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Understanding Marketing Impressions: What They Are and Why They Matter for Online Ads

Published: February, 2024
Last updated: : February, 2024
It might be hard to impress someone in real life, but not in the digital realm. All because impressions in digital marketing only show the number of content views. From the moment an online ad is displayed to a user, it counts as one impression.For marketers, SEO managers, and professionals alike, this indicator is an invaluable marketing tool. They use a digital marketing impression to measure the effectiveness of online ads and make data-driven decisions to scale their business. There are more use cases for impressions in marketing, which translates to more benefits for businesses. Today we will look at some of them. But first, let’s find out what does “impression” mean in digital marketing, how they work, and why they're important to online marketing professionals. 

What is impressions marketing?

Impressions marketing, or impression-based marketing, is an advertising method that focuses on the number of times an ad is viewed by potential customers. It measures the exposure and reach of an ad campaign rather than its direct impact on sales or conversions.Simply put, marketers track the amount of impressions an ad receives over time. In digital marketing, an impression is a metric that counts how many times an ad has been displayed on a website or social media platform. However, it has nothing to do with the amount of people who actually engage with the ad. You can often see impressions in digital marketing, particularly in online advertising. However, unlike other types of marketing, the impressions marketing goal is not to drive immediate action. It is usually used to increase brand awareness and visibility. 

How impressions in digital marketing work

Typically, web developers upload a tiny picture, commonly known as "pixel", to each page of a publisher's website to count all the marketing impressions. Whenever a page containing that pixel image is loaded, it creates an impression. As a rule, digital marketing impressions are measured in cost per mille (CPM). Mille is Latin for thousands, so, you can also say the cost per thousand impressions. Therefore, if your ad's CPM is $10, that means that the ad host will get $10 every time it appears 1,000 times on their platform. Despite this metric, there are two different approaches to measuring and interpreting performance results.  

Served impressions

A served impression means that the content was delivered or “served” to a website by the ad server. However, this does not necessarily mean that the user has seen it. Even if an ad creative hasn't been downloaded, displayed, or viewed by a user, it is still considered a served impression in digital marketing. 

Viewable impressions

In contrast, a viewable impression is based on the device data. Therefore, you can see the delivery status of your ad and the actual number of ad views. Viewable impressions are more accurate since they don’t include views of unloaded or crashed ads. If the user scrolls too quickly through your ad or closes the page before the pixel image has loaded, the impression will not be counted.

Which media are best for calculating impressions?

Calculating impressions in digital marketing is relevant across various media channels. The choice of medium depends on your marketing goals, target audience, budget, and nature of the campaign. Below are some media channels where impressions are commonly calculated.

Digital display advertising

Digital display advertising includes banner ads, rich media ads, or interstitial ads that can be placed in different parts of a web page or be displayed before the user can access the content. Impression marketing is frequently used to measure the exposure of these display ads.

Push advertising

Services like Nashpush, a fast and convenient push notification interface, allow marketers and professionals alike to send push messages to any website, tablet, or mobile device. Marketers can track the number of times their content has been displayed on users' screens using digital marketing impressions.

Social media marketing

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide marketing impressions metrics for posts, ads, and sponsored content. Evaluating the effectiveness of your campaign with them is an easy task. 

Video advertising

With video-sharing platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and TikTok, you can easily track video impressions. This metric helps measure how many times a video ad has been viewed by users.

Email marketing 

Although open rates are commonly used in email marketing, online marketing impressions can provide additional insight into overall visibility. In addition to the open rate, you can track how many times the email was opened in total.

Search engine marketing (SEM)

With pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which is used in search engine marketing, you can track the number of times your ad has been shown in search engine results. Combine it with a click-through rate (CTR) to understand how effective your ad is.

Online content marketing

Impressions can also be applied to various forms of online content marketing, such as sponsored articles or native advertising, to measure how many times the content has been viewed. Use impression marketing data to analyze the reach and impact of your content. 

Why the evaluation of impressions in marketing matters

While marketing impressions alone can't provide a complete picture of ad performance, they do provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your marketing strategy when combined with performance indicators like reach or engagement. For example, impressions allow you to see the reach of your ad within a particular channel. However, the number of clicks shows the overall engagement and how your message is resonating with potential customers.