How impression-based KPIs drive campaign performance

Digital marketers can be our worst enemies.

After years of bragging that we can track everything and derive accurate ROAS from digital marketing, we expect we can continue to do so.

And while it’s true that digital marketing offers far greater opportunities for uncovering the ROI of specific tactics and channels, it sometimes feels like this traceability has overshadowed the impact of larger KPIs. flexible and top of the funnel.

Do not mistake yourself.

Advertisers should always use metrics such as ROAS, ROI, and LTV/CAC (Lifetime Value/Cost of Customer Acquisition) as north-star metrics when allocating budget across channels and tactics.

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

The good news is that high-funnel initiatives influence downstream conversions, and there are a variety of ways to measure this.

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

The challenge

The shopping experience has undergone rapid change over the past decade, and marketers and executives haven’t caught up with buying behaviors.

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

Here’s why:

  • Buyers are not on a linear path.
  • Buying committees often guide decisions, not individuals (this is especially true for B2B). This means that the advertisement must reach several people on the way to the final purchase.
  • Users are more savvy, skeptical and inundated than ever. Therefore, the frequency of viewing strong creatives is key to building awareness, interest, and consideration.

Meanwhile, company management often makes decisions on outdated attribution models, like last-click that ignores the very nature of buyer behavior.

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

Conducting in-depth brand awareness research is definitely an option for large advertisers.

But for smaller advertisers or those who want to understand results quickly, impression-based KPIs are a great way to optimize your top-of-funnel advertising.

Impression-Based KPIs You Need to Know

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

Consider your own experiences.

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

You may not have clicked on the ad.

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

These advertisers weren’t able to accurately quantify the value of that impression/view, but they knew enough to know it was valuable.

Quantifying this value can be tricky.

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

Increased brand search impression

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

As a result, it is one of the best indicators of success for TOF initiatives.

Engagement/click-through rate

Brands that have higher market awareness and intelligently communicate their value proposition and differentiators see higher click-through rates.

An analysis of CTR’s pre-TOF/post-TOF initiative will let you know if your efforts are paying off.

Committed 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 viewed (or all of it if less than 10 seconds long ).

Conversions after posting

Post-view conversions tell you that your ad was seen all the way to conversion, even if it wasn’t clicked on.

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

Audience saturation

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

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

This has less value for a metric with ambiguous targeting, like similar to and look alike or when using “optimized” targeting.

On search, impression share can give you insight into audience saturation.

Native tools to help you measure impression influence

Attribution is difficult. And messy.

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

Breathe well 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 customer reports. For example, show when TOF initiatives lead to increased brand impressions.
  2. Run a geo-exclusion test by enabling TOF initiatives in some markets, but not in others. Then assess the impact based on lead, pipeline, and market-level revenue data (including all traffic sources).
  3. Create a custom column that combines click-through conversions and weighted post-view conversions to better understand the impact of a keyword or audience segment. Then, use that information to set target CPA bids.
  4. Use impact studies with Google and Facebook for a more automated way to learn more about the additional impact of ads.
  5. Using Google Analytics user groups, create an ‘exposed’ and ‘unexposed’ group and serve retargeting ads to a group. Then, measure downstream KPIs to identify the impact of impression retargeting.

Paid tools to measure impression influence

Although other tools exist, I can speak directly about Google Marketing Platform products. Both Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 (GA360) provide buyer journey reports under Award > Conversions > Main conversion paths.

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

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

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

This can be valuable information during media planning, as a TOF initiative may not be credited by only looking at click-based KPIs.

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

We were considering cutting it, but we looked at our powered CM360 Picture dashboard and saw that Reddit was actually the brand’s first (non-click) exposure 41 times.

This data showed that while on the surface there was no conversion activity associated with the channel, it introduced people to the brand, who later clicked on another link tagged CM360, and then converted.


An impression with the right audience has value.

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

Although sometimes difficult to quantify, there are several indicators you can use to help you determine if the channel or tactic is working.

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.
  • Make sure your the media mix, strategies and tactics are informed by said KPIs.

More resources:

Featured Image: H12/Shutterstock

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