Reach vs Impressions – And why are both important

Reach and impressions are two very important metrics digital marketers use to analyze the success or failure of their digital marketing strategy. But for a lot of newbies, both of these terms may seem confusing as both measures almost the same thing – the number of times your ad is viewed.

However, you don’t have to scourge a ton of Google search result pages to understand their meanings. Here’s a short definition of each:

Reach

is the number of times your ad is viewed by a unique user. This means that every time your ad is viewed by a new user from your target audience, it’s counted as reach. If you have a reach of 200K on your Facebook ad, you can say that your ad was viewed by 200K unique people.

Impressions

are counted when your ad is viewed multiple times by a user after it has reached them. Confused? It’s simple – say you run a video ad for a power bank and you place it on all of Facebook’s recommended placements. Once your ad starts running and is shown to persons A, B, F and G, that’s four unique people, i.e. the ad reached four people. But person A and G see the ad 2 times each after their first encounter due to them being the most relevant out of your target audience. This repeat viewing of the ad will be counted as an impression.

But why are both of these metrics necessary? And more importantly, are they a benchmark of reporting the right results? Let’s find out.

As a marketer, it’s important for you to know how many people saw your ad in order to take the next step in your marketing funnel. Getting high reach on your ad means that you’ve managed to show your ad to a good chunk of your audience, and having higher impressions means that most of them saw the ad multiple times, creating awareness and recognition for your brand.

But are these stats enough to justify your marketing efforts? It depends.

Reach and impressions may be a good way to show how many people you have made aware of your brand. But just because you have managed to get good reach on your ad doesn’t mean that people have taken the right action as well.

Say your ad is to generate engagement for your brand. You start running it – it starts getting traction and you see your reach and impression numbers going up. But there’s a catch – people aren’t engaging with your brand as they should. Does this mean you’re successful? Certainly not. In such cases, you need to understand the reasons why your ad isn’t getting the right comments and shares. Maybe you’re targeting the wrong audience, or maybe your content isn’t engaging enough. In any case, if you’re getting the right numbers on these metrics, half of your job is done, but you still need to figure out the half which doesn’t fit, which can help you create the right results from your ad.

But then again, if your ad is to purely generate awareness for your brand, you can easily justify your efforts by showcasing the reach in numbers and the number of impressions that your ad has generated.

How many impressions are too many?

Being a part of the digital age, you’re probably well aware of the incessant ads you see on Facebook, YouTube, Google and other platforms. It’s annoying when an ad starts running between the video you’re watching, and this intrusiveness is why you should determine the frequency of your ad’s visibility.

What’s the frequency? It’s the number of times the same ad shows to the same person. Ideally, an ad’s impression frequency should be between 1 to 2 times, 3 to 5 days after it has reached your target audience. This means that if I see an ad for a restaurant on Monday, the next time I see the ad should be maybe 2 or 3 days later – soon enough that I remember the ad, but not so soon that I find it to be intrusive. Then, if I still haven’t taken any action from the ad, the next time I see it should be the last, or second last time I do, because I know if I see an ad one too many times without taking any action, I am not the right target for it. And the same applies to most users.

How to set the frequency in an ad? It’s simple – all digital advertising mediums work on an ad auction algorithm. This system first learns and reviews your ad, budget and audience, and once done, it starts showing the ad to your audience. At first, the ad is shown to the lowest-cost generating audience to test their response. Once the platforms are sure of which user will respond to the ad, it starts showing it to similar audiences, making sure that your targeting doesn’t go to waste.

During all this process, the highest bidder, i.e. the advertiser with a budget that best fits with their targeting and placement scope, gets the advantage as the auction system always prefers the highest bidder to the lowest one. So all you have to do is figure out how many times a week you want your ad to show, and what cost you want to set per impression or reach.

While bidding, make sure not to bid too high because even though Facebook does prefer the highest bidder, quoting an amount that’s higher than your average cost per result will deteriorate the system and your ad will not be able to perform well at all.

So that’s it – that’s how you determine the reach and impressions of your ads. Remember, while both these metrics are important, it is also crucial for you as an advertiser to keep a benchmark metric along with these two – because while both of them can determine good viewership of an ad, they don’t necessarily convert number to number into sales. So invest in ads, but don’t rely on these metrics to report the right results.

Mainstream Contributor

A content driven blog by marketers, for marketers.

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