why can’t I see my ads?: Google AdWords ad issues

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Creative Commons License photo credit: gerlos

Advert visibility can be an extremely frustrating situation for many advertisers looking to verify their listings.  While it’s easy to think there’s a vendetta against you, truth be told there’s normally a very logical explanation…..

what’s the problem?

personalised results

Google bases everything around relevancy, so if it notices a user continually searching for a keyword but never clicking it, alarm bells ring.  Google doesn’t know your relationship with the advert other than how many times you click on it. So if you never click, Google’s never going to make any money and will simply remove the ad from your personalised search results. Worth mentioning that if you do click your ad, you’re paying for a very expensive advert preview…

geographical settings

Targeting a specific location to enhance your relevancy, great.  Not located in that area and trying to search for you ad, not so great.  Bear in mind that Google bases search results on IP location, so if your ads aren’t targeted to where you IP is located then you’re not going to see your ads!  Interestingly our IP says we’re in London….check out your IP location.

Quality Scores

If you’re unfamiliar with Quality Score (QS), it’s basically Google’s kudos system for relevancy. It can inspire a real love hate relationship, but unfortunately can’t be avoided in the infamous work of PPC.  If you have poor Quality Scores, Google will penalise you by making top positions more expensive and eventually impossible for you to attain. Why? Again, Google is a one track horse with relevancy written all over it! If it doesn’t think you’re relevant to the search results then it won’t want to show it because it’s less likely anyone will click.  So if you’re wondering why certain keywords don’t show then it’s always good to check the Quality Scores.

time & date

Similar to geography, time and date are an important variable to remember.  If you can’t see your ads when you search at home, but can in the office, perhaps it’s worth checking your day-part targeting as many B2B campaigns are turned off outside of normal working hours.

what’s the solution?

Google Preview Tool

AdWords clocked onto the fact that advertisers need to see their ad but didn’t want to contribute towards their metrics (impressions, clicks…COST). So they devised a great, free tool that allows advertisers to see their ad without the influence of any personalised search results.  The tool can be edited to allow you to preview results for different countries and languages so it’s really customisable and should be one of your essential PPC bookmarks.

Google Preview Tool


In the great words of esteemed rapper Ice Cube ‘check yo self before you wreck yo self’.  Your campaign settings can often hold the solution to your issue with particular relevance to geography, time and date related settings.  A simple browse through your campaign’s settings will hopefully give you a better understanding of when to expect your adverts limelight appearance.

wipe your cookies

If you’re confident that your ad targeting settings are right and you still can’t see your ads, then the most appropriate step should be to wipe your cookies and remove any personalised history off your computer. Theoretically, this should solve all your problems and your ads should now be visible when you search.

Quality Scores

Finally, if you really want to see your ads more often then work on driving up your CTR (the key metric in QS) through tighter keyword match types and relevant advert copy. This should push your Quality Score up and enhance your advert visibility (yay). Be warned that you’re in for the long haul with Quality Score improvements so don’t expect overnight results.


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