Why Your Ads Aren’t Showing When You Search for Them

So you searched for your ad but it didn’t show up.

Why?

To be clear, there are many reasons your ad might not show when you search for it. In fact, Google AdWords and Bing Ads both have support pages explaining why this may happen and how to solve the issue.

If you’ve visited either of those pages but left confused, don’t feel bad. They can be a bit overwhelming.

Let’s cover in detail why your ads aren’t showing and what you can do to fix it.

Before We Get Started: Stop Searching for Your Ads

This is important, so I’m going to say it again.

Stop searching for your ads.

Searching for the keywords you’re targeting is an unreliable way to check if your ads are showing, but there’s an even greater reason not to search for your ads.

It hurts the performance of your account.

Every time your ad receives an impression but not a click, it lowers your clickthrough rate. When you lower clickthrough rate, you lower quality score. In order to maintain the same ad rank, you have to increase your bids, compensating for the decreased quality score. This means you end up paying more per click.

If you want to check whether or not your ads are showing for a particular search query, use the ad preview tool. Google AdWords and Bing Ads each have their own ad preview tools that allow you to simulate a search without serving unnecessary impressions and hurting the performance of your account.


Bing Ads and Google AdWords Ad Preview Tools


The ad preview tools also provide an explanation if and why your ads aren’t showing. Please use them, or else you’ll end up paying for it — literally.

1. Too Many Searches

When you repeatedly search for your ads without clicking on them, you are effectively telling the ad platform that you do not find those ads helpful. Since ad platforms want to serve useful and relevant ads, they try delivering different ads that you might find more interesting.

How to fix it: Stop searching for your ads.

2. Insufficient Billing Information

Forgetting to enter billing information, expired credit cards, and even past due invoices are all reasons your ads might not show. If this is the case, nothing in your account will run until the problem is resolved.


Bing Ads and Google AdWords Billing Tabs


How to fix it: Update your billing information.

3. Exclusive Targeting

In order for your ads to show, all forms of targeting have to match the nature of the search. Any of the following targeting conflicts will prevent your ads from showing.

  • Keyword Targeting — The search query you entered doesn’t match your keywords. You need to add new keywords, adjust your current keyword match types, or remove negative keywords that are preventing your ads from showing.
  • Device Targeting — The device on which you performed the search doesn’t match your targeted devices. For example, you searched on a mobile phone, but the campaign only targets desktop computers. You need to change the campaign’s device settings or build a new campaign targeting mobile devices.
  • Location Targeting — Your physical location isn’t included in the campaign’s geotargeting. You either need to add your location, remove your location as an exclusion, or change the campaign’s advanced location options.
  • Ad Scheduling — You searched at a time outside of when your ads are scheduled to run. To have your ads run at all times, remove the ad schedule.
  • IP Exclusions — Your IP address has been excluded from receiving your own ads. If you want to see them, you’ll have to remove your IP address from IP exclusions in the campaign’s advanced settings.

How to fix it: Review each of these targeting options. Resolve any conflicts that are preventing your ads from showing.

4. Accelerated Budget Delivery

Campaign budgets have two delivery methods: standard and accelerated.

When you select the standard delivery option, Google and Bing will distribute your budget so that your ads run at all hours of the day.

When you select the accelerated delivery option, Google and Bing will spend your budget as quickly as possible. This means you may run out of budget by 10:00 in the morning. If you do, your ads will stop running, and they won’t start running again until the following day.


Bing Ads and Google AdWords Budget Delivery Settings


How to fix it: Switch your campaign’s budget delivery setting from accelerated to standard.

5. Ad Status Problems

Any ad status other than “Approved” on AdWords, and “Eligible” on Bing Ads will affect the delivery of your ads. Here is a list of statuses and what they mean for ad visibility.

  • Disapproved — Your ads aren’t running because they have been disapproved by the advertising platform. You need to submit new ads that are compliant with the platform’s policies, or appeal the ads if you believe the the platform was wrong to disapprove them.
  • Paused — Your ads aren’t running because you paused them. Turn the ads back on to start running them again.
  • Under Review — Your ads aren’t running because they haven’t been approved yet. Ad approvals can take a while. Give the platform a little more time to review your ads and check back later.
  • Approved (limited) — Your ads are running, but their visibility is limited. This could be because you’re running in a restricted industry (such as alcohol or gambling), you’ve encountered a trademark issue, or something else.

How to fix it: Identify your ad status, then take the necessary action to make it eligible or approved.

6. Structural Interruptions

It might seem obvious that pausing your ads will prevent them from showing, but pausing other parts of your account can prevent your ads from showing as well.

A PPC account can be compared to running water in a home. Imagine trying to take a shower, but when you try to turn the water on, nothing comes out. You would assume a valve had stopped the water. Depending on where that valve is, it might affect the sink too, or all rooms in the house, or the entire neighborhood.

Valves sit at each tier of the account structure. When you pause an ad group or campaign, it pauses everything downstream. Your ads might be enabled, but if you paused the ad group or campaign upstream, they won’t show.


Structural Interruptions Prevent Ads From Showing


Note: Paused keywords in the same ad group as the ads in question can stop them from showing too. When everything looks fine upstream, take a look at the keywords triggering your ads.

How to fix it: Ensure there are no interruptions at the ad group or campaign level. If the campaign and ad group are both enabled, check at the keyword level.

7. Low Impression Share

Low impressions share is among the most common reasons for not seeing your ads.

Simply put, impression share is your market share of available impressions. A low impression share is ultimately caused by one of two reasons.

  1. Lost to Rank — Your ads aren’t ranking high enough to receive any substantial visibility. You either need to increase your bids, or increase your quality score.
  2. Lost to Budget — Your budget is too small, so you’re only appearing in search results some of the time. To capture a larger impression share and show your ads more frequently, increase your budget.

Low Impression Share Limits Ad Delivery


How to fix it: Find out what is limiting your impression share. Increase your quality score, bids, or budget — whichever is applicable.

Conclusion

It can be hard to narrow down why your ads aren’t showing. Just remember that searching for them isn’t an accurate way to test if they’re running, and it hurts the performance of your account. Use the ad preview tools to diagnose the problem and don’t be afraid to contact AdWords or Bing Ads support. They answer questions like this every day.