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What are impressions, position, and clicks?

This page helps explain impressions, position values, and click data in the Search Analytics report.

The heuristics described here—such as the visibility requirement for an item in a carousel, or the position numbering—are subject to change.

What is an impression?

A link URL records an impression when it appears in a search result for a user. Whether or not the link must actually be scrolled into view or otherwise visible depends on the type of search element that contains the link, as described later.

For example, here is a very basic search result that includes only one link: the title "The Compleat Guide to Daffodils - Example.com".

Basic search result with one link

The URL pointed to by this link records an impression when the user opens the page containing this result (even if the result is not scrolled into view). Note that the visible link URL below the title is not a hyperlink and so it is not recorded as impression. (Also note that the visible URL is not necessarily the same as the hyperlink URL of the title).

Aggregating data by site vs by page

If a single search element contains several links (as many do), impressions are counted by URL or by site, depending on your view in the Search Analytics report. For example, here is a Knowledge Graph card with several image and text links:

Knowledge graph card showing links

If you look at the Search Analytics report with data grouped by site, only one impression is counted in total for the entire card: 

  • www.example.com - 1 impression

However, if you look at the report with data grouped by page, you would see five pages with one impression each:

  • www.example.com - 1 impression
  • www.example.com/rain - 1 impression
  • www.example.com/rainbow - 1 impression
  • www.example.com/shamrock - 1 impression
  • www.example.com/lightning - 1 impression

Although some of these pages have multiple links, all impressions for the same page are combined into a single impression when grouping data by page.

See element-specific details for additional behavior.

What is search result position?

The Google Search results page is composed of many search result elements. Search result elements include blue link sections, carousels, Knowledge Graph cards, and many other types of result features. A single search result element can include text, interactive features, and one or more links.

Most of search result elements have a numeric position value describing their position on the page.The following desktop diagram shows a search results page with four blue link sections (1, 3, 4, 5), an AMP carousel (2), and a Knowledge Panel card (6). Position for each is calculated from top to bottom on the primary side of the page, then top to bottom on the secondary side of the page (in right-to-left languages, the right side is the primary side), as shown here:

Position counting order on a 2-column result set.

All links within a single element have the same position. For example, in the previous diagram, all items in the AMP carousel have position 2; all links in the "blue link" block at position 5 have position 5; all links in the knowledge card have position 6, and so on.

The location of the result elements on the page can vary depending on the device type, search features, and the screen size, but the general rule is the same: position is calculated top to bottom, left to right (or right to left for RTL languages). Note that this method of calculation might change in the future.

What counts as a position placeholder?

Only elements containing at least one non-query-refinement link count as a position; elements that have no links, or have only query refinement links, do not occupy a position. For example, a carousel of van Gogh paintings (which point to new Google searches) are not counted as position placeholders, and their presence does not affect the position value of elements below them on the page. If a non-positional carousel had appeared in the example above above the AMP page carousel (at position 2), it would not affect the position values anywhere on the page.

On the other hand, some image thumbnails in the main search page do (eventually) lead to a web page (perhaps after an extra click to expand it), and so count as a position placeholder. Note that ads do not occupy a search position.

What does position value mean on the Search Analytics report?

The position value shown in the Search Analytics report is the position of the topmost link to your site or page in search results, averaged across all queries in which your site appeared. So, for example:

  1. If one query returned your site at positions 2, 4, and 6, its position is counted as 2 (the topmost position).
  2. If a second query returned your site at positions 3, 5, and 9, its position is counted as 3 (the topmost position).
  3. The average position across these two queries is (2 + 3)/2 = 2.5.

A link must get an impression for its position to be recorded. If a result does not get an impression—for example, if the result is on page 3 of search results, but the user only views page 1—then its position is not recorded for that query. In some report configurations you might see a dash (-) for the position value. This means that there is no recorded position because the user never saw your site for that query. For example, if you compare desktop and mobile results for a page that has 10 impressions on desktop but none on mobile, you'd see 10 for desktop and - for mobile.

What does the position value mean for my site?

The position value is a complex metric that can be misleading if you don't understand the subtleties. For example, in the previous diagram, the Knowledge Graph card in position 6 has the largest value on the page, which might seem bad, but in fact it appears in a very prominent position. Furthermore, in image search, the number of results shown per row and page depends on the width of the screen and other factors, so the position describes only very roughly how far down the image appeared.

For example, here are just a few possible explanations of a position value 11 for an element:

  • In a desktop search, it could mean the top right side position in a Knowledge Graph card
  • In a desktop search, it could mean first item on page 2 (if the first page had nothing on the secondary side)
  • In desktop image results, it could mean the second or third row of results (visible without scrolling)
  • On mobile, it could mean the sixth row of results (visible only with scrolling)

As you can see, a position number can mean different things in different situations, and so you should not make simple assumptions. We recommend that you monitor change in position over time, particularly sudden position changes, as well as absolute position.

Search Analytics says my page position is 5, but when I do a search it's in position 8!

Position value is the average position for all searches. For your specific search your position might be different than the average because of many variables, such as your search history, location, and so on.

What is a click?

For most result types, any click that sends the user to a page outside of Google Search is counted as a click, and clicking a link that stays inside search results is not counted as a click. See What is a query refinement? for more information.

Clicking a search result to an outside page, returning, then clicking the same link again counts as only one click. Clicking a different link counts as a click for each link clicked.

Some types of search results can count clicks differently; read the search element type click details.

What is a query refinement?

If you click on a link within Search results that performs a new query, this is called a query refinement. For example, if you search for "cat breeds" the results might include a gallery of photos of different breeds. Clicking one of the images in the gallery performs a new query for the chosen breed.

 

Similarly, if you search for "fat cats" in the default web view, then select the image results view, (or video results, news results, and so on), each time you change your view you are performing a query refinement.

 

If a link is a query refinement link, clicks and impressions are not counted for that link. This makes sense if you think about it: the owner of the click refinement link's target page is... Google! Only clicks or impressions that (eventually) lead out of the search results page can log clicks or impressions in Search Console.

If a user follows a query refinement link they are essentially performing the new query shown in the search terms box. All impression, position, and click data in the new result page are counted as coming from this new user query.

What URL is my search analytics data assigned to?

Clicks, impressions, and position are assigned to the URL to which the user is directed by Google Search. In some cases, this might not be the URL displayed visibly in the search result. For example, if a site hosts a page at example.com/mypage for desktops and m.example.com/mypage for mobile devices (perhaps indicated by a rel=”alternate” tag), the search result on a mobile device might show example.com, but the link target would be m.example.com. In this case, Search Console would assign the impression and click to m.example.com/mypage (the actual target).

If the target page redirects the user to another page, that has no effect on the URL assigned the impression or click.

Search result element details

Clicks, impressions, and position count can have subtle differences depending on the result element type, as described here.

Carousel

Carousels are scrolling containers (typically horizontally scrolling) that contain a set of items of the same type, such as image thumbnails or AMP pages.

Click: Behavior depends on the contained item type.

Impression: An item must be scrolled into view in the carousel to register an impression. The carousel itself need not be scrolled into view in the current page.

Position: A carousel occupies a single position in search results, and all items in the carousel are assigned that same position. However, a carousel occupies a search position only if the contained element type can occupy a search position: for example, a carousel of AMP pages has a position because AMP pages can have a position, but a carousel of links to refined Google queries would not occupy a search position, because such links cannot occupy a search position.

URL: The carousel itself has no URL; data is assigned to the URLs of the contained elements.

AMP page

An AMP page can appear as a standard result link or in summarized format inside a carousel. Clicking a summarized AMP page in a carousel opens the full AMP page in a special AMP viewer. Users can page through full AMP pages in this viewer in the order in which they are hosted in the carousel.

Click: Clicking a summarized AMP page in the carousel (opening the page) counts as a click. Viewing a full AMP page in the AMP viewer counts as both a click and an impression; therefore, if you have the AMP viewer open and page through it, a click (and impression) is counted for each page the first (and only the first) time you see it.

Impression: An impression for an AMP page is counted when the AMP page is visible either in the carousel in search results or in the full-page AMP viewer. An impression is counted only once no matter how many times the user sees the page in either the carousel or in the viewer. If a search result link points to the AMP page as a simple "blue link" result (not in a carousel), that is also counted as an impression.

Position: The position is the position of the containing search result element (the carousel, the blue link group, and so on). The position within a carousel is not noted.

URL: The URL reported is the URL of the AMP page.

Featured snippet

A featured snippet displays information extracted from a single, specific web page. It includes a link to the source web page.

Click: Clicking the link to the external page in the featured snippet counts as a click.

Impression: Standard impression rules apply.

Position: Standard position rules apply.

URL: The final URL to which the user is redirected when clicking the link in the featured snippet.

Rich card

Rich cards are defined using structured data and can be displayed in a variety of ways in Google Search results.

Click: Clicking a link in a card that takes the user outside of search results counts as a click.

Impression: Standard impression rules apply.. 

Position: Standard position rules apply.

URL: The URL of the page containing the rich card structured markup.

App install link

When a user searches on a mobile device, if the result includes an app page for an app that isn't on the device, the user may see a link to install the app on the device (and results that point to pages in the app will be omitted from results).

Click: Clicking the link to the install location counts as a click. This does not guarantee that the user actually completed installation of the app.

Impression: Standard impression rules apply.

Position: Standard position rules apply.

URL: The URL associated with an app install link is the root URI of the device (without the app://<package_or_id> prefix), which is "/".

Image

Image results can appear as embedded thumbnails in the combined search results page or inline in the image search results page. In the combined search results page they sometimes appear in a carousel of images.

In search analytics data, an image is simply a link to the URL of the host page. This means that Search Console doesn't distinguish between different images on the same page; all are considered identical links as far as clicks, impressions, and position are concerned.

An image can appear in both web and image search results. Search Analytics records data for each search type separately; it does not combine the data across search types.

Click: Clicks to expand a thumbnail image are not counted as clicks. Clicks on expanded images, or any image clicks that navigate the user out of Google Search, are counted as a click.

Impression: Impressions are counted when the user sees either the thumbnail or expanded image. An impression is counted only once per host page URL, so if a user scrolls away and returns, or expands a thumbnail into a large image, it is counted as a single impression. Only a single impression is recorded per URL; if a query shows multiple different images from the same page, only one impression is recorded. When an impression is recorded depends on the search view that the user has open:

  • Combined results tab - In the default search results page, which combines results of all types, image impressions are counted whether or not the image is scrolled into view in the browser window; however, if an image is inside a carousel on this (or any) page, it must be scrolled into view within the carousel for an impression to be counted.
  • Image search tab - Image impressions are counted only when the image has been scrolled into view.

Position: Standard position rules apply.

  • Position in the combined results tab is calculated using the standard position rules, where a block of images occupies the same position.
  • Position in image search results is counted left to right, then top to bottom, (or right to left for right-to-left languages). For example, English language image results in a left-to-right page would count positions this way:

Counting order for position in image search results, in a left-to-right result set

In the image search results page, a wider screen shows more results per row. Because the number of images per row varies depending on the screen size as well as each image's width, it can be hard to judge the exact meaning of a position value in image search results.

URL: The URL is the URL of the image host page. 

Job Posting

Job posting results are shown in Google Search results using two related items: a job listing item and a job details item. A job listing is a short, summarized job posting; if clicked, a job listing opens a job details item with more information.

When search results include job postings, the results page shows a list of matching job listings for the query. This list is not initially scrollable, and displays only the first few job listings. Clicking the list expands it and enables scrolling. Users can click a visible job listing either in either the shortened or scrollable state to open its associated job details.

On desktop, expanding the list automatically opens the first job details in the list. This is counted as an impression, but not a click, on that first item.

Sharing a job details link counts as an impression, not a click.

Click:

  • Clicking a job listing in either the short or expanded list counts as a click for the job listing, and in both cases opens the job details pane. Tip: A click on a job listing opens a job details page, not your site. So not all job listing clicks result in site impressions.
  • Clicking a job details redirects the user to the job site URL and counts as a click for the job details search appearance type.

Impression:

  • For a job listing:
    • In the short (non-scrollable) list, if the job listing is visible to the user, it counts as an impression; if the listing is not visible in the shortened view, it does not count as an impression.
    • In the expanded (scrollable) list, the job listing impression is counted, whether or not the user ever scrolls the job listing into view.
  • If the user clicks a listing to expand it to a job details pane, that counts as an impression for the job details result type. Also, if a user shares a job details view, if the recipient opens the link it counts as an impression (without a click) for that job details.
Why are my job details impressions higher than my job listing clicks? Two reasons this can happen: sharing a link to a job details pane will count as an impression (for job details) if opened, but not as a click (for job listing); also, on desktop, expanding the short job listing list automatically shows the the job details view for the first list item, which counts as an impression (for job details) but no click (for its job listing).

Position:

  • For a job listing, the entire short list counts as a single position in Search results, and any job listing visible in the list is assigned that position. When the list is expanded and scrollable, the job listing position is the job listing position relative to other job listings in the list. Therefore, if a user sees a job listing in position 2 of the short list, then clicks to expand the list, the listing has two impressions: the first impression assigned the position of the container list  (typically position 1), the second impression assigned the position of the job listing within the expanded list (in this example, position 2).
  • For a job details pane, the position is 1.

URL: The URL associated with both the job listing and job details pane are the host page of the job.

Examples

Here are some example scenarios for job postings.

Example 1: A job listing visible in the initial minimized list view as the second item in the list.

User clicks to expand the list, clicks on the job listing to see details, then clicks on the site URL from the job details view.

  • Job listing: 2 impressions (impression from minimized list, impression from expanded list), 1 click (when clicked to expand into job details). Position is 1 (same as containing list) for the first impression and 2 for the second impression.
  • Job details: 1 impression (opened from within expanded list), 1 click (when clicked to open job hosting site), position 1.

Example 2: A job listing not visible from minimized list (position 6).

User clicks to expand the list, clicks the job listing to see details, does not click to visit page.

  • Job listing: 1 impression (from expanded list), 1 click (to open job details), position 1 for the first impression, position 6 for the second impression.
  • Job details: 1 impression, 0 clicks, position 1.

Example 3: A job listing not visible from minimized list (position 6)

User clicks to expand list, does not scroll down to see job listing.

  • Job listing: 1 impression (even though user did not scroll expanded list down to see the listing, it counts as an impression), 0 clicks, position 1 for the first impression, position 6 for the second impression.
  • Job details: 0 impressions, 0 clicks, no position.
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