If an ad appears and no one hits enter, does it make an impression?
Google’s Autocomplete feature allows users to save ample time by predicting their search queries, acting as a spell check, and repeating favorite searches so that users can conveniently find and click on links they have visited in the past. Autocomplete has become a popular tool for users looking to reach their favorite products or websites in the quickest way possible.
But for PPC advertisers, Google’s Autocomplete has left an air of mystery about whether ads that appear in incomplete search results are officially counted as impressions. Since a Google search revealed little information on the subject, I decided to contact Google directly for insight that might help advertisers better understand Autocomplete in the scope of managing PPC, or more specifically AdWords, campaigns.
According to Google AdWords’ Support team, the answer to whether ads shown in Autocomplete count as impressions is it depends. If a user continuously types out their search query without hesitation, and the search results continue to dynamically change, the impression will be filtered out and not counted. If, on the other hand, mid-way through their search, the user pauses to view the results, ads on that search page would count as receiving a valid impression. However, Google will not reveal an exact amount of time that the user would need to have stopped to view the ad for it to count as an impression. The official word is that the timing is “dynamic” and Google isn’t saying anything more.
While the response I received from Google AdWords’ Support team definitely cleared a bit of the mystery behind Autocomplete and its connection to PPC ad impressions, there is no exact way to judge whether an ad will receive a valid impression in Autocomplete, especially if Google does not specify a minimum amount of time a user would need to view a dynamic search page. However, what we can rely on is the fact that impressions are not counted for those ads that appear in the middle of uninterrupted search queries.
If Google shows an ad while a user types out their search query without pausing, Google does not count it as a valid impression
If a user pauses mid-way through typing their search query, Google counts it as a valid impression
Google does not specify the amount of time a user would need to pause in the middle of their search for it to count as a valid impression