August 16, 2018 Blog Articles

Reach Vs Impressions: What They’re All About

Marketers are frequently exposed to the terms “Reach” and “Impressions”, but are not always aware that no, they are not synonymous. We wanted to ensure that you know exactly what they mean and when to measure them. We all know that developing brand awareness and growing your online audience is essential; however, understanding what you should be measuring to prove the success of your digital campaigns is essential for a digital marketer.

We noticed that there are a couple of terms which are frequently misinterpreted and to ensure our clients are able to get the most from their partnership with us, we wrote about them to provide some clarity.

What Do Reach and Impressions Actually Mean?

Reach: Reach is a people-based metric which means it measures the actual amount of unique people who viewed your advert. To illustrate this meet Lucy and Jake:


Over a week, Lucy sees the same advert in her newsfeed three times. Jake sees the same advert in his newsfeed twice. This would result in a Reach of two because two people were served the advert; regardless of the amount of times it appeared in their feed.

Reach: 1 + 1 = 2

Impressions: Impressions is a metric which measures the number of times an advert is seen. An easy way to think of this is to equate it to the total sets of eyeballs that have seen the advert.

In the same story where Lucy has been served the same advert three times and Jake has been served the advert twice, the number of Impressions would be recorded as five; as the total number of times the ad has appeared is five times. Therefore, one person could have several Impressions for a single piece of content.

Impressions: 3 + 2 = 5

So, how do you make sure you don’t serve Lucy the same advert 7 times so that she becomes annoyed with your brand? You look at Frequency.

Frequency:  Frequency is a metric you need to pay attention to if you choose to measure Reach or Impressions. Frequency is used to find the balance between creating brand awareness and familiarity, and spamming people. It is calculated as Impressions divided by Reach, to work out how many times each person views your ad on average.

Frequency: Impressions ÷ Reach = 2.5

It is important to note that Reach, Impressions and Frequency are all not click-dependant. This means that a person just has to see an advert, they do not have to engage with the advert by clicking on it, liking it or sharing it etc. in order for Reach and Impressions to be counted.


How You Should Use Reach and Impressions to Measure Success

It is important to understand that all metrics, including Reach and Impressions, are dependent on what objective you aim to achieve with your campaign. Clearly understanding what your objective is not only enables you to optimise the running of your campaign to achieve it but it also enables you to report on the relevant metrics which will prove the success of your campaign, or indicate where you have to make changes to ensure continued success for each campaign.

For instance, the metrics Reach and Impressions, are most relevant when your marketing objective is to raise awareness and/or build familiarity. These metrics are not optimal for campaigns where you want your audience to take an actions, such as Liking, Sharing, Signing Up, Purchasing etc.

Reach: By viewing Reach as a KPI (key performance indicator), you can prove the success of your campaign by gaining an understanding of how many people your ad had the potential to influence. The objective for Reach is to get your brand in front of as many people as possible. As Reach measures unique people, the total Reach for your campaign is unique people and cannot be a sum of the Reach per advert within your


To illustrate this, consider the Lucy and Jake example again, except this time your brand is running an online campaign with two different adverts. As both Lucy and Jake are part of your database they will be served both adverts. In this example, Lucy sees advert A twice and advert B once, while Jake gets served one of both advert A and advert B. The total Reach then for the whole campaign is still 2, as 2 unique people were reached overall (not Advert A’s reach plus Advert B’s Reach which would equal 4).


Impressions: Impressions can also be used as a KPI to measure a potential increase in brand awareness and familiarity. A study by Nielson states that consumers are more likely to buy products from familiar brands compared to unfamiliar brands. Therefore, to build familiarity, your audience needs to see your ad several times in order for them to notice you and become acquainted with your brand. However, you don’t want to spam your audience by serving them the same ad over and over again, this is where Frequency comes in.


Frequency: Frequency is not a static metric and will change depending on the type of campaign you run. Your target for Frequency is dependent on several factors including budget and audience size; however, the biggest influencing factor is the objective of your campaign. For example, for a Reach campaign we recommend a Frequency of between 2 and 3. Whereas, for a Conversion campaign (a campaign where the objective is to get people to purchase a product or service), a much higher Frequency is recommended. This is based on another study by Nielson, which shows how a consumer’s intent to purchase increases with the amount of times they are shown an advert.

Why Should You Care about All This?

The aim of any digital marketing effort is ultimately to get people to engage with your brand; be it a click-through to view content or to make a purchase etc. Think of it this way, Reach is viewing profiles on Tinder and Impressions is the interaction after swiping right and only once you are acquainted with someone will you consider making a commitment. The same applies in marketing. You need people to be aware of your brand and become familiar with it and your offerings, before asking them to make a commitment, like clicking. This will obviously vary across different industries, and should be considered as a guideline.

In order to constantly improve the performance of your digital campaigns you need to have clarity on the objective of your campaign. Having a clear objective is the first step to finding out which metrics you should be measuring.

If you need assistance deciding which metric to use for your next campaign, fill in the form below and one of our client partners will be in touch with you shortly.

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Author Information
Katya Cook Katya works as Marketing Executive at Popimedia. She is besotted with communication and the effect discourse has on behaviour and societal structure.
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