Why Can’t I See My Google AdWords Ads?

Why Can't I See My Google AdWords Ads?
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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 digital 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 Google Search Ads, often they look for quick gratification in another form – once their account manager 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 a 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 into 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

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

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.

4. 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 all together. They know you are not necessarily engaged with the ads that are being presented, so why waste their impressions?


5. 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!

6. 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.


Why You Shouldn’t Care About Seeing Your Own Ad


Let’s say you’ve run through the six 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–maybe 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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Written by
Founder & CEO | Quentin Weber is the dynamic force behind Unbound, a leading digital marketing agency in New Zealand. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Quentin's expertise spans strategic planning, innovative digital solutions, and client-centric approaches. Passionate about driving results and fostering growth, he leads a talented team committed to transforming digital landscapes and achieving exceptional outcomes for clients. Quentin's unique blend of professionalism and approachability sets the tone for Unbound's distinctive, no-nonsense approach to digital marketing.

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