Vanishing acts are fun at magic shows, but not when your Google Ads aren’t showing. Learn how to get your ad campaigns back into the spotlight in this guide.

Common reasons for Google Ads don’t show up:

  1. You haven’t run your diagnostics
  2. Your Google Ads account is under review
  3. There’s a payment issue
  4. You’ve maxed out your daily budget
  5. Your bids are too high or too low
  6. Negative keywords are canceling out active keywords
  7. Your keyword search volume is too low
  8. The ad group isn’t focused enough
  9. Your targeting settings are off
  10. The Quality Score isn’t high enough
  11. The ad schedule is too restricted
  12. The landing page isn’t relevant
  13. Your click-through rate (CTR) is too low
  14. Your ads aren’t actually running

Picture this: You launch a killer Google Ads (formerly Adwords) campaign and are ready to watch it soar to the top of Google’s results page.

But your impressions and clicks are nowhere to be found. In fact, your ad’s gone completely M.I.A. What gives?

Rest assured there’s probably a reasonable explanation.

The reality is that Google Ads not showing up happens more often than you might think — and for several reasons.

With some research, troubleshooting, and expert guidance from our Senior SEM Manager Ian Dawson, we’ll help you find the solution and bring your ads back into focus.

Sad upset woman pensive with phone in hands working inside office at workplace, businesswoman financier received notification message with bad news online, uses app on smartphone

If your ad isn’t showing up in search results, it could be due to a lower quality ad and user experience or a limited budget. (Image: Adobe Stock)

Potential reasons for Google Ads not showing up

Troubleshooting your Google Ads can sometimes feel like solving a puzzle with multiple missing pieces. But if you’re scratching your head, wondering why your ads aren’t showing, don’t worry—you’re not alone.

According to Dawson, it often comes down to budgeting and quality. 

“If your ad isn’t showing up in search results, it could be due to a lower quality ad and user experience or a limited budget,” he says. “A higher quality ad can often cost less while a larger budget can sometimes allow for a lower-quality ad to show up.”

But that’s merely skimming the surface.

The good news: According to Dawson, Google Ads often drops clues as to why your ads aren’t showing up.

How to fix Google Ads not showing up

Dawson’s expertise in Google Ads optimization has helped clients gain maximum visibility and results. He says that step one is ensuring Google Ads policies and best practices. This means including keywords and ensuring that ad copy and keywords are relevant to the landing page experience (more on this later).

Since there are quite a few possible culprits behind poor ad visibility, the solutions can vary. While it may require a little investigation and experimentation, this list serves as a roadmap to help you identify and rectify specific issues.

For now, let’s start with the most basic troubleshooting step…

 Have you run your diagnostics?

One of the best things about the Google Ads platform is its built-in diagnostic process designed to help you resolve issues, called the Ad Preview tool and Diagnosis tool. If your Google Ads fail to appear, this is an ideal place to start.

Solution: Click the “Tools” icon at the top-right of your Google Ads account. Under the “Planning” section, click “Ad Preview and Diagnosis.” Here, you’ll see your Campaigns with Keywords, Ad Groups, and possible reasons your ad isn’t showing.

Pro tip: Use this tool regularly to ensure your ads are displaying as intended and get ahead of any issues promptly.

Now, if the Diagnosis Tool isn’t shedding light on the issue, it’s time for more hands-on troubleshooting on your end.

The next potential problem to investigate is the status of your Google Ads account itself.

 Is your Google Ads account under review?

If Google detects unusual activity or billing issues, it may initiate an account review. Due to security concerns, your campaigns are inactive while your account is under review. This results in a temporary pause of your ads across platforms.

Solution: Unfortunately, all you can do in this situation is be patient and allow the review process to run its course. Once it’s complete, your campaigns will automatically resume and become active.

Next up, billing.

 Is there a payment issue?

Google Ads not showing up can happen because of something as trivial as a payment mishap.

Most advertisers set up automatic payments for their Google Ads accounts. Google pulls the payment either when you hit your pre-established payment threshold or at the end of your billing cycle.

Expired billing information or invalid credit card details could deactivate your account until you resolve the issue.

Solution: Regularly check your billing information within your Google Ads account. Verify that your credit card details are accurate and up-to-date, and ensure that your payment settings are configured correctly.

This will help you avoid disruptions in your ad visibility so your campaigns continue to reach your target audience.

 Did you max out your daily budget?

As you probably know, Google Ads operates on a daily budget allocation system, where you set the maximum amount you’re willing to spend daily on campaigns. One possible reason for your ads not showing is that your daily budget has simply run out.

Imagine you’ve set a daily budget of $50 for your campaign. If your ads receive enough clicks and interactions to consume that budget early in the day, your ads may stop displaying until the next day — when your budget resets.

You’ll be alerted to this with a “Limited by Budget” ad status, meaning your ad’s visibility hinges on how your keyword cost per click (CPC) matches your campaign budget. If your CPC surpasses your budget, your ads won’t show. This is because Google Ads evenly distributes your budget daily for improved performance.

Solution: If possible, increase your budget so your ads show for the entire day. If expanding your budget isn’t an option, then maximize what you’ve got. Instead, try enabling the Ad Rotation feature so your ads appear when your target audience is most active.

Daily budget doesn’t seem to be the problem? Perhaps it stems from bidding issues instead.

 Are your bids too high or too low?

You’re also probably familiar with Google Ads’ bidding system that lets advertisers bid on keywords for ad placements.

Dawson explains:

“As a competitor bids on similar terms that you might bid on, they can outbid or have a higher quality ad, which can lower the visibility of your ad. Highly competitive terms will often have multiple advertisers bidding, which limits the number of slots that your ad can appear in.”

The catch?

If your bids are significantly higher than the competition, your ads might be displayed too often to the same users, resulting in ad fatigue and lower click-through rates. Moreover, your budget might be depleted early in the day, causing your ads to stop showing for the rest of the day.

Alternatively, if your bids are too low compared to the competition, your ads may struggle to win the auctions for those keywords. The result? Lower ad visibility and fewer impressions.

Solution: It’s crucial to evaluate your bidding strategies consistently. Review your keyword performance, assess the competition, and make bid adjustments as needed. Fortunately, Google’s Bid Simulator tool makes this easy.

Bid Simulator helps you understand the potential impact of bid adjustments on your campaign’s performance. It offers valuable insights into how changes in bid amounts can affect your ad’s visibility, clicks, and overall success.

Taking advantage of the Bid Simulator helps you strike the right balance between bid amounts and campaign objectives, all while keeping your budget in check.

Mastering this balance helps your ads receive favorable placements and reach a broader, more relevant audience — therefore increasing the chances of driving meaningful results for your campaign.

Keep in mind that your keywords can impact your ad visibility in a few different ways.

 Are negative keywords canceling out active keywords?

Negative keywords have a major role in refining the targeting of your Google Ads campaigns. They prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant search terms. However, if you’ve set negative keywords too broadly or inadvertently included terms that closely relate to your active keywords, it can lead to your ads getting suppressed when they shouldn’t be.

Let’s say you sell high-end smartphones and make “affordable” a negative keyword. That might prevent your ad from showing to users doing a Google search for premium devices within their price range.

As a result, your negative keywords unintentionally counteract your active keywords, causing your ads to miss out on impressions and clicks.

Solution: To rectify this, you need to review and adjust your list of negative keywords. Make sure they align with your campaign objectives and don’t interfere with your active keyword targeting. This fine-tuning guarantees that your ads are visible to the right audience and that negative keywords enhance — not hinder — your campaign’s effectiveness.

Dawson suggests a thorough review of the search term report can uncover wasted ad spend on searches that don’t align with your company’s offerings.

“By removing future searches of these invalid terms using negative keywords, over time you can use more budget on desirable searches. Additionally, as you remove irrelevant search terms, you can also improve your click-through rate and overall user experience.”

 Is your keyword search volume too low?

According to Search Engine Land, search volume is the foundation of almost every successful Google search ads campaign. And low search volume? It’s one of the most common reasons for Google Ads not showing up.

Low search volume means that your targeted keywords aren’t being actively searched by enough people. This happens when you’ve chosen keywords that are too niche, specific, or long-tail, causing Google Ads to deactivate your ad temporarily.

Like your bidding strategy, it comes down to balancing exact match, broad match, and related keywords to ensure your ads have the chance to display to a suitable audience.

Solution: Visit the Keyword section of your account and peep the Status column. Focus on any keywords with a status of “low search volume.” Click on the status next to each term, and you’ll have the option to keep it as is, pause it, or modify it to improve its relevance or search volume.

At HawkSEM, our routine campaign analyses are comprehensive and include keyword status checks. Addressing concerns like low search volume issues is an integral part of optimizing your Google Ads campaigns for better visibility and performance.

Concept of missed target business strategy.

Creating audiences to reach specific groups of customers and leads is a super effective approach. However, you run the risk of limiting your audience if you’re not careful. (Image: Adobe Stock)

 Is your ad group focused enough?

Google Ad groups are a combination of ads and keywords tied together. When someone’s search query aligns with your chosen keywords, you enter into the ad auction. Google will then display one of the ads tied to that keyword.

The more relevant your ad is, the higher the ranking and your chances of winning the ad auction.

Solution: Create ad groups with keywords that are closely related. When your keywords are similar, your ad will match better with user search queries—no matter which keyword triggers it.

Check for unrelated keywords and separate them into their own ad groups or remove them altogether.

And what about targeting? Well, it’s a double-sided coin.

 Are your targeting settings off?

Creating audiences to reach specific groups of customers and leads is a super effective approach. However, you run the risk of limiting your audience if you’re not careful.

Before your ads go live, your audience must meet a minimum size requirement. For Google Display Network ads, that’s at least 100 active users in the last 30 days, while Google Search ads require a minimum of 1,000 active users. If your audience hasn’t had enough growth time to meet these thresholds, it might be too small to display ads.

How do you know if your targeting is too narrow? There are a couple of ways:

  1. Check the Display Network tab within the ad group you want. Under the Interests & Remarketing tab, you can see if that specific audience is “too small to target for the Display Network.”
  2. Check the Observation setting to experiment with certain segments and how they respond to your ads. While targeting restricts your reach to a particular audience, observing broadens your scope to a wider audience while still monitoring ad performance within a more defined segment. This approach gives you useful insights without the limitations of too-narrow targeting.

Solution: As for the fix, you have two options. You can either wait for the list to grow to the required size naturally or manually upload more email addresses to meet the necessary threshold.

 Is your Quality Score high enough?

Quality Score is a dynamic metric used by Google to measure the quality and relevance of your ads, keywords, and landing pages with their triggered search queries. A higher Quality Score generally leads to better ad placement and lower costs.

According to Dawson, “Quality Score plays an important role in determining ad placements as it’s key to the user’s search experience.

Quality Scores combine historical click-through rates, ad and keyword relevance, and landing page experience to determine the best possible experience for a searcher. 

A low Quality Score will reduce the number of impressions your keywords are eligible for while potentially increasing your click costs. A high Quality Score will do the opposite: your keyword will have more visibility and potentially a lower click cost.”

You’ll know this is the problem when you see “Rarely shown due to low Quality Score” statuses next to your keywords.

Solution: Assess the interplay between your keywords, ads, and landing page. Think about how you can fine-tune them to relate better and provide a smoother user experience. Doing this will help boost your ad visibility and draw more eyes to your content.

Now, let’s talk about timing…

 Could your ad schedule be too restrictive?

Google ad schedules let you display ads or change bids during specific times of the day or days of the week. If your target audience searches for your keywords outside this window, your ads won’t be visible.

Dawson elaborates:

“The basic function of the ad auction is to allow advertisers to pay for an ad to be visible and clickable. Other factors like relevance, expected CTR, and historical performance help determine ad placement. The advertiser with the highest bid often snags the top ad slot, but with ad quality factoring in, a user with a better quality ad can sometimes enjoy a top slot with a lower bid. 

Ad scheduling, on the other hand, is an additional parameter to allow an advertiser to only participate in ad auctions at certain times or on certain days.“

There are two ways your ad schedule could dampen ad performance: either it’s too limited (e.g., displaying ads for only an hour a day) or poorly executed (e.g., displaying ads when your target audience is least active).

Solution: Review your current ad schedule within your campaign settings. Research to see when your audience is most active, and adjust your ad schedule to match those days and times for better results.

But remember, ensuring relevance is just as crucial for maintaining ad visibility.

 Is your landing page relevant?

Optimized ad copy and SEO are definitely important, but Google’s looking at more than that—like the relevance of your landing page.

If the page your ad directs audiences to doesn’t align with the keywords or content of the ad itself, it sends a confusing signal to both audiences and Google. This mismatch can result in lower ad rankings and poor user experience, hence fewer clicks and higher CPC.

Solution: Make sure your landing page is relevant to your ad. The content, message, and keywords should seamlessly connect with your ad’s intent. If your ad promotes something specific, ensure it’s prominently featured on the landing page.

A clear, consistent path from ad to landing page boosts ad visibility and user experience, leading to better conversions.

 Is your CTR too low?

CTR measures the percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it.

A high CTR means your messaging is on point, so Google rewards you by amplifying your ad’s visibility.

However, if your CTR is consistently low, it signals to Google that your ad isn’t relevant or appealing to users. As a result, Google’s algorithms could lower the Quality Score of your ad, negatively impacting your Ad Rank.

In fact, Dawson warns that Google’s algorithms continuously refine and encourage quality.

 “One recent change relates to advertisers needing to be verified with Google. This process helps reduce spam, scam, and illegitimate businesses in Google Ads search results.”

The consequences? Your ad won’t appear as frequently or at all in search results, as Google prioritizes more relevant, engaging, verified ads with higher Ad Ranks.

Your ads should always be relevant, but sometimes they can miss the mark.

This is why we’re so hyped about ConversionIQ. With its advanced capabilities like predictive software and automation, it empowers us to proactively tackle potential obstacles, transforming your Google Ads campaigns into high-performing, visible assets that reach the right audience.

So, how do you get ahead of a low CTR?

Solution: According to Dawson, your ad’s historical performance is one of the biggest factors in Quality Score and, therefore, ad visibility. “If your ads have a high expected CTR, which is determined by their historical CTR, you’ll have a higher Quality Score and better visibility.”

The most direct path? Create compelling, relevant ad copy that resonates with your target audience. And if you’re struggling, recruit the help of a trusted PPC agency. Leveling up your ads signals to Google that you deliver a positive user experience. As a thank you, you’ll be rewarded with increased visibility, improved Ad Rank, and a higher CTR.

 Are your Google Ads actually running?

After exploring the common reasons for Google Ads not showing up, you might still find yourself perplexed. If you’ve checked all the suggestions above and are still confused, it is time to ensure that your Google Ads are running in the first place.

It might sound overly simple – the reason you’re not seeing your ads is because they’re not running. But you might be surprised by how often that is actually the answer. 

Luckily, it’s easy to check whether your Google Ads are running. And if you find out they aren’t, turning them on is even simpler. 

Bonus: A step-by-step guide to determine if your Google Ads are running

How do you know if your Google Ads are running? You will want to check that their status is enabled to confirm that they are running. However, after submitting your ad, give Google time to process it, typically 15 minutes to 48 hours. 

If it’s been less than 48 hours since you submitted your ads, it’s worth waiting a bit longer before you start to panic, as Google might still be processing it.

Here is how to check that your ads are running once 48 hours have passed since you have submitted them. 

1. Access Google Ads dashboard

To begin, access your Google Ads dashboard:

  • Log into your Google Ads account: Log in to your Google Ads account using your credentials.
  • Verify your ads are enabled: Check the status of your campaigns. Make sure they are marked as “Enabled” (there should be a little green dot next to your ad). If any campaigns are paused, investigate the reasons and reactivate them for better ad visibility.
  • Check the “Status” column to ensure your ad is marked as “Approved.” Approved ads comply with all policies and can be shown to all audiences. Ads marked as “Eligible” are still under review but can appear on Google search pages. If your ad is “Under review” or “Disapproved,” it may need further attention or policy clarification from Google AdWords.

2. Check Campaigns and Ad Groups

To verify that your campaigns and ad groups are active:

  • Confirm “Enabled” status: Ensure that all your campaigns and ad groups are marked as “Enabled.” If any of them are paused or removed, take the necessary steps to reactivate them. This is crucial for maintaining a consistent ad presence.
  • Investigate ad group status: If you come across any ad groups that are paused or removed, investigate why this has occurred. Reactivate them to improve the overall visibility of your ads.

3. Use Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool

Google provides the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool, a handy resource to check the status of your ad without affecting your ad statistics. 

Here’s how to use it:

  • Enter your keyword(s) and let Google process the results. You can also specify geography and devices to replicate your ad’s targeting settings.
  • The tool provides helpful search term suggestions as you type. These suggestions are drawn from keywords within your account that have garnered impressions and are organized by their search volume.
  • This tool is invaluable for verifying whether your ad assets are displaying alongside specific keywords. If any of your assets are not appearing, the tool will offer insights into the potential reasons for their absence.
  • Additionally, you can take advantage of the ‘Share this search’ feature to bookmark specific searches or share the search results URL with colleagues or clients. It’s worth noting that the results generated by this tool may evolve over time. For instance, a preview of your ad may no longer be visible within the tool if your campaign exhausts its average daily budget.

4. Add the keyword status column

Another way to get out in front of any issues is to add the keyword status column to your keyword view. This will allow you to review for any potential issues on a regular basis without doing extensive checks with the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool.

  • Add the columns by clicking the columns icon and clicking modify columns. Add keyword status and click save.
  • Regularly review this column for the status “An ad isn’t showing right now.” Usually, it will show the potential issue as one of the several possible issues including “ad not approved,” “low quality score,” and “ad is not approved.”
  • Note that the keyword status column could show as “We don’t know why your ads aren’t showing right now.” That shouldn’t discourage you. Instead, you should be aware and routinely make optimizations based on best practices.

Mistakes to avoid when you check if your Google Ads are running

While you are going through these steps to determine if your ads are running, it’s worth also ensuring you are not making these silly mistakes.

  • Searching ads: Avoid searching for your ad on Google Search, as this can lead to extra ad impressions that may negatively impact your ad’s statistics and clickthrough rate.
  • Disable ad blockers: Disable ad blocker software on your browser to ensure accurate results.
  • Watch your geography: Be mindful of geography; avoid searching broadly if your ad targets a specific location.
  • Check all pages: Check not only the first page but also subsequent pages in search results. A low ad rank and quality score can push your ad to later pages.
  • Your ad isn’t in the search results: If your ad doesn’t appear in search results, it may be due to reaching your daily budget, causing Google to slow down or stop ad delivery. Check your ad’s recent click activity to assess this.
  • Using VPNs: If you’re using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), be aware that it might affect how Google locates your location, potentially leading to ad visibility issues.

Check the timezone upon setup: Google Ads defaults to Pacific time, so it’s important to make sure you’ve set up the time zone correctly. Otherwise, your ads won’t serve on the correct schedule.

The takeaway

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for troubleshooting Google Ads — it’s a dynamic landscape with tons of moving parts. From keyword conundrums to ad group alignments and everything in between — there are myriad potential reasons for Google Ads not showing up.

But knowing the most common reasons will help you find a solution quicker and more efficiently.

With this comprehensive guide, you can bid farewell to panic and restore your ad campaigns’ visibility with newfound ease. Whatever the issue, there’s almost always a fix, especially with the right PPC team in your corner.

If you’re close to throwing in the towel, or want to talk through your options, get in touch. We’re more than happy to hop in and resurrect your ads to hero status.

This article has been updated and was originally posted in October 2023. 

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation