In digital marketing, the term “impression” is frequently thrown out as a measurement metric, but what does it mean? And, equally important, how much do impression matter when it comes to reporting on your marketing efforts?
We see website impressions and social media impressions listed on our reporting tools and in marketing articles, but the significance of those numbers and how they are tallied, often remains a mystery.
In this post, we’ll take a look at all the aspects of impressions including how they are used throughout digital marketing and how you can utilize them in your marketing.
What Are Impressions?
This is a question we frequently get asked as digital marketers. Impressions in digital marketing are often defined as any time an ad (or page or post) is viewed by a visitor, or when the content is displayed.
The definition of an impression is a bit confusing, though, and because of this it’s often mistaken with reach, but there are actually quite a few differences between the two terms.
Impressions vs. Reach
Reach refers to the number of people who see your content. Impressions, on the other hand, refer to the number of times your content was displayed on a media channel.
With impressions, it does not matter whether the content was clicked on or not once it was delivered to your feed. It is important to note that one person could be responsible for multiple impressions for a single piece of content you have produced.
For example, let’s say that you have 500 followers on Twitter. Once you post content or an advertisement, you will have a maximum of 500 impressions and a reach of 500.
If, after that, you decide to post another piece of content, the original and new content will be taken into account. Therefore, your reach would stay the same at 500 because your audience did not double – it remained the same. Your new amount of impressions, however, could be 1,000 if once again all of your followers saw both pieces of content you posted.
Tracking Reach and Impressions on Different Platforms
While website impressions are sometimes used in marketing, we see the term appear more frequently when discussing social media impressions.
For every social media platform, there are different ways to track your reach and impressions. Some platforms use different words to describe both of these terms, but the underlying principle stays the same.
Facebook and Instagram
Facebook and Instagram track their reach and social media impressions very similarly. Their system of tracking can be broken down into three subcategories: organic, paid and viral.
- Organic impressions refer to the number of times your content was displayed for free
- A paid impression is tracked when it relates to the number of times the content that you paid to be displayed was shown to consumers
- Lastly, viral impressions relate to the number of times content that is associated with your page was displayed. This association with your page can be either through likes, shares, or comments made by other consumers
Twitter impressions refer to anytime a user sees your tweet either through their personal feed, specific search results or through a conversation between users and other accounts.
Gauging your impressions and reach on Snapchat is a tad more difficult. The media platform uses the terms reach and story views which refer to the number of impressions through your content.
Website Impressions in Google Analytics
In order to measure website impressions, the most commonly used tool is Google Analytics, which divides information into “users” and “page views.”
The users designation measures the number of consumers that have visited your page during a specific amount of time which you can set to your own parameters.
Page views, meanwhile, relates to the total number of pages that your users have viewed as a whole on your site.
How Much Do Impressions Matter?
While tracking your website impressions and social media impressions can help you gauge the impact your content or ads are making, it’s mostly considered a vanity metric in terms of true digital marketing reporting.
Since it’s basically an estimation, it isn’t quite as reliable as other metrics, which is why we recommend checking your impressions, but you shouldn’t plan your marketing strategy around these numbers.
Instead, keep a close eye on metrics such as traffic, leads, and even time on site to get a better idea of how your content or ads are performing.
If you notice that your numbers are not exactly where you want them, doing keyword research and forming better content is a great way to better promote and spread your message to your target audience.