If I had a £1 for every time I’d been asked this question I would be a millionaire! Or at least much closer to retiring.
If you’ve ever done a search on Google using the keywords you’re bidding on, and not seen your ad, you are not alone. It’s completely normal to not see your ad every time you search, and there are a number of reasons this could be happening. In this post, I’ll share some of these reasons with you and also provide you with some actionable steps to help check your account to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues which may actually be stopping your ads showing.
Your ads might not be showing every time you search because:
Google is trying to spread your budget to last the day
The standard delivery method for AdWords tries to spread your ad spend throughout the day, and as a result, it won’t show your ads every time someone is searching using your keywords, because it is saving your budget to that it can be used gradually throughout the day. You can learn more about this here.
Your budget may have run out
Even though Google try to spread your budget throughout the day, it can’t always achieve this if your budget is quite small, or smaller than the level of search demand. If you’re searching later in the day, you may find your budget is already depleted and that could be why your ads aren’t running.
Your competitor might have higher bids
AdWords will try and tell you it’s not just about bids, and that relevancy is really important to deciding which ads to show, but sadly that isn’t the most important factor to them when deciding which ads to show. Your bids are what will ultimately hold the most weight in determining whether your ad will show. If a competitor has a higher bid, their ad will show above yours, and if lots of competitors have higher bids, you’ll find that your ads will shower lower on the page, or if your bid is particularly low your ads might not show at all.
Your ads might not be scheduled to run right now
Your ad scheduling could be set up so that your ads aren’t actually running at this exact time. That’s okay, and only showing ads at a particular time of day is actually a great way to save your budget and use it only at the times of day that are most likely to convert. This also means that if you’re searching at one of the times that they aren’t scheduled to run, you won’t see them. Scheduling bid adjustments can also cause bids to be dramatically reduced at certain times of day, which might mean that your ads show less often at those low bid times, and so this could by why you’re not seeing them when you search. You can learn how to view your ad scheduling here.
Your IP address might be blocked
When I know a client is an own-ad-serial-searcher, I ask for their IP address and block them from actually seeing their own ads. This is because every time a search takes place and triggers an impression, the number of impressions is inflated and this damages your Quality Score. A poor Quality Score will likely result in an increase in the Cost Per Click, which will likely result in an increase in your Cost Per Conversion and a reduction in the number of conversions and clicks achieved for your budget. See, it’s for your own good! View which IP addresses are blocked using the instructions here.
Your keywords might not be approved yet
If the keywords you’re searching with are very new to your account (within the last couple of days), you may find that they are still under review and this may be one of the reasons that your as aren’t showing when you search. You can check this by looking in the status column in your account next to the keyword and seeing if it says ‘under review’ or ‘approved limited’.
Are you looking at the right date range?
I sometimes think the AdWords date range setting plays tricks on me. I have often flicked between reports and somehow managed to reset the date range, so I end up looking at the wrong dates and there is no data! If you’re looking in your ad account and not seeing impressions or performance, double check you have the correct date range. Don’t panic if you’re not seeing data for today’s date range yet, as it’s normal for there to be some time delay in reporting if it’s early in the day.
Your device bid adjustments are very low or -100%
If you’re searching on mobile and can’t see your ads, it may be that your mobile bid adjustments are too low or set to -100%, which would mean your ads might not show. This is perfectly reasonable and may have been purposely set this way if mobile doesn’t convert at a cost-effective rate. Likewise, the same could be true if you’re searching on desktop or tablet and have -100 bid adjustments applied to those devices.
Your location targeting might be too specific
Are you in the location where your ads are being targeted when you’re searching? If not, then your ad won’t show.
AdWords location targeting can be super precise, which is brilliant for local campaigns, although if the location is too small it may be that your ads won’t spend their budget or run at all if the keywords you’re bidding on don’t have much search demand in that location. Try either widening your location target, or testing your keywords on modified broad.
Your keyword bids might be higher than your daily budget
If your keyword bids are higher than the amount your daily budget is set at, you might find that your ads simply won’t show. Try lowering your keyword bids if they are higher than your daily budget, so they’re around no more than 50% of your daily budget if possible. Alternatively increase your daily budget.
You might have billing issues
I have experienced ad accounts stopping running without any notification, and it has been due to billing issues such as the credit card running out. The billing contact on the account had received the email, but it hadn’t been sent to me, so I didn’t know that this was the reason the ads were no longer running. Checkout the billing tab to make sure there are no issues with your payment method. Check out your budget orders if you have monthly invoicing, as they dictate the maximum spend AdWords can use in a particular period of time, regardless of what you’ve set campaign daily budgets at.
Have you chosen the correct flexible reach option for your search audiences?
Have you recently applied RLSA or Customer Match audiences to you search campaigns?
If you were intending to simply layer these audiences on top of your keyword targeting so that you could set bid adjustments for them, and still show ads when people who are not on your audience list search, then you should have selected ‘bid only’ as your flexible reach setting. If you’ve accidentally set this as ‘bid only’, you’ll be limiting your ads to only be triggered if the person searching with your keywords is also on your audience list. If your audience list also happens to be very small, this means the odds of your ads being triggered are very low (particularly if the list is smaller than 100 members, as Google simply won’t use lists with less than 100 members). Change your flexible reach settings to ‘bid only’ in the ad group section of AdWords Editor, once you’ve clicked into the ‘flexible reach’ tab at the top of the section where you’d normally edit your regular ad group details:
You can learn more here.
Is your CPA bid too low?
If you’re using the automated bidding strategy to achieve a particular cost per conversion (Target CPA) and the target you set for your cost per conversion (CPA) is too low, it may be that many of your keywords won’t show because Google choose to show them less or reduce their bids too much if they believe that your historic conversion data suggests that these keywords do not help you achieve your target CPA.
Are your ads disapproved?
You may have had a notification if your ads are disapproved, but if not, go to the ads tab and filter by the ad status as ‘disapproved’:
Sometimes an entire account can have all ads disapproved if there is an issue with something like a trademark related to something in the ad text.
Edit your ads and they’ll automatically be reviewed by Google again. If they still don’t become approved, call Google on 0800 169 0409 and ask for more information about what you need to do to comply with their advertising policies. Disapprovals aren’t always to do with ad copy, and can be related to the landing page and other aspects of the ad you may not have thought about.
Run a Keyword Diagnostics Report
If none of the explanations above have helped solve the mystery of why your ads aren’t running, you should run a keyword diagnostics report.
This report will help you answer the following questions when you hover over the status bubble
Are your keywords disapproved?
If your keywords are disapproved, look at Google’s advertising policies and see if you can edit them to ensure you comply. If you can’t figure out why your keyword has been disapproved, it might be time to call Google for additional information.
Are you suffering from Low Quality Score?
If your Quality Score is too low, your ads may not be showing as often as they could, which means that they might not be showing when you search for them.
Do your keywords have low search volume?
Your keywords diagnostics report might highlight that your keywords aren’t showing because they have low search volume. This doesn’t mean there’s no hope for them though! Try making them modified broad keywords, with the plus modifier only in front of the words which are necessary to ensure relevance.
Are your campaigns or ad groups paused?
Sounds obvious, but if you’re just looking at the keywords, you may not have noticed that the ad group or campaign they belong to is actually paused, which is why they aren’t showing. The same goes for ad text. I have seen many ad groups where all ads have been paused for no apparent reason, but the keywords in the ad groups were actually performing really well, and now can’t run because all ads were paused. I don’t think keyword diagnostics will tell you if all ads are paused in an ad group, so you might have to manually check for this.
Are there negative keywords blocking your ads?
Keyword diagnostics might report that some negative keywords are blocking your ads. If there are, it will let you know what they are so that you can remove them. Even if there are none shown by the keyword diagnostics report, you might want to review your negative keywords anyway because there might be keywords which aren’t exactly what you’re bidding on but could be still stopping relevant searches from triggering your ads.
Hopefully this post has shed some light on why your ads might not be showing when you search for them! If you have experienced ads not showing for any other reasons that I’ve not included here, please comment below and share your experience.