Why Can’t I See My Ads?

Apr 28th 2016

Why Can’t I See My Ads?


Every consumer purchase is driven by a real or perceived need. Typical consumer purchases deliver instant gratification, as the buyer walks out of the store with the item that fills their need. For businesses investing in new marketing channels, the same concept can be applied over a longer-term – It is the business owner or manager’s position to make purchase decisions that improve the bottom line.

The need for instant gratification is a fundamental consumption habit, but with digital advertising, the delay between purchase (starting an advertising campaign) and gratification (receiving new business from advertising) is often at a considerable delay. Therefore, when businesses invest in Search Engine Marketing, often they look for quick gratification in another form – once their strategist announces a new campaign has been launched, they head to a search engine, type in a keyword, and look for their own ads.

“Why can’t I see my own ads?”

This is completely understandable – It’s a business owner’s duty to ensure their marketing dollars are appropriated wisely. The inability for a business owner to see their own ads is merely the desired gratification for their purchase in the form of a tangible item.  

That said, it is perfectly possible for a good campaign to not show ads when the business owner, employee, or someone else in the company looks for them. Let’s discuss why!

Why You Might Not Be Seeing Your Ad:

Before I tell you some legitimate reasons why you might not be seeing your own ad, please log in to Google AdWords, click on “Tools” and click on “Ad Preview & Diagnosis.” Set your location (if you have a location-specific service) and start testing the keywords you’re wanting to appear for. If you aren’t triggering an ad, the preview & diagnosis tool will tell you the exact reason why! Not only does this save you a wasted impression, it tells you the reason!  If your ad is showing, you can prove to yourself that you aren’t crazy.

Ad Preview Tool

If the Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool says your ads are running, here are other reasons why you may not see your AdWords ads when you manually search for your keywords:

1. Settings: Geographic targeting

This might come as no surprise, but if you are targeting a region or area outside of your physical location, Google will not show you your own ads.

So, if I’m running an ad for “San Diego Pool Cleaning Services,” and my geographic settings are San Diego, CA but I’m in Los Angeles, I won’t see my own ad!

Settings - Location

How to Fix It

You can fix it by clicking the Location tab in settings in the ad campaign and trying out one the following:

  • Expand your geographical location radius around a specific location or increase your target audience by broadening your location. Do your research first!
  • Make sure that the locations you want to target in your google ad are set to “Added” rather than “Excluded” and,
  • You can always experiment with your bids to increase your Ad rank.

2. Settings: Delivery Method

If you’ve left your delivery method as the default one, “standard,” this gives Google total control over when your ad shows. No one truly knows what the ratio is–is it one out of every five eligible searches? Ten?–except for Google says they will do their best to show your ads throughout the day. This means that if you search for your own ads, it might fall under the “Google is choosing to not show you at this time” situation of standard delivery. This is the main reason we prefer accelerated delivery.

Settings - Delivery

How to Fix It

It’s simple! Just click on the campaign you would like to set your delivery method for and then underneath the Daily budget tab in settings, click the delivery method, and select “accelerated delivery method” and save.

3. Settings: Campaign budget

Finally, if your budget is tapped for the day, you won’t see your ad. The best way to see if this is the case is to set your date range to “today” and see if the campaign where your desired search term exists in as a keyword has met or exceeded that daily budget amount. If it’s the middle of the day and your ad should be showing, consider adjusting your ad schedule to have more control over when you’re garnering traffic.

How to Fix It

As I mentioned earlier, you can adjust your ad schedule to limit the number of hours per day your ad shows and selecting a time that best targets your audience but this can lead to another issue that we will discuss in a bit.

There is a possibility that the maximum cost per click (CPC) for your keywords are too high for your daily budget. If this is the case then you should consider lowering your bids or increasing your budget. On the contrary, your keywords bids might be too low for your google ad to show. You can fix bid simulators in your Google Ads account and estimate the impact of increasing or decreasing your bids. That might fix the problem.

4. Settings: Ad Schedule

As previously discussed, you can adjust your ad schedules to match the hours of the day that are most engaging for your targeting audience.

While this might be a good idea to evenly spread out your ad budget to specific hours, it is possible that even after customizing your ad hours the ad is still not showing. You can verify the following:

  • If your ad is set to for instance 1 or 2 hours a day, your target market might be not be allowed enough time to search your ads and,
  • If your ad is set to show during the hours when your target market is not searching, you won’t be able to see your ad.

How to Fix It

Do your research to know the hours when your audience is most likely to search your ad and then consider expanding your schedule to ensure that your schedule is not too narrow or is set to the wrong hours of the day.

5. Google’s Knowledge Of Your Search Behavior

Unsurprisingly, if you keep typing in “buy blue widgets” over and over without clicking an ad, or especially without clicking your own ad, Google will stop serving ads to you altogether. They know you are not necessarily engaged with the ads that are being presented, so why waste their impressions?

How to Fix It

Do you think this is the issue? If yes, don’t worry we have an easy fix for you. The Ad Preview tool can help you show your ad as they appear in the Google search engine.

6. Google’s Knowledge Of Your Familiarity With Your Own Domain

It’s also possible that Google knows you spend time on your own domain (www.buymybluewigets.com) and, thus, won’t serve an ad to you. They know you’re familiar with the domain and brand, so it might not be “necessary” to show you an ad that you otherwise wouldn’t click since you already know about www.buymybluewidgets.com – after all, you own the company!

7. You’re Not Actually Targeting That Search Term

If the search term “buy blue widgets” is very valuable to your business, and you’re not triggering one of your own ads, there’s a possibility that you aren’t actually running that keyword. If you yourself built the campaign and know you added the keyword in, this might not apply. (Barring a low-quality score, bad match type, or low impression share due to rank or budget.) But if you have an agency managing your campaigns and you’ve checked the previous five steps, it’s possible that they simply aren’t targeting that search term. And if that keyword is valuable to you or your business, it’s worth having a discussion with your agency.

How to Fix It

Focus on building ad groups keywords that are relevant to your ad. The closer the relevance of your keywords in an ad group, the higher the chances that they would show in users’ search queries.

8. Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be a great tool to block undesired traffic, however, adding the wrong negative keywords can cancel the active keywords. Incorrect negative bids can be another reason your ad might not be showing.

How to Fix It

You need to review your negative keywords and make sure that the keyword is eligible to run the ad.

Use bid simulators to place your negative bid to ensure that you are not knocking yourself out of the ad competition.

Performance Issues

Now, let’s discuss some performance issues that might be one of the reasons that your google ad is not showing.

9. Ad Copy Isn’t Optimized

Your google ads may not be showing because your copy isn’t keyword-focused. It is important to add your target keyword to your ad copy if you want your ad to rank highly in the paid search results.

10. Landing Page Isn’t Relevant

Now that your ad copy is optimized, you should look at the relevance of your landing page. If your landing page is failing to help your user’s intent behind their search query, you’ll likely do poorly in your ad auction.

Take a moment to think about what your potential users are trying to accomplish using the triggering keywords. Once you can identify this, you’ll be able to better address their problems and perform better in the Google Ads auction.

Why You Shouldn’t Care About Seeing Your Own Ad

Let’s say you’ve run through the ten steps above, and you’ve confirmed that all settings are in place and you aren’t using a computer known to Google with specific search behaviors. If you really want to be trigger ads for the search term “buy blue widgets,” but you aren’t every time you show, this doesn’t mean that your agency or AdWords consultant is failing you. It’s easy to point the finger in this case–may be the business is slow or hasn’t picked up since you outsourced your SEM efforts–but, odds are, your keywords are running.

What you should ask is not “Why can’t I see my ad?” – the question should be, “What does the data look like for ‘this keyword I really care about’?”

If your consultant or strategist researched your business and knows what keywords matter within your vertical, they’re probably running whatever you’re looking for. What you should ask is not “Why can’t I see my ad?” – the question should be, “What does the data look like for ‘this keyword I really care about’?” If you’re running the keyword and it has no clicks or impressions, check its impression share–are you losing anything due to rank or budget? If you don’t see the keyword in your campaigns, create a new ad group with that keyword and its own ad within.


Be Realistic With Yourself And Your Agency

If you have a budget of $1,000 per month and you sell shoes, don’t be shocked if you aren’t triggering ads for “Nike shoes” or “Nike.” In the industry, we call these “head terms,” which means they are very top-of-funnel searches with low buying intent. A smart SEM strategist will build out keywords that match your budget, so at $1,000 per month, they will focus on bottom-of-funnel, high intent keywords that are often very long-tailed variants. But if you have a million dollars per month and care about brand awareness, lifetime customer value, and are in it for the long haul, “Nike” or “Nike shoes” as keywords aren’t that far off base.


In short, don’t search for your own ads: you can see exactly what they look like in the Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool. If you don’t see them in there, follow the steps above to make sure you’re eligible where you should be. When you are talking with your strategist, don’t ask why you can’t see your ads –  just ask “what does the data look like for this keyword”. The answer will give you a lot better idea of your strategist’s level of expertise, and the health of your account.


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