.

Traditional Channels

To get the number of impressions for all your traditional channels you will need to ask the vendor that ran the advertisement for your company. They should be able to give you a rough estimate. If they can’t then that company is probably not worth the investment. 

My Conclusion

As you can surmise, in my opinion, tracking and reviewing impressions generated by marketing campaigns is important. Important enough that you may want to use impressions as a KPI. It may not be your most valuable KPI but there is value in knowing what is happening when it comes to the top of your Customer Acquistion Funnel.