Reach & Frequency: The Forgotten Dimension Of GDN On AdWords

The Reach and Frequency report lives under the Dimensions tab in AdWords; yet this information often gets overlooked in favour of analysis on areas such as geographic location or time of day.

What Can You See From This Report?

Very simply, this report shows the following:

  • Reach:  The number of unique users who saw your adverts
  • Frequency: The minimum number of times a unique user saw your adverts.

You can select the length of time you wish to see: day, week or month.

Where Can You Find The Report?

This report can be found under the dimensions tab (see image below). The data are available for any Google Display Network (GDN) campaigns where you are using CPM (cost-per-thousand) or CPC bidding (cost-per-click), and you are targeting interest-based audiences. These could be interest audiences, demographic audiences or remarketing audiences — basically, whenever you’re targeting a user rather than specific content.

reach & frequency 1

How Are The Data Gathered?


Google looks at a sample group of your data and then applies the findings to the full set of impressions in order to get the numbers in the dimensions reports. As these data are all estimated, you’ll need to take it with a pinch of salt.

If there were 1,000 impressions in the sample and users saw the ads 2 times each, then Google would divide by 2 to get a reach of 500 users. As these figures are estimates based on the sample, it is not uncommon to end up seeing some random figures for some of your metrics.

What Can You Do With These Data?

The main benefit of looking at these data is that it can help you determine what frequency cap you should be setting, if any. This report is available for both standard GDN campaigns and remarketing campaigns.

I wouldn’t normally recommend setting a frequency cap for GDN activity such as keyword contextual campaigns, as it’s unlikely you’re going to reach the same user multiple times. However, if you’re using interest-category-based audiences or carrying out remarketing activity, you’re following the user rather than the context and are more likely to show your ad to those people quite a few times if you don’t set a cap.

In the example below from a GDN campaign, you can see that the majority of impressions do get served with a frequency of 1 or 2, but there are unique users who are seeing the ads many times as there is no cap in place.

reach & frequency 2

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The key things to look at are your click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (Conv. rate). These will give you an indication of where to set your frequency limits.

In the example above, the CTR declines the more the ads are shown to the users, and the conversion rate is strongest (for the most substantial amount of conversions) after the user seeing the ad just once. This confirms that once a user has seen these ads a few times, they’re losing interest — or, in the best possible scenario, they’ve been to the site already and completed your goals, either way, they no longer want to interact with the ads after the third, fourth, fifth view of them.

If you’re paying on a CPM model, these can be really useful data for you because every impression counts towards your spend, and you might wish to put in place tighter frequency caps for your GDN campaigns.

You can even break down these data further, to the ad group level. Doing so may provide useful insights, as it could be that one or two ad groups are skewing the overall figures.

reach & frequency 3

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Looking at daily or weekly data once your remarketing has been running for a while can also help you establish if you need to change your frequency cap settings at campaign level to only show a certain amount of impressions per day, week or month.

Analysing remarketing campaign data doesn’t always result in results as straightforward as other GDN campaigns. Data tend to be quite sporadic depending on the industry you’re in and how considered the path to completing the goal is. The example below is for a luxury travel account, where the conversion rate is highest for a frequency of 8 or more per month and hence the frequency capping has been set at a higher number so as not to cut off those people who need to see the ad a few more times to complete the goal.

reach & frequency 4

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Wish List

In an ideal world, I’d love to see a few more features added to this report:

  • The ability to filter by column would be great for comparing similar frequencies together.
  • Adding in additional performance columns would also be great for GDN campaigns. It’s really key to be looking at engagement metrics when analysing performance on the GDN and the ability to see if bounce rate increased or decreased based on frequency of your ads would be a useful insight.
  • Currently frequency capping is set at campaign level, it would be great to be able to set this at ad group level so that you could set a rule to only show 3 times per day for that particular ad group and 5 times per day for another. If you wanted to do that at the moment you’d need to launch these ad groups in different campaigns.
  • Charting functionality would also be really useful here as it would be good to visualise frequency compared to conversion rate for example.

With all this in mind, I recommend taking a look at this interesting little report and making adjustments to your own frequency cap settings based on the data.

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