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Here's Why Advertisers May Not See Their Own Google Search Ads

Updated: Mar 9

Quite often, marketers are asked by the advertisers, “WHY can’t I see my ads?”

Before we can be certain of the reason, we must rule out the possibility of errors by checking all the bases. Then reflect on the context of the search.

Troubleshooting Tip #1 - Rule Out Errors

  • Review the account to know which campaigns are active and which are paused.

  • Check for any instances of errors or disapprovals in the live campaigns.

  • Pay attention to the targeted and excluded locations, audiences and keywords.

  • Look at how the budget spend has been pacing. For instance: Is the budget being depleted early in the day?

Troubleshooting Tip #2 - Confirm The Context of the Search

Consider the context of the search.

  • What keywords did the user search?

  • At what time of day did the user conduct the search?

  • How frequently did the user execute searches for these ads?

"There are several reasons that an ad may not appear even when the user searches for a targeted keyword."

Reason #1 - User is Outside the Target Location

The user may not be searching from within the target location or similarly may be searching from a location that the campaign deliberately excludes.

If the campaign targets all of Ontario, except the main city Toronto, then a search executed from a downtown Toronto office will not yield an ad from the campaign.

Consider that even when searching for the brand’s name, if the browser’s default language is French, then there’s little to no chance of seeing English campaigns.

Reason #2 - User does not Match Target Persona

If for instance, we are running a campaign that specifically targets parents, then ads will not serve to a user whose browsing habits do not align with what the search engine determines are characteristics of parents.

Such things as interest in schools, in children’s clothes, daycare, summer camp or family activities may suggest a user is a parent. Having never engaged with such content, then the search engine is unlikely to regard the user as a parent and thus our campaign for Kiddie vitamins will not reach that user.

Reason #3 - User Search is Not Targeted

The user may have entered a search that included a negative keyword. If 1 word in the search phrase is a blocked word, then the search term will not match the targeted keywords.

Reason #4 - Budget & Bids Do Not Align

If the campaign had a daily budget of $10 but spends the $9.95 by noon, then the campaign cannot respond to a search in the afternoon if the bid would cost more than 5 cents.

If the campaign’s max bid is set to $1.60, then the campaign cannot participate in an auction where the bids are around $2.

Reason #3 - Auction is Highly Competitive

I talk a lot about keyword alignment, the quality of the content on the webpage or landing page, the rate at which web users actually submit their contact info or make a purchase. These characteristics, among other factors, determine how an ad ranks compared to competitors’ ads in the auction.

We can change our targets and content at any time, and so can our competitors. So our ranking can change at anytime. If the ad ranks too low in an auction for a specific search, then it will not show on the search results page.

Most Common Reason - Google Recognises Idle Searches

There is one explanation that as a digital marketer, we may find is the very reason our ads are not showing when the client searches.

Imagine that the CEO of Best Invest searches for “top investment companies” every day for a week. On the first 3 days, she sees a Best Invest ad, and is excited to confirm it’s there. By the 4th day, she searches again but there is no ad from Best Invest, and she gets worried. She wonders if Best Invest is no longer a top company! What’s going on?! So she calls to ask why is she not seeing her ads anymore! After all, she approved a $5 Billion marketing budget!

This is when we explain that Google makes money from ad clicks. If she does not click the ad, then Google makes no money. Google likely realised it’s a waste of time showing her the ads.

Perhaps she clicked the ad the first time to see where it took her but she did not complete a contact form. Google realised that this user has seen the ad several times but never converted. The goal of the campaign is to acquire new clients, not website visits. It seems fair to deduce that Best Invest is not what the user is searching for, so the user is not shown the ad again and again. The Search AI may determine that a competitor campaign may have better luck responding to the search, so other advertisers' ads are shown instead.

Advertiser Still Wants To See Their Own Ads?

If it is just to idly admire the ad on the results page, then it's best to advise against that practice. Pointless searches may impact campaign performance. The last thing anyone needs is bad data.

There are tools we can use to produce ad previews to see how the ad looks.

In the Google Ads account, go to Tools > Troubleshooting > Ad Preview & Diagnosis

Simulate the search in a selected target location. It will show a preview of the mobile search results. This tool will tell us if the ad is showing. If it is not, then it will diagnose the reason. We can adjust the parameters of the search (location, language, device, audience) to see if and how the ad appears. The ad preview does not impact the campaign.

If you need help troubleshooting your Google Ads, reach out to me. I can audit your ad account and revamp your marketing strategy or coach you to be self-sufficient.


-- Sade UZB

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