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How Impression-Based KPIs Drive Campaign Performance



How Impression-Based KPIs Drive Campaign Performance

Digital marketers can be our own worst enemies.

After years of touting that we can track everything and derive a precise ROAS from digital marketing, the expectation is that we can continue to do so.

And while it is true that digital marketing offers far greater opportunities for uncovering the ROI of specific tactics and channels, it sometimes feels like this trackability has overshadowed the impact of softer, top-of-the-funnel KPIs.

Don’t get me wrong.

Advertisers should still use metrics like ROAS, ROI and LTV/CAC (lifetime value/customer acquisition cost) as north star metrics when distributing budget across channels and tactics.

But building demand for tomorrow at the top of the funnel requires a different mindset which can make some marketers (and, let’s face it, their CFOs) uncomfortable.

The good news is that higher-funnel initiatives influence conversions down-funnel, and there are a variety of ways to measure it.


In this article, you will learn impression-based KPIs you need to know as well as native and paid tools you can use to measure impression influence.

The Challenge

The buying experience has undergone rapid change over the last decade, and marketers and leadership have not caught up to buying behaviors.

At the root of the problem lies the difference between buyer behavior and attribution.

Here’s why:

  • Buyers are not on a linear path.
  • Buying committees often drive decisions, not individuals (this is especially true for B2B). This means advertising has to reach multiple individuals on the path to a final purchase.
  • Users are more savvy, skeptical, and inundated than ever before. Therefore, the frequency of viewing strong creative is critical to building awareness, interest, and consideration.

Meanwhile, company leadership often makes decisions on antiquated attribution models, like the last-click which ignores the very nature of buyer behavior.

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So, how do you show the value of top-of-funnel advertising?

Conducting in-depth brand awareness studies is certainly an option for large advertisers.

But for smaller advertisers or those wanting to get a quick understanding of results, impression-based KPIs are a great way to optimize your top-of-funnel advertising.

Impression-Based KPIs To Know

If an impression is on the path to conversion, it has value.


Consider your own experiences.

How many times have you seen an ad influence a future decision?

You may not have clicked the ad.

It may have taken a day for you to act on it, but it clearly influenced your thinking.

Those advertisers weren’t able to precisely quantify the value that impression/view had, but they knew enough to know it was valuable.

Quantifying what that value is can be tricky.

But here are some key KPIs that should be included when evaluating the success of top-of-funnel advertising:

Lift In Brand Search Impression

Top-of-funnel (TOF) initiatives drive brand awareness, which creates search demand.


As a result, this is one of the best proxies of success for TOF initiatives


Brands that have more marketplace awareness who cleverly communicate their value proposition and differentiators see higher click-through rates.

A pre-TOF initiative/post-TOF initiative analysis of CTR will provide insights into whether your efforts are paying off.

Engaged View Conversions

On YouTube and Display (using video in the responsive ad unit), an engaged view conversion is counted when at least 10 seconds of a skippable in-stream ad is watched (or the whole thing if shorter than 10 seconds).

View-through Conversions

View-through conversions tell you that your ad was seen along the path to conversion, despite it not being clicked.

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While not nearly as valuable as a click-based conversion, it still holds value when evaluating the performance of prospecting campaigns where a prospect has not yet engaged with you.

Audience Saturation

Reach, frequency, and audience saturation can be a great KPI if you have well-defined audiences.

Examples of defined, high-value audiences include customer match lists, pixel-based retargeting lists, Custom audiences using the Searched on Google setting and account-based-marketing (ABM) audiences.


This is less valuable of a metric with ambiguous targeting, such as similar tos and lookalikes or when using “optimized” targeting.

On search, impression share can provide you audience saturation insights.

Native Tools To Help You Measure Impression Influence

Attribution is hard. And messy.

No matter what a salesperson tells you, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for attribution — especially when you are trying to quantify impression-focused KPIs.

Breathe easy though.

Here are five ways to measure impact using native tools:

  1. Add relevant impression-focused metrics (above) to your platform views, internal dashboards and client reporting. For example, showcase when TOF initiatives lead to brand impressions surging higher.
  2. Run a geo holdout test activating TOF initiatives in select markets, but not in others.  Then, evaluate impact based on market-level lead, pipeline and revenue data (including all traffic sources).
  3. Create a custom column that combines click-conversions and weighted view-through conversions to better understand the impact a keyword or audience segment has. Then, use that info to set target CPA bids.
  4. Utilize lift studies with Google and Facebook for a more automated way to learn more about the incremental impact of ads.
  5. Using Google Analytics user groups, create an “exposed” and “unexposed” group and serve retargeting ads to one group. Then, measure downstream KPIs to identify the impact of retargeting impressions.
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Paid Tools To Measure Impression Influence

While other tools exist, I can directly speak to the Google Marketing Platform products. Both Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 (GA360) provide buyer journey reporting under Attribution > Conversions > Top Conversion Paths.

However, GA360 includes Google-based impression activity in these paths.

Another GMP product, Campaign Manager 360 (CM360), provides impression data beyond the Google ecosystem.


Here, you can place impression tags on non-Google vendor URLs (eg. Twitter and Reddit) to get a more comprehensive look at how impressions influence the buying process.

This can be valuable information when media planning, because a TOF initiative may not get credit by solely examining click-based KPIs.

For example, we recently had a client observing poor lead performance on Reddit.

We were considering cutting it, but we looked at our CM360-fueled Tableau dashboard and saw that Reddit was actually the first brand exposure (without click) 41 times.

This data showed that while on the surface, there was no conversion activity associated with the channel, it was introducing people to the brand, who were later clicking on another CM360-tagged link, then converting.


An impression to the right audience has value.

If you want to build a future-proof marketing program, demand must be generated through TOF initiatives that value non-click conversion points.

While it is hard to quantify sometimes, there are multiple indicators you can use to help you determine whether the channel or tactic is effective.


In summary, you should:

  • Determine your impression-centric KPIs and their values.
  • Communicate (and align) with stakeholders on what success looks like throughout the funnel.
  • Ensure your media mix, strategies and tactics are informed by said KPIs.

More resources: 

Featured Image: H12/Shutterstock

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Search Engine Journal Promotes Miranda Miller To Senior Managing Editor



Search Engine Journal Promotes Miranda Miller To Senior Managing Editor

It is with tremendous pride and excitement that I announce the promotion of Miranda Miller, an editorial and content strategy champion, to Senior Managing Editor.

While this promotion actually happened in January, having recently joined SEJ myself, I wanted to celebrate Miranda’s growth and leadership within the organization.

In this role, her areas of ownership will include core elements of SEJ’s editorial operations in this advanced role, including its rich educational and evergreen content.

“The word that comes to mind is blossom,” said Jenise Uehara, CEO of SEJ’s parent company Alpha Brand Media.

”Miranda dove into organizational management, cross-department collaboration, and business process design, while also tackling inefficiencies and challenges.”

An exceptional writer and editor, Miranda also brings considerable experience and expertise in content strategy.

Over the past several months, Miranda has truly shone as an organizational leader, working to grow SEJ’s editorial blueprint, talent, and operations exponentially.


“And all the while, Miranda somehow kept the publishing crank turning out exceptional content and breaking news,” Jenise added.

“I’ve been thrilled to watch Miranda so quickly engage and take on a meatier leadership role.”

Having followed her work since joining SEJ, I can personally speak to Miranda’s diversified wealth of knowledge to the editorial team – not to mention the publication at large.

“I joined SEJ early in 2021 to help lead the editorial team in a period of great growth and opportunity,” Miranda said.

“We’ve been able to increase expert and educational content production by over 60% even while introducing a data-driven approach to content strategy and optimization,” she added.

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This year, we’ll publish 50% more ebooks than in 2021, and our contributing author program has grown to over 130 digital marketing and SEO experts with her guidance.

Prior to coming in-house, Miranda spent over 15 years leading her own marketing agency which served clients as wide-ranging as the world’s leading polar expeditions company, fintech and app startups, Fortune 100 companies, and several government agencies.

She’s been a prolific ghostwriter for brands and executives in SEO, tech, and finance, and has authored thousands of articles for clients that have appeared in the best-known B2B publications, technical journals, and mainstream media.


As Editor-in-Chief, I’m beyond excited to watch Miranda’s leadership undoubtedly contribute to SEJ’s ongoing substantial growth.

SEJ’s brand and content offerings continue to evolve, to serve an audience of marketers and business leaders – and there has never been a more inspiring or energizing time to cultivate, promote, and be part of this remarkably talented team.

“Content quality has always been my number one priority, and so it’s refreshing to see that this is a shared value across the SEJ team,” Miranda said.

“I love to see the new ebook formats and article types we’re creating now and am really looking forward to continuing to innovate and teach, to bring the most useful and helpful educational content possible to the SEJ audience.”

Miranda is a part-time digital nomad and runs a location-independent content studio for enterprise organizations.

Three to four months of the year, she works in coworking spaces and cafes around Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

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“But not at the beach,” Miranda adds. “That’s a myth. Ever had sand in your laptop? No bueno.”

At her home base on Georgian Bay in Canada, she’s the wife of a talented chef; mother bear to two teens, two Shepherds, and three budgies; and a patron of the local live music and literary scenes.


She’s also a huge fan of adrienne maree brown, Lizzo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Margaret Atwood, AOC – and hockey.

Featured Image: Miranda Miller


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