What are Impressions in Google Search Console?

Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 14, June 2023

Welcome to the next edition in our Google Search Console series. In this article we are going to take a look at what 'impressions' are when looking at our data in Google Search Console.

TL;DR - What are Impressions in Google Search Console?

An impression, simply, is a point in time in which a URL from your website has appeared in Google's search results. For example, if I have searched "SEO Testing Tool" and come across the URL https://www.seotesting.com/ then this would be classed as one impression in SEOTesting's Google Search Console data.

The Anatomy of a Google Search Result

Before really taking a deep dive into what impressions are, we need to understand what Google search results are.

Whilst Google can show indexed pages in a variety of different formats, most Google users will find information presented with very basic information. In the SEO world, we call this the 'plain blue link' and it includes:

  • A Meta Title
  • A URL
  • A Meta Description

Here is an example of a "plain blue link" in action:

     Screenshot of a Google search result with the regular title and meta description strucutre.

So, if I was a user who had just searched for a guide on SEO testing and came across this guide, the URL in question (https://seotesting.com/blog/seo-testing-guide/) would be given one impression in Google Search Console.

Where this becomes slightly more complicated is when we take into account some of Google's many search features including:

  • Images
  • Sitelinks
  • Knowledge Panels
  • People Also Ask

And many more!

Whilst this can become complicated, it can be boiled down to this… Any time your URL is shown in a Google search result, any Google search result, your URL will be awarded with an Impression within Google Search Console's data.

This means that, potentially, one URL could be given 5-10 impressions for one search in Google depending on factors like how many pages I have ranked on Page One, whether any of these listings have sitelinks, whether my site appears in Google's People Also Asked boxes etc etc.

This is all very good information to know!

What is an Impression?

According to Google, an impression means that a user has seen (or potentially seen) a link to your site in Search, Discover, or News. Let's say, for example, that I have searched Google for "restaurants near me" and I am given a list that includes links to "Red's Burger Shack", "Midland Tapas" and "Sophie's Diner". All of these sites would receive impressions in their Search Console data, whether clicked or not.

As we went through above, we know an impression is counted whenever an item appears on the current page of results, whether or not the user has scrolled down far enough to view your URL. As long as the user has "seen" your URL, you will have an impression counted towards your site in Google Search Console data, whether they decide to click on your result or not.

There are certain exceptions to this rule. Independently scrolling or expanding search results widgets (like a carousel or an expanding FAQ section) the item needs to be scrolled into view for an impression to be counted.

Another exception to the rule is on mobile search results, where Google has now rolled out infinite scrolling. In instances where infinite scrolling is available, your URL needs to be physically scrolled into view for it to be counted as an impression within your Google Search Console data.

This all means it is a complicated business, accurately tracking your impressions across Google, but a safe rule of thumb is to assume if you are listed on Page One of Google's search results for a query, you will have impressions counted towards you for that search. If you are not listed on Page One (or in the Top Ten for infinite scrolling results) then the user will need to actively find your result (and not click) for an impression to be counted.

But Why are Impressions Important?

This is, actually, a very simple question for me to answer. If someone sees your URL and does not click, then there is (generally, anyway) a problem with your listing within Google that is keeping users from clicking your result and heading into your website.

Maybe your meta information is not as appealing as competitors?

Maybe you answer the user's question within your listing?

Whatever the reasoning is... It's worth exploring and seeing if it needs to be fixed.